Content Strategy at Clover
Our story of building a content culture
It’s been nine months since I joined Clover as the content strategy manager. A baby could be born after all this time! As I reflect on this not-so-new job and how far content strategy has advanced in this company, I can’t imagine being anywhere else. I can still feel the excitement when I came on board and continue to feel excited about the opportunities that are coming our way.
Prior to Clover, I had been working at 7.ai (formerly 7) for two and a half years, building the content strategy practice, growing a UX writing team, and designing AI chatbot conversations. I felt privileged to have the opportunity to work at the intersection of content, design, machine learning, and NLP (natural language processing). I became a fan of conversation and developed expertise in creating conversations in products.
A LinkedIn connection told me that Clover was hiring and thought I might be interested. I was eager for a new challenge that combines all my skills, including content strategy, conversational design, UX writing, and people management.
During my interview at Clover, my future boss told me she was looking for someone to manage the content team and oversee merchant communications through content and messaging. When asked what I thought of Clover’s content at the time, I told her that people had confused information with communication and proposed a unified content strategy for Clover. The rest is history.
Content is in a sweet spot at Clover
Clover started in Mountain View, CA in 2011. The two founders saw the clunky POS (Point of Sale) systems used by the merchants on Castro Street and wanted to simplify their lives and change the rest of the world. As a lean startup, the company focused on rapid iterations and growth. Not much attention was paid to design and product management, let alone content.
Now Clover is part of First Data, one of the world’s largest payment processors. But because Clover remains the innovation center of payments and POS ecosystems, we’re not a conglomerate where content work is prone to merely churning out words. We’re also no longer an emerging startup where content strategy is either overlooked or deemed a “luxury.”
When I saw this image in an article featuring content strategist Karen McGrane about a year and half ago, it struck home with me. I knew too well what she was referring to, after having worked in this field for 15 years.
As Clover is accelerating its growth in verticals and international markets, the management recognizes that they can’t create a great user experience without good content. Reporting directly to the Head of Product, I’m in the same team as the product managers, Head of Design, and Head of Research. “What smart and thoughtful alignment!” I tell my manager.
Being in the product organization is pivotal in shaping the role of content at Clover. It gives content strategy a seat at the table from the organizational point of view.
Clover’s voice: the soul of our product
As the content team, we craft the words in all of Clover’s product communications. From in-product experiences and help documentation to emails and newsletters, we’re on a mission to bring clarity and meaning in every touchpoint and interaction. And to connect with our merchants on an emotional level.
Even though each of those content types has its tone of voice and UX objectives, they’re all governed by Clover’s overarching voice principles.
So how did we discover our voice?
During a two-hour meeting I facilitated with the leaders in Product and Marketing, I took the team through Margot Bloomstein’s cardsorting exercise, which is discussed in her book Content Strategy at Work. We used words to describe who Clover is, who Clover isn’t, and who Clover would like to be. In this moment of soul-searching, we opened up about our weaknesses, strengths, and aspirations as a company.
It was epic. And the beginning of consistency in our product narrative.
The voice is a foundation of how we communicate not only in content but also in everything else that we do from information architecture to interaction design to look and feel.
Content = Design
When writing content, we consider the context, the user, the business objective, the problem we’re solving for, what we say, how we say it, and the order in which we write the words.
We build experiences together with our designers, user researchers, and engineers. In meetings, on Slack, or at someone’s desk, we weigh different approaches to design and content. We gain insights from user research, and read up or listen to everything and anything that will help us get to the truth.
Over the course of collaboration, design changes content, and content changes design. This evolution is natural and necessary for the team to come up with the best possible user experience.
We work with our engineers to see the design and content in action. Then the QA team uses the content specs to make sure all the content is implemented as designed.
Taking our content to the next level
Content work is heart (and hard) work. We practice human empathy and sweat the details to create the right content. In the end, what makes it all worth it is that our merchants feel the love at every interaction and trust Clover as a brand that represents value rather than just commodities.
That is not a far-flung star to reach.
Our voice and tone guide is a powerful tool to help the writers and anyone else writing on behalf of Clover to write consistently in the same voice. For each content type, the guidelines always start with the user’s situations and feelings and give concrete examples to show how it works. Content workshops are in the pipeline. I’ll also be working on plans to measure our voice and content effectiveness.
Right now we’re using Contentful, a futuristic content infrastructure system, to build our merchant self-help experience. In the near future, we’ll explore using Contentful to write and publish microcopy in our software so content iterations may become more efficient and productive.
Lots of exciting work ahead of us! It will allow us to learn and keep getting better!
Now, did you guess it? Yes, we are hiring!
We’re a team of four writers, including me. And we’re fortunate to be co-located with talented people who are also kind and respectful. If this sounds like the type of place where you want to work, apply for our Product Content Writer position. We’d love to chat with you.