agile content conf

Go beyond arguments about content to find an approach that works for everyone

30–31 Jan. 2017, Sadler’s Wells Theatre, London
Case studies from Facebook, BBC, American Express, GOV.UK, Breast Cancer Care


What would it take to collaborate on content in a way that satisfies all of your stakeholders?

As digital professionals, we know how to create content that meets user needs. We have evidence to prove it, from neuroscience to analytics to lab research. But our stakeholders often see things differently. They resist our recommendations with opinions and anecdotes, insist on using jargon and legalese, appeal to emotion, or offer reasons that seem to be motivated by politics. So we try to get them to “buy-in” to our methods by presenting more data and more evidence. We argue our case in the hope of convincing them to follow our advice. It rarely works.

It’s time to stop arguing. We can’t force people to see our perspective. But we do have a choice. There are techniques we can use to understand our stakeholders’ positions, to find out why they object to our advice. This isn’t compromise. We’re not giving up our values, we’re putting them into practice by finding solutions that work for everyone.

Collaboration techniques work by building a shared understanding of all of the constraints around a content problem—whether they’re business needs, technical constraints, or legal requirements—and working together to find an approach that meets all of them.

At the third annual agile content conf you’ll learn to use these techniques to find solutions that satisfy everyone, through:

  • case studies of collaboration from organisations like Facebook, American Express, and GOV.UK
  • workshops where you’ll learn collaboration techniques by doing them
  • a panel of hiring managers sharing how they build effective cross-disciplinary teams
  • a full-day workshop where you’ll learn research and collaboration techniques that will allow you to go beyond arguments over content and find an approach that works for everyone


Day 1: Conference

Registration, coffee, and facilitated networking activity

Welcome and set your goals

Try out the first collaboration technique of the day and set your goals for the conference.


Go beyond arguments about content to find an approach that works for everyone

presented by Jonathan Kahn, Organiser, agile content conf

Do you experience challenges collaborating with stakeholders, subject matter experts, or different parts of your organisation? Would you like to learn practical techniques to build shared understanding and create efficient content processes that stakeholders are willing to take part in? In this opening talk you’ll learn:

  • why stakeholders resist evidence-based arguments and appeal to emotion, opinion, or politics
  • how to reframe objections as requirements and create a shared understanding of all the constraints around a content problem
  • how to invent an approach that satisfies all of these requirements without giving up your values
Jonathan Kahn

Jonathan organises agile content conf and #dareconf, the leadership conference.


Content strategy for a Facebook product (case study)

in conversation with Erica Hoerl, Content Strategist, Facebook

Everything you see in Facebook’s interface is content—from product names to interface copy to the support content that explains how features work. Facebook’s content strategists look after all of this content. They collaborate with product designers, user researchers, engineers, and product managers, as well as marketing and sales teams across the company. The product teams iterate quickly, testing designs and getting feedback from users to find out what works.

In this session Erica will share what she learned during the development of features for Messenger, Facebook’s mobile messaging app used by over 1 billion people. Find out what’s involved in creating content for a digital product and how content strategists collaborate with other roles within a product team. You’ll learn:

  • how content strategists contribute to both the interface and the positioning of digital products
  • what the team discovered about the specific user group they were designing for through iteration and feedback
  • which processes are effective for encouraging collaboration between content strategists and designers, user researchers, data analysts, product managers, and product marketers
Erica Hoerl

Erica is a Content Strategist at Facebook’s London office. She worked on the Messenger team while at Facebook HQ in Menlo Park.


Unifying global content teams around a common purpose at American Express (case study)

in conversation with Sarah Jones, former Manager, Global Digital Content, American Express & Lauren Pope, Content Strategist, Brilliant Noise

In global organisations, it’s difficult for central teams and local markets to collaborate on content. Connecting these teams creates opportunities to increase customer engagement and improve efficiency.

In this session you’ll hear how American Express worked with digital agency Brilliant Noise to pilot a collaborative model for content planning, production, and distribution across global teams. They created the Editorial Hub, an end-to-end system for content. The Hub promotes consistent, customer-focused content through a shared purpose and set of objectives. It also lays out processes that increase efficiency through collaboration. Learn how to:

  • unify content teams around a common purpose and set of objectives
  • encourage dialogue between separate teams in a large organisation
  • synchronise content planning by implementing a shared editorial calendar
Sarah Jones

Sarah Jones, former Manager, Global Digital Content, American Express

Lauren Pope

Lauren Pope, Content Strategist, Brilliant Noise

Coffee break

Collaborating with journalists to create a mobile-only video experience for the BBC News app (case study)

in conversation with Alex Watson, Head of Product, BBC News

The BBC News app is used by 6.5 million people every week. Until recently the app featured content that was published across the BBC network. But audience research suggested that making video content specifically for watching on a phone would help appeal to the BBC’s underserved audiences. So in November, for the first time, BBC News introduced portrait aspect ratio videos created just for the mobile app. The videos are typically shorter than 90 seconds with subtitles so they can be watched without sound.

In this session you’ll hear how the BBC News digital team worked with journalists to create a custom content experience for mobile video. Instead of treating this as a pure design problem—how to get video onto a platform as efficiently as possible—Alex’s team collaborated with editorial and broadcast delivery teams to experiment with new processes for creating content for a specific audience. You’ll learn how to:

  • advocate for designing for a specific audience when one-size-fits-all content for multiple platforms doesn’t meet their needs
  • enable joint creativity with content creators and subject matter experts by finding shared goals and language
  • engage diverse stakeholders in digital projects by understanding their perspectives instead of appealing to data and evidence alone
Alex Watson

Alex is Head of Product at BBC News. He’s previously held product roles at The Telegraph and Dennis Publishing.


Content design with stakeholders: how to collaborate on user-centred, evidence-based content (workshop)

led by Sarah Richards, Director, Content Design Centre

Content design is an approach pioneered by GOV.UK, the UK’s single government website. Content designers ask the question, “what is the best way to fulfil this user need?” And follow up with, “we’ll produce content that displays the answer in the way that’s most effective for the user.”

In this 45-minute workshop session you’ll learn how to use content design techniques to collaborate on content with stakeholders. Learn how to:

  • write in a way that matches how humans read—using the most efficient way of getting your message across
  • find and use the vocabulary your audience uses
  • create targeted, user-focused content together with your stakeholders
Sarah Richards

Sarah spent 10 years working in digital government, ending as Head of Content Design for GDS. Her team won the 2013 Writing for Design award for GOV.UK.

Lunch (included)

Collaboration techniques for content professionals (workshop)

led by Jonathan Kahn, Organiser, agile content conf

To build shared understanding with our stakeholders we need to invite them to learn with us about the constraints around a content problem. That means stepping outside the world of content.

In this 45-minute workshop session you’ll learn collaboration techniques that will allow you to invite your stakeholders to leave their comfort zones, learn together, and create content that works for everyone. Learn how to:

  • use non–directive interviews (a contextual research technique) to learn about your users’ realities, alongside your stakeholders
  • document your shared learning with “user stories”
  • use pair writing (a collaborative writing technique) to create content that meets the needs you discovered
Jonathan Kahn

Jonathan organises agile content conf and #dareconf, the leadership conference.


Using contextual research at GOV.UK to find an approach that works for everyone (case study)

in conversation with Naintara Land, former Head of User Research, Government Digital Service

Much of the content on GOV.UK, the UK Government’s single website, is about compliance (what people must do) or entitlements (what people can get.) To develop this content, the digital experts at the Government Digital Service work with subject matter experts in government departments. These two types of expert tend to focus on different things. Digital experts are concerned with the user’s experience of interacting with government, while subject matter experts are concerned with the detail of the area of compliance or entitlement. This difference of perspective can lead to different ideas about how content can be most effective.

In this session Naintara will explain how her team ran a user research project about the needs of small business owners that helped both sets of experts to broaden their perspectives about their users’ context. This enabled people to step out of their entrenched positions and find an approach that satisfied everyone. You’ll learn:

  • how contextual research differs from usability testing, and how to use it in the “discovery” phase of projects to create shared understanding
  • how to present research findings in a way that unites stakeholders by suggesting hypotheses instead of making recommendations
  • tips for getting involved in user research when it’s not in your job description
Naintara Land

Naintara was head of profession for User Research at the Government Digital Service, leading a community of 40 user researchers.

Coffee break

Creating a digital service to support women after breast cancer treatment (case study)

in conversation with Jo Wolfe, Digital Lead, Breast Cancer Care

There are over 600,000 women in the UK living with breast cancer and its after-effects. Breast Cancer Care found that many of them need support to adapt to life after cancer. While their friends and family think they’re “better”, side effects and ongoing drug treatment make it difficult to get back to normal.

To address this need, Jo’s team worked with a technology accelerator programme to create BECCA, a digital service that supports women to adapt to life after breast cancer. The project involved people from across the organisation, including clinical experts, front-line staff, and executives. In this session you’ll learn how Jo’s team supported stakeholders to collaborate on content, design, and functionality using a combination of user research and iterative development. Learn how to:

  • understand the underlying needs your content will meet by participating in contextual research, side-by-side with your stakeholders
  • collaborate continuously with stakeholders from across the organisation by including them in an iterative design process and regular usability testing
  • approach people who you don’t normally work with and invite them to work together on content
Jo Wolfe

Jo is Digital Lead for Breast Cancer Care. She’s also held digital strategy roles at Girlguiding, vInspired, and Action on Hearing Loss. In 2014, Jo was voted #1 woman in digital under 30 by The Drum.


How to build effective cross-disciplinary teams (panel of hiring managers)

featuring Facebook, GDS, Breast Cancer Care, and Brilliant Noise

How can we build and nurture cross-disciplinary digital teams? In this panel discussion featuring hiring managers from digital teams in government, technology, charity, and agencies, you’ll learn:

  • what it’s like to work in digital teams in different sectors
  • how digital teams recruit across disciplines
  • what hiring managers look for when they’re trying to fill a role
Meg Rye

Meg Rye, Recruiting Lead, Design, Facebook London

Trisha Doyle

Trisha Doyle, Head of Content, GDS

Jo Wolfe

Jo Wolfe, Digital Lead, Breast Cancer Care

Lauren Pope

Lauren Pope, Content Strategist, Brilliant Noise


Closing activity

Reflect on what you’ve learned today and choose your next steps.

Day 2: Workshop

The workshop runs 9:00–17:00.

In this full-day workshop led by Jonathan Kahn you’ll learn research and collaboration techniques that will allow you to go beyond arguments over content and find an approach that works for everyone.

You’ll practise techniques that will enable you to:

  • use contextual research during the “discovery” phase of your project to understand the user needs you want to meet, and document them as user stories or journey maps
  • collaborate with stakeholders to prototype content that meets these needs, using techniques like pair writing
  • validate your assumptions by testing prototypes with users
  • facilitate feedback workshops where the team can revise assumptions and collaborate on the next iteration

Testimonials from last year

“I came away with not only a clearer understanding of the issues but also with a number of useful techniques to help me tackle them and an action plan to put it into practice.” Rachel Bhandari, University of Edinburgh

“It was grounded in the day-to-day experiences of people who work with web content. The friendly and lighthearted tone of the day made it easy to try things out, learn and meet new people.”Liz Whyte, Citizens Advice

“One of the best conferences I’ve ever attended. I usually attend copywriting or UX-led events, and this was a fantastic blend of the two. It was clear that the event was created by content designers for content designers.” Jen Lambourne, Inviqa

“I would definitely recommend this event to other content editors and writers. It was informative, fun and challenging. I was surrounded by like-minded people and felt comfortable speaking to new people.” Louise Skinner, Christian Aid

“A great opportunity to learn new ideas and challenge yourself on your approach to content writing.”Paul Stairmand, BlaBlaCar

“A really interesting day. I learnt a lot from other participants as well as the speakers and workshop leaders.” Ann Horrell, National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE)

“Very relevant for a multiple stakeholder large organisation.” Simon Peters, Transport for London

Videos from past conferences

Get a feel for the event by watching videos from 2016 and 2015.


Two–day ticket (30–31 Jan)

Cost: £1100 + VAT.

Conference ticket only (30 Jan)

Cost: £600 + VAT.

Note: these prices are for online payment by credit/debit card.

Online registration is now closed. Contact us.

Refunds and transfers

We accept cancellations up to 60 days before the event: we’ll refund your registration minus a 20% cancellation fee. Fewer than 60 days before the event we won’t refund your registration.

Note: Your registration is non-transferable. To maintain the “safe space” environment of the event, we don’t allow transfers. Please make sure that you can attend before you register.

Thanks to our sponsor