In the last decade, agencies and clients alike became dangerously dazzled by design. Flash was the rockstar, and content merely an annoying stepchild. Mercifully, times have changed. But some vestiges of the previous era persist, including my personal (non) favorite, the “port over.”
Here’s how this dreaded request usually surfaces: toward the end of a project, a surprise stakeholder announces that some paradoxically insignificant and yet urgently important content must now be added to the scope, without changing the timeline or resourcing of course. How is this possible, you ask? Because we’re just going to port it over. Sort of like if I set my purse down in the kitchen and then simply pick it up and move it to the bedroom, right? Um, no. That’s the idea, for sure, but it’s highly unlikely that anything that gets ported over completely intact from an old experience STILL DESERVES TO BE ON YOUR SITE.
Everything old is not new again
Faced with a port over, your content team will start scraping that dusty content from the live site or an archive and begin dropping it into a deck. A number of things may happen next: First, they’ll inevitably be unable to hold their noses and just let really bad content move through unchallenged. They may point out that the as-is content doesn’t have the same tone or is three times as long as the new content they’ve been developing. Next, they may notice that the new templates require subheads, which this old content doesn’t have, necessitating that new subheads be written. (There go any hopes of pushing the content live again without having to pass through legal review.)
The content team may also point out that the copy was developed before the current SEO initiative, or that there are references to discontinued products, or even to people who have since left the company. On the other hand, if the content team is on the lazy or inexperienced side (or if you don’t have a content expert on the project), you’ll soon be facing this Frankenstein of a copy deck and all of the above issues yourself.
Whether it happens in-house or with a consultant, the prospect of a port-over should activate one of the primary responsibilities of content strategy: to say that all of the content in question is not created equal. A photo gallery in one context cannot necessarily (and perhaps should not) be reproduced in another.
By any other name
So when someone proposes a port over, what should you do? Turn to the power of language to underscore the importance of continuing to conduct a formal evaluation of all content. I once worked with a stellar Account Director who refused to even use the term “port over,” insisting that the team and the client call it a “migration” instead. If you encounter resistance, a gentle reminder that you’ll need to evaluate content within the newly agreed-upon interactions, rules, and strategies should suffice.
Content strategy is not about accommodating present assets and practices. It’s about determining the right content within the right context for the right audience at the right time, and then planning for management and updates of that content. And there are no shortcuts to doing this correctly. Or at least there shouldn’t be.