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Law & Order: Content Strategy at Trial

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I recently worked with a client who found themselves involved in a big court case. A former supplier of theirs sued them over allegedly unpaid bills. The general company sentiment was that indeed there were bills unpaid – but for very specific reasons.

However, no one was quite clear as to how high the sum of said unpaid bills really was. Everyone internally just assumed that the requested sum of €70.000,- was about right, and proceeded to prepare an adequate defense.

So far so good – but what does that have to do with Content Strategy?

The client had initially hired me for marketing activities on a rolling basis. In one of our regular conversations, however, this court case was brought up since it kept several employees of the company busy. As it turned out, no one really knew where to start: the invoices in question were from years back, and the reasons for not paying them were so manifold and severe, that people also struggled to find the right starting point when putting this information together. In the course of this conversation, we agreed that I join the team to help them identify everything that is important for the case, since I felt my studies so far had equipped me with a good foundation to order all the things in question.

Keep an Overview

So how did we go about it? First, we gathered every little piece of information that was to some extent relevant to the case: no matter if that was a WhatsApp Screenshot, an Email, an order confirmation, client complaints or the like. We aimed to get every piece of content together that was relevant to the case. Much like you would do when compiling a Content Inventory – and that is luckily one thing I am familiar with!

Together with the client’s lawyer, we now worked through everything in order to decide what strategy we go with to make use of all the found materials. Now with all the content in one place we finally had an overview of what was out there; and we were able to pick and choose everything that seemingly helped the case we built around the unpaid invoices.

I approached this task similar to a Content Audit, when preparing for a website relaunch: first looking at the quantitative data and getting an overview, and using the qualitative information to make sense of said data.

Choose Wisely

Short after, we started to group the pieces of content we had, and prioritise them. Each and every piece was looked at, and either dismissed as irrelevant or assigned to one of the invoices claimed by the plaintiff. Throughout this process, we were able to obtain detailed information about all the things that had been going on during the years of this business partnership, and could adequately assign every piece to the group of information it belonged to. 

Thereby, not only the client’s lawyer had a better understanding of what was really in question, but also the client’s CEO and employees who were relevant to the case were able to refresh their memories about things that happened years in the past.

Know Your Facts

One of the things a good Content Audit enables you to do is be coherent in your communication – and there is no place where this is more important than in a court room. 

With all the preparation work, the sorting, grouping, and prioritizing we had been through, everyone knew the facts and figures, everyone was able to confidently and truthfully answer the questions posed to them.

And this was our advantage in the end: the initial scare of the trial was gone, each and every person involved was so familiar with the case that they felt confident to step up in front of a judge, and recount their personal experiences with the former business partner, now plaintiff.

Conquer With Content Strategy

Throughout this process, one of the key elements of the case surfaced: we discovered a huge mismatch between the plaintiffs claims, and the actual payments my client had made, and the invoices they had issued to the plaintiff.

After all the work that we put in to re-assessing years-old materials, it turned out that the unpaid invoices summed up to nowhere close to €70.000,- but rather a mere €8.000,- that would have been left to pay. However, while going through all the information at hand, it became apparent that due to the faulty deliveries and their consequences, my client was actually entitled to a counterclaim of close to €100.000,-. 

Why did no one notice this sooner you might ask? Simply because people were overwhelmed with the amount of content they had to deal with. They did not know how to go about it, let alone how to make sense of all the individual pieces they had at hand. With our developed strategy we were able to break the information down into chunks that were easy to work with – and also felt “doable”.

Once we submitted this information to court, the plaintiff simply vanished. They never showed up to further court hearings, were unable to provide information proving their initial claim, and no longer reacted to requests from the judge. 

Given that, we went through several hearings that had to be done due to case conduct at court alone, without a plaintiff present. We were able to present all the fact-supported evidence we had sorted so neatly, and managed to build a case that also impressed the judge, who admitted that he never had such an authentic case prepared by a defendant

At the moment we are waiting for the final verdict – let’s see if putting Content Strategy at Trial turns out to be a success!