Margo Stern: Make the String Shorter – Designing Killer Content for Product

Margo Stern, Content Strategy Lead, Shopping at Google, gets into how to design product content, OR “going from concept to launch with a little less pain.”

  • You and your team members are special snowflakes. You all have special talents and skills to bring to the table.
  • From idea to launch, things can get lost in translation

Strategies for Seeing Content Through


  • At Google, they have 3 minute cross-functional meetings to present what they’re working on.
  • Laser. Focused. Editing.
    • Rescue codes in payments app
      • Everything we know vs. what the user needs to know
        • We often know more (and want to say more) than what the user needs/wants
      • The solution:
        • Keep it quick
        • Prioritize the rescue code
        • Go from problem to solution in less than a tweet


  • Set a strategy and stick to it.
  • If you send around some content without context, it’s anyone’s game.
  • Ground your content in some strategy, any strategy, so the argument is made before it’s even raised.


  • Don’t stop paying attention after you hear the words “the team has some feedback”
  • You don’t have to respond right away
    • Don’t say “yes” or “no” – don’t be reactive in moment
    • “Let me take a look and I’ll get back to you”
      • Take time to step back, consider research, think of alternatives, or show how/why initial rec works

Dig Deep

  • Directive feedback can be a drag, but your copy doesn’t have to take a hit.
  • Question to ask:
    • Can you tell me more about the problem you’re trying to solve?

Get Perspectives

  • You’re the expert in what you do. Colleagues are the experts in what they do. Respect that. They can bring different, and valuable, POV to the table.
  • Other people can make your work better.
  • Product = sum of all parts

Revise Thoughtfully

  • Be wary of death by a thousand cuts. Try and gather all feedback (as best you can) before you pick up the pen a second time.
  • Explain the why behind decisions. Continue to evangelize for the content experience you’ve envisioned.
  • See also: dig deep. Get to root cause of feedback.

Manipulate Stakeholders

  • Rank stakeholders (in secret)
    • Some stakeholders are more important than others.
      • This is the audience for your strategy, more than anyone.

Anticipate Churn

  • Churn ahead? Track decisions.
    • “Picture this. You’re a couple of revisions in and suddenly people are forgetting their own decisions.
    • Start tracking decisions: who/what/why/notes

Let It Go

  • You’ve ushered your work to a very good place and sometimes you have to set it free.
  • You’ve set the strategy, laid the groundwork, collaborated, and sold it through.
  • Even if you don’t see if through the last 15% of the way, know it came from a very good home.
  • Fly free, little words. Fly free.

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