A few weeks ago, I stumbled across this post by Olivier Blanchard at Brandbuilder.com, and I haven’t been able to get it out of my mind ever since. Yes, it is a bit dated (posted in October 2010), but that doesn’t change the fact that I took offense to this particular paragraph:
2010’s Social Media experts, especially those who came to their impressive expertise by way of writing blogs about writing blogs, will magically transform themselves into “Content Strategists” (a term stolen from either the SEO world or that of content fulfillment firms keen on the fact that “content strategy” sounds a lot sexier than “content fulfillment”). Though for some, the transformation will take place sometime between the hours of 4am and 9am (GMT) on 1 January 2011, the vast majority of the metamorphoses will take place based on Social Media conferences’ need for Content Strategy speakers. Expect a deeper ‘content strategy’ track at SxSW, and a rapid addition of ‘content strategy’ to most failing digital agencies’ service offerings.
Ever since I laid eyes on that portion of the article, I have been mentally arguing with Blanchard. Here are a few points I’d like to make about content strategy as I see it — not a buzzword or the latest fad, but a real mindset and toolkit:
- Content strategy is actually a communications strategy. Perhaps if we think of the way we deal with content in terms of the way we communicate to our friends/readers/visitors, it’s easier to understand how it works. Most people don’t think about the usability of content on their website until it’s too late. Implementing a concrete strategy will make your content do what you want it to do. I’m going to steal a phrase of Ann Handley‘s that Laura quotes frequently, and point out that everyone is a publisher. If you have a blog, Facebook page, Twitter account or even an email address, you create content every day. Content strategy can make that content work to help you reach your business goals.
- Content strategy is a system. Though content strategy can’t be explained or visualized in terms of a tangible item (for example, it’s not a pretty website that you can see and interact with), it is a system of its own. The term “content strategy” describes a system that nurtures and maximizes the capability of your content from the time it’s created until it becomes outdated or you remove it from your website.
- Content strategy is measurable. Maybe this is too easy, but in my opinion, if you can measure results of a service, it is real. Measuring the ROI on a content strategy starts by identifying your goal. Do you want more readers? Focus on page views and the average time spent on your website. Are you trying to generate more leads? A good content strategy will increase the quality of your leads and shorten your sales cycle. Of course, this isn’t going to happen overnight. But if you give us some time to use content to reach your goals, we can make it happen.
- Content strategy effects change. If you don’t believe me, just read how strategically placed content inspired me to quit smoking for good.
First time I’m reading, Megan – thanks for this post. I like your breakdown above, esp 1. I come from marketing/communication but am working in UX/IA now and find myself on a lot of content strategy projects — because it’s needed and CS is a specific skill set not all UX professionals have. There’s definitely still a need to educate clients on the need for solid CS even before entering into a redesign or design phase. I find it gets cut out as readily as research and testing. But all great projects grow from the content out.
Keep up the good work!
Thanks for reading! I agree that great projects start with a great CS. Good luck, and keep fighting the good fight. ;)