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Content Strategy

De
309 pages

If you've been asked to get funding for a content strategy initiative and need to build a compelling business case, if you've been approached by your staff to implement a content strategy and want to know the business benefits, or if you've been asked to sponsor a content strategy project and don't know what one is, this book is for you. Rahel Anne Bailie and Noz Urbina come from distinctly different backgrounds, but they share a deep understanding of how to help your organization build a content strategy.

Content Strategy: Connecting the dots between business, brand, and benefits is the first content strategy book that focuses on project managers, department heads, and other decision makers who need to know about content strategy. It provides practical advice on how to sell, create, implement, and maintain a content strategy, including case studies that show both successful and not so successful efforts.

Inside the Book

  • Introduction to Content Strategy
  • Why Content Strategy and Why Now
  • The Value and ROI of Content
  • Content Under the Hood
  • Developing a Content Strategy
  • Glossary, Bibliography, and Index

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Advance Praise for Content Strategy
Tis book does the most important thing that people have been ignoring for too long: it talks about content
strategy from the perspective of your boss, and there’s a good chance that he or she looks at the topic
diferently than you do. Understanding these diferences is how you’re going to get things done. To wit:
Chapter 12, Te ROI of Content Strategy, is worth 1000x times the cover price all by itself.
Deane Barker,
Business Development Director,
Blend Interactive
Content Strategy is an emerging feld. As a consequence, there are complexities involved that cannot be
sidestepped if you really want to understand what is involved. Tey are complexities that occupy the
attention of practitioners working around the world to help organizations get a better return on their
content investments. In their book, Rahel Anne Bailie and Noz Urbina, as leading practitioners in the
content strategy feld, do not shy away from these fundamental complexities and they provide decision
makers with the tools to work through them.
Joe Gollner,
Gnostyx Research
This is the book that I wish I’d had every day for the last three years in my workplace.
Chris Opitz Hester,
Content Strategist
Tis work is what’s missing amongst all the content strategy material that’s out there. It completely answers
the question “why content strategy” and expertly positions its business value for every single decision maker.
If you have a vested interest in improving content, brand and product performance, this book is a must.
Kevin P. Nichols,
Director and Global Practice Lead, Content Strategy,
SapientNitro
At frst blush you might think this is a book that, as a business manager, you feel like you should read – but
that you don’t really want to read. Let me tell you that with this book – it is the exact opposite. What Rahel
and Noz have done is to create an incredibly readable, powerful and engaging argument for why businesses
should take great care in managing the strategic asset of content. Anyone looking to understand the WHY of
content strategy – and how it can have extraordinary impact on the business should read this book. It’s quite
simply an artful expression of how content, and our capacity to manage it well, is becoming one of the
biggest diferentiators a business has.
Robert Rose,
Big Blue Moose
Tis book is like a giant cheat sheet for me. As a content strategy recruiter, when preparing to present to
clients, the book has everything I need to talk to clients in the non-technical, non-content-focused way that
decision makers need. It helps them understand how valuable a good content strategy is to the whole
organization’s ROI. Content is not a cost center anymore!
CJ Walker,
FireheadContent Strategy
Connecting the dots
between business,
brand, and benefits
Rahel Anne Bailie
Noz UrbinaContent Strategy
Connecting the dots between business, brand, and benefits
Copyright © 2013 Rahel Anne Bailie and Noz Urbina
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without the prior written
permission of the copyright holder, except for the inclusion of brief quotations in a review.
The cover design and book design are copyright © 2013 XML Press.
Credits
Copy edit: CJ Walker
Index: Joy Tataryn
Illustrations: Niamh Redmond
Cover image: Francesco De Comite
Cover concept: Rahel Anne Bailie
Dilbert cartoon: Copyright © 2011 Scott Adams. Used by permission of UNIVERSAL UCLICK. All rights reserved.
XKCD cartoon: Copyright © 2010 xkcd.com CC-BY-NC 2.5 (http://xkcd.com/773)
Disclaimer
The information in this book is provided on an “as is” basis, without warranty. While every effort has been taken by the authors
and XML Press in the preparation of this book, the authors and XML Press shall have neither liability nor responsibility to any
person or entity with respect to any loss or damages arising from the information contained in this book.
This book contains links to third-party web sites that are not under the control of the authors or XML Press. The authors and
XML Press are not responsible for the content of any linked site. Inclusion of a link in this book does not imply that the authors
or XML Press endorse or accept any responsibility for the content of that third-party site.
Trademarks
XML Press and the XML Press logo are trademarks of XML Press.
All terms mentioned in this book that are known to be trademarks or service marks have been capitalized as appropriate. Use of
a term in this book should not be regarded as affecting the validity of any trademark or service mark.
XML Press
Laguna Hills, California
http://xmlpress.net
First Edition
ISBN: 978-1-937434-16-8
Library of Congress Control Number: 2012955383
QSJOU
F#PPL
Table of Contents
Foreword . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . vii
Preface . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ix
Who This Book Is For . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ix
What This Book Is Not . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ix
What’s in This Book . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . x
About the Authors . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . xi
Acknowledgements . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . xiii
I. Introduction to Content Strategy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1
1. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3
What Do We Mean by Content? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4
Content Is More than Marketing Material . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5
Your Content Defines Your Brand . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
Multimodal Content Strategy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
2. The Content Strategy Imperative . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9
Enter Content Strategy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13
Content Strategy and the Bottom Line . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14
3. Understanding the Disconnect between Content and User Experience . . . . . . . . . . . . 15
Customers Want Cute and Smart . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16
Who Wins, Who Loses? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18
Content Rules . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19
II. Why Strategy and Why Now . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21
4. Strategy Beyond Surface Beauty . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23
More Than Cosmetics . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23
Below the Surface: Untapped ROI . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24
Case Study: Nurturing the Health of Corporate Content . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25
5. Content as Part of a Complex System . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35
What We Mean by Content . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 36
Content and Complexity . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 37 as an Agent in Complicated Systems . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 40
Content as an Agent in Complex Systems . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 43
Selection and Adaptation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 45
6. Managing the Complexity of Content . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 47
Governance, Compliance, and Risk . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 48iv Table of Contents
Managing Content through Content Channels . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 48 Risk through Content Processes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 50
Managing Key Stakeholders through Governance . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 51
Increasing Success through Governance . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 52
7. Content, Complexity, and . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 55
Case Study: Management as Content Roadblock . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 56
Realities of ROI . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 65
III. The Value and ROI of Content . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 67
8. Which Content Benefits from a Content Strategy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 69
Estimating the Value of Content . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 71
Case Study: Making the Case for Efficiency . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 71
Managing Content Assets . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 79
9. Content in a Knowledge Economy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 81
Locating the Disconnect between Content and Value . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 83
The Nuances of Content . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 84
The Pain Points of Ad-Hoc Systems . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 85
10. All Content is Marketing Content . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 87
Case Study: Stratifying Limits Potential . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 87
Prioritizing Content . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 90
11. Content as Business Asset . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 93
Categorizing Content Assets . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 93
Recognizing the Reuse Potential of Content Assets . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 95
Content that Connects: Helping Users Find Success . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 98
Turning Content into High-Value Assets . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 100
12. The ROI of Content Strategy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 105
Calculating ROI . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 107
Linking Poor Content to Lost Sales . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 108
13. Content Strategy in Business to Consumer . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 113
The Pull to Purchase . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 114
Choosing a Product: Wooed by Big Brands . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 114 a Brand . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 116
The First Disappointment: A Short Honeymoon . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 116
Post-Sale Support: Where’s the Love Now? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 117
The True Test of Brand Loyalty . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 118
The Role of Content in the Customer Experience . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 120
ROI and the Long View . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 121
14. Content Strategy in Business to Business . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 123
Case Study: A Start-up Treats its Content Right . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 123Content Strategy v
IV. Content Under the Hood . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 129
15. What Exactly Is Content? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 131
Copy and Content . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 131
Turning Copy into Content . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 134
Defining Content in the Age of Technology . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 135
16. The Nature of Content . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 137
The Multiplicity of Content . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 137
Critical-Path Content . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 141
Critical Content in the Semiconductor Industry . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 144
Multimodal, Customer-centric Content Strategy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 147
The Nature of Content is Cyclical . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 150
17. Planning for Power Publishing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 153
Mobile, the Game Changer . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 154
Mastering the Next New Thing is Not Enough . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 155
Designing for Any Format is a Problem . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 155
Separating Content from Deliverables . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 156
The Risks of Binding Content to Format . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 157
Formats and Silos . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 160
18. Right Content, Right Context . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 163
Adaptive Content . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 164
Responsive Design . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 165
Modular, Format-free Content . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 166
Right Place, Wrong Content . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 169
Defining Module Types . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 169
Reusing Modules . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 170
Benefiting from Modular Reuse . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 172
19. Making Content User-centric Using Modular Building Blocks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 173
Modular Content is More Adaptive . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 174
Fragments, Smaller than Topics . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 178
Using Structurally Consistent Content Models . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 179
Realizing the Benefits of Structured Content . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 182
20. The Power of Semantic Content . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 187
Talking Semantics . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 187
Semantics Change the Experience of Media . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 188
Semantic Markup for Textual Data . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 192
Changing the Format-first Mindset . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 199
Using the Right Amount of Semantics . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 203
Why Semantics Matters . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 204vi Table of Contents
V. Developing a Content Strategy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 209
21. Leveraging Strategically . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 211
Assessing Your Organizational Readiness . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 212
Thinking of Content Strategically . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 214
Putting the Strategy into Content Strategy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 216
22. Feeding the Customer Lifecycle . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 219
Develop Your Own Customer Lifecycle . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 222
23. Implementing a Content Strategy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 223
Join a User-Centered Design Process . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 223
Look for a Framework that Fits . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 225
Consider the Performance Measurements . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 226
Content in the Context of User Experience . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 228 Design . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 232
24. Centering the Strategy Around a Content Lifecycle . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 235
The Content Lifecycle . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 236
The Decision Maker and the Content Lifecycle . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 242
Laying a Sound Foundation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 242
Content Lifecycle Myths . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 243
New Strategies, New Lifecycles . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 251
25. Finding the Content Strategy Skills You Need . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 253
The Content Strategist’s Role . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 254
Skills and Aptitudes for a Content Strategist . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 255
Different Skills, Different Solutions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 258
26. Basic Principles Toward a Quick Start . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 259
Glossary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 263
Bibliography . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 275
Index . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 277Foreword
For the last few years, my User Interface Engineering team has had the opportunity
to study how decision makers make their decisions, up close and personal. We’ve
watched as designers and managers made choices that influence the design of the
websites, knowledge bases, training materials, and other things they worked on.
What became apparent almost immediately was that there are three approaches to
decision making that almost everyone uses. Our research also turned up that the ap-
proach a decision maker chooses has a direct effect on the quality of the design. Choose
the right approach, and you’ll end up with something awesome. Choose the wrong
approach, and your design will frustrate most of your users.
The first approach we encountered was when the decision makers made choices based
on what they themselves would want from the design. It’s what we call “Self Design,”
and it asks the questions: “How would I want to use this design?” or “What information
would I want to see?” The decision makers use those questions to guide every choice
they make about what the design contains and how it’s presented.
Self Design works great for projects that are small and are used by people just like the
decision makers. If the decision makers are using the design every day, then they’ll
see the holes in the content and design and make sure those holes get repaired.
However, it doesn’t work well when the design is large or is used by many different
types of people.
The second approach we saw in our research was when the decisions about the design
were made as an outcome of other decisions. Maybe the decision makers were making
decisions about the underlying technology or the business decisions. In this approach,
which we call “Unintentional Design,” the resulting design evolves because other
things are changing.
For example, imagine an ecommerce website where a change in the process by which
new product descriptions are added to the site suddenly makes it harder to shop.
What used to be very detailed information about each product is now missing the
information the shoppers need to be sure they are getting the right product. Thisviii Foreword
wasn’t an intentional design outcome, just the result of new way the source material
is compiled.
The third approach was the least common, but most effective. It’s called “Research-
infused Design” and it happens when the decision makers explicitly focus on the ex-
perience their users will have. They don’t rely on their own needs, as in Self Design,
but look directly at how people use the design and what those people need from it.
We found that the smart decision makers were the ones who took this last approach
seriously. They would ensure that time and resources were available to make it happen.
While it’s slower and more expensive than the other two approaches in the short
term, the long-term benefit from those investments provides exactly what users need
when they need it. If you’re designing something for the long term, this is best ap-
proach.
In this book, Rahel and Noz describe how to make this third approach work. Their
wisdom and experience describe exactly what we saw in our research. Follow their
advice and you’re off to creating great designs for your users.
Jared M. Spool
Founding Principal of User Interface EngineeringPreface
If you’ve been asked to get funding for a content strategy initiative and need to build
a compelling case, if you’ve been approached by your staff to implement a content
strategy and want to know the business benefits, or if you’ve been asked to sponsor
a content strategy project and don’t know what one is, read on.
Who This Book Is For
This book is meant for those who are being asked to do more with their content and
who feel they have taken all the steps they can on their own. It’s for those who know
they could do more with their content, but are struggling to figure out how to do so.
It’s for those who know intuitively that content could contribute to their business,
but can’t quite make the content goals mesh with their business goals. It’s for those
managers who, because of outdated publishing practices, are prevented from making
the power of content work for them. It’s for those who want to save money on public-
ation and redirect their investments to places that where they will make a difference.
This book includes case studies from our own clients and from the practices of those
who generously contributed to the book. Some practitioners may read them and ex-
trapolate how to use them to their own benefit for their clients or in their places of
work. These are the people you want working on your project.
What This Book Is Not
This is not a how-to book. It’s not a user guide for practitioners who want to under-
stand the steps of how to devise a content strategy. Those books are out there already,
and more will appear over time as the profession matures. This is also not a playbook
that can be used as a template. Content strategies are highly situational, and what
works for one organization may not work for another.
This book is not a web content strategy book. There are plenty out there already. Al-
though we’ll often use websites and web references as easily-understood examples,x Preface
this book goes beyond the web. The web is technically not a type of content; the web
is just an output channel where information gets published. And “web” is not a single
output treatment, either. Whether you put content somewhere on the web – on a
product site, online catalog, or knowledge base – in print, or into a PDF, you are
publishing. And what you are really doing is publishing resources for multiple user
types who have a wide range of information needs.
What’s in This Book
This book provides practical advice on how to sell, create, implement, and maintain
a content strategy. Here is what you’ll learn from this book:
■ What content strategy is
■ Why you should develop a content strategy
How content strategy fits into the bigger picture■
■ What value your organization can derive from content
■ How to manage the complexities of content
Ways to calculate the ROI of well-leveraged content■
■ What you need to know about the technical side of content, and why
■ How to get a content strategy developed and implemented
Too Busy to Read the Whole Book?
If so, these chapters will give you a quick start:
■ Need an overview of content strategy and its effect on the bottom line? You’ll
want to read Chapter 2, The Content Strategy Imperative.
■ Want the condensed version of why you should care? The concepts are in
Chapter 9, Content in a Knowledge Economy.
■ Want to know more about the technical side of content? Read Part IV, “Content
Under the Hood.”
■ Need some hard numbers to convince you? Look at the ROI the case study in
Chapter 8, Which Content Benefits from a Content Strategy.Preface xi
Already convinced and want to get down to implementation? Jump to Chapter 23,■
Implementing a Content Strategy.
Need to hire the right content strategist? Start with Chapter 25, Finding the Content■
Strategy Skills You Need.
Companion Website
The companion website to this book, TheContentStrategyBook.com, contains supple-
mental material that you are free to use in presentations or as part of a business case,
as long as you preserve any attributions.
About the Authors
What happens when two kindred spirits find one another, by chance, across time
zones and continents? For the two of us, it was an excited recognition of each other’s
ideas, and a desire to share knowledge, not only with each other, but with others. The
idea behind this book is to look at content strategy from a wider perspective than just
web-delivered content. We assert that an increasing number of organizations manage
content in more diverse ways than simply the web, and web delivery suffers when it
is not considered together with other channels. We hope to shape theories and bring
ideas to organizations struggling to manage their content.
Two Authors, One-and-a-Half Perspectives
While it might seem that co-authoring a book cuts the work in half, that’s not quite
the case. We’ve collaborated and argued, encouraged each other and delayed each
other, written and rewritten. We are two seasoned practitioners from, in some ways,
similar, yet in other ways vastly different, professional backgrounds. Across two
continents and cultures, we have come together to share our knowledge and experi-
ence. The challenges of creating a text and context that frame an issue for readers are
compounded by merging two perspectives – though because some perspectives are
shared, it’s more like merging one-and-a-half perspectives.
In some ways, we are book-end professionals. We may come at the same problem
from opposite ends, but in the end, we embrace the same body of knowledge. Some-
times, we’ve let our individual personalities and perspectives peek through. Yetxii Preface
whether working with massive content sets or re-imagining content delivery models,
our underlying principles are the same.
Within the content strategy community, we are the two consultants least likely to fit
into neat categories. We’re not exactly “web” and not exactly “technical” and not ex-
actly “enterprise” and not exactly “digital,” though we are a combination of all of
those, and then some. Whatever label we decide to take on, we trust that you, the
reader, will be the winner and will find our perspectives valuable.
Rahel Anne Bailie
Rahel Anne Bailie is a recognized thought leader and one of the top content strategists
in the industry. With over twenty-five years of professional content experience, she
combines substantial business, communication, and usability skills with a strong
understanding of content and how to manage it. She is known for her work with
content “under the hood,” particularly in connection with designing content during
implementations of content management systems. For over ten years, her consultancy,
2Intentional Design, has been helping companies leverage their content as valuable
corporate assets. She is also a co-producer with Scott Abel of the Content Strategy
3Workshops series.
Noz Urbina
Noz Urbina is an established content strategy thought leader, consultant, and trainer
specializing in cutting edge, multi-channel, business-driven content projects. Since
2000, he has provided services to Fortune 500 organisations and small-to-medium
enterprises and is a well-known workshop leader and keynote speaker at industry
events. Since 2006, Noz has been Events Chair and Content Director for Congility.com
and has won a solid global reputation in the structured content community. Noz
5works as Senior Consultant and Content Strategy Practice Lead for Mekon Ltd.
2 http://intentionaldesign.ca/
3 http://contentstrategyworkshops.com/
5 http://mekon.comPreface xiii
Acknowledgements
This book would not have been possible without the support and encouragement of
our friends, colleagues, and industry peers.
Jointly, we would like to acknowledge the patience and stoicism of Richard Hamilton,
who watched both of us and the book go through several metamorphoses, and our
advance readers, particularly Scott Abel, Laurie Best, Chris Opitz Hester, SHN, and
Kevin Nichols. We’d also like to thank Richard Ingram, who contributed his graphic
talents to the book, Francesco De Comite, who created the cover image, and Niamh
Redmond who turned our amateur attempts at graphics into pieces befitting the book.
Additionally, our thanks to CJ Walker for turning her attention to editing, Joy Tataryn
for the index, and Mark Poston for his help with the website. Thanks to Jared Spool
for the Foreword. A special thanks goes to everyone who contributed case studies
and anecdotes.
Rahel: Many thanks to Hedy Wong, for letting me off the hook as an absentee partner,
friend, and housemate for the better part of two years; Lynna Goldhar Smith for
listening to me vent about how I couldn’t do this and assuring me that I could; to the
rest of my family for putting up with fewer visits and less support while I locked myself
in my home office to write. Thanks also go to my Jewish mother, Sharon Nelson, for
her guidance and feedback. I’d also like to acknowledge Laurie Best, my Director on
the City of Vancouver project, who read, gave feedback, and put up with my general
distress about my writing – oh, and I borrowed one of your borrowed quotes.
Noz: Thank you first to my partner Elodie Eudier for her patience, support, under-
standing, strength, and level-headedness in the winding journey that is one’s first
book. To my mother who motivated and supported me towards writing a book since
I was in diapers – she named me with a pen name already in mind – and who taught
me to take editorial feedback in stride. To my father who taught me to always keep
my creativity and spirit unfettered by tradition. Thank you to my first writing teacher,
Flemming Kress, and my family and friends for continuing to contact and support
me despite my having nearly abandoned civilized communication and social particip-
ation. Finally, thanks to my many clients over the years who always engaged and
stretched me with their various challenges.Introduction to Content Strategy
Here, we describe the fundamental principles of content and consider ways to think
about content strategy within a greater business framework. Unless you are already
involved with content at a strategic level, read this section. It provides the foundation
for many of the concepts introduced throughout the book.CHAPTER 1
Introduction
If we were to sum up the mandate of a content strategy in a single
phrase, it would be this: understand the gap between your user ex-
perience and your customers’ needs, and fix it.
—Rahel Bailie and Noz Urbina
As we publish this book, content strategy remains a moving target. Though the first
book about content strategy was published a decade ago – Ann Rockley’s seminal
work, Managing Enterprise Content: A Unified Content Strategy[19] – the practice
continues to develop and change as our understanding grows. This growth is not
simply about new tools and technologies – like it or not, technology is a significant
aspect of a content strategy – it encompasses the very nature of content.
In addition, the types of content we have to deal with have expanded. When we first This book
learned to deal with content, instructors taught from a place of common understanding shows how to
where two types of content existed: persuasive and instructional. Today, the categories revalue your
have expanded to include not just persuasive and instructional, but also entertainment, content in the
context ofsocial media, and user-generated content These are not necessarily new types of
your organiza-content, but they are more prevalent, more important to business, and on the radar
tion’s businessto be dealt with as part of the content landscape.
model.
Publishing content is much more than writing copy within a communications strategy.
That’s because, contrary to the days of print-only publishing, content is not part of a
linear supply chain where you create, publish, and archive. Digital content is produced
and managed within a content lifecycle, often one that spans multiple iterations.
Publishing that starts with an electronic source – whether the final publication is in
print or online – has unique needs, and the technical and editorial demands on content4 Introduction to Content Strategy
1have expanded exponentially. Planning, creating, combining, managing, publishing,
archiving, localizing, iterating – the overall process is technically challenging.
Publishing now requires a level of planning that addresses, in a holistic way, technicalPublishing re-
and business requirements along with editorial, social, and process requirements.quires a level
This is called “content strategy,” a comprehensive process that builds a frameworkof planning
to create, manage, deliver, share, and archive or renew content in reliable ways. It’sthat addresses
technical and a way of managing content throughout the entire lifecycle.
business re-
In other words, content strategy is to writing what house construction is to decorating.quirements
Decorating may be what denotes quality to the human eye, but it is constructionalong with ed-
quality that keeps the house standing strong. Similarly, writing (or copy) is whatitorial, social,
readers see, but it’s the construction of that copy – the content strategy – that makesand process
requirements. it useful to your customers.
Content strategy is an emerging discipline that is already making its mark by improving
return on investment and increasing internal efficiencies in the ways that organizations
provide information, support transactions, and foster customer engagement.
What Do We Mean by Content?
If it sounds like we’re talking about enterprise content, we’re not. To understand the
difference, a quick word is in order about what enterprise content is. Enterprise content
includes “all content within the entire scope of an enterprise whether that information
is in the form of a paper document, an electronic file, a database print stream, or even
2an email message,” including conversions from paper or microfilm.
That definition extends to things such as wrapping email in XML for forensic e-dis-
covery, human resources records, ERP system data, and related workaday content.
Though you’d be hard-pressed to find organizations that agree on the scope of an
enterprise content strategy, or two executives who agree on what enterprise content
1 The expansion is exponential because the rate of change accelerates as more and more deliverables get
multiplied by more and more target formats.
2 Derived from “Enterprise Content Management” [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/-
Enterprise_content_management#Definition] via Wikipedia.Introduction 5
actually includes, we can agree that the generally-used term refers to content beyond
what is covered in this book.
This book is about business-critical content – information that has to do with your
organization’s products or services and that your organization depends on to operate.
The important aspects are:
The content is on the critical path. We’re talking about brand-building content:■
product content, marketing content, technical content, and pass-through content
such as user-generated and social media content.
The content either supports purchasing decisions, pre-sales, or it supports the■
relationship between you and your customers, post-sales.
In either of these cases, the content we’re concerned with is, essentially, what content
architect Joe Gollner calls “relationship content” – that is, content that serves to form
persistent business relationships.
Content is a critical part of any product or service. A product or service is incomplete
without useful information about those products or services. It doesn’t matter
whether you’re supporting medical devices or courses for a post-secondary educational
institution, travel services or government initiatives, embedding content into software
or putting information into documentation and onto microchips; consumers want
enough information to make informed decisions.
Content Is More than Marketing Material
The traditional view is that content development departments – technical document-
ation, customer support, and training – are cost centers and the goal is to cut and re-
duce. Many organizations have cut so much that they’re absolutely anorexic, leading
to product information that is inaccurate, outdated, inconsistent, or simply missing.
Yet in reality, technical materials, such as specifications, are often more important to
sales decisions than traditional marketing materials. Customers will often bypass
traditional marketing material and go right for the technical specifications. But tech-6 Introduction to Content Strategy
nical specifications are generally considered “post-sales” material, and this is where
companies skimp.
Analysts and other high-profile voices frequently cite “lack of user support material”Technical ma-
as a reason not to buy a product or use a service. This book helps you understand theterials, such as
disconnect between current and best practices and shows how to revalue your contentspecifications,
in the context of your organization’s business model.are often
more import-
Part of the disconnect between content valued by the organization and content valuedant to sales
by the content consumers – your website visitors, customers, potential customers,decisions than
analysts, and investors – is that content is not being treated as a corporate asset. Thistraditional
is a fundamental shift in the way we think about product content. The content thatmarketing ma-
people use to find out about your product or service – perhaps to decide if it is rightterials.
for them, or if it will fix whatever problem they’re experiencing – is a valuable asset.
Content deserves to be treated with the care of other corporate assets; financial assets
get reported monthly, and even bolts and screws get inventoried annually on a factory
floor, yet content rarely gets managed with the same respect.
Often, the first impression that people have of an organization is its website, and that
first impression is often lackluster, because the content that matters is lackluster, an
unfortunate byproduct of poor publishing practices.
Christopher Cashdollar, Creative Director at Happy Cog, was quoted in a 2009 issue
of .net magazine as saying “nothing can deter confidence quicker than a broken ex-
perience.” We would add that broken experiences not only deter confidence but can
damage brands – and damage them faster than ever, because social media and user-
generated complaint sites and other mechanisms can affect perception at the speed
of light. A positive user experience is a huge competitive advantage; without quality
content at the center of your user’s experience, that experience is simply broken.
But aside from what content consumers want, we need to be concerned with what
organizations want, and ironically, it’s the same thing. Organizations want to have
brand-strengthening, useful content they can use to its fullest advantage, and they
want to produce that content in the most cost-efficient way. This book discusses waysIntroduction 7
to make that happen. When you invest in content, you’re producing some powerful
content assets.
Be clear, though: it’s not enough to write clever, accurate copy. There is far more to
a content strategy than that. At the front end, there’s the planning and, well, strategy.
At the back end, there’s technology, as well. These three things together – smart
strategy, good content, and appropriate technology – increase the value your content
delivers to your business. Sometimes, it’s not about creating more content. Often, it
is simply organizing and delivering content so that consumers can find everything
they need to know about a product. In that case, with the same content and level of
effort, you can produce great value for the organization and for consumer.
A content strategy is not something you do once and forget. The reality is that the
bar is being raised for what content consumers expect – people go out and experience
other sites and materials, and they bring their history with them. So in effect, inertia
around content strategy actually means slippage. How you create your content, and
how you architect its delivery becomes critical to being able to raise your own bar for
continual improvement.
This book is also a place to find ways to look for potential return on investment (ROI)
on your content, whether it is an Internal Rate of Return (IRR), or actual revenue-
generation. If you’re serious about managing your content, a good content strategy
will ensure success. Technology can help, but it certainly won’t fix any inherent
problems with your content. The primary success factor is the content; the technology
only supports it. It’s actually not that hard to use your content to your advantage,
once you realize the potential of your content and the potential of the technology to
deliver it in the way you need it delivered.
Your Content Defines Your Brand
The discussion of brand fills many books and has many definitions, but in short,
brand can be understood as the cumulative result of all user interactions with you.
How users feel about your brand determines how willing they are to engage with your
organization. Brand affects how easy it will be to get them to take a certain action,
comply with a new policy, or even simply consume and be aware of a piece of content8 Introduction to Content Strategy
that you need them to consume. Every group that wants users to change their behaviors
in any way must sell its message to those users such that they will take action. The
strength of your brand influences how easy that task is.
The consideration of brand is not limited to commercial, for-profit enterprises, or
external communications. Brand is important internally and in public sector and
non-profit organizations.
Multimodal Content Strategy
Most of what has been written about content strategy has been focused on the Web.
While the Web is a primary vehicle for delivering your content to customers, it is not
the only vehicle, and your content strategy needs to be more comprehensive.
For example, a product description can end up in a user guide, on a website, in a
catalog, in a brochure, or on a trade show banner – same content, different outputs.
We also consider different modes of interaction, often called “modalities,” which are
important to particular types of content at different points in the content lifecycle
and on different devices and platforms, such as mobile and smartphones, tablets, e-
readers, large-surface interfaces, and those that support voice and gesture input and
output.
We’ve called this approach a multimodal content strategy; it recognizes that the same
content gets transformed for many modes of interaction and into multiple final
products, across multiple channels. In this book, we describe how to build a multimod-
al content strategy.CHAPTER 2
The Content Strategy Imperative
When my mother was diagnosed with cancer in 2009, I, being the
eldest of my siblings, went into hyper-responsibility research mode.
I scoured the Web for any information I could find about uterine
cancer so I could be informed and offer support, if not help, around
her treatment. I would do a Google search, then head for information
about symptoms, treatments, and survival rates.
There is a lot of information out there, and a lot of conflicting inform-
ation, so I went to a lot of websites. Sometimes, I found the informa-
tion I was looking for and other times I didn’t. When I found what I
was looking for, I was relieved. But when I couldn’t find the informa-
tion, I didn’t stop to marvel about the taxonomy or navigation, the
color palette, the hover-overs, or the 3D effect on the buttons. What
I noticed was that I had just wasted time on a site that was missing
the information I hoped to find.
It’s not that I didn’t appreciate the navigation and colors and afford-
ance, and all the other good things that make up a smooth user ex-
perience. All I wanted at that point were answers to my questions.
—Rahel Bailie
This story is an all-too-common example of the good-scent, bad-content user exper-
1ience. Many theories have arisen about why this has become a recurring theme in
the web world. The most plausible one is a variation on Alan Cooper’s The Inmates
Are Running the Asylum[5]. The developers of software, and later web applications,
drove the projects and had the power to determine the user experience. The focus
was on technological possibilities, and the interface was an engineer’s view into their
world. They wanted to code, not plan.
1 See “The Scent of a Site: A System for Analyzing and Predicting Information Scent, Usage, and Usability
of a Web Site” [http://www-users.cs.umn.edu/~echi/papers/chi2000/scent.pdf] for a good explanation of
web scent.10 Introduction to Content Strategy
Cooper asserted that investing in the user experience was not only worthwhile, it was
critical, and we saw the shift to emphasizing user-centered design. That morphed
into user experience, experience design, service design, or any one of many other
variations on the user experience (UX) theme. The commonality is that before any
code is written, you need to understand the intended audiences, from how they will
use the product to the cognitive processes that help them process information about
the product to the human factors involved in using that information.
In the world of user-centered design, practitioners established processes that consti-
tuted best practices. This ensured that there was sufficient space within the process
for the stages of user analysis, information architecture, interaction design, visual
2design, and usability testing. While this was an important step toward the maturity
of the field, there was still a conspicuous gap in who got a place at the table. Content
was considered outside of the scope of the user experience. In a conversation with
the Practice Lead at a prominent design agency, the idea of a content strategist was
dismissed with a breezy, “Oh, we usually leave content for the client to deal with.”
The problem with the model as it stands now is that content is still considered “theThe Web
stuff that goes into the design.” Content is populated into the design; it is migrateddoesn’t have
from its previous location to the new design. This development model treats contentcontent, the
as an adjunct to the primary process, instead of placing content at the center of theWeb is con-
tent. – Dorian process. Dorian Taylor, a system designer, captured the essence of this conundrum
3Taylor when he asserted, “The Web doesn’t have content, the Web is content.”
Giving content a peripheral role creates spin-off problems that are not easily rectified
through a tweak to the design or even through a change large enough to require a
formal request for more budget and time. Positioning content at the center of a project
– from the beginning to the end – means fundamentally changing the way we think
about content.
2 An explanation of each of these stages is outlined in a W3C post, “Notes on User Centered Design Process
(UCD)” [http://www.w3.org/WAI/redesign/ucd#steps].
3 From http://doriantaylor.com/the-web-doesnt-have-content-the-web-is-content on Dorian Taylor’s
website.The Content Strategy Imperative 11
Form follows function: This principle states that the form of an object must be■
based on its intended purpose. If the purpose of the site is to inform, sell, share,
or entertain, then the consumption of content is the function. When the primary
function for a site (or application or software) is to provide information to content
consumers, then the design should be created to support the content. If enough
representative content is not created before the design begins, then form is not
following function. Instead, the function is being crammed into the form.
Content is the treasure, UX is the treasure hunt: The elements of design■
– from the architecture and navigation to the look and feel to the code function-
ality and everything in between – are all components that come together to help
content consumers reach the information they need as efficiently as possible. But
in the end, if the content doesn’t meet user expectations, the experience has failed.
To return to our earlier metaphor, the UX treasure hunt was entertaining, but the
experience will be remembered by the lack of treasure at the end.
Writers can’t be experts at everything related to content: Content devel-■
opment has become too complex to be left solely in the hands of writers, especially
those writers who focus only on editorial issues and ignore the foundations that
make it possible to implement a content strategy. Writers can’t be expected to be
experts at information architecture, though they know how to create folder
structures on shared drives. Similarly, we shouldn’t expect writers to be experts
at content strategy, even though they know how to use a word processor. Writers
cannot be expected to know enough about content standards and content model-
ing, reuse models, content for metadata, microformats, writing for syndication,
writing for search engines, and componentization for content management systems
to make informed decisions about how to pull all of the pieces together.
Content has become a major pain point: Project managers have begun saying■
that content is the major pain point in their projects. For the most part, the design
process has been figured out. There are processes and best practices, and the
various professionals know how to work well together. Where the processes break
down is at the content stage. This breakdown can be attributed to a number of
key failures:
The existing content is unusable: The existing content is unusable in the■
new site, software, application, or wherever the content is destined to be pub-12 Introduction to Content Strategy
lished. The old content may describe outdated functionality, or may not be
chunked in ways that are suitable for integration with the new site structure or
other delivery mechanism.
The migration failed: The migration of the content didn’t go as planned be-■
cause of the garbage in, garbage out principle – the existing content on the old
site was unsuitable, unstructured, or unmappable to the new site.
The content was trapped: The content was trapped in attachments, such■
as PDF files, which couldn’t be migrated without labor-intensive manual inter-
vention.
The new design is inadequate: The new software, application, or site design■
doesn’t accommodate the content. There is no way to provide the necessary
information or instructions within a design that was just, no doubt, approved
in a lengthy and painful sign-off process.
Content is missing: There is simply no content for certain sections – often■
the new, key sections – because there was no understanding of how long it takes
to create suitable content, or there was a lack of understanding about why ac-
curate, readable content is important.
There is no budget: Content is a major budget item. When organizations■
hire project teams, the proposals often omit content in order to lower the cost.
Then, the organization is told they are responsible for content development,
and they realize they lack time, budget, and/or expertise to start creating content.
There is no governance: Poor content often reflects poor business processes.■
The processes may simply be outdated, in the sense that print or PDF documents
are created with the afterthought of “put this on the website.” More likely, the
processes reflect departmental silos where creating and publishing content
serves internal needs, but does not respond to user needs.The Content Strategy Imperative 13
Enter Content Strategy
The creation and delivery of content is often examined during periods of change,
perhaps during a website refresh project, implementation of a content management
system, or a knowledge base upgrade. The circumstances may be different, but the
commonalities are similar. On the technical side, developers own the code. When a
design element is involved, the UX professionals own the design process. Yet when
it comes to the technical and design side of content, there is often a vacuum, and as
the saying goes, nature abhors a vacuum. As a result, content strategy has begun to
fill the vacuum in what is generally an unclaimed and misunderstood space.
A content strategy is a repeatable system that governs the management of content When it
throughout the entire content lifecycle. This is a brief statement, and looking at it comes to the
more closely gives us some insights into the nature of content strategy. technical and
design side of
■ It’s strategic: It governs what happens to content during the implementation content, there
phases. This is where the planning and analysis happens. It’s not only where the is often a vacu-
“how” is addressed but also the “why.” It’s about processes within an organization um, and as the
and how they align with corporate goals. saying goes,
nature abhors■ It’s repeatable: A content strategy is not a one-off activity. It’s a way to handle
a vacuum.content within a corporate context where a commitment has been made to achieve
a level of process maturity that can manage and sustain the content lifecycle. A
maturity model for content strategy is being developed, and is included in
Chapter 21, Leveraging Content Strategically.
■ It’s about process: The processes within a content lifecycle are software- and
platform-agnostic, though any organization with a large corpus likely uses some
sort of system to assist with process management. The processes are established
as part of the planning phase and implemented throughout the content lifecycle.
■ It’s governing: Content strategy is the guardian of content. It helps you make
the important decisions about how content is created, collected, managed, pub-
lished, and curated.
■ It’s a system: It’s not a technology, though it can be technology-assisted. It de-
scribes an organic system that covers content from cradle to grave, and all the it-
erations along the way.

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