bookmark_borderContent Strategy is easy

Why are we still banging on about Content Strategy?

Is it really that hard?

A strategy shouldn’t be that tricky to formulate, especially as it’s concerning an area of expertise for many us, after all it’s only content, right? It’s not like it’s something new that none of us know anything about? So why is it so hard and why do we spend so much time talking about the whys and wherefores and, seemingly, so little time actually doing it?

Content Strategy is an area of our profession I’ve taken an increasing interest in. As the value of information rises, making sure you have a sensible strategy that is concerned about getting the best content required, for the right person in the right situation at the right time, has become increasingly important.

Even before Content Strategy became an entry on conference buzzword bingo sheets, making sure the content you were creating was offering the best ‘bang for the buck’ was something on the minds of all good technical writers. Sure, we could write documentation that would cover every aspect of the product but not only was that very difficult to achieve, leaving aside regulatory requirements, would all of that content be needed and used? Probably not.

Looking further afield, beyond documentation, many companies today are starting to realise that information and knowledge have more value than they realised, and so they are starting to treat content as a commodity. That means, for those of us who spend the majority of their time thinking about, planning, creating, and delivering content, our stock has risen and we have opportunities to do more, gain a stronger position in our organisations and flex our information management muscles!

And so we get to the tricky bit. For many people who don’t spend a lot of time worrying about content, it seems a bit grandiose to have to have a strategy around something that has been taken for granted or, in the worst cases, ignored altogether. Once you mention that having good control over the content being produced, with a view to improving how it is created and delivered, will cost money, suddenly the picture changes.

As companies start to better understand the link between content and the experience their customers have during their interactions with the company and the product they are using, so the need for better content, supporting and driving better user experiences, will rise.

None of this is new, these ideas have been talked about and debated for several years under the guise of Content Strategy, and for far longer than that in terms of ROI of content (and the teams who deliver it).

If you’ve been on the edge of any of these conversations, and wondered how on earth you could get such an initiative in place at your company then good news! Two leading experts in this area, Rahel Baillie and Noz Urbina, have combined their talents to write Content Strategy for Decision Makers.

Interestingly, you can’t buy the book in printed format yet, but you can read it and comment on it on the book website:

It’s only online for the month of October, so I’d urge you to hurry along! It will be in print soon regardless, and I know it’s already on my wishlist.

bookmark_borderTo Wiki or not to Wiki

The other day one of our genius developers (I think his official ranking is Jedi Knight) asked me why we don’t provide the product documentation on a Wiki. I answered him stating that it was because I wasn’t allowed. That’s not strictly true.

My answer should have been that, quite simply, I’ve failed to provide a good enough reason to my boss (and my bosses boss) as to why that may be a good thing.

And the reason I’ve failed to do that?

Because I’m still not 100% convinced that it is a good solution for our product.

What is more likely is that, if we do decide to embrace Wikis (we haven’t managed blogs yet, but that’s another issue) we take a split approach and offer a knowledge base style information centre (something like the Author-it Knowledge Center) and host a Wiki as a way of capturing and sharing what I refer to as ‘grey information’.

It’s this latter set of information which, whilst it has always existed, has never really had a place to live until the internet came along. These days all it takes is a quick internet search and you’ll find masses of information, all generated by the users. Some of it is useful, hints and tips, ways to workaround product limitations, and clever uses that were never thought of by the manufacturer.

To me, that user created content is where Wikis hold their true power and finding the balance between that content, and the content provided by my team is still something I’ve to get my head around. Ultimately the argument (business case) for investing in the creation, maintenance and policing of a Wiki needs to be focussed on how much value we will gain (ROI).

On that basis it shouldn’t be a hard business case to put together, the tricky bit is making it such a compelling argument that it moves to (close to) the top of the list, and that will require a lot more discussion around why embracing Wikis, and blogs, will stand us in better stead in the future.