rude awakening—content strategy is super hard

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It’s official: “content strategy” has become a trendy buzzword phrase that everyone is using to describe everything remotely related to content. SEO content strategy! Social media content strategy! Content marketing content strategy! Wait. This sucks. Weren’t we just starting to focus on The Important Stuff? The messy, complicated content stuff that companies have been ignoring for years? What needs to happen now if we’re finally going to get this content thing right? Four of the brightest minds in content strategy will tackle some the toughest issues our companies are facing: cross-platform distribution, governance, legacy content, distributed publishing, and trying to prepare our content for future technologies we can’t possibly predict.


New magazine: Contents

“rapidly expanding online communications” @kissane

Higher Ed Content Strategy (managing enterprise content). What is the strategic solution to the content problem? CS is more than “writers saying writing is important”. Content as copywriting: it’s more than writing due to publication, archiving, etc. Content is more than the product, it’s the process.

The Quad: Core Strategy, Substance, Structure, Workflow, Governance.


“Content strategy is just content planning or common sense.” Content strategy quickly begins to touch on organizational change. It’s easy to say we should be doing these things, but actually making them happen in an enterprise organization is a different story altogether. Content strategy integrates multiple disciplines, which means you should plan but also immediately start doing. “Everyone wants a seat at the strategy table.”

What does content planning look like?

Jockeying for power/authority. Job title spaghetti. We can articulate a strategy for how content will directly impact our institution, but we also have the tactical plans to make that happen. Start with a small project where content strategy is used as a “gateway drug”. There are sometimes no other institutional strategies (communications, business) to build on.

Project lead: interaction designer v. content strategist? Content strategy is inherently multi-disciplinary.

How do content strategists succeed/fail at articulating their own value to an organization? Assume you have a place; jump in, and show how what you do helps other people. “Send me out as your scout; let me take the hit for the rest of the team.”

Container first! Context first!

The web industry is saddled by the legacy of print. In print, the marriage of content and form is much tighter. So the container setting the content makes sense; led to the idea of the “template” on the web. You can’t just define a box / structure for the content, you really do have to start with the content first. Stop designing from the container in, start designing from the content out. Content drives form.

But there will be multiple containers and devices, and we have to think about content as a fluid thing that interacts with frameworks.

What are the paradigm shifts with the content creators do we need to see? We have to start at the beginning, and teach writers about metadata (structure on the front-end for cross-platform delivery). It’s about creating content for flexible re-use in the future even without knowledge all of the ways it might be used. “You are not writing a web page. You’re not writing documents. You are creating content (ideas), and that needs to be re-used in the future in multiple device channels.”

An editorial point-of-view should be part of an organization’s communications strategy. There should be authority to implement such a point-of-view.

How much of content strategy is thinking about the future and applying that to the now?

Where do you start?

You start by asking “Why?”. You need to know what your user’s need, and you need to know what your organization is trying to accomplish. For every single piece of content you make, you should know what it is supposed to accomplish and who it is for.


  • @joegollner
  • @halvorson
  • @kissane
  • @karenmcgrane
  • @verymarkm