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Strategy: Content Strategy's Other Half
 

Strategy: Content Strategy's Other Half

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Presentation to Confab 2011 by Melissa Rach, Dialog Studios (formerly Brain Traffic) Let’s go beyond content deliverables and tactics and focus on the overall strategic process. In this session, ...

Presentation to Confab 2011 by Melissa Rach, Dialog Studios (formerly Brain Traffic) Let’s go beyond content deliverables and tactics and focus on the overall strategic process. In this session, we’ll discuss what strategy is, and what makes content strategy different from other strategic disciplines.

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  • I’m going to guess every person in this room has a different definition of this wordDefining conceptual words like strategy, marketing, business isn’t like defining object words like book, projector, chairThese definitions are really theories – made up of our collective knowledge on the topicWhether that knowledge is from books, experience, or a mentor, whateverAnd theories are great because they create shortcuts in our brains, we don’t have to think something through every time But, the danger about them is that theory becomes indisputable fact in our heads
  • And, this worked so well for meIt’s neat and tidy – such a step-by-step process – with such a happy ending And quite honestly at the beginning of my career this worked super well – it was the beginning of the web Nobody knew what the web was supposed to do, they were kind of afraid of it, so they did what we, the 23-yr-old consultants said to do We didn’t always make the $, but it was new media, it didn’t have toSo to me, this definition was irrefutable fact, it’s the way it was always done, since the Greeks invented strategy in 2000BC
  • And, this worked so well for meIt’s neat and tidy – such a step-by-step process – with such a happy ending And quite honestly at the beginning of my career this worked super well – it was the beginning of the web Nobody knew what the web was supposed to do, they were kind of afraid of it, so they did what we, the 23-yr-old consultants said to do We didn’t always make the $, but it was new media, it didn’t have toSo to me, this definition was irrefutable fact, it’s the way it was always done, since the Greeks invented strategy in 2000BC
  • Make lovely plan reports with exciting graphics and fancy covers
  • And, this worked so well for meIt’s neat and tidy – such a step-by-step process – with such a happy ending And quite honestly at the beginning of my career this worked super well – it was the beginning of the web Nobody knew what the web was supposed to do, they were kind of afraid of it, so they did what we, the 23-yr-old consultants said to do We didn’t always make the $, but it was new media, it didn’t have toSo to me, this definition was irrefutable fact, it’s the way it was always done, since the Greeks invented strategy in 2000BC
  • Minions worship (or at least respect) plan
  • If the plan is smart enough, it succeeds wildly And, this worked so well for meIt’s neat and tidy – such a step-by-step process – with such a happy ending And quite honestly at the beginning of my career this worked super well – it was the beginning of the web Nobody knew what the web was supposed to do, they were kind of afraid of it, so they did what we, the 23-yr-old consultants said to do We didn’t always make the $, but it was new media, it didn’t have to
  • So to me, this definition was irrefutable fact, it’s the way it was always done, since the Greeks invented strategy in 1200BC
  • Then I became a marketing/communication strategist (not web, general) The bigwigs/smart people often knew less than the minionsResearch wasn’t always conclusiveThe plan wasn’t always very grand The report was irrelevant the minute it was published The minions responded with distaste/apathy The plans weren’t implemented It was hard to measure value of communicationsAnti-climactic Research: competition, users The plan: tactical, hard to measure, hard to equate to $But, I was doing great – the clients loved it! So I tried to research harder, make more detailed plans, make lovely communication strategies for the minionsStill didn’t feel right
  • Classical American Method (what about the Greeks?)It was: Developed in 1950sFor huge manufacturing giants (GM/Du Pont) By guys who had military school educations and rich parents There are dozens of other strategies, but this one dominates the text booksAnd, it played a huge part in the way business, particularly in the US, but around the world works – and how content strategy can play So, I want to take a few minutes to tell you about it
  • Right after WWII (the Allies “won”)There was a glut of resources Business was about making stuff Manufacturing was a good job Communication came from authorities Competition risesMarketing becomes commonRight after WWII (the Allies “won”)There was a glut of resources Business was about making stuff Manufacturing was a good job Communication came from authorities Competition risesMarketing becomes common
  • Alfred Sloan: Create a About long-term vision Based off the military Centered around classical economic theoryIncluding intense measurement requirements Introduced frequent earnings statements as proof of success Adam Smith 1776“Rational economic man” We can see consequences and plan accordingly We can forgo short-term gain for long-term successTheory of valueThings are transparentThings are exclusive Alfred (Du Pont) Chandler
  • Alfred Sloan: Create a About long-term vision Based off the military Centered around classical economic theoryIncluding intense measurement requirements Introduced frequent earnings statements as proof of success Alfred (Du Pont) Chandler
  • “Rational economic man” We can see consequences and plan accordingly We can forgo short-term gain for long-term successTheory of valueThings are transparentThings are exclusive We still have this stuff – even if we don’t know about it
  • Worked well for GM, because of the context and they were first At the same time: 1960s:Bandwagon gets full – the SWOT is born; middle class gets a more educated, challenges authority 1970s: Not just Americans, don’t know your competition anymore 1980s: Global economy gets even bigger, lots of mobility 1990s: More Communication channels are added Evolutionists
  • 2000s: Hyper competition and hyGame theory Chaos theory Complexity theory Evolution theory Cognitive psychology Real options theory
  • This is, of course, a theory Even the military gets it Silos are set up to compete – separate strategies, objectivesIt’s not profitable and not very measurable The pyramid doesn’t work – people are moving They have long-term visions and roadmaps
  • This is, of course, a theory Even the military gets it Silos are set up to compete – separate strategies, objectivesIt’s not profitable and not very measurable The pyramid doesn’t work – people are moving They have long-term visions and roadmaps
  • 1993This one is even better
  • Lisa WelchmanFinancial guyThreatened
  • 3. Don’t have obvious, secret, superior knowledge We have to earn trust, every time We have to acknowledge knowledge We more often coach, not advise
  • 4. Can’t define value conventionally Based on function not exact numbers Less about profit, more about competitive advantage
  • We can’t change the whole business world and economic systemWhether you’re a client or consultant
  • It’s not about deliverables It’s about helping them achieve their business goals
  • All this conversation about deliverables is for usI like to geek out and see how amazing the work this community If you are a client, stop asking for it
  • Sloan was right, you need to do research, within reason, too fast paced for crazy It is not your job to haul out all your fancy terms and talk over their heads, help the client feel confident about what their talking about Earn their trust by letting them help you learn about their business They know the business better than you do. Let them be part of the solution. There is a ton of theory and best practices behind good contentMake sure you’re the team knows the ones that are applicable to themHelp them use the vocabulary Help them develop realistic goals for content
  • Threatening? Marketing strategy, UX, website strategy -- we do a deep dive on an area they would have overlooked, not a complementsWhere is the dividing line? Case by case. Who cares.
  • This is not about creating THE SOLUTION We think of decisions as commitments to future action Decisions made in formal settings are usually not acted onThey are more about mobilizing support and creating momentum
  • This is not about creating THE SOLUTION We think of decisions as commitments to future action Decisions made in formal settings are usually not acted onThey are more about mobilizing support and creating momentum
  • It’s not enough to just show them the mountain, gear, and compass Content strategists can’t do a runner Start with small projectsTest it did it work? Earn trust, communicate often Prove to leadership Measure it somehow that makes sense… it might not be dollars  Based on function not exact numbers Less about profit, more about competitive advantage They are smart, resourceful, successfulBut they don’t have:The right equipmentTime to plan Guides or spottersAnd, everybody’s watching
  • This is a statement about strategyBut, it’s also a statement about classical american method This isn’t going to change overnight, and maybe not during our careers…But, it’s got to start somewhere

Strategy: Content Strategy's Other Half Strategy: Content Strategy's Other Half Presentation Transcript

  • Strategy:Content strategy’s other half
  • What is strategy?
  • Strategy is …a plan designed toachieve a particularlong-term aim.
  • Strategy is …what to do +what not to do.
  • Strategy is …the art of creatingadvantage.
  • Strategy is …amplifying what you’regood at.
  • Strategy is …putting your pants onbefore your shoes.
  • Strategy is …selecting whichstakeholders todisappoint.Bud Caddell:whatconsumesme.com
  • Strategy is …[Insert your personaltheory here.]
  • What I used to think
  • What I used to think1. Bigwigs + strategists2. Research + analysis3. Objectives about mo4. Grand master plan5. Send plan to minions6. Minions rejoice!7. Success + $$$$$$$$
  • What I used to think1. Bigwigs + strategists2. Research + analysis3. Objectives about4. Grand master plan5. Send plan to minions6. Minions rejoice!7. Success + $$$$$$$$
  • What I used to think1. Bigwigs + strategists2. Research + analysis3. Objectives about money4. Grand master plan5. Send plan to minions6. Minions rejoice!7. Success + $$$$$$$$
  • What I used to think1. Bigwigs + strategists2. Research + analysis3. Objectives about money4. Grand master plan5. Send plan to minions6. Minions rejoice!7. Success + $$$$$$$$
  • What I used to think1. Bigwigs + strategists2. Research + analysis3. Objectives about money4. Grand master plan5. Send plan to minions6. Minions rejoice!7. Success + $$$$$$$$
  • What I used to think1. Bigwigs + strategists2. Research + analysis3. Objectives aboutmoney4. Grand master plan5. Send plan to minions6. Minions rejoice!7. Success + $$$$$$$$
  • What I used to think1. Bigwigs + strategists2. Research + analysis3. Objectives aboutmoney4. Grand master plan5. Send plan to minions6. Minions rejoice!7. Success + $$$$$$$$
  • I inventedstrategy.
  • It didn’t always work
  • My theory wasn’t fact.
  • Classical American Method!
  • 1950s. No kidding!
  • The age of the Alfreds
  • Scientific management means aconstant search for the facts, thetrue actualities, and their intelligent,unprejudiced analysis. Thus, and inno other way, policies and theiradministration are determined…Only by increased knowledge canwe progress, perhaps I had bettersay survive.‖ (Sloan 1941)
  • “Practical men, who believe themselves tobe quite exempt from any intellectualinfluences, are usually the slaves of somedefunct economist.”-John Maynard Keynes (1936)
  • Also, very quietly, around 1955the “information age” began.
  • Did it work? 1960s: Everybody did it 1970s: Competitive advantage 1980s: Market positioning 1990s: Focus inside
  • Results: Silos
  • Results: Layers
  • 60 years later ―Strategy‖ is necessary to survive Profit is the #1 outcome of strategy Classically-educated finance guys make the best―generals‖ Constant research and measurement is required– and must map to money (report progressquarterly) Work is done in functional silos
  • Guess what,it’s not 1950 anymore.
  • "Well, in our country," said Alice, still panting a little, "youd generallyget to somewhere else — if you run very fast for a long time, asweve been doing.―"A slow sort of country!" said the Queen. "Now, here, you see, ittakes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If youwant to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast asthat!―- Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking-Glass
  • Adaptability is the keyToday’s sustainable strategies need tohave: Flexible frameworks Ongoing learning/education Quick responses and reactions Strategic routines vs. long-termstrategies
  • Knowledge is the advantageKnowledge: Gives you the ability to change quickly Is valuable precisely because it’s not easilycaptured Is dispersed throughout the organization Relies on innovation, which is not obviouslyprofitable Requires constant learning and education
  • Enter content strategy
  • You have excellent timing.
  • Organizations need content to survive.They need us.And, some of them even know it.
  • Content strategyhelps organizations use contentto achieve their business goals.
  • We don’t play by the rules.Rebel yell!Mo, mo, mo!
  • No designated silo
  • Not always at c-level
  • No obvious super powers
  • Can’t define value conventionally
  • They need us anyway.
  • Start thinking about strategyin a new way.
  • Never forget journalism is aservice industry.– David Brinkley
  • Think of strategy as a VERBEverything you do, needs to do one of thesethings: Create clarity Align stakeholders Make smart decisions Operationalize change(Chris LaVictoire Mahai, Aveus)
  • Deliverables are tools, not outcomes Education moments Conversation starters Records of past conversations Memory aids
  • Create clarity
  • We are not competition,we are a complement
  • Make smart decisionsGive people the tools, knowledge, andexpert advice they need to: To move confidently Act independently To move quickly Make content decisions in their area ofexpertise
  • Make smart decisions
  • Operationalize change
  • We can be strategists AND engineers Strategy sets the stage/direction Engineering creates a solution based onexpertise As content professionals we often doboth And, both are extremely important
  • Operationalize change
  • In summary…
  • Brier’s first lawAt some time in the life-cycle of virtuallyevery organization, its ability to succeedin spite of itself runs out.
  • You can be aCONTENT PERSONand aBUSINESS PERSON
  • You can be anEXPERTand aPARTNER
  • You can focus less onDELIVERABLESand more onDELIVERING
  • You can think of strategy as aVERBNot aNOUN
  • Create clarityAlign stakeholdersMake smart decisionsOperationalize change
  • Help your team beKNOWLEDGABLEandKNOWLEDGE-ABLE
  • Ready. Set. Go.
  • THANKS!@melissarach