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A Crash Course in Content Strategy

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August 16 2012 intro to content strategy workshop at the School of Visual Concepts.

August 16 2012 intro to content strategy workshop at the School of Visual Concepts.

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  • I’m going to start with a story. Who knows Fancy Nancy?\n\nMy daughter read Fancy Nancy and the Dazzling Book Report a few months ago, and of course, I read it, too. And realized that it’s a perfect illustration of one of the fundamentals of content strategy.\n\nIf you don’t know her, Fancy Nancy is a young girl who likes things to be fancy. She likes to use fancy words and dress in fancy clothes and stave off a non-fancy existence. \n\nOne day she’s assigned a book report on a biography of Sacajawea. She reads the book, and gets really excited about putting the report together. She gets out lots of art supplies, and puts together a beautiful and elaborate cover for the report. She wants to make it look as amazing as possible.\n\nAnd of course she runs out of time. She figured she knew what she wants to say, so it won’t take long to write, and Sacajawea deserves an awesome cover.\n\n\nOf course she spends so much time designing the cover that she ends up writing two sentences that don’t say much about the book.\n\nCan you relate? Yeah.\n\nContent strategy at its core is an I Can Read-level lesson: Leave yourself time to produce good content.\n\nNancy learns her lesson, and her teacher is forgiving, and everything works out. It’s touching. Let’s see if we can learn some lessons that we can apply to the web and other digital experiences. \n
  • Take notes. Discuss. Pull up examples and let’s tease out how they might do their content.\n
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  • They want to find stuff out! They want to be entertained! They want your content so bad they’d just as soon not visit your site to get it (RSS feeds, Instapaper, etc.)\n\nNote: This isn’t a content. All the other elements of your site are important, too.\n
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  • Should we go up to the computer lab? Or do people have computers here?\n
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  • DON’T fixate on design issues. Think about content. Everything from the class descriptions and marketing messages to word choice.\n
  • Side note: how many pages do you think the site has? Over 2000 HTML docs! (Not all pages, but that’s a lot of stuff.)\n
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  • Agencies!\n
  • In-house at Codecademy. Note: part of the design team. Strong writing component.\n
  • In-house, at companies like United Airlines. \nNote the UX specialization.\n
  • Facebook! (Timeline story.)\n
  • Lucasfilm! STAR WARS! \nThe Sr. Interactive Copywriter/Content Strategist is responsible for developing content that reflects and serves Lucasfilm’s larger strategic goals and needs. This role will work closely with the Content & Programming Lead to develop and maintain both the driving content strategy and editorial calendars for StarWars.com and other Lucasfilm online properties; will help lead the development and execution of new content-based projects; will help manage internal and external contributors; and will use audience insights and performance reports to ensure that content is highly effective. This individual must be an exceptional writer, strategist and collaborator, familiar with evolving best practices and passionate about developing effective content that balances business objectives with audience expectations.\n
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  • Let me tell you a secret: One of the first things I loved about content strategy was the chance to get away from marketing. \n\nMarketers were following right behind, though. And in retrospect I was naive. \n
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  • Here’s a debate you’ll hear about a lot. What’s the difference between content strategy and content marketing? Is there a difference? (I bet there’s ten conversations on Quora about this RIGHT NOW, and exponentially more on Twitter.)\n
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  • One way to break it down.\n
  • We’re not going to dive deep into this today, but it’s worth keeping in the back of your mind.\n
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  • In-house writers? Users? Vendors? Clients? \n
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  • Don’t overlook these three pieces: \nThe Business\nThe user\nThe context\n\nPoint of discussion: NBC and the Olympics. People complained about the time delay for the summer games—but NBC got record-breaking ratings for their coverage. Was this good content strategy? \n
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  • This is the formal version of what we started out doing.\n
  • We’re not doing this in here. But this is something you could do. \nYes, this means that an actual content inventory of the SVC website would have over 2000 lines.\n
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  • Talk about CAT and Integrity. There’s no one tool that does everything, or does it the way you want, but there are options, and more coming all the time. Check the Google Group or LinkedIn discussions.\n\nhttp://107.22.198.75/cat/#job/e41c6dc528dd89803bd00f31f7e958b5\n
  • WHAT is this content?\nWHO is responsible for it?\n
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  • Think back to Fancy Nancy: Her book report cover is worthless without an actual book report.\n
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  • Jeffrey Zeldman\n
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  • Content strategists are usually good communicators, but that doesn’t mean they’re always copywriters or other content producers.\n
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  • Don’t count on redesigns, in my experience. Start figuring out how to practice content strategy with the site you have now. Evolution, not revolution.\n
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  • Yes, this is one thing you can put on a spreadsheet. \nExamples: “This says ‘new.’ When should it stop saying that?”\n“This copy talks about being cutting-edge technology. We’ll need to revisit when the next line comes out. Pull it or edit it.”\n
  • Let’s dig in to the Buzzfeed strategy: http://cdixon.org/2012/07/24/buzzfeeds-strategy/\n
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  • Which CMS? Depends. There’s no one right answer, or even two right answers. You’ve got to know what your content creators need, what your business needs from the content, and promote a system that makes it easy. Ugly systems produce substandard content.\n
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  • Transcript

    • 1. A Crash Course inContent Strategy A workshop at the School of Visual Concepts August 16, 2012
    • 2. Your host: James Callan @scarequotes
    • 3. (This workshop stands on theblog posts and books of giants.)
    • 4. Introductions! Who are you?What brings you here?
    • 5. What’s a website that has content that you think is good? What do you like about it?
    • 6. People don’t visit your site to see amazing design.
    • 7. People don’t visit your sitefor a great user experience.
    • 8. They want your content.
    • 9. “Like a gentleman in a finely crafted suitwho wants to burp you the alphabet,even if your website looks nice, no onewill stick around to hear whatyou have to say if you don’tcraft something compelling.” Jason Santa Maria @jasonsantamaria http://jasonsantamaria.com/articles/the-elements- of-content-strategy/
    • 10. Let’s go poke around on a real site that I know we’re all interested in, or at least we all have been.
    • 11. SVC:http://www.svcseattle.com/
    • 12. Split into teams of two. Pull up the SVC website.See how many pages you can find.
    • 13. Be ready to discuss: What information do you find useful and usable?What are some questions you have that the site doesn’t answer?
    • 14. Let’s talk.
    • 15. Content is not a nice-to-have. Content is not an add on. It’s a business asset. It has value.
    • 16. Because ...it brings you customers, wins you fans,builds you an audiences, and earns you money.
    • 17. It’s also a lot of work,if you want to do it well.
    • 18. U.S. Findings: Web Use +Perceptions of Content Credibility
    • 19. “You are all in publishing!” Jeffrey Zeldman, king of the web http://www.zeldman.com/2011/03/15/web-design-is-publishing/
    • 20. You need to get it right.Enter content strategy.
    • 21. What is content strategy?
    • 22. First word: What is content?
    • 23. “In the web industry, anything that conveys meaningful information to humans is called ‘content.’” Erin Kissane @kissane The Elements of Content Strategy
    • 24. “Content is anything an organization or individual creates and shares to tell their story.” Ann Handley @marketingprofs
    • 25. illustrations images tweetshelp articles navigation words photos audio slideshows interface copy podcasts Facebook posts blog posts infographics comments cartoons video white papers error messages
    • 26. (It’s not just words.)
    • 27. Word two: What is strategy?
    • 28. It’s a plan for getting stuff done in order to achieve a goal.
    • 29. Put ’em together:What is content strategy?
    • 30. “Content strategy for the web is about bringingeditorial skill and methods into website planning. In order to create good content, you need a plan for how you’re going to get it and keep it coming.” Elizabeth McGuane @emcguane http://mappedblog.com/2010/10/04/fear-loathing- and-content-strategy/
    • 31. “Content strategy is to copywritingas information architecture is to design.” Rachel Lovinger @rlovinger http://www.boxesandarrows.com/view/content-strategy-the
    • 32. “Content is story.Content strategy is storytelling.” Prateek Sarkar Director, Creative Services Walt Disney Parks and Resorts
    • 33. Where do content strategists come from? From “Apes of Wrath,” a Warner Bros. short.
    • 34. Content strategy is a big playground.People join in from different perspectives, and tend to specialize.
    • 35. Where can you find content strategists?
    • 36. Is content strategy part of user experience (UX)?
    • 37. You can’t create great UX around bad content.
    • 38. “Content strategy helps organizations use content to achieve their business goals.” Melissa Rach @melissarach
    • 39. “(God help a business if UX isn’t one of their business goals, but helping the userisn’t an inherent part of content strategy).” Melissa Rach @melissarach
    • 40. Is content strategypart of marketing?
    • 41. (Marketers have been very excited to talk content strategy!)
    • 42. “Everything you write should be craftedwith the intention of selling, educating, or increasing customer loyalty.”
    • 43. “Important content like FAQs, Docs, Press Releases, Welcome messages, etc. sometimes fall into someother bucket of ‘Content That Does No Marketing™.’Bullshit. It’s all marketing when you’re doing it right.” Des Traynor COO, Intercom @destraynor
    • 44. Content strategy vs.content marketing.
    • 45. Content strategy:The plan. The big picture.
    • 46. Content marketing:The execution. Tactics.
    • 47. Content marketing:Content that earns you interest and wins you customers.
    • 48. Pop quiz:Can you name some ways companies people have used content marketing to sell bubblegum?
    • 49. Hey kids! Comics!
    • 50. Baseball cards!
    • 51. Content strategy is closely allied with user experience.It’s closely allied with marketing.
    • 52. Content strategy has tentacles in: Data modeling. Product design. Change management. Social media. Editorial. Taxonomy. Information architecture. And other stuff.
    • 53. Different content strategists have different emphases.
    • 54. Front-end content strategyWhat your audience sees andexperiences. It includes:• User experience content strategy• Marketing and editorial content strategy
    • 55. Back-end content strategy This is how to make the content workwell. It includes:• "Intelligent" content • Content governance and operations
    • 56. (That breakdown courtesy of Kathy Hanbury.) @kathyhanbury
    • 57. The benchmark definition:
    • 58. “Content strategy plans for the creation, publication, and governance of useful, usable content.” Kristina Halvorson, Content Strategy for the Web
    • 59. Creation:Who’s providing your content?
    • 60. Publication:How are you getting your content to users?
    • 61. Governance: How do you keep content up-to-date?When do you send content out to pasture?
    • 62. Useful:How does this content benefit you? How does it benefit your user?
    • 63. Usable:Can people find, consume, and act on your content?
    • 64. What makes good content?
    • 65. “Good content” is in the eye of thebeholder. Ultimately, your users decide.
    • 66. What are your goals?What is your content supposed to achieve for you?
    • 67. “There’s really only one central principle of goodcontent: it should be appropriate for yourbusiness, for your users, and for its context.Appropriate in its method of delivery, in its styleand structure, and above all in its substance.” Erin Kissane @kissane The Elements of Content Strategy
    • 68. Good content is:• Appropriate• Useful• User-centered• Clear• Consistent• Concise• Supported Erin Kissane again. Seriously, read her book.
    • 69. How do you knowif your content is good? Inventory and audit.
    • 70. Inventory: What content do we have?
    • 71. Audit: How good is the content we have?
    • 72. The content inventory: The cornerstone of anysuccessful content strategy!
    • 73. The content inventory
    • 74. Yes.It really is a big, big spreadsheet that documents every page— every piece of content— on your website.
    • 75. How do you do a content inventory? Click each link on your site. Document what you find.
    • 76. Or get a bot to do it for you.
    • 77. Things often tracked in a content inventory: • Page ID/number • URL • Page Title • Parent • Page Description • Components • SEO Information (metadata, keywords) • Who inside the organization owns that content.
    • 78. The inventory is quantitative. What’s on the site?
    • 79. Followup: the content audit.That’s qualitative: How good is what you’ve got?
    • 80. Is there ROT?Look for content that’s: Redundant Outdated or Trivial
    • 81. You can tailor an audit to evaluate all kinds of qualities. Is content on brand? Is it accessible? Do people understand it? Is it meeting customer needs? Is it in a usable format? (There are many possible measures.)
    • 82. So your audit uncovers someproblems.Now what?
    • 83. Remember the nutshell:1. What content do we have?2. What content do we need?3. Fill the gap: edit, create & curate.
    • 84. Erin Kissane’s even shorter breakdown:1. Evaluate.2. Design.3. Execute.
    • 85. One thing to keep in mind:Content strategy is a process. It’s a cycle.It never really ends.
    • 86. Content strategy is a web design discipline. Content experts should be involvedfrom the beginning of a web design project.
    • 87. “Content first!”
    • 88. “Content is king!”
    • 89. “Design fromthe content out!”
    • 90. More evaluation tools:
    • 91. Stakeholder interviews
    • 92. Talk to everyone involved with thecontent, preferably one-on-one, about what they need and want from the site’s content.
    • 93. The goal is to get an idea of howcontent works within the organization.
    • 94. ASK QUESTIONS.(Go with the classics: who, what, when, where, why, and how.)
    • 95. Who’s supplying the content? Who is the target audience?Who’s maintaining the content?
    • 96. What content do we need?
    • 97. When will we publish?
    • 98. Where will we publish?(Our site, email, Facebook, Twitter, etc.)
    • 99. How will all of this get done?
    • 100. And a big one, especially in discovery: WHY? Why do we need a blog? Why do we need a Twitter feed? Why aren’t we using a CMS? Etc.
    • 101. Once you’re done evaluating, it’s time to design.Some tools you might use to do so:
    • 102. Message Architecture What are your key messages? How are you delivering them?Does your audience believe you?
    • 103. Your message architecture is independent of form.It’s not a tagline, or a mission statement, or a video. It’s communication goals. Specific terminology.
    • 104. illustrations images tweetshelp articles navigation words photos audio slideshows interface copy podcasts Facebook posts blog posts infographics comments cartoons video white papers error messages
    • 105. Let’s talk about the message architecture of SVC.What do we think the key messagesare? Let’s spend some time on that.
    • 106. What content on the site–just content, not layout–can we keep, as is? What needs to be edited?What’s missing and needs to be created? And what needs to be killed?
    • 107. Editorial Style Guide What’s our tone?Which dictionary do we consult? Do we use the serial comma?
    • 108. Editorial process Who’s creating our content?How do we decide it’s good enough?How do we evaluate its effectiveness?
    • 109. Content Template (a.k.a. Page Table) What needs to go on each kind ofpage? Includes both visible and invisible content. Accompanies site map and wireframes. Communication bridge between subject matter experts and writers.
    • 110. Content Template (example #1) http://intentionaldesign.ca/2011/02/22/writing-templates/
    • 111. Content Template (example #2) The Elements of Content Strategy
    • 112. Content Template(example #2, continued) The Elements of Content Strategy
    • 113. Editorial Calendar How do we decide when to publish?(Tweet twice a day? Update home page when new products launch? Respond to holidays? Respond to news events? How quickly? Etc.)
    • 114. There are more tools. content matrices content modelingaccessibility guidelines SEO analysis taxonomy personas competitive analysis wireframes
    • 115. Not every project requires every tool.
    • 116. And content strategy is not, ultimately, about learning a particular tool. Thetools help the process, but they’re not the point of the process.
    • 117. Also, not every project is a site-wideredesign. Content strategy works on a project-by-project basis.
    • 118. Governance!How content strategy plays out over time.
    • 119. “If IA is the spatial side of information,I see content strategy as the temporal side of the same coin.” Louis Rosenfeld @louisrosenfeld
    • 120. “When I look at where most websites fail, it’s in managing their content over time.” Karen McGrane @karenmcgrane
    • 121. Consultants and agencies: People want to hear from you!Yay, buy-in! But you don’t get to be there for the long haul.
    • 122. In-house: Buy in can be a major challenge!But you know the brand and business goals, and you are there for the long haul.
    • 123. Content strategy is not a quick fix. It’s a long process. One reason content is valuable is because it’smessy, and difficult, and requires a lot of resources.
    • 124. To keep your content working:Track when content will need to be archived or updated. Use the editorial calendar. Use a rolling audit. Budget time to get that done.
    • 125. What does a content strategy look like?
    • 126. Whatever your approach and yourbackground, learn about the other areas of content strategy.
    • 127. “It’s about seeing structures through the lens ofmeaning and storytelling, and building relationshipsacross disciplines so that our databases reflect this richness and complexity.” Sara Wachter-Boettcher @sara_ann_marie
    • 128. “You’ve set up a content management interface and workflow, that is designed to make it as easy as possible for the content creator to manage and maintain all of that content in one place.” Karen McGrane @karenmcgrane
    • 129. I’m tired of yammering.I know you’ve got questions. Shoot!
    • 130. Resources: I’ll post a bibliography and links and stuff on my blog: http://scarequot.es Come to a meetup with Content Strategy Seattle! http://www.meetup.com/Content-Strategy-Seattle/Join the Google Group, or LinkedIn discussion groups. Follow smart people on Twitter.Content strategists are a friendly, helpful group. (I think it’s a job requirement.)
    • 131. THANK YOURemember to fill out your evaluation. Don’t forget to write. james@scarequot.es http://scarequot.es Twitter: @scarequotes

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