Intro to Content Strategy: January 2013Presentation Transcript
A Crash Course in Content Strategy A workshop at the School of Visual Concepts January 25, 2013
Your host: James Callan @scarequotes
(This workshop stands on theblog posts and books of giants.)
Introductions! Who are you? What brings you here?What’s a website with content that you like?(Bonus points if it’s not straight-up media.) What do you like about it?
Why is content important?
“You are all in publishing!” Jeffrey Zeldman, king of the web http://www.zeldman.com/2011/03/15/web-design-is-publishing/
A content strategygives you the structure to decide what to publish, accounts for the resources you have, and helps you plan for the future.
People don’t visit your site to see the amazing design.
People don’t visit your sitefor a great user experience.
They want your content.
From Signal vs. Noise: http://37signals.com/svn/posts/3404-reminder-design-is-still-about-words
From Signal vs. Noise: http://37signals.com/svn/posts/3404-reminder-design-is-still-about-words
“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/
“Apple has ... given us a solid example of how high-quality content contributes to a user’s experience, and how, when you reduce the quality, it interferes with that experience.” Jared Spool, @jmspool “iOS6 Maps Is An Incredible Gift to UX and Content Professionals”
It’s also a lot of work,if you want to do it well.
Divide into teams of 2-3 people.We’re going to go analyze some web content.
When you’re in your teams, get a website from me. Then we’ll go to the computer lab.
Pull up your site on a computer. Start looking through the content.Click through as many pages as you can.
Gut check: Is it good?Is there enough? Too much? Take notes.
Be ready to spend 5 minutes telling us: What content was useful and usable? What content was missing?What’s the most ridiculous thing you found?
And we’re back downstairs.Keep your burger joint in mind as we discuss more content tactics.
Step 1:Know what content you’re working with.
The content inventory: The cornerstone of anysuccessful content strategy!
How do you knowif your content is good? Inventory and audit.
Inventory:What content do we have?
Audit:How good is the content we have?
The content inventory
Yes.It really is a big, big spreadsheet that documents every page— every piece of content— on your website.
How do you do a content inventory? Click each link on your site. Document what you find.
Or get a bot to do it for you.
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.
The inventory is quantitative. What’s on the site?
Followup: the content audit.That’s qualitative: How good is what you’ve got?
Is there ROT?Look for content that’s: Redundant Outdated or Trivial
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.)
So your audit uncovers someproblems.Now what?
Remember the nutshell:1. What content do we have?2. What content do we need?3. Fill the gap: edit, create & curate.
Erin Kissane’s even shorter breakdown:1. Evaluate.2. Design.3. Execute.
Message ArchitectureWhat are your brand’s key messages? Are you delivering them? How? Does your audience believe you?
Your message architecture is not a tagline, or a mission statement. It’s communication goals. Specific terminology. The backbone of your messaging.
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?
Let’s try an exercise.Let’s come up with a message architecture for each of your burger joints.
When you know your messaging architecture, all of your content can be on brand. Even the details!
One example of contrasts:Cook’s Illustrated vs. Allrecipes.com
“I hate the idea that cooking should be a celebration or a party. Cooking is about putting food on the table night after night, and there isn’t anything glamorous about it. Cooking isn’t creative, and it isn’t easy. It’s serious, and it’s hard to do well,just as everything worth doing is damn hard.”
Neither approach is the right approach.They work for their respective companies.
So we’ve done steps 1 and 2.We’re doing content strategy!
This would be a good time for lunch, if we haven’t done it already.
Back up a sec:What is content strategy?
First word: What is content?
“In the web industry, anything that conveys meaningful information to humans is called ‘content.’” Erin Kissane @kissane The Elements of Content Strategy
“Content is anything an organization or individual creates and shares to tell their story.” Ann Handley @marketingprofs
illustrations images tweetshelp articles navigation words photos audio slideshows interface copy podcasts Facebook posts blog posts infographics comments cartoons video white papers error messages
(It’s not just words.)
Word two: What is strategy?
It’s a plan for getting stuff done in order to achieve a goal.
Put ’em together:What is content strategy?
“Content strategy for the web is about bringingeditorial skill and methods into website planning. Inorder 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/
“Content strategy is to copywritingas information architecture is to design.” Rachel Lovinger @rlovinger http://www.boxesandarrows.com/view/content-strategy-the
“Content is story.Content strategy is storytelling.” Prateek Sarkar Director, Creative Services Walt Disney Parks and Resorts
The benchmark definition:
“Content strategy plans for the creation, publication, and governance of useful, usable content.” Kristina Halvorson, Content Strategy for the Web
Creation:Who’s providing your content?
Publication:How are you getting your content to users?
Governance: How do you keep content up-to-date?When do you send content out to pasture?
Useful:How does this content benefit you? How does it benefit your user?
Usable:Can people find, consume, and act on your content?
Speaking of “usable”:Is content strategy part of user experience (UX)?
You can’t create great UX around bad content.
“Content strategy helps organizations use content to achieve their business goals.” Melissa Rach @melissarach
“(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
One more thing to note: “Content strategy is not a single solutionor deliverable. Its a process and a mindset.”
Is content strategy part of marketing?
(Marketers have been very excited to talk content strategy!)
“Everything you write should be craftedwith the intention of selling, educating, or increasing customer loyalty.”
“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
Step 3:Use your content strategy todrive your content marketing.
Content strategy vs.content marketing.
Content strategy:The plan. The big picture.
Content marketing:The execution. Tactics.
Content marketing:Content that earns you interest and wins you customers.
Pop quiz:Can you name some creative ways companies sold bubblegum using content marketing?
Hey kids! Comics!
Let’s look at a couple of real, recent examples ofcontent marketing informed by content strategy.
Another example: Burt’s Bees
Any ideas for using contentmarketing for your burger joints?
Here’s what Comodo, arestaurant in NYC, did.
Again, having that architecture helps you drive what you produce. It makes you more effective at collaboration withother departments, such as SEO.
Content strategy is closely allied with user experience.It’s closely allied with marketing.
“Good links are important, but good experiencesare essential. Need to build links? Start bybuilding out good content.” Jonathon Colman @jcolman
Content strategists may be involved in: Project management. Data modeling. Change management. Social media. Editorial. Taxonomy. Information architecture. SEO. And other stuff.
Different content strategists have different emphases.
Front-end content strategyWhat your audience sees and experiences.It includes:• User experience contentstrategy• Marketing and editorial contentstrategy
Back-end content strategy This is how to make the content workwell. It includes:• "Intelligent" content •Content governance and operations
(That breakdown courtesy of Kathy Hanbury.) @kathyhanbury
What makes good content?
“Good content” is in the eye of thebeholder. Ultimately, your users decide.
What are your goals?What is your content supposed to achieve for you?
“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
Good content is:• Appropriate• Useful• User-centered• Clear• Consistent• Concise• Supported Erin Kissane again. Seriously, read her book.
One thing to keep in mind:Content strategy is a process. It’s a cycle.It never really ends.
Content strategy is a design discipline. You are contributing to the way something functions at its very core. Content experts should be involvedfrom the beginning of a web design project.
“Content is king!”
“Design fromthe content out!”
Step 4:Always Be Asking Questions
Talk to everyone involved with thecontent, preferably one-on-one, about what they need and want from the site’s content.
The goal is to get an idea of howcontent works within the organization.
ASK QUESTIONS.(Go with the classics: who, what, when, where, why, and how.)
Who’s supplying the content? Who is the target audience?Who’s maintaining the content?
What content do we need?
When will we publish?
Where will we publish?(Our site, email, Facebook, Twitter, etc.)
How will all of this get done?
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.
Step 5:What’s your style?
Editorial Style Guide What’s our tone?Which dictionary do we consult? Do we use the serial comma?
Editorial process Who’s creating our content?How do we decide it’s good enough?How do we evaluate its effectiveness?
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.)
Step 6:Figure out what your content looks like. Even on the inside.
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.
Content Template (example #2) The Elements of Content Strategy
Content Template(example #2, continued) The Elements of Content Strategy
And content strategy is not, ultimately, about learning a particular tool. Thetools help the process, but they’re not the point of the process.
Also, not every project is a site-wideredesign. Content strategy works on a project-by-project basis.
Governance!How content strategy plays out over time.
“If IA is the spatial side of information,I see content strategy as the temporal side of the same coin.” Louis Rosenfeld @louisrosenfeld
“When I look at where most websites fail, it’s in managing their content over time.” Karen McGrane @karenmcgrane
Let’s look at one example of what governance can mean.
Who knows Sporcle.com? Abottomless supply of trivia quizzes, mostly generated by users.
July 9, 2011:South Sudan splits off from Sudan to become a separate country.
So Sporcle had a lot of geography quizzes to update.
And they just did it again this monthafter the UN recognized Palestine as a “non-member observer state” —meeting Sporcle’s working definition of “country.”
Consultants and agencies: People want to hear from you!Yay, buy-in! But you don’t get to be there for the long haul.
In-house: Buy in can be a major challenge!But you know the brand and businessgoals, and you are there for the long haul.
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.
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.
What does a content strategy look like?
Whatever your approach and yourbackground, learn about the other areas of content strategy.
“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
Where do content strategists come from? From “Apes of Wrath,” a Warner Bros. short.
Content strategy is a big playground.People join in from different perspectives, and tend to specialize.
Where can you find content strategists?
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.)
I’m tired of yammering.I know you’ve got questions. Shoot!
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