We look at it from POV of four actors or 4 D's Content strategy is process of dealing with these four things as they relate to your content.
Encompasses a lot Localization, Storage Creation of graphics Decision to use graphics rather than text.
What format should I use? PDF, HTML, both, neither Process of creating deliverables from content. In “olden” days the delivery tool was the same as the development tool. These days, the development tool isn't necessarily the same tool you use to create deliverables.
Once you create the deliverable, you have to convey it to your customer. Web, Print, help,
Information that is time-sensitive. eg Tax Software Price guides Another issue: How to deal with back-rev versions of SW?
Clarify diff between TechComm content strategy and Web content strategy. Purpose of WCS is to persuade (such as “buy my product”) Tim O'Reilly: TechComm is enabling people to do stuff with your products. Marcom is about persuading that your thing is awesome or cheap or useful Some overlap. Convince to buy by showing doc. Persuasion. “Web Content Strategy” is marketing. Reading an article, be aware.
Tech Comm Content strategy What is the promised land of TechComm Cont-Strat? Without taking 40 years. What will it look like? Answer is: it depends. Rest of talk: Give a road map for dealing with Content Strategy.
Step 1 is NOT tools. Determine Business goals of Tech Comm Positioning: we're really cool, eg Game docs, need fun. eg Financial sw, need to have quality appearance Call deflection. Keep the cost of TechSupport down. Goal of TechComm content might be marketing. Let's take a look at some examples of business goals expressed by TechComm..
Examples of how Tech Comm priorities manifest themselves in doc. Warning is primarily defensive. Says something about the company that they'll dedicate 20% of the page to legal.
“Green” Thought went into scheme, says they care about branding.
What does this say? “our stuff is ugly and we don't care.” Warnings. Similar PDFs with TOC and no links.
Online PDF, delivered in B&W. Tells you that icon is green. PDF online, color is free. Says company doesn't care.
ePinions You don't want this about your stuff. Won't help marketing. David Pogue in NY Times: Will say “Don't buy because I can't figure it out and it has a bad manual.” So one of your goals might be to avoid this kind of publicity.
Oxygen doc, XML development tool and authoring platform. Formatting is functional. Info is about something that isn't part of Oxygen, but Oxygen supports it. This provides additional supporting info, helps prevent support calls. Providing users with useful background info. Going beyond documenting your features.
Having said all that, we need to touch on something Mark Baker said a few months ago. Content strategy must be tied to revenue.
Let's talk about money. Think about money and your business goals. If you have regulatory requirements, you don't want to violate them and get sued or shut down... Company positioning, look at marketing analytics, see your results If you're looking to reduce support costs, you'll have to quantify them.
Here are some business goals. Why do you have TechDoc and what does it add to your company? If your answer is “because they pay me to do it.” you don't have a content strategy. User communities and loyalty. Programming tools, libraries. What it your organization's justification for tech comm.
Once you have your business goals, then you can set your strategy. “We need a book” is not a strategy...unless a 3 rd party book is required. If Consumer produce, your goal might be to: reduce returns, install guide in box, help, wizard. Once you've determined what your goals are, what do you need to do to accomplish that?
Most common approach is , “well, I have ________” Let me see what it can do. Do not pick a tool because it's shiny, then figure out strategy. Figure out strategy first, then find tool. SW product vendors will try to convince you their tool is the best in the universe. Buy it, then we'll see what we can do to configure it. Every tool has constraints. Q is: are those constraints acceptable? Purpose of marketing is to frame the question in such a way that your product is the only possible answer.
It's your responsibility to figure out what your goals are and what your strategy should be. And from that work your way down to figure out what the solution should be.
Find business goal (reduce tech support costs, whatever) Set Strategy (for getting fewer people to call us.) Some obnoxious strategy: make people wait an hour for tech support. More reasonable might be: make content available on web and Google searchable. If question is “lower support costs” the answer should never be “buy this tool.”
Give customers lots of ways to access information (web, eBooks, paper, PDF). If regulated, strategy should be deliver content that complies. Improving marketing position, deliver content that's pretty.
What you don't want to do is stuff like this. “You can download our PDFs...but first...” Put in your e-mail (optional is hidden at end of sentence). Why are free PDFs hiding behind this download page?
Once you have a strategy (and hopefully it won't be one that irritates potential customers), Then you're going to need some tactics. This is the close-up stuff. Implementation, tools, technology.
All the things to do what you're trying to accomplish
Q is How do we get there from here? Strategy and vision of end result. How do you get there? Here's where you start to hear about project planning, project mgmt, management consulting. Needs analysis, gap analysis, What do we need, where are we now, What info arch do we need? What structure of content? (not necess XML) Planning (Planning is your friend). Pick tools and technologies.
NOW you can think about tools & technology. If your favorite tool will do it, fine. Hear a lot that “I have no budget, so I need something cheap.” Business case first, then budget. With savings in business case, you can request budget. We don't ask for much in TechComm. This is a challenge for us in working with clients. $2M localization, 30% DTP cost. If we can save that 30%, you've got money. Diff from “can I have $50,000?”
Will be some constraints. Financial: can work around with business case. Organizational: eg high security org didn't want SW from some countries. Regulatory: if Gov says, deliver this format, better do it. Be aware of interpretation: look closely at requirements (does it really say PDF?). Legal: High stakes docs (medical) Corporate culture: Linux only shop, or Open source only (or NO open source). going against corporate culture is difficult.
Take these factors, and within them, is your solution.
We do advise you to choose wisely. Because if you don't choose the right tool or the right way to implement your strategy, you can run into serious problems.
Sometimes the mismatch is obvious. If you're in the middle of the desert, this isn't the solution. In general, not that a particular tool is always wrong or always right; what are your constraints?
aka Black Swans There IS an asteroid out there. It will hit your department, or work group, or strategy sooner or later. Represents Disruptive Change . Don't know when, how big, where it's coming from, what it will affect, Can't expect, can't plan for them, can't prevent it. Have to account for them. Change in Regulatory environment New format comes on scene. Just have to deal. What if assumptions are wrong?
What's the best delivery format? What's the best way to create it? What content should be in it? This is “best”. What is “best”? Cheapest? Most efficient? Depends. Case-dependent.
Risk. Any technology or tool is risky. Kind of risks you'll run into and difficulties are different for different organizations. Business case, if solid, perhaps take some more risks. If weak, perhaps take fewer. Writers are less or more adventurous. Can they handle high-end, tecchie system? “Organizational competencies” - skill level in org. Gap between skill level and where you need them to go, bigger risk.
Different SW vendors focus on diff risks. depending on which they are strongest in. Huge mkt share will tell you small mkt share is risky. Leading edge tech will tell you old tech is risky. They have risks they can minimize. Those aren't the questions. (next slide)
Q is: what is YOUR biggest risk. Which ones are you willing to take? Which ones are you NOT willing to take. What risk type is most relevant to you?
The bottom l ine is: business value must drive strategy. In consulting, we see all sorts of cases: See people who shy away from a solution because it's expensive, but they can't envision the returns. Others are eager for expensive solutions, when the returns aren't there.
If you have a strong business case, you can take on any technology. If your business case is weak, you need to keep your technical challenges low. Level of technical challenge must track with the business case
So much to do, day to day, get deliverables out the door, deadlines, hard to take big picture view. Our customer usually have a big picture idea of what they need, they have an idea of what their strategy needs to be. But they don't have time to put together the business case, write the strategy, hard to step back. This is hard to do, but we're here to help. There are wonderful consultants out there and you should hire us all.
Content strategy in Technical Communications
Content Strategy in Technical Communication Simon Bate Scriptorium Publishing