Minneapolis Souvenirs: The insights, lessons, and little gems I brought back from Confab 2011


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A wrap-up of Confab 2011, presented at the Content Strategy Cape Town Meetup on 20 July 2011.

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  • Kristina Halvorson, keynote: Organisations have been preparing content in silos for years, now it’s visible (“Previously, we could just put it in an envelope and mail it to them.”) Lisa Welchman: Many organisations have always been dysfunctional and siloed, didn’t matter as long as their storefront looked good
  • Kristina Halvorson: Nothing they’ve done up until now has actually fixed their problems
  • Erin Kissane: proliferation of platforms means that decisions are being made haphazardly, decisions are fragmented and reactive. “ This is totally our problem.” Publishing decisions need to be made as part of the content strategy. We need a decision-making framework.
  • Erik Westra, Captain of Confab
  • It’s now easier to give a succinct answer (e.g. “covers all aspects of content planning, creation and governance, across all areas of an organisation”) But what does that MEAN, especially to people who equate content with social media or marketing or websites? Kristina Halvorson: “Everyone wants this one final definition, but it’s big, complicated and we’re all still trying to figure it out.” So pick what’s most important to your organisation in the short term.
  • This is a big, big field – that’s now clearer than ever.
  • More defined areas of content-related expertise are emerging, but it’s becoming clear that they are ALL important for the practice of content strategy. The issue with specialising in only one area is that you lose the ability to STRATEGISE.
  • Stakeholders will frequently tell you they want something (something that your experience tells you is a bad idea), but what they really want is the EFFECT they think that thing will produce. Don’t jump to conclusions. Don’t make assumptions. Prepare to be surprised.
  • Kristina Halvorson: There’s one important thing you can say. This is what makes you a consultant.
  • Sarah Cancilla communicated the idea that you can’t walk into a situation (organisation, department) and start throwing all your tools and tactics around without first quietly getting to grips with the culture, the processes, the priorities. At Facebook, this was key. She had to throw out the idea of achieving perfection before release: “We’re a builder culture. Nothing is complete or perfect – and that’s okay.”
  • One of our roles is to help others (non-writers) produce better content. Sarah Cancilla: one of her challenges when she became the first content strategist at Facebook was to figure out how to scale content development without a content team. In other words, she had to work out how to make devs better writers. The point here is that you won’t always have the perfect resources. You won’t always have a dream team. But good, solid workflow and process management can help here. Make sure the resources non-writers need are accessible, in a place and form where they’ll be used, not hidden away in a 40-page style guide.
  • You couldn’t do this without clear rules and guidelines around process.
  • Rounded up to the nearest 783 metric tons.
  • Solve this problem in advance.
  • Socially-enabled, mobile-friendly, on-demand Source, usage, relationships Reusable, profitable, time-to-market is shorter
  • Erin’s Fluevogs: stars of Confab.
  • Stop telling clients you have all the answers. You don’t. Don’t assume. Johns Hopkins – video example spoken about by Ahava Leibtag
  • Meta-humour.
  • Sarah Cancilla: Facebook content strategists have found allies amongst devs and designers. FOCS t-shirt
  • Erika Hall’s talk touched on this a lot. “The end product isn’t great content. It’s a great THING.” We need to communicate our value as part of the whole, so that people can advocate for our work. Kristina Halvorson: We run the risk of creating our own little content strategy silo.
  • Minneapolis Souvenirs: The insights, lessons, and little gems I brought back from Confab 2011

    1. 1. Minnesota souvenirs The insights, lessons, and little gems I brought back from Confab 2011
    2. 2. Here’s a real FAQ: Why has content strategy suddenly become so important in the last few years?
    3. 3. Organisations are feeling the pain. “ Why hasn’t SEO fixed our problems?” “ Why haven’t the users generated all our content for us?” Image courtesy of Sean Tubridy
    4. 4. “ We need a blog!” “ We need a Facebook page!” “ We need an iPad app!” “ We need to write articles!”
    5. 5. Confab was the best conference ever, in the history of forever. Image courtesy of Sean Tubridy Confab Bonus Fact #1
    6. 6. Souvenir #1 “ What is content strategy?” is getting simultaneously harder and easier to answer.
    7. 7. This is a salad. (Obviously.) But what’s in it? Image courtesy of Sean Tubridy
    8. 9. Confab topics: a small selection Messaging Writing for websites Content curation User-generated content Metadata schemas Content creation processes Editorial strategy Storytelling Content marketing Content management systems Measuring content Change management Localisation
    9. 10. Souvenir #2 Listening is a key skill for content strategists. Perhaps even THE key skill.
    10. 11. (I have no idea how Kristina can hear anything over that loud party hat.) Image courtesy of Sean Tubridy “ Tell me more about that.”
    11. 13. And that was the simple version.
    12. 14. 460 people attended Confab. The conference sold out two months in advance. Image courtesy of Sean Tubridy Confab Bonus Fact #2
    13. 15. Souvenir #3 Defining workflow is an integral but undervalued part of content strategy.
    14. 16. Who? Image courtesy of Sean Tubridy How? What? When?
    15. 17. The content creation process
    16. 18. Yeah. Sure.
    17. 19. The Groupon content creation process
    18. 20. I’m as disappointed as you are at the fact that they don’t use unicorns.
    19. 21. Approximately 783 metric tons of cake were consumed at Confab. Confab Bonus Fact #3
    20. 22. Souvenir #4 Content must be well-structured if it’s to be future-proof.
    21. 23. “ Nimble content can travel freely, retain context and meaning, and create new products.” – Rachel Lovinger
    22. 24. Erin Kissane isn’t just smart; she also has amazing shoes. Image courtesy of Sean Tubridy Confab Bonus Fact #4
    23. 25. Souvenir #5 Content has to be tested and measured. Continually.
    24. 26. Test. Improve content. Test. Improve content. Test. Improve content. Then reward yourself with a piece of cake. Image courtesy of Sean Tubridy
    25. 27. At least three prominent content strategists slid down the pole at the Minneapolis #11 fire station on the night of 10 May 2011. Margot Bloomstein Fire station pole Confab Bonus Fact #5
    26. 28. Souvenir #6 Content strategy is becoming a community of practice.
    27. 29. We’re sharing ideas. Image courtesy of Sean Tubridy We’re sharing challenges. We’re sharing tools.
    28. 30. Groups, groups everywhere Funny ‘cos it’s true.
    29. 31. Real friendships have developed.
    30. 32. Lorem sipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Lorem sipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Lorem sipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Please replace this dummy copy with a cool image before publishing!!1! Lorem sipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Lorem sipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Lorem sipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Confab had its own signature cocktail. Confab Bonus Fact #6
    31. 33. Souvenir #7 We need allies.
    32. 34. Find your content champions.
    33. 35. This thing only goes if we collaborate.
    34. 36. Kerry-Anne Gilowey | [email_address] | @kerry_anne