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Last night Content Strategy New England was lucky enough to have Kristina Halvorson of Brain Traffic come in for a great discussion on the ins and outs of content strategy. Huge thanks to Rick Allen and Mad*Pow for cosponsoring the event.

Below are my observations and take-aways:

  • Close your eyes and envision you are Kristina Halvorson for a day. You are so redonkulously passionate about content, you have inspired thousands with your book Content Strategy for the Web. Pretty sweet. Do you have an ego? No. Are you funny as hell? Yes. Even though you have dedicated your career to something you love, are you still passionate about it? Yes, yes and yes. (OK, open your eyes, you look weird). It’s inspiring to watch her in action. Made me oddly happy as I want to do the same thing.
  • Maintenance vs. Governance – Kristina made the point that maintenance implies automation (read:CMS) and governance implies individual actions. If we had more time, I would have loved to ask how do we defend the concept of governance when there is so much attrition throughout a project or content lifestyle.  I know there are room for both content strategists and CMS consultants, but so often we are pushed toward the tactic (CMS) and not the thought behind it (content strategy). Hoping I have some time in Chicago in a couple weeks to hammer this out.
  • Christ on a cracker, there is a need for content strategy consultants (or at the very least a Brain Traffic East) in Boston. What I kept hearing was the need from designers for a content strategist on their project. You’re right, we can’t do it all. We need to make sure we help put content strategists in touch with those who need us. Next meetup, I propose all content strategists just put their business cards on the front table. Kidding. Not really.
  • Great question posed concerning the role of a content strategist in client’s hierarchical structure. Peer or leader? This began a great discussion on collaboration and how important it is to be an active collaborator. As a content strategist, you are not barking orders or screaming to be heard. You are part of every part of the project life cyle. Your ability to mediate with different people is just as important as the guidance you give to your client.
  • Someone mentioned MacGyver. I immediately wanted to write a blog entry on Jack of all Trades (MacGyver) morphing into the company laughing stock (MacGruber). To be tackled at a later date.

In summary, I left wanting more. I could have used 3 more hours either asking questions or offering advice on people’s questions. I am beyond curious to know what other CS meetup groups are talking about. In fact, if anyone wants to road trip with me, I am totally driving down to New York for their next meetup.

I’m 35 and I sound like a 15 year old at their first concert. I guess it’s just because I’m inspired which tends to put a hop in one’s step.

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Title may have nothing to do with the main entry, but it’s dead sexy no?

The other day I was listening to Master of Puppets as I am wont to do when the rest of my family is not home and I have some gruntish type activity to carry out. Hence the title.

Anywho.

This week’s challenge has centered around selling Content Strategy to high level executives. The irony was not lost on me as I failed at creating a simple paragraph to describe Content Strategy’s “less is more” mantra. I needed like 5 paragraphs and even then I only felt like I was scratching the surface. Funny how you think you know very little about a subject until you try to squish it in a paragraph.

So I thought, I head scratched, I tweeted, I tweaked and may have snuck in an adult beverage (I was at home, it was late). I was torn by what I wanted to say and what I had to say.

Thankfully, years ago I learned that even when upper management tells you its employees are what make the company hum, they are blowing smoke up your ass. Any company or high level executive that tells you people make the company successful are lying through their teeth.

Money.

Money makes a company successful. As much as they care about their staff, they care about money more. Always have, always will (at least if they want to stay in business).

So again, I sat in my dank home office scratching my head.

What I wanted to say:

I am fucking awesome. I am the best writer in your company and I know the business of writing better than anyone in the area. You are hemorrhaging an ass ton of money by having 50 people write and regurgitate the same written crap because you lack a coherent process that maximizes your brand message, makes your customers ridonkulously happy and saves your company a lot of money.

What I ended up saying:

Every word describing our software and services is a vital link to our customers. Company X’s written content is essential to establishing and retaining customer trust.

Writing, maintaining, locating and sharing our content is time consuming and expensive. Over 50% of our written materials are recreated rather than reused. This inefficiency is costing us money.

A content strategist provides Company X with a proven method for tracking, distributing and maintaining content and sharing it throughout all lines of business.

A Company X content strategist monitors all forms of content; sales, marketing, training and technical, ensuring it is applicable, accurate and useful to our customers. As the industry shifts, the Company X content strategist makes sure we stay on brand message, eliminate dated or unused content and provide a plan for documenting new solutions.

I’m not 100% happy with it and I know it has a long way to go. Revising this elevator pitch is akin to your own resume. I welcome feedback.

In conclusion, I made it less about me and more about money.

I guess the subject title wasn’t so far off.

It’s no secret I love me some house projects. 2 years ago, my wife and I had the psychotic idea to add to our home. Both literally (by way of a house addition) and figuratively (via baby #2).
During the demolition phase, I was torn on what to do with all the bricks from our old chimney. In typical yankee fashion, I knew somehow I’d find a use for the bricks later on. With limited space in our seaside property, I put the bricks in a heap somewhere.
Months later, they were in the way, so I moved them. A year later, although neatly stacked and out of the way, I finally found a use for them, and moved them yet again, staging them for a soon-to-be constructed wall by yours truly.
Aside from being an avid recycler, I am super cheap. Like wicked cheap. I knew these bricks were about $1 a piece and I had about 500 of them.
However, after hours of moving, cleaning and stacking was it all worth it?
The jury is still out on that one (I have yet to build the wall)
So what the fuck does this have to do with content strategy?
Telling Your Story Brick by Brick
Every day we’re faced with bricks of content. As writers, editors, project managers, strategists daily decisions revolve around whether to toss or salvage old content. If saved, the issue then becomes storage. Fret not, this isn’t a bait n switch CMS diatribe.
For the most part content is cheap to store, doesn’t take up space and easy to find, unless you lack one or more of the following:

  • Systematic naming convention
  • Hierarchical structure for your content
  • Index or inventory
  • Single, reliable repository
  • A plan for what to do with the content

With no plan, schema or single location, you are looking at mounds of bricks scattered throughout your workplace. Stored neatly in one place, you’re cooking with gas. You aren’t dealing with lost time and resources locating, naming and organizing old content.
The liability stems from not having a plan. If you don’t remember where you put piles of bricks, a coworker, unsuspecting IT professional or even your boss could walk by, see a bloated mess of un-structed content and toss it, mistaking it for rubbish, which if you ever seen a pile of bricks is exactly what it looks like: Ugly trash.
Cheap Bricks Stay in One Place
It’s great that I saved my old bricks, because years later I really did need them. However, I really didn’t save myself $500. I spend hours of my time moving and stacking those bricks several times, reducing their value every time. If I had a solid plan years ago, I would have saved time and energy.
Having a game plan for your content may not seem like a top priority now. However, every time you have to move, manage, rename handle your bricks of content you are diminishing its value to you, your organization and most importantly your audience.

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