A 21st Century look at Content Strategy

Most folks when they decide to talk about content strategy like to quote Kristina Halvorson of Brain Traffic, so here goes: Ms. Halvorson says a good content strategy, “plans for the creation, publication, and governance of useful, usable content. “ A great definition, but I always find this a little too high level. I want details, and for these I found Scriptorium’s Content Strategy 101.

In this book, the Scriptorium writers explain that a content strategy does not mean simply figuring out how to manage thousands of content-carrying topics or hundreds of chapter-bearing files. Too often this one element in the strategy becomes the entire strategy, but technical communication today is responsible for so much more. Just looking at the wide variety of deliverables my company provides tells you this is not your grandfather’s tech com: html-based help, pdfs, graphic-based help, videos, tip sheets, blog posts, articles, slide shows, UI text. Therefore, we should not be using our grandfather’s content strategy because not only does such a diverse library require talented writers and advanced tool sets, it requires a sophisticated strategy that manages both the source content used to create these outputs and the outputs themselves.

I’m sure this already sounds like a bigger chore than most of us expected, but unfortunately, we’re not done. We also must consider the outside departments. What is their stake in our deliverables, and how much say should they have in the process and the content? This may actually be the harder question and the most difficult element in our strategy, which explains why it is so often ignored, but if you ignore it, you really don’t have a strategy, and in my experience, this is the case with most tech com groups. What they call “strategy” is actually just a handful of “rules” that are themselves often ignored – because another important piece of the strategy is not in place: governance. But we’ll save that for another day…

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