Your blog on contentstrategyinc.com is such a great knowledge resource that I wonder how you yourself became educated in content strategy. Tell us about your path.
I began my career as a technical communicator working within a usability team. Later, I worked as a customer experience researcher with a special interest in content. In both of those earlier career paths it was the intersection of content and customer experience that really fascinated me. It was an area I was passionate about and was so confused as to why more organizations weren’t paying attention to it. I did a lot of educating and advocating in those days. There were no content strategy resources at that time, so I borrowed methodologies and approaches from the customer experience discipline and applied them to content. That’s still the foundation of how we approach content strategy today.
When I began my own content strategy business in 2010 I quickly realized that content strategy is not sustainable without a solid content governance foundation. I expanded my skillsets in those areas (learning as I go, borrowing what I could from other disciplines), and then hired and trained people who specialize in governance. Now that makes up about half of our business.
What type of clients do you enjoy working with the most and why?
From a demographic perspective, we work with clients large enough to have accumulated decades of messy content problems. Complicated internal politics just makes things more interesting. We do a lot of work with public sector clients and other companies who struggle with creating and managing content effectively and efficiently in this digital age.
From a personality perspective, I love working with clients who are excited about content strategy and who work with us to find creative ways to implement solutions, even in challenging environments. I get really frustrated by a “we can’t do that here” mentality. Every company can improve their content and content practices – let’s figure out how to do that!
Your consultancy developed the Content Assess and Progress methodology. I’m curious about how CAaP came about and whether it was a response to some chaotic projects (not that any of us have ever experienced those) or something similar.
One of the reasons why I love content strategy is that there’s always a time, early in the project, when a client’s content or content practices seem like an overwhelming mess and we have no idea how we’re going to wade through it all. But we always do, which I credit to our methodology and an ability to find patterns in the chaos.
Our CAaP program is our way of sharing that methodology and helping people see patterns in their own content chaos that they’d otherwise miss. It comes from our experience working on hundreds of content strategy projects, but what’s really exciting for us is that as more organizations participate in CAaP, we can incorporate that broader experience base into the program and provide industry-relevant content strategy benchmarks.
In your article “Productivity for the Uninclined,” you describe yourself as “lazy,” which I have a tough time believing. Do you have any content strategy productivity hacks you could share with us?
Well, I am lazy in that I’m really not good at doing things I’m not interested in. So, the best productivity hack I know is to focus on your areas of interest, and always keep expanding on them. Then you don’t have to make yourself do things, but are actually engaged in the process and can get into the flow where time goes quickly and you end up producing interesting stuff. Of course, there are still some things I need to do that I don’t enjoy (like audits!) but, in general, if I start getting bored with my work I’ll find a way to shift directions to make it more interesting. Content strategy is wonderful for that because there are so many different aspects that no one person could ever master them all!
In one of your case studies you say, “People are not always open to new ideas, to changing the way that they work and think,” and you add that you’ve observed that across industries. How have you helped your clients to change their ways and to be more open?
I realized early on how important content governance is to content strategy, and it only took a short while after that to understand the importance of change management. My senior content governance strategist, Blaine Kyllo, and I both have change management methodology certifications and we integrate change management principles into our content governance frameworks and training programs. One of the most important things we do now, with all our clients, is to make sure that the people who need to change the way they work are involved in the process of developing the new systems.
Finally, I love how your web site says you blend science and art. Can you give us an example of how you do that?
Well, the science part comes from our more analytical and methodology-based approach. We do research and try our best to make sure our content strategies and designs are evidence-based. But there’s an art to figuring out how to make that happen in different environments, and how to give each client what they need to help them move forward. No two projects, and no two clients, are the same. There’s no one-size-fits all content strategy solution. Tailoring content strategy to a particular context and client is definitely an art.