January 24, 2012
Content Strategy, Like Lightning...
When I left RBI at the end of last month, with my potted plant in my arms and a cheque in my back pocket, I realised that high on my priority list was figuring out exactly what I'd just spent the best part of six years doing. Wait. That sounds bad. I knew exactly what I'd been doing; I just wasn't sure how best to describe it to the outside world, especially as it's more than possible that my next employer won't be a journalism organisation. Outside that rarefied field, the job title "editorial development manager" doesn't mean much. I'm not sure it meant much even within that profession...
Fundamentally, I'd been working with content teams to help the define their content propositions for a digital, social and multiple-channel age. So... content strategy? Seemed like a good description, which begged the question: are there other people who define themselves in that way? A quick dose of the Googles proved that there were, and that they had a meetup and everything.
So I paid my fiver, trotted along and took some notes, sat alongside my arch-event blogging rival Martin "currybet" Belam. (Never quite figured out which of us is the super villain and which is the superhero. And that worries me.) These are pretty raw notes, typed rapidly into an iPad as the speakers, uh, spoke... They only had five minutes apiece, so the notes are by necessity rather brief. I found some talks compelling and insightful, and others rather obvious. No, I'm not telling you which are which. :-)
Mags rattled through the case study of a small business auditor who'd quit to launch to ForMums - a Chiswick-based hyperlocal and hyperniche site.
1. Kate doesn't have a proposition without a content strategy. The blog is the stickiness. Essential, because it brings people in, timely so it brings them back. What is a free listing? What is paid? What is the content for an advertiser? How much should it cost? All these things had to be decided.
2. Defining taregt audiences. There are gwo kinds of mums in Chiswick. Yummy mummies, who stay at home on their partner's income, and then the dual income families. Second audience is local businesses. And how do we ensure it's not overwhelming for Kate herself?
3. How do we get the structure right, so it old be sold to other areas? Kate intended to sell franchises to other West London areas.
4. Reviewing the tactical - what should she do every week? Every month? The event schedule was critical.
Semantic content - do we give people too much choice on their writing toolbars. It's distraction-free. Proper content is good for SEO. It's also accessible. Basically a quick rattle through familiar semantic markup.
Websites are what corporations do to talk to their customers. They're great because you can get all sorts of information out of them. The websites at probably only 10% of the content being produced by a corporation. People don't realise they're creating content; it's a sales pitch, or a presentation, or a user guide... and they're all working in silos.
Lots of the "back" content on your site is from the rest of the organisation. So you need to work with people to find what they've got that you can work with.
Open Source CMSes in Enterprise. Advice: collaboration. Teams working together, collaborating with the community. Gartner spoke to 500 IT leaders. Essentailly three thpe of software in use: Proprietary (provided by vendors) - Open Source - Internal (custom written for the company, usually by internal teams). In the years between the first time Gartner did the survey and the most recent, internal and OS have both grown at the expense of the proprietary. His theory is that Internal and Open Source can feed into each other. Companies can contribute code back as they build internal solutions on OS software. Three big platforms: Alfresco for document managers, Drupal for big sites, WordPress for smaller sites. Cited a Lullabot example (you reading Jeff? :-) ) in which Sony and Warner ended up collaborating on sites through shared code.
Context is the third part of the site. There's content, structure and context. Context brings meaning. If you don't understand your customer! You can't put content in context. Contextualisation has been hijacked by marketing - segmentation. Google tells you that you can't contextualise - one URL, one piece of content. But Google contextualises... Each context is a rock that diverts some of the stream. But how do you apply context to CMSes? They're built on segmentation. Context needs to happen on the word level, not the page level. You have to contextualise for your customers.
They want to help us manage the quality of content. Over half of websites have four plus errors per page. State of the art CMOS? You can't lock everything down. The Magus approach is to patrol your live content separately from the CMS, check it against agreed standards, and flag problems. You can drill down to countries, or site sections. Creates dashboards to show web editors what needs doing...
Is content strategy domed from the start? Lots of lessons from failure that make him depressed. Clear trends about what a good projects needs. Bolt-ons to sites, editors wrestling with CMSes, none of the original people involved... these are warning signs. Companies aren't used to thinking like publishers, so once the experts leave having set the strategy, the content suffers. Most companies aren't ready to be publishers for the web yet. Changing them is very hard. Easiest to make the content the clients problem. Taking responsibility as an agency is often asking for trouble. Basic organisation, human, political problems - these are usually the ones you have the least remit to solve.
Talked about her Benefits Checker approach to looking for fraudulent content in your strategy - stuff that doesn't serve the content goals. Use when you've got your personas, your cone sorted. You start with a persona. Patrick is into a photographer. He's a camera geek, looking for info on cameras. He needs to end up saying "I know the camera to but, I know the difference between these models." a
Also emotive stuff: "I'm excited by the photos I'll take". Four functional, four emotive statements - and then, as a team, assess each section of content against those statements:
1-2 ticks when reviewing - fraudulent content. It needs to go.
3-6 - Rehab. Needs guidance and work.
7 - 8 . Champion content. Make sure it's important enough and flagged up well.
Enterprise content management used to be Fuddy Duddy. But now people are talking about "experiences". What is content experience? Interactivity, apparently. That's very content centric, and we're interested in people. Idio does content marketing. We're trying to move people closer to a purchasing decisions. We as humans at producing tonnes and tonnes of data. Is there enough content? Should you curate or aggregate? If you apply semantic analyses to your data streams, you start to understand your people. Content strategy should be data driven.
Never be content with your content. Information and entertainment - you can't bore people into buying your product. And you need to give people ways to find the content. You need to find ways to use the content... How are you going to deliver the content? A website? A mobile experience? Social media?
You need a structure. You need to create the content to fill the holes. And you need to review it. And then you need to get a strategy to get it approved. and then your publish it. But your also need to archive it, because you don't know when you'll need to reuse it. Always make your information interesting.
10 questions and answers:
- Welcome to the new austerity? Smaller budgets, great pressure to perform.
- How have we performed up until now? Before: IA, design
- So who are our role models today? CEOs, COOs. They know conten is king.
- Meaning what, exactly? Value, efficiency, ROI.
- OK, having got this far, how do you make value? Make it repeatable, reusable.
- Sure, but what about content? Be smart - do more with less
- Fine, but how do I come up with original content? Capture and store source materials. Get 10 uses from i.
- How else can I multiply value? Seek out the in-house talent
- How do I tell this story to the business? Evidence (metrics) is everything.
- What next? Be creative, be smart, be valuable.
Other posts about the session:
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