Content Strategy for me?

The title is shamelessly paraphrased from David Farbey’s presentation at TCUK10, and is a point of view endorsed by other delegates in their presentations, such as Roger Hart in the excellently titled The Spork/Platypus Average – Content strategy at Red Gate Software.

I hate to oversimplify these two excellent presentations, but between them they made three key points that helped formulate my understanding of Content Strategy:

  • Content Management is about rules. Content Strategy is about thinking – David Farbey.
  • A Technical Communicator’s toolbox of cool things is a Content Strategist’s toolbox of cool things – Roger Hart.
  • Content Strategy is not just about the Web – A point of view endorsed by both Roger and David.

So how does this apply to what I do?

I’ve been a Technical Communicator of one stripe or another for twelve years. I’ve worked on manuals, help systems, reports, presentations, flyers, specifications, user interface design… I’ve never had trouble finding a new area to apply my skills.

However, in my current role my remit is quite different. I was taken on to think about and to begin to implement more efficient and effective ways to manage the documentation created by the IT Department. And what a challenge that was – in over fourteen years of existence, the company had given no real thought to how to actually do this. At all.

I confess I launched right into a firefighting exercise. I juggled competing demands from managers wanting me to document BAU procedures and processes, while trying to learn as much as I could about what tools or techniques might be best applied. In short, how could I help non-writers write, because there was no way I could do it all myself.

Before TCUK 10 I only had the vaguest idea what Content Strategy might be. Afterwards, my neurons were on fire with ideas. I couldn’t believe I hadn’t realised before that recasting my ideas in the form of a coherent strategic approach was the best way to sell this to the department – and the business as a whole.

With the resources at my disposal  – my toolbox of cool things (i.e. my communication and analytical skills); the knowledge and enthusiasm of my colleagues; and the limited tools and budget already available – I was sure that what had seemed like a Herculean (or perhaps Sisyphean?) task became something I could tackle.

Just how this all works out is currently in the balance. Whatever the case, I am now firmly on the path to becoming a Content Strategy advocate.

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  1. #1 by Content Tactician on October 22, 2010 - 8:59 am

    A lot of what I’ve learned so far about Content Strategy has been conceptual and abstract. It’s really useful to see how it can relate to a real-world situation like this. Thanks for sharing this and good luck, both with the continued blogging and the CS!

  2. #2 by Julio Vazquez on October 22, 2010 - 12:57 pm

    It’s amazing that once you sit back and analyze what it is you actually do, you realize you can state your value proposition better. IMHO, content strategy is nothing really new, it’s a restatement of what we should have been marketing for our profession for years. If all we do is write, we’re a commodity. If we can define, refine, and maximize processes for content creation across an organization, we’re worth a lot more.

    Nice post.

  3. #3 by jk1440 on October 23, 2010 - 11:35 am

    Thank you both!

    Julio – Indeed. The skills we acquire as Technical Authors can be marketed as so much more than the ability to write documents. I’m hopeful that the notion of Content Strategy will help us do this.

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