What is Content Strategy?
There are lots of definition for content strategy but I rather like this one:
Content Strategy helps organisations provide the right content, to the right people, at the right times, for the right reasons.
Meghan Casey – The Content Strategy Toolkit
It’s succinct and easily remembered and I know that I can pull this out in a conversation when needed.
Why hasn’t content strategy been on my agenda before now?
An excellent question and one that needs some context to understand.
There are obviously dozens of ways you could divide an organisation as large as ours. For the last 12 years, technical authoring has always been embedded within product delivery functions (essentially R&D departments). Some of that time, when we’ve had a reasonable ratio, we’ve been able to work directly within a product team.
And what happens when you work as a single specialist within a larger product team? Simple, you deliver according to the team’s expectations. For a technical author, that means producing user assistance, often following the same patterns that have been well laid down. You want user assistance for your product? I’ll get you your updated PDF guides, and F1 help system.
So, technical authors hear rumours of other technical authors working elsewhere in the business, it’s rare to touch base with them, let alone work together to agree the direction for user assistance.
The very structure of the department and the isolation most technical authors felt, certainly influenced the lack of developing a cohesive strategy.
For many areas, as we’ve developed new products online, we’ve been forced into collaboration patterns. When you have one product that’s sold and localised across multiple regions, you can no longer work in isolation:
- Language issues necessitates collaboration.
- Workload due to localisation means authors—typically in different regions—means that single authors in product teams don’t have the capacity to do all that needs to be done.
There are two other big drivers of change:
- Technical writers are evolving into creators of content. We are no longer being considered as suppliers of just user assistance, but are becoming responsible for content across websites and user interfaces.
- Content creators are being considered an integral part of the user experience teams.
It’s this last point that has caused me to reflect on content strategy especially. If we’re part of user experience, we have to take a seriously hard look at every aspect of what we do to ensure the customer is centred at the heart of everything we do.
This is going to be challenging but massively rewarding. I’m at the start of my own learning journey into what content strategy means and for this to be effective I’ve got to come to the table ready to lead others.
So, it’s a case of:
- Learning a reasonable amount of content strategy theory.
- Working with the teams in developing ideas.
- Implementing those content strategy ideas.
My go-to reference right now is Meghan Casey’s The Content Strategy Toolkit: Methods, Guidelines, and Templates for Getting Content Right (Voices That Matter). I’ll be writing plenty more about this in the future.