Confab 2011 Interview: Margot Bloomstein on Why Content Strategy Matters

In the run-up to Confab 2011, the CMS Myth asked a few questions of Margot Bloomstein of Appropriate Inc., whose talk on Monday at 4:30 is “Message Matters.” The interview is below.

Define Content Strategy in 16 words or less.

Planning for the creation, aggregation, expiration, and governance of useful, usable, appropriate content in an experience.

(And in some circles, a fun drinking game!)

OK, your talk at Confab is titled “Message Matters.” What’s your thesis, what’s your big idea?

Before auditing, blogging, curating, and all the other craziness and possibilities, we need to first prioritize our communication goals. What’s the single–and singular–message of your organization? What are the communication needs and expectations of your target audience? As we answer those two questions, we can establish a standard for what’s good, appropriate, and missing. That’s the stuff that can guide a content audit, as well as a “shopping expedition” for more or better content. No message architecture? No standards. We’ll walk through a couple of exercises you can do to develop those standards with your clients and within your organization.

Where are most organizations today on the maturity curve for establishing a content strategy?

This is an exciting time for content strategy, and not just because of the vodka luges and post-audit debauchery intrinsic to the “process.” Oh, right, your question was about maturity. Over the past two years, content strategy has grown in visibility. More people are blogging about their work, sharing case studies, and teaching others–and they’re not just teaching other consultants and creative practitioners. Our clients, coworkers, and employers are paying attention. In the past few months, more organizations have approached me asking about content strategy by name; they know what it means and know they have challenges on the web and in corporate culture that call for it.

Just as organizations are reaching out for help, the smart consultancies are taking steps to respond. I’m partnering with a couple large agencies right now to address content strategy on their key accounts. Even more compelling is the investment I’m seeing from small and mid-sized agencies to build internal content strategy teams. In some cases, their clients are specifically asking for it. In other cases, they’re hearing that they need to relaunch a brand, update a look and feel, reorganize around a new CMS, or find a way to better engage an audience. Smart agencies read between the lines to offer a more consultative response. In all of those examples, content strategy has to help frame the solution. Fortune favors the bold: as they invest in growing the practice, enhance sales strategies, and integrate new processes, demand rewards their initiative.

What’s holding some of them back? What would step 1 be to fixing what’s broken?

When I hear that content is a problem, it’s usually because it’s a BIG problem–and that’s the issue: most organizations aren’t thinking big enough. They limit social media to the PR department rather than educate everyone who can represent the brand. They constrain web governance to a single department that “owns” the web, rather than socialize the responsibility and commitment. They develop campaigns, but don’t first establish quantitative goals and measurements of success, and then abandon them too soon to see real results. In every case, it’s an issue of scale: the responsibility, commitment, and engagement is bigger than they think. If you’re in an organization like this, think bigger. Look beyond the typical owners and timelines to integrate your work more fully into your company’s culture and calendar.

What brands are doing a great job with content strategy today (matching message, brand and audience)?

I love what I’m seeing from smaller organizations in either the second tier or the fringes of their respective industries. MINI, Icebreaker, and jetBlue all offer exceptional content. In every case–the automotive, outdoor apparel, and airline industries, respectively–they’re not the largest, oldest, or cheapest option. Instead, they differentiate on content that riffs on being “the other.” Scale and youth can drive opportunity. They’re not tied down to history or the matrixed accountability of many behemoth companies, and can take chances to best communicate brand and understand audience expectations.

Margot Bloomstein is Principal of Appropriate, Inc., a brand and content strategy consultancy based in Boston.

About the Author
David Aponovich

A former 'CMS Insider,' David is relentlessly focused on the gap between vendor speak and customer adoption. In addition to keeping a keen eye on industry trends, he works with clients on the cultural and process implications of CMS that are so often overlooked. David wrote for the CMS Myth during his time working at Connective DX (formerly ISITE Design).

More articles from David Aponovich

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