Confab Minneapolis: Mapping the Pieces of the Content Strategy Puzzle

Spending three days with some of the best minds working in the web today at Confab Minneapolis reinforced the fact that story is at the center of all we do, and it takes a coordinated effort to tell that story successfully in today’s complex world.

As content strategists we’re the ones who put the pieces together. We’re the storytellers in our organizations, and we need to make sure everyone involved in any chunk, piece or project knows where their role fits into the narrative.

Today’s publishing systems are extremely complex. Gone are the days of linear workflows and the control allowed by print. We need to make sure that we can speak the language of everyone who makes up our storytelling teams, from those who build the systems that put it on the web, the bots that help our users find it, all the way through to the analytics teams who measure our success.

Confab Minneapolis 2013

Photo courtesy ConfabEvents.


The People

Jeff Eaton helped remind us that dev teams and content teams need not devolve into the Hatfields and McCoys. Scope always changes, features always change. The needs of both teams are valid. Take the time to understand how their team functions, what their main concerns are, and why they respond in a way you may find unexpected.

Also take the time to share why you’re coming to them, what you’re trying to accomplish and what you may need in the future. Once you see each other as humans with needs, you can help each other get the best result.

The Bots

So you’ve smoothed the path to get the story into the publishing machine. Will machines be able to understand and parse it? We all know that automation and aggregation are playing an increasingly important – and complex – role in today’s publishing systems. But getting our content through that system is someone else’s job, right?

Wrong. Sara Wachter Boettcher reminds us to make sure everyone working in the web should have a working knowledge of how all the web properties that work with our content or outside content that is pertinent to our message map out and how people use it. As content experts we can ensure that our content is structured and tagged as well as relatable and relevant. Now our story will reach our users.

The Numbers

Now that your content is churning through the machine and getting to your audience, how can you be sure it’s working? Our good friend, analytics. True, this is something else that feels like it’s not really “yours” to deal with. While you may not own it for your organization, it is a core competency you should have to improve the world for your users.

 Jonathon Colman reminds us that if you want to make a business case for what you do, you’ll need numbers. Want to show those controlling the budget that your work is worth a bigger piece of the pie? Prove it. Want to show how well your content aligns with core values and vision? Ensure that’s part of the success metrics. Want to know what to do when someone comes to you worried about bounce rate? Understand the context and what that metric is telling you. Understanding the story the numbers are telling will enable you to tell yours more effectively.

For many content strategists, thinking about analytics is a bit outside their realm of expertise – rather than thinking of eloquent phrasing, you’re thinking about APIs and analytics. Luckily, Michael King bridged the gap in his session on the poetry of SEO.

Social and search channels provide us with some of the best opportunities to hear what our users want. It’s up to us to make sure we’re listening. The tools that are being developed provide us with additional ways to spread out message. Meta data is really about making a good first impression. So we need to make it count.

The Reason

So, you may be asking yourself when you can just hole up and write again, and free yourself of all these constraints. That’s totally understandable. But you can’t have creativity without constraints. Paul Ford closed Confab MN by outlining this point, and showing us how artists live within the resistance of the materials. That’s why we have to care about all these puzzle pieces that make up our content strategy.

But remember, constraints can also create territories. Declaring that analytics isn’t in your job description will simply draw a line between you and the rest of the team. Not being a part of requirements gathering for the CMS update pulls you further from your team, and will ultimately impede your success. So reach across those boundaries, learn about your team and what they do.

Now, you can sit alone and write.

About the Author
Meghan James

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