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© 2009 Ugur Akinci
“Content Strategy” is a relatively new concept which, ironically enough, did not originate from the technical communication community, as noted by Dr. Ginny Redish during her STC-DC Technical Documentation Award Ceremony luncheon address on February 7, 2009, in Washington DC. Redish is an STC Fellow and the best-selling author of Letting Go of the Words: Writing Web Content that Works (Interactive Technologies) (Interactive Technologies).
“A web site without a content strategy is like a speeding a vehicle without a driver,” said MacIntyre in a frequently-quoted aphorism.
Web designers like Kristina Halvorson expressed a similar sentiment: “David Campbell, the founder of Saks Fifth Avenue, said, ‘Discipline is remembering what you want.’ When it comes to creating and governing content, it’s easy to forget what we want, or even worse, to settle for less.”
So what is content strategy? Let’s listen to Lovinger who is considered by many as one of the earliest proponents of the concept:
“The main goal of content strategy is to use words and data to create unambiguous content that supports meaningful, interactive experiences. We have to be experts in all aspects of communication in order to do this effectively.”
Basically it comes down to the systematic reasons WHY anything should or should NOT get published on a web site. It’s the self-reflective process through which a web operation becomes fully aware of itself, its specific goals and the content it should publish to reach those goals.
The word “strategy,” in contrast to a “tactic,” reflects a LONG TERM focus on what matters most for a person or an organization.
Similarly, content strategy is the DISCIPLINE of delivering what a web site is supposed to deliver. And the person who assures that is called a Content Strategist – a new career opportunity for all technical writers and communicators.
Your organization perhaps does have a STYLE guide. But does it have a CONTENT guide too? And if it doesn’t, who is positioned better than you, a technical communicator, to bring that up?
During her STC-DC presentation, Redish gave a fascination example of a government agency website to illustrate the kind of difference smart content strategy can make.
This was an agency that was supposed to provide business and labor-issues counseling to small businesses and individual entrepreneurs.
However, in the BEFORE picture, the Home page of the agency’s web site was devoted to news articles about the agency itself. But of course people were not visiting to read stories about the agency. They were visiting to find solutions to their own problems.
In the AFTER picture, Redish displayed an amazingly different web site, with helpful links on its Home page targeting business owners and not news article seekers. Anyone taking one look at those BEFORE and AFTER screen-shots immediately grasped the essence of Content Strategy and the kind of great difference it can make to the bottom line of an organization.
This is a brave new frontier for all technical communicators. Just as DITA and Structured Authoring is a new venue on the “presentation” front, Content Strategy is a similar new perspective on the “content” front. I heartily recommend all my readers to read and think more about this new and exciting opportunity.
Who knows, with the way economy is going, your next job might be not in technical writing but in content strategy.
“Content Strategy: The Philosophy of Data” by Rachel Lovinger
“The Discipline of Content Strategy” by Kristina Halvorson
“Content-tious Strategy” by Jeffrey MacIntyre
Full list of all STC-DC Competition Staff and Managers