Please, please, please could we stop talking about content strategy as if it only applies to the web design professional. The impact of content and user experience go far wider and should be at the heart of everyday marketing practice.
Reading Jonathan Kahn’s brilliant article on A LIST Apart, I couldn’t help being struck by how the debate around content strategy still seems firmly rooted in the realm of web design and development. Now don’t get me wrong, you’ll find no bigger fan of content strategy as a discipline than me . As a user experience practitioner I am fascinated by the way content strategy is driving the agenda for how we create and maintain compelling web experiences.
Perhaps it’s the wider perspective working for integrated agency affords, but I can’t help feeling that we are missing a trick. Surely we need to drag content strategy out of shadows and beyond the domain of the aloof web specialist (come on, we know we are!) and position it firmly into the core of everyday, contemporary marketing practice.
In another article I once wrote I made the argument that content strategy goes beyond the constraints of the web site, to all digital touch points and all digital content. The rise of the social web and democratisation of content creation, calls for a new breed of content strategist, one that is dedicated to monitoring, aggregating, contributing and shaping content about the brand in all its digital guises. I believe we work toward a model for shaping content strategy as a means for understanding which conversations to invest in. This argument is being taken further to suggest that ‘user experience’ needs to extend not only to all media, but the gaps in between, Samantha Starmer starts this debate most eloquently.
In this context we see that content strategy goes beyond just the preserve of the digital specialist. We need to call on the insight into consumer behaviour brought by the ‘traditional’ planner; the detailed understanding of connection and effect, through data; the appreciation of consumer mental models and demands through search; and the subtleties of the social specialist to build a framework for interaction.
Perhaps, ironically, could the semantics be to blame for keeping content strategy niche? The strongest illustration being what we actually mean by the term content. By most definitions a TV ad is content, words are content, YouTube video is content, comments and blog post are content – it’s hardly useful . Perhaps we should be thinking more at differentiating by what content does. Is it branded content that informs and compels? It is search content that attracts and directs? Is it conversational content that drives participation? In this way we can link content to its intended behavioural outcome, rather than its make-up or taxonomy.
So is there a wider view?
I think so. I think we need to see content strategy as being part of a wider content ecosystem.
Content strategy is concerned with the systems and processes for structuring, organising, managing and creating the content. As such it is closest to the traditional user experience professional.
Editorial strategy is then concerned with what to say and to whom. It covers messaging, themes , topics, points of view and how they are expressed. As such it is closest to the writers and search specialists.
Content marketing covers how to drive conversation around content. How to use it to attract attention, engagement and participation. And as such closer is to the traditional communication and marketing professional.
In conclusion brands and their agencies should no longer dismiss content strategy as something the web guys do. It’s at the very heart of modern marketing practice and should be embraced.