This could be the set up for a joke: an information architect, a user experience designer, and a technical communicator sit down together to discuss their work. One of them says, “I want to make sure that visitors to our website have the best experience possible, find the information they need quickly, complete all their transactions easily, and go away with a positive impression of our organisation”. And then each of the others says, “That’s my job too”. It’s not a joke. It’s an attempt to define the umbrella discipline known to its friends as Content Strategy.
Last week I was at the November 2012 meeting of the UK Content Strategy Association (UK CSA). The panel of speakers included practitioners and theorists who tried to define what a career in content strategy might look like. The meeting has already been summarized very neatly by Guerilla Editor has summed the event in their post The first rule of content strategy: don’t talk about content strategy. In short, a content strategist must understand the editorial aspects of website content, the technical aspects of website construction, and the practical aspects of user behaviour. That’s why I call it an umbrella discipline – it covers a lot of areas, and everyone who comes to work in or near it has something to contribute. I imagine that it is rare (though not impossible) for any one individual to excel in all these directions, so content strategy is often a team output.
Many of the speakers agreed that content strategy is not a well known term (outside the self-defined content strategy community, that is) so they rarely mention it to clients. Instead they talk about solving problems, or as Murray Cox of LBi put it, “we talk about user-centred content”. That’s a catchy phrase, and I’m sure I’m going to use it a lot.
So what’s your contribution to the umbrella of content strategy?
Sidebar: involving technical communicators in Content Strategy
A few months ago I wondered why technical communicators don’t go to content strategy events. I suggested that it might be a lack of self-confidence or perhaps a lack of awareness of what technical communicators have to offer. (Ann Rockley made a similar point in a recent interview with Scott Abel published in the STC’s Intercom magazine: technical communicators do indeed have a lot to offer when it comes to a strategic approach to enterprise content.)
I’m pleased to say that at this UK CSA meeting things were a little different – quite a few technical writers were in attendance, and two of the speakers had strong technical communication credentials. I must claim some responsibility for that, as I put the organiser of the ISTC‘s London local group in touch with the organiser of the UK CSA so that invitations were passed around a little more widely than usual. That’s why, when I was asked to help with attendee sign-in for the meeting, it looked like I knew a large number of people coming to the event. I did!