Tackling the content conundrum

Large organisations are constantly producing information about their products and services. They create specifications, diagrams, drawings, business cases, use cases, production procedures, operating instructions, user guides, business reports, and much more. All this written information is often referred to as “content” as it is used as the contents of all sorts of online and offline publications. The content created by business is valuable and important, but it can be the cause of significant problems as well. This is a conundrum that more and more businesses need to tackle.

It’s difficult for organisations that produce significant volumes of content to know how to manage it efficiently. Producing content is really easy, and that’s the first problem. How do you control who can produce it? Once it is produced, where do you keep it, who do you make it available to and, most perplexing of all, how can you find it when you need it?

Those of us who work in the field of technical communication have been aware of ways to tackle these problems for quite a while, ever since Ann Rockley’’s Managing Enterprise Content: A Unified Content Strategy was originally published in 2003. Much content is produced independently in separate departments leading to poor communication, duplication of effort, and incompatible systems. You need to take a strategic approach to all the content across an enterprise to reduce wasted effort and to save significant amounts of time and money.

In recent years, in response to the growing importance that web commerce holds for many organisations, the term content strategy has come to be applied to managing the content that appears on websites. In some circles content strategy is discussed as if it was merely a branch of marketing, or as a kind of “long-winded SEO” that exists only to convert website visits into revenue.

In fact, content strategy can bring much more significant benefits to an organisation than “just marketing”, by creating a holistic approach that drives the creation, management and publication of content across all departments. Content that is created just once and is readily available to everyone is easier to maintain, easier to find, easier to re-use, and easier to translate, all of which translates to significant savings. Recently much more emphasis has been placed on these wider benefits, for example in Rahel Bailie and Noz Urbina’’s book Content Strategy: Connecting the dots between business, brand, and benefits.

While there are a number of conferences each year that include some discussion of the wider meaning of content strategy (including the TCUK 2013 conference that I manage), there is only one event in the UK that is dedicated to the topic. Congility 2013, which takes place in Gatwick in June, is dedicated to showing how managing business content can inmprove quality, boost revenue, and reduce costs. Congility S100D focuses on the specific needs of the aerospace and defence industry, while Content Agility 2013 looks at the related topics of structured content development, component content management systems, and content strategy. Speakers at Content Agility 2013 include some of the world’s leading practitioners, who will be sharing their experience and their advice. If you want to help your organisation tackle the content conundrum you should make sure you’re there.

David is attending Content Agility 2013 as a guest of Mekon.

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