Creating real value: The art of content strategy

I’ve mentioned the cult of action here before. I don’t know if it’s a uniquely modern challenge, but I do know that today’s technology makes it easy to fall into: Your phone syncs with your calendar with your email with your note program with your SharePoint with your brain. You put a task into the system at any point, and it will bedevil you until you complete it. Once you’ve made the decision to “task” something, you’re almost guaranteed to complete it. And in the current business mindset, this is all for the good.

So it is with trepidation that I bring up the particular way that my own profession is damaged by the cult of action. Over the past 2-3 years, digital media has really begun to recognize content strategy and management as a discipline as significant as programming and design. It’s not universally recognized yet, but it’s getting more than lip service in many quarters today.

I think the positive side to this is huge. The mental shift we’re making in thinking about “content strategy and management” instead of about “copy” means that we’re focusing on the business goals of the web property. We’re naming the metrics by which we’ll measure our efforts. We’re making success more likely.

But I think we have not yet escaped the mindset that content is a box to check off of our to-do list. If one piece of content is just as good as another, we aren’t yet employing a strategic mindset.

To make truly strategic decisions — and to take truly strategic actions — about content, we have to view content as a cornerstone in building relationships with our customers. There’s a lot about it that we can measure, and even complete and check off the list. But we can’t transform a human relationship into a series of checkboxes. There’s still an art to content, and as we continue to develop the discipline of content strategy, we must value the art as well as the action.

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