You may have noticed that our beloved blog hasn’t been particularly active lately. It’s no secret that we’re super busy working with our terrific clients, and as a result, our resources are a bit limited at the moment.
So, the Brain Traffic blog is going to take a little break.
Fear not. We wouldn’t leave you hanging! Although we’re on hiatus here, we’re ramping up the posts on Confabevents.com. You’ll enjoy posts from some of the most exciting voices in content strategy, both new folks and established leaders. In fact, this week kicks off our first guest post, from none other than Sally Bagshaw:
How to Future-Proof Our Authors
Searching for new contractors: strategists, IAs, project managers, and writers
Back to the busy part. We’re getting a whole lot of calls these days from companies who tell us, “This time, we want to do this right: we want to start our project with content strategy.” (To which we often reply, “WOO-HOO!”)
So we need some help! If you’re a content lover working for yourself, and if you have experience working on large-scale content strategy engagements, we’d love to hear from you.
Apply to be a Brain Traffic contractor
Keep in touch
The blog may be on hiatus for now, but we aren’t disappearing. You can always follow us on Twitter at @braintraffic and @confabevents to watch for articles, photos of cheetahs, and other content shenanigans.
Finally: if you’re thinking about starting up a new content strategy initiative within your company, please contact us today. We’d love to learn more.
Stay in touch!
Posted in Uncategorized
Based on Confab: The Content Strategy Conference’s sellout 2011 debut and an even earlier sellout 2012 event, we here at Brain Traffic have come to an important conclusion: Confab is in danger of outgrowing the continent.
The world loves content strategy
If you’ve attended Confab here in Minneapolis, you know that it’s already an international event. Speakers and attendees travel from around the globe to hear each other’s brilliant new ideas—or to exchange lessons learned the hard way. Apparently hungry content strategists are willing to travel any distance for top-notch presentations, stimulating networking opportunities, and excessive dessert.
The thing is, Minneapolis is REALLY FAR AWAY from the Eastern Hemisphere. So in 2013, we’re bringing Confab across the pond, adding a second conference to our roster with Confab London on March 25-27.
What can you expect from Confab London?
Smart, fun people. Delicious food. And, of course, some of the best and brightest minds in our field, onstage and up close. You’ll see a few familiar faces that have graced our Confab stages in the past, as well as several exciting new voices from many different countries. Please check out our full speaker lineup, but here’s a glimpse of who you’ll find:
For our debut London event, we’re thrilled to be partnering with Together London’s Jonathan Kahn (who assures us people don’t attend Confab simply for the cake).
Are you SO EXCITED? Yes! You are! Be sure to register by 26 October for the early-bird discount. And stay tuned to Confab Events on Twitter and Facebook for updates and announcements.
See you in London!
Posted in Uncategorized
Confab 2012 is over, and man, was it fun. Our speakers were amazing! Our audience was engaging and enthusiastic! Betty Crocker made us cake!
One of the things people seem to love most about Confab is the opportunity to hang out with folks they have so much in common with. More than a few times, people thanked us for providing them with the community they so desperately needed. Content strategy can feel like a lonely battle, and knowing there are others who share similar experiences is both a relief and an inspiration.
London Content Strategy Meetup
Image courtesy of Together London
So, let’s keep the community spirit momentum going. I have a job for you. Yes. You. It’s time to go find your people. It’s time to get your meetup on.
Let’s officially make July “Content Strategy Meetup Month”
Why July? Why not. Did you know …
- There are 41 Content Strategy (CS) Meetups around the world?
- There are 2,526 people waiting for CS Meetups in their cities?
- That CS Meetups aren’t just for “official” content strategists? They’re for anyone who works with content.
- That content-lovers are generally smart, fun-loving people who are passionate about their craft?
- That CS Meetups are all kinds of fun?
What are you waiting for?
If you run a CS Meetup …
- Hold one in July. Let me know when it is—I’ll tweet about it and list it on a follow-up blog post. And remember: Meetups don’t always require formal programming. Hanging out at a bar, restaurant, park, or seedy bus station also counts.
- Try to keep this one free, or at least cheap. If you have to charge something, see if you can let first-timers in for free!
- Find a central location. The easier it is for people to attend, the better.
- Send out a few reminders. That is, hassle people to show up.
- Take a photo at the meetup—we’ll create a Flickr group (watch for details at the end of June via Twitter) to post them on. That way, we can see the CS community in action. Seeing is believing.
If you already belong to a CS Meetup …
- Make sure there’s one planned in July. If there isn’t, bug the organizer.
- Go. Invite at least one person to join you.
- When you attend, be a good host and seek out the newbies. Use your innate charm and razor-like wit to make them feel welcome.
If you haven’t been to a CS Meetup …
Find out if there’s one near you! Here’s how:
Find one? Then go. Take a deep breath, leave your inner introvert at home, and do it. Even better, bring a friend.
Don't be shy. Content people are friendly!
Image courtesy of Together London
If there’s not a CS Meetup near you …
Then it’s time to start one.
Sound intimidating? It’s actually pretty easy. And, once you’ve met for the first time, you can probably find a co-organizer or two to help you plan future meetups.
Just go here and start typing: http://www.meetup.com/create/
Worried whether or not people will come? I’ll give you two reasons not to:
Check out this list of people waiting for Content Strategy Meetups in their cities: http://content-strategy.meetup.com/all/
Do you see your city? You DO? Excellent. When you start a CS Meetup, those people will automatically receive an email notifying them of said meetup. So, in this case, if you build it, they actually will come.
Remember, I’ll tweet your new meetup info and list it in a follow-up blog post here. Free publicity, FTW.
(NOTE: There are lots of meetups that list “content strategy” as one of their areas of focus. That’s cool, but you might want to find or start a CS-focused meetup. Just sayin’.)
OK. Let’s get going!
I foresee a fun content strategy party in your near future. Please report back in the comments below. And watch this space for more fun instructions. (Do you like how I call them “instructions” instead of “suggestions”? It’s because I am bossy. It’s part of my charm.)
Posted in Content Strategy
Confab: The Content Strategy Conference 2012 came to a close yesterday. Once again, it was inspiring and amazing and incredibly fun. Thanks a million to those who joined us.
Kristina and Erik wrap up Confab 2012
Image © Sean Tubridy
Though the conference is over, the memories live on …
Confab is returning to Minneapolis June 3–5, 2013. We sold out nearly five months in advance this year, so you’ll want to get your tickets early! We’ll announce when registration opens later this fall.
Don’t miss out in 2013! Get on the Confab email list.
Posted in Brain Traffic
This post refers to the Kindle edition. The print edition is unfortunately delayed until March 15. Thanks for your patience.
It’s here! The book you’ve all been waiting for! The fifth installment of the Twilight series!!
No. Not really. But, on a related note … the second edition of Content Strategy for the Web is now available! We hope you’re as excited as we are, or at the very least, somewhat intrigued.
Here is some additional information you might find relevant and/or fascinating.
It’s official: content strategy is a big deal
Things out there in the world of content strategy have changed pretty significantly since the first edition of Content Strategy for the Web was published. What used to be a niche topic discussed by only a few hardcore content nerds has become a worldwide movement in organizations of all shapes and sizes.
As the conversation continues to gain momentum, the field of content strategy is evolving at lightning speed. And so, by necessity, our second edition is a much different book from the first. But don’t worry. All new material has evolved directly from the methodology described in the first edition; all revisions are based on the shared knowledge of the wider content strategy community, and our own experiences at Brain Traffic.
What this book is … and is not
Content Strategy for the Web is an introduction to the practice of content strategy. We wrote it for people who want to understand what content strategy is, why it’s important, and how to go about getting it done.
This book is not The Complete Guide to Everything You Ever Need to Know About Content Strategy, Ever. We hope you find it a valuable reference tool for a long time to come, but don’t mistake it as the only book you’ll ever need. In fact, here are a few specific topics this book intentionally does not cover (at all, or in detail):
- Content marketing
- Writing for the Web
- Content management system (CMS) strategy (software selection, design, and implementation)
- Translation and localization
- Personalization and behavioral targeting
- Social media planning
- Metadata strategy
- Reuse and structured content (or “intelligent content”)
- Single-channel strategy (e.g., mobile)
Since our intent is to provide an introduction to content strategy, we’ve tried to simply synthesize information and frame it up in ways that allow teams to tackle content challenges holistically.
(Note: Our book has a “Resources” section that lists our favorite books on the topics mentioned above. We wouldn’t leave you hanging!)
What’s new in the 2nd edition
As the proud owner of this shiny new edition, here’s what you’ll get:
- Expanded and refined processes and tools for the research, development, and implementation phases of content strategy
- Recent case studies examining the impact content strategy has had on a variety of small and large organizations
- An examination of the ways content-focused disciplines and job roles work together
- Discussion of the roadblocks you may encounter and how to navigate them
- Ways the field of content strategy continues to evolve
Is this book just about content strategy for websites?
No. But there’s a method to our madness (this time).
At some point, everyone—everyone—has struggled with content for their website. It’s a pain we all share, something everyone can immediately relate to. So when people hear about a way to fix the content on their website—really fix it—their ears perk up. (Didn't yours?) Now there's a reason to learn about content strategy. And then, once people “get” content strategy for web projects, they’ll inevitably begin to see its applications across platforms and throughout the enterprise. Gotcha.
Content strategy applies to every medium, platform, and device. As evolving technology continues to throw us one curve ball after the next, keeping a handle on our content—no matter where it is and who it’s for—has become more critical than ever.
Perhaps you would care to purchase this book
The second edition of Content Strategy for the Web is now available! Oh, we already said that. If you’d like to acquire a copy (or many, many copies), feel free to visit Amazon.com:
Thank you for your attention, support, and enthusiasm. We sure do think you’re swell.
Posted in Content Strategy
I never wanted to write Content Strategy for the Web.
Did I want to travel the world speaking at conferences? Did I want to start a larger conversation about a topic near and dear to my heart? Did I want people everywhere to recognize the importance of content and put it at the center of their design and build processes? Well OF COURSE I DID.
But actually writing a book? Too hard. And, frankly, back in 2008, I knew for a fact I wasn’t the best person for the job. At the time, my knowledge of content strategy was fairly narrow—I was a copywriter who backed into the practice by necessity (read: for my own sanity). I could articulate the problem. I could offer some high-level solutions. But I was by no means a full-fledged expert on the topic.
It takes a village
And so, before I even had a publishing contact, I started reaching out to every single person I could find who’d written anything valuable about “content strategy” (which, according to Google, were fewer than twenty people in ten years … and believe me, I harassed them all). Content Strategy for the Web is really the first attempted synthesis of all the insights of these diverse individuals and disciplines, written in the most straightforward, conversational style I could manage. I wanted it to be a book that anyone could pick up and work with almost immediately, the kind of book I wanted in my own library of content resources.
Content Strategy for the Web appears to have struck a chord, and it did what I hoped it would: it kicked off a larger conversation that I can no longer keep up with. This was my vision, and it has become reality. So now is the part where I can ride off into the sunset. Right?
Two years later … OMG
So, between January 1, 1995 and December 31, 2008 (14 years), there was a sum total of 263,000 mentions of the phrase “content strategy.”
Since January 1, 2009 (about 1.5 years), there have been 1.66 million.
This pleases me.
It also obviously means that the conversation is evolving with lightning speed. Thinking about all the great stuff I’m not reading, seeing, or listening to keeps me up at night. So when my editor Michael Nolan approached me (read: kicked my butt) about doing another edition, my knee-jerk response was that it was so dated that it wasn’t worth updating. I mean, I don’t even agree with the title anymore—content strategy is rarely confined to just the Web. For these reasons, I’ve been saying publicly for two years that I would never write a second edition. Also, writing a book is hard.
But. I recognize that the book still acts as a solid introduction to the topic. And as more people step up to the plate to talk and write about their ideas and insights, there’s more information I want to help parse, synthesize, and share with a larger audience. That’s my job, and I love it. And so I said “yes.”
But only on one condition.
Introducing my co-author, Melissa Rach
There was one person without whom Content Strategy for the Web would have been, to be blunt, a hot mess. In my darkest hour (which was basically a few weeks before my all-in deadline), she agreed to put her life on hold to act as my technical editor. As I mention in the book’s acknowledgments, she’s responsible for creating much of the methodology described in Chapters 4-6. She tore apart other chapters, more or less wrote certain sections, and basically helped make the book what it is today.
Melissa is the Vice President of Content Strategy at Brain Traffic. While I’ve been on the road for three years building the case for content strategy, she has been at Brain Traffic leading a team of world-class content strategists to develop and evolve our tools and methodologies.
Now, I consider myself an expert in the core components and key deliverables of content strategy. I love identifying shared content challenges and principles between myriad disciplines. I work every day to help shape a conversation that brings us ever closer together to focus on content as a central business asset. However, and especially now, Melissa is far better suited to write about how to build and sustain a content strategy. So that’s why I’ve asked her to participate as my co-author on this edition.
Getting to the point
And so, we are pleased to announce that Content Strategy for the Web, 2nd Edition will be released in February 2012. You’ll see updated methodologies, more template samples, case studies, and some other good stuff that we’ll announce later. Thanks again to Michael Nolan and the staff at New Riders for giving us the opportunity.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, we’ve got a book to write, which means I have to start procrastinating IMMEDIATELY.
Posted in Content Strategy
Dear readers, I am delighted to announce the launch of my new podcast, Content Talks.
When Dan Benjamin asked if I'd be interested in doing a podcast for 5by5, I said, "Absolutely not! I hate talking about content strategy!" OK, no, that's not what I said. I accepted on the spot and immediately put together a long, exciting list of smart, interesting people I hoped to interview in the months to come.
Episode 1: Ann Rockley
For my first episode, I'm thrilled to have Ann Rockley as my guest. Ann is the author of the seminal Managing Enterprise Content: A Unified Content Strategy, the founder and president of The Rockley Group, and founder of the Intelligent Content Conference.
Ann has been talking about "intelligent content" for over a decade, and it's incredibly inspiring to hear how passionate she is about the topic. She's been a personal hero of mine since her book was published in 2002, and I still get a little fangirl-y when I talk to her.
Interviewing is hard
There's one thing I do want to mention, and it's this: being an effective interviewer is a lot more difficult than it may appear. I've been interviewed countless times over the past two years, and I've gotten pretty good at my spiel. But being on the other side of the virtual table … well, it's a whole different story. I want to thank my first few guests for their patience as I find my interviewer's groove.
What do you think?
Give it a listen. Give me your feedback. This podcast is for you, so work with me to make it the podcast you want it to be!
Thanks for listening …
Posted in Around the Office, Brain Traffic, Content Strategy
Today, Brain Traffic content strategist Erin Kissane’s book, The Elements of Content Strategy, is finally out.
And it is brilliant.
My foreword to the book is excerpted below with permission from the kind folks at A Book Apart. Congratulations to Jeffrey Zeldman, Jason Santa Maria, and Mandy Brown for having the vision to make Erin’s book the third in their celebrated A Book Apart series (“brief books for people who make websites”).
Most of all, congratulations, Erin. And thank you, thank you for writing this book.
Buy The Elements of Content Strategy
Read an excerpt of the book on A List Apart
“As you can see, the scourge is upon us, and we must, every one of us, be prepared to fight.” —Erin Kissane, “Attack of the Zombie Copy”
Content is a hairy, complicated beast. There’s stuff to research, sift through, create, curate, correct, schedule—and that’s before we start to think about publishing. What layout makes the most sense for this content? What organization? What metaschema? What platforms? Never mind post-launch plans, or lack of resources, or stakeholder alignment, or, or…yikes. No wonder we want to hide under the bed.
The content beast does not scare Erin Kissane. In fact, for her entire adult life, she’s been quietly taming it with a firm but gentle hand. As part of her hero’s journey, Kissane has collaborated with countless designers, developers, UXers, marketers, editors, and writers on projects of all sizes. This is good news for you: no matter what role you play, she gets what you do and knows why it’s important. And, because she cares, she wants to help you understand how content strategy can help make your life a little easier—and your end products a little more awesome.
Not that long ago, I wrote an article that called upon readers to “take up the torch for content strategy.” The book you hold in your hands is that torch. So run with it. Hold it high. Be confident in your pursuit of better content. You have The Elements of Content Strategy to light your way.
Come on out from under the bed. We have work to do.
Posted in Around the Office, Brain Traffic, Content Strategy
I've been enjoying my copy of Steven Rosenbaum's Curation Nation this week. He's, er, curated the opinions and insights of content experts from every corner of the industry, from web folks to social media wonks, from media personalities to prominent publishers.
So there I am, reading along, when suddenly I happily stumble upon a section entitled, "Content Strategists." OMG! I thought to myself. My favorite topic! As I eagerly continued, I suddenly gasped with surprise. There on the page was a reference to "Blogger Clinton Forry" … a Brain Traffic staffer and the guy behind the beloved @wd45 moniker!
And it wasn't just a quick reference. Oh, no. Rosenbaum has clearly drunk the Clinton Kool-Aid. Republished with the author's permission, here's Clinton's perspective on curation, beautifully contextualized by the King of Curation, himself:
While the emerging curation ecosystem may leave the highbrow and pedigreed museum curation crowd with a furrowed brow, there’s another group who are equally troubled by the rise of human-powered finding and filtering—and that’s the code-centric solutions crowd that has been searching for the holy grail of machine-powered (or crowd-sourced) finding and filtering. This is the aggregation camp. And they too are anxious to see the emerging but noisy curation community replaced by elegant code.
Blogger Clinton Forry has the most cogent distinction I’ve read so far:
- Aggregation is automated
- Aggregation collects content based on criteria in the form of metadata or keywords
- Criteria can be adjusted, but remain static otherwise
- Follows a preset frequency of publishing [as available, weekly, etc.]
It isn’t that Forry thinks aggregation isn’t important, it’sthat he thinks it doesn’t do the whole job. It gets you only partway there. He explains “. . . aggregation excludes the important, active, and ongoing editorial approval from the process of gathering content. Aggregation has its place. It is easy to set and forget. It requires considerably less staff resources. With carefully selected criteria and sources, it may actually serve the purpose you seek.”
Forry is one of the new and growing number of consultants and advisors who call themselves content strategists. These are folks who are hired to make sure that Web sites are built to encourage vibrant content, rather than stale “publish and forget it” content. He defines curation this way:
- Curation is, in part, a manual task
- Starts with sources to parse
- Evaluates content individually based on established editorial criteria
- Weighs content based on context, current events, branding, sentiment, etc.
- Publishes approved content on appropriate schedule
So, if you buy the notion that we’re moving from a world of content scarcity to content abundance, and that you—like all of us—are facing content overload that verges on an endless fire hose of data coming at us from the moment we wake until the last time we check our e-mail, texts, voice mail, blog posts, and direct Twitter messages—then curation isn’t just something that may happen, it’s something that has to happen…
… and it starts with a smart content strategy. Nice goin', Mr. Forry.
Want your own glass of Clinton Kool-Aid? Follow him on Twitter at @wd45 and read his own blog, Content-ment.com.
Posted in Around the Office, Brain Traffic, Content Strategy
Last month, just before the holidays, an article appeared on the enormously popular Top Rank Online Marketing Blog.
The article is called “Content Strategy and the Dirty White Lie About SEO.”
Its author, renowned SEO expert Lee Odden (CEO, TopRank Online Marketing), asserts that content strategists have “inherent biases” against SEO as a valid practice, and that “most consultants” (read: content strategists) lack “holistic perspectives.” He writes that, if you-the-client listen to content strategists—specifically, those who recommend “slicing website content in half") for the sake of having less content—you will often end up with recommendations that are “a gross disservice to clients.”
The reality is, that the “less is more” argument with content strategy works great when you don’t have to worry about where the traffic to the great content will come from. This is part of the “dirty lie about SEO”: That great content attracts its own audience and that SEO ruins content.
I really struggled with whether or not to write a response to this post. It’s full of generalizations and misinformation. For example, to say that content strategy as a discipline unilaterally teaches that “great content attracts its own audience and that SEO ruins content” is, well, weird.
But, if you know me, you know how I go off the rails when an industry thought leader writes something that marginalizes or misrepresents content strategy.
In reality, if you, the online marketing professional, are committed to doing great work—work that’s results-oriented, measurable, sustainable, and well-integrated with the rest of your organization’s content initiatives—then the content strategist should be your best friend.
What does a good content strategist really care about?
A content strategist’s primary role in any project or organization is to create and maintain a “holistic perspective” of current and future content states.
A content strategist knows that, in the research and discovery phase of projects that involve marketing content, current marketing initiatives—including SEO, social media, and the like—must be considered prior to making recommendations.
A content strategist counts on content audits to understand content location, ownership, and purpose (e.g., “raise visibility in search results") prior to making recommendations.
In fact, there’s a section of my book (p.72-73) called “Search Engine Optimization: The Missing Link.” (Ironically, it follows a section called “Source Content: You Have to Start Somewhere,” which encourages readers to make the most of the content they already have, not slice it in half). In it, I write,
If there are SEO or other search-related efforts underway, be sure to capture them in your analysis document. They’ll play an important role in informing your content strategy recommendations.
But, yeah. Some content strategists think SEO is dumb.
I should say here that I can’t argue with all of Lee’s comments regarding content strategists: I, myself, know many CSes who are suspicious and, yes, even dismissive of SEO as an important part of content planning and creation—let alone as an actual practice. These folks either have had bad experiences with bad SEO practitioners, or they loathe the kind of content that is so keyword-packed it’s unreadable. (Good SEO practitioners loathe that, too.)
However. That reality does not warrant Lee’s accusation that content strategists don’t recognize “the importance of attracting readers to the content and being accountable to the marketing performance of that content.” It’s simply not true.
Whether the content strategy is focusing on marketing content, internal communications, in-the-cloud content, or any other kind of content, our work is driven by business results, every time. If it’s not, then it’s not content strategy; it’s a pointless exercise in content planning and execution, no matter where you sit in an organization.
Debate is good, except when it’s bad.
The generalizations Lee makes about content strategists in his post are only serving to set fire to the bridge content strategists are working so hard to build between themselves and marketers (and UXers, and technologists, and so on). His post ends up being a rallying cry for SEO, social media, and content marketing professionals to ban together and defeat the content strategists who are spreading “dirty white lies” about their professions.
Listen. We don’t need to live in separate clubhouses with our own secret handshakes, here. I think everyone agrees that doing better business online is our shared goal, no matter who you are or how you’re contributing. And just as the “best content marketers [Lee] knows” are capable of incorporating SEO best practices within a content strategy, all smart content strategists are not just capable but committed to collaborating with those content marketers to ensure their shared efforts are well-integrated and successful.
I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: debating the question, “What matters more, SEO/social media/UX/IT/content strategy/etc.?” is a stupid waste of time. Instead, let’s ask, “How can we collaborate across our practices to make our businesses more successful, to make the Web a better place for our customers?”
Those answers will help inform actual work. Because it’s the results of that work that matters most of all.
Talk back to me.
What are your experiences collaborating across disciplines? If you were successful, why? If not, what would you have changed? (No generalizations, attacks, or condescension, please.)
Posted in Content Strategy, Uncategorized