Halvorson and Rach wrap up the practice of content strategy nicely in last half of Content Strategy for the Web. Chapters seven through twelve, titled Strategy and Success, neatly and appropriately follow chapters one through six, Reality and Discovery. It’s conceptual, then practical, and they emphasize an ongoing, circular content strategy throughout the book.
I think I can try my hand at content strategizing with the helpful tools that they list for each of the four areas of focus in the content development process. These are:
- Create/source new content
- Maintain existing content
- Evaluate content effectiveness
- Govern strategies, plans, policies, and procedures
In two of these four focuses, Maintaining Content and Evaluating Content, Halvorson and Rach mention a content inventory and qualitative audit, respectively, as useful tools for said focuses. I appreciate the connection and emphasis they place on the value of completing an inventory/audit. Even more so, I appreciate that style guides and other tools that aren’t news to me are included in that list.
In Content Strategy for the Web, Halvorson and Rach note the technologies, tools, and information products that I’m more familiar with (style guides, audience analysis and personas, voice and tone, etc.) and show how it relates to the content development process. It’s comforting to know that despite the changes and growth in technical communication, what I learned as an undergraduate and practiced a bit as a graduate student is still useful. There’s a circular, continuous theme underlying the content development process, which is also reflected in the core strategy quad to which they repeatedly refer. (The nifty version below is from uxmag.com).
It’s a great mnemonic device when advocating for content strategy, but more importantly, when considering the critical components of content strategy. Substance, structure, workflow, and governance affect whether content ends up usable and valuable, both to users and to the business employing the content strategy. Substance and structure deal mostly with content, while workflow and governance have to do with the people part of content strategizing.
The topic that resonated most with me from the substance list that Halvorson and Rach provide is that every piece of content needs a job, or purpose. It prevents the “what’s the point?” question that would inevitably pop up if I were to shoot an article I find interesting to my supervisor before sharing it on our social media. I’ll try to remember the handy list of content purposes before I ask for approval (that way, I’ll also have a response should they ask). I also used the MailChimp case study today to explain my voice and tone for when I do make posts on Facebook and Twitter, “fun but not childish, informal but not sloppy,” to name a couple of my favorites. MailChimp’s voice and tone guide is the happy medium between extremes for good content for the user.
From the people components, I tried to decipher my own responsibilities and landed on somewhat being a content creator and somewhat a curator. I make things and I find things. I am not quite a specialist. I can see myself using Content Strategy for the Web to refer to when I’m faced with a new project, or I find myself in a new workplace.