Bloomstein: What are your definitions of content strategy?
Audience: Feeling out why it is. Figuring out what content you want I expose, how to present it.
Audience: The overall project plan that involves planning, defining and other factors the clients and stakeholders and looking for. They want something tangible: strategy is too amorphous. It has to be tangible. They need something to hold onto.
Audience: Different between content marketing and strategy. Strategy is assessment and analysis and planning of the plan. Marketing is the executing of the plan. Lots of people think they're synonyms, but it's just a piece of the overall marketing plan. It's so complicated.
Audience: It’s really different for small agencies. Content starts edgy and management merges it because you're spearheading both areas, so things get muddied. Focusing on short-and long-term goals.
Bloomstein: In marketing, I focus on what the client needs. CS is the locus of the goals client needs, technology constraints (like a Venn diagram). What do the clients need to see in order to engage with the agency?
Not just the 5W and H of creation, but also making it sustainable.
Within most interactive projects, only the CS is partnering with the client for the long term business vision, then determining how to maintain the content beast and who is going to do that. The common thread of meeting their needs with practical and fiscal guidance is what CS is about.
Visual communication is the core of showing content strategy. It's the same problems as graphic design, but style and tone instead of font and color.
Easy to conflate with copy writing (which grew out of technical writing), but remember content is different than copy. What are we messaging? What's the tone? All that takes cues from the content management style.
In 1999, we considered a definition: "planning for the creation aggregation governance and expectation of content within a system that is useful and usable to a brand."
Content management is how the strategy is implemented.
When talking about an experience connecting to needs of the user, the brand, and the technology , it has to establish that connection/terminology. But the brands have to respond appropriately.
Audience: talk about the book. What's the juicy bit?
Bloomstein: Looking at what was out there for CS, we already had the little red book which was good at talking about the community and vocabulary. You've come to me for answers, but that's not your problem. The problem is a CS issue.
There was a lot of theory, but not a lot of practice and case studies and whatnot. Those stories over drinks didn't last long and they needed to be collected and curated.
Working with mid-size agencies, I’d get pushback on what CS did within their smaller projects or budgets. She wants to collect the example of all the "but" cases to show how small budgets can still do content strategy (audits, etc). Collecting all that shows proof this is doable.
The idea that the door to power opens from the inside. Our closest allies are the designers who have the closest relationships with the client. So there's a chapter for social media and designers and user experience folks. The value is to internalize it and evangelize it.
Audience: how do you convince management there needs to be an ongoing commitment to doing content strategy, including change management.
Bloomstein: We rush to the finish, but there's no ongoing maintenance party.
1. SEO. Google rewards content that's been recently updated, but humans also reward it. It attracts eyeballs.
2 The reason people go to most experiences is to see why you have to say or find specific information or what's new. Content tells them what's new.
Easy to look for other examples that don't prioritize ongoing maintenance: disregarded blogs, out-of-date information, social media (it's free!). There's an opportunity cost involved. Feeding the content beast requires a long investment.
3. Stop them before they start. "I want to have a blog!" "Okay, then why?" Make them have a great reason and think out what resources are needed.
There's a chasm between the creator and the worker.
We don't use passive voice when we write, but we use it when we think about who’s going to actually do it.
Audience: I’m struggling with getting CS and digital strategy started. They think we're planning too long and not doing anything. Is there a balance?
Bloomstein: Comes up a lot in organizations merging waterfall and agile. It's difficult. The push toward testing and implementation is a good thing, so I approach it in an agile mindset: layout the big strategy, then create the sprints to do stuff quickly while maintaining the high-level strategy. Start with messaging structure, then content audit, then extrapolate what we need to fill in the gaps.
When it happens, we have to do enough thinking to determine when we've failed (fail fast and learn)
In project planning, maybe a client will ask how long it'll take, and I push back and say "Let's just do one part at a time." Then we figure out what we’re doing. Sometimes it involves elevating the issue to a higher power.
Audience: We’re struggling to find the balance between visual design and content. Trying to convince people of the latter.
Bloomstein: Use data on how people are using the sites, focusing on how important the content is based on where people are going.
As long as you're able to track what people are searching for and are hottest, you can show those analytics (including Google search rankings for example).
Audience: from a CM standpoint, who is doing it well?
Bloomstein: REI creates a ton of content, and how useful it is. How much fits in a backpack, how much can I carry? If I'm going hiking, what do I need to pack? It focuses on decision-making assistance. They overcame issues with technical constraints and screw ups.
Speed doesn't equate to absorbing content, learning, validating decisions. Patagonia is good at this. They help people focus their attention on what they're doing. It makes the content you're focused on really good.
Their goal isn't to buy more product, it's to buy the product you need that lasts.
Crutchfield content supports a lot of different learning styles. A step-by-step checklist or a video to watch it.
Audience: what's the secret to succeed in content strategy
Bloomstein: Perseverance and patience. Make sure we're parroting their own vocabulary. It's not just about end users, but our colleagues and clients. Listen to their needs, then read between the lines. Try to find the real issue they're dealing with.
Dealing with US Department of Energy. How did we do it?They couldn't call it an audit, so they called it a "content call" because they had a different perspective.
Audience: On messaging, you took people through card sorting. How do they respond?
Bloomstein: When creating an architecture, I have 150 adjectives on cards. There are 3 steps:
Step 1: Create three columns: how you're perceived, how you want to be perceived, and what you don't want to be perceived as.
Step 2: Focus on the first two columns, move the first column onto the second column. Ask them about why they put those cards in what level.
Step 3: Are there some terms that go together? Group them together, then prioritize them. By going through that, they're doing the work, they think through it, and it prevents seagulling. Makes sure they're involved from the get-go.
Generally it goes really well. Only once did a main stakeholder disagree. It's in the process of a kickoff. They never get to ask those questions: what do these terms mean to the brand?
A week later, it's not designers providing comps: it's telling them what they told her. 80% of the time they tell me it's right. Otherwise it's minor choices or changes.
Audience: It sounds like a traditional marketing exercise. Having the owners in the room makes a difference. The people doing the business developing aren't doing the communicating.
Bloomstein: In B2B organizations, I'll still work with the head of marketing, the CMO, the CEO, president, not so much the tactical people. I avoid the sales people: they're area of expertise isn't the product, it's the selling of the product.
Audience: Can the sales team provide missing elements to help round things out?
Bloomstein: Often sales are good at motivating the start because they're seeing the front line results of the sales tools.
Audience: How do you deal with organizations that change streams midway?
Bloomstein: Sometimes it's a budget addendum. For some, I'll make sure that they need to get the foundation right. The right people need to be in the room to sign off.
Some push back "Do we need to do all this?" I push back "If I don't think I can do a good job of an audit, I can't do the job."
Audience: do you end up with a content strategy statement? It's more than just an audit. It needs to start with a statement.
Bloomstein: I put a lot of that into my project proposal. These are part of the deliverables. This is brand-driven content strategy. Each deliverable builds on the one before it. Late-stage decisions that undermine the early decisions require addendums. The message architecture stands for that.
Audience: Social media content was a mindset strategy: what are the mindset of the users as well as the brand.
Bloomstein: I don't know. I treat social media as a different animal. As we know more and more, the first place they interact with your brand may not be the home page (interior page, twitter page, YouTube video). It isn't that the social channels uphold the site, but vice versa.
There’s the idea of a reusable content store. It's not that you think mobile or desktop first, you think content first, then where are you going to use this stuff.
Audience: What are the most common mistakes companies are making?
Bloomstein: Confusing quantity and quality. It's not that you want more, you want better. Good content Google treats well, users want to share, it lasts longer, and has staying power. Example: the majority of other CS people know how to tell their clients what need to happen. Blog infrequently. It's a testament of that
Audience: I come from a technical side of things. I hear you mention content modeling. What does that mean?
Bloomstein: I’m not the best person to ask about this. As I've evolved, the processes evolved. In the last couple years, I've had to look at modeling. On a university website, the professor bios are varying. So you make a recommendation on how to fix it. But I'm not raising the issue of how to pattern it. But it's more serious.
Also, those conversations are happening with different people, not including the marketing and communication people.
And when you can have a million fields, how do you prioritize what is important?
Content model: a visual model that identifies the various chunks and shows how the chunks can be reused.