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April 2015 Chapter Meeting Summary: Gretyl Kinsey on Content Strategy
2015, Q3 (June 11, 2015)
By Catherine Sprankle, Chapter Member

Catherine Sprankle
Catherine Sprankle
Gretyl Kinsey, technical consultant at Scriptorium Publishing Services, gave an entertaining and informative presentation on content strategy at the April STC Carolina chapter meeting. Gretyl's presentation was followed by a lively question-and-answer session.

Content strategy is defined on Wikipedia as “the planning, development, and management of content.” Gretyl described how a good content strategy can unify content across marketing, technical support, and training. A unified content strategy can:
  • Help you produce content that sends a consistent message to your customer and strengthens your brand
  • Prevent duplication of effort in content development
  • Reduce costs by reducing technical support calls
  • Address functional problems such as a development process that isn’t scalable, a review process that isn’t allowing you to meet deadlines, or a mismatch between content presentation and customer needs

But developing a content strategy can present challenges. A formidable one is overcoming a “silo” mentality that keeps people in different departments from talking to one another. Making a case to management for developing a content strategy should focus on how this can support business goals. Management can then facilitate the process of getting groups to collaborate that are unaccustomed to working with each other.

As you embark on developing your content strategy, resist the temptation to focus just on fixing what’s not working in your area. Look at what’s going on in the rest of your company and develop a strategy that encompasses all your company’s content. Consider this content from the customer’s point of view, and try to identify what will help you customer accomplish their goals. Look at content from other companies and think about what works and what doesn’t. Your customer needs content to be available, accurate, and appropriate. For technical communicators and trainers, this can involve taking more of a marketing approach to developing content, to deliver connected content that offers your customers a seamless experience.

If it’s time for your company to develop a unified content strategy, understand that this will take time and require people in different parts of the company to commit to working together. Start with your own department, then identify interested people in management and other departments to support the necessary collaborations.

Q&A with Gretyl

Question: How do you develop these collaborations in a situation where groups are isolated both physically and structurally?

Answer: If you bring a proposal for cross-department collaboration to management and get told, “It’s not going to happen,” first find out the reason for this response. Then, make a business case for change; for example, find out how much each call to technical support costs the company. Emphasize the costs and downsides of maintaining the status quo.

Question: What if most of your content developers don’t know anything about the customers and are just getting filtered information representing what someone thinks the customers want?

Answer: This is a common situation in a siloed environment. One approach to addressing this problem is to build a customer feedback mechanism into your content. Another is to identify who interacts with the customer and find ways to get information directly from them: talk to tech support or read the chat in online forums.

Question: Do you think awareness is increasing of the value of producing more unified content?

Answer: Yes, we’re starting to hear people out in the field talking about “the problem with content silos.”

Question: What are some tools that can help with collaboration?

Answer: One approach is establishing an internal wiki or forum. Another is to designate one person that’s responsible for facilitating collaboration.

Question: How do you manage ownership and maintenance of shared content?

Answer: That can depend on the scope and goals of the collaborative work. Once approach is to identify the content that’s going to be shared and consider establishing a common CMS for it. It could be that the extent of your collaboration could just be to get groups talking to each other and raising awareness of one another’s activities, rather than developing a lot of shared content. Figure out what degree of collaboration is going to address your needs.

Catherine Sprankle can be reached at cssprankle at yahoo dot com. Read more articles by Catherine Sprankle. End of article.

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