Content Strategy: As Boring as it Sounds?

by Gabriel

Many clients don't seem to realise that once they have got something to offer, the first thing is to find a way to say it (how about on a website, for example?). Instead, they want new websites first and then they try and work out what the content of those sites should be.

Horse, behind cart.

To add to the frustration, clients often want to fill their new vessels with magical content. Magical content is content that appears in the last few minutes of the project, when everything else has already been done. No one writes it or designs it. It just appears, overnight, in the place the lorem ipsum used to be. It fits the rest of the site like a hand in a glove, contains no grammatical or navigational errors, and conveys perfectly the message that the client wants to get across (it also propels the website to the top of Google, just like that).

In short, with all the magical content around, we Content Strategists are almost out of a job. Except for one thing.

Magical content doesn’t exist.

Although some clients still wait for it like eager children waiting for Santa Claus, hoping that in the morning the magic of Christmas will be manifest in bulging stockings by the tree, the truth is that there is no quick fix for content.

It doesn’t just appear. In fact, as my boss says, watch out when someone asks for ‘just’. It usually means that the person is trivialising something very important. People ask him for ‘just a button that does ‘x’’. I get asked for ‘just a few pages of copy’ that turn out to be the whole content of the whole website which happens to be the whole platform for a product or service. That is not just a few pages of copy. That is the entirety of your marketing strategy and delivery.

‘Just’ nothing.

So how can we get content more highly valued?

On the one hand, we can help content to be appreciated by shattering the illusion that magical content exists. By teaching clients right from the beginning that what they are offering and how they are going to offer it are the most important aspects of a website. The rest will follow. By organising projects from the content outwards and enjoying their success together.

On the other hand, it might be (just a teeny bit) our own fault.

After all, we call it content.

Could we be more bland? Is there a more neutral, banal word in the English language, than content?

Content is the stuff that is held inside a container. It is defined by what holds it. The content of a bag. The contents of her stomach. It is generic, undefined, and boring. No wonder people don’t value it. No wonder they want a website first and want it filled up second (or third, or tenth). We call it the most uninspiring and insipid thing we can think of.

And we’re supposed to be good with words.

Obviously we need catch-all terms to put on our business cards and to justify our roles to our clients, but ‘Content' Strategist? We might as well be Stuff Handlers or Filling Generators.

If you want to devalue your Developer call her a code-monkey. Take your Designer down a peg or two by calling him ‘Crayons’ (we do). Is ‘content’ just as much of an insult?

It’s hard to come up with a compelling single noun that describes multiple, eclectic processes. And I’m overjoyed that Content Strategy as a term is getting increased recognition, thanks in part to the great work of Jeffrey MacIntyre and Kristina Halvorson, who has literally written the book on it. I also love the ‘Strategy’ part – it’s quite sexy (or is that just me?).

But I 'just' wanted to ask the question: would it help customers to value content more if we called it something else?

Originally posted on SmyWord.com