This is none of your business… or is it?
“That’s none of your business, pretend you didn’t hear it, don’t interfere… focus on CONTENT. Web, users, goals, content. For-get-a-bout-the-rest!” I used to hear that all the time as I first worked on content projects. It was a little voice inside my head.
The fact was I found it extremely difficult to ignore my former-professional-self. I had spent a few years managing projects and people, and I had loved it. But that was my old job, it had nothing to do with my new role as a content strategist. Or so I thought.
The first few meetings as a content consultant were slightly confusing. When my clients were talking about their goals, their users or their messages, I found myself spotting inconsistencies, flawed processes, difficult relationships among workers or teams, etc. And, well, I tried very hard to ignore most of them. After all, I had been hired to do a specific job: help the company have a website with efficient content.
Fortunately, I never managed to completely ignore the non-content issues that kept coming up. In fact, I’ve realised that those inconsistencies, flawed processes and difficult relationships matter a lot when it comes to creating and governing an effective website.
Not that Halvorson and Rach (among others) haven’t stated it loud and clear: content strategy is as much about people as it is about content. But I had always taken that to mean that good content cannot exist without a well organized editorial process that aligns everyone involved. Mind you, that alone is a huge thing.
To make things a bit more complex and interesting, I’ve now become aware of how much of an impact an effective website (or any project that involves a content strategy) can have within an organization as a whole. It’s common sense, really.
Want to tell your web users how well treated they’ll feel in your surgery? Well, you’d better make sure your receptionist starts smiling a bit.
Want your website to claim that your holiday homes are clean and cheap? You might want to improve your cleaning service right now.
Want to let everybody know that your technical team knows how to talk to non-techies? Er… what about a serious education plan for the most of your technical team?
I’m not claiming that when doing Content Strategy one has to reorganize and fix the whole organization. But I am claiming that for content to be really effective it has to be honest. And well, most of the time we’re simply not what we want to claim we are.
So yes, I’m quite confident this is still my business. I believe that content strategists have the professional right (and duty) to listen to all those little and not-so-little issues in an organization and detect flaws, inconsistencies and problems-to-be. Not all of them will be fixable or fixed, but bearing them in mind will more than likely result in a better content strategy for a better organization.
I, of course, can be very wrong. But I feel I’m kind of right when I hear my customers say “Hey, why do you say you do websites? You do so much more than that!”