Last week, I had the extreme pleasure of presenting at Content Strategy Forum 2013. It was my second time presenting at the forum and I received a fantastic response to my talk “Patching Our Crumbling Foundations Through Information Architecture.” For me it was particularly encouraging to see people taking an interest in content strategy that stems from an information architecture.
Based on this year’s forum, conversations on Twitter and talks I had with other professionals in the field, content strategy is in the middle of a massive sea change. We’re still defining the damn thing and spending a lot of time working out the tactics.
There were fantastic talks about how content strategy enables marketing activity, talks around how to be a better visual storyteller (@KCraigwell) how to start addressing the mobile context through content strategy (@ChristiaanWLstg) and the importance of governance in managing content as a business asset (@megshcase).
Still, while many of the talks were focused on things that help enable organizations to better manage their content, create better content, structure their data for use across various contexts and how to use content strategy as a change agent, much of the popular conversation seemed to rest in the content marketing space. It was especially apparent based on discussions generated in the closing panel.
This seems to be stemming from the general belief among practitioners that are newer to the space that content strategy is a “new” thing and that the only things that deserve attention are related to “story,” marketing reach and driving clicks. For these practitioners, “researching” users is reduced to surveying and identifying marketing segments instead of crafting an experience that is useful and useable for humans. Almost no one I talked to designs personas that come contextual inquiry or user interviews.
The unfortunate thing is that working from a hypothetical user base causes content marketing focused “strategists” to produce content that comes from assumptions, not data. More content leads to content management problems, and content management problems lead to the creation of unnecessary silos and an eventual eroding of foundational architectures.
It’s a conversation that needs to continue and well run conferences like the Content Strategy Forum and Confab: The Content Strategy Conference should continue to push the issue. In fact, following the closing panel, it was announced that Content Strategy Forum would continue to exist, but that the concept would be pushed to become a “global cooperative,” focusing on fostering, “community,” providing “conferences” and acting as a “resource” for the fledgling field. Based on the slide shared by conference organizers, Destry Wion (longtime organizer and keeper of the CS Forum flame), has a few aces up his sleeve.
Based solely on what I’ve seen from the above slide (and postulated from sifting through the newish Content Strategy Google Group), the Content Strategy Forum, which grew out of the 2009 Content Strategy Consortium at IA Summit Memphis, is on its way to becoming something more like the Information Architecture Institute. It’s something we’ll keep an eye on as this foundational piece of IA continues to evolve.
At any rate, I can’t wait for next year’s event. Kiitos to all of Finland with special thanks to Vapa Media for hosting an incredible conference.