Not to sound like the mutual admiration society, but Andrew Bredenkamp of Acrolinx published a post today that I think you should read. Starting from my post on the various ways we use the term “content strategy”, Andrew posits that all of the definitions are accurate. But, they all fall short. And he is right.

As Andrew states:

“…Content Strategy has to be really strategic. It’s not just about editorial calendars, corporate identity, the website or a user manual. Content Strategy should be about who is my target audience and what content do I need to give them to win them (and keep them) as happy customers.”

 

I think we would all agree that creating and working on an enterprise-wide content strategy is what companies of all sizes really need. They don’t just need a website strategy, or a single-sourcing technical documentation strategy, or a translation management strategy. To be successful, everything under the content umbrella needs to be carefully considered as a whole.

This includes global content strategy, which causes me vocabulary issues on a daily basis. “Global” content strategy should never be separated from any other type of strategy. All of your public-facing content (and much of your internal content) is global, whether or not you are translating it. If you aren’t translating it for your customers, rest assured that Google Translate is doing the job [poorly] for you. But I digress.

Embracing (2)The true conundrum in the content strategy arena is bringing it all together. How do we look at, plan, and execute content strategy from the mile-high level? from the point of view that incorporates marketing, techcomm, training, support, human resources, product management, sales AND the entire globe? This is at the heart of what Andrew is talking about and I don’t have any good solutions yet.

Here are some of the things that I believe are standing in the way of having a truly universal, enterprise content strategy:

Lack of understanding.

People only understand the impact of issues on their immediate surroundings. Even with all of the education the content world tries to do, most people in the corporation simply don’t understand the value of having a unified definition of the customer, a unified way of communicating with the customer, or a unified strategy for all of the groups enterprise-wide. We need more education. Unfortunately, before we can educate people more, we need to understand it from an ROI perspective, a customer retention perspective and a process perspective. Most of us say we do, but we really don’t.

Budgets are silo’d.

If I am responsible for the knowledgebase budget, I don’t worry about or care about your marketing budget. I am accountable for the dollars I spend. Period. Even if I’m a stockholder, my focus is on what I see through my blinders and not on your problems. That is how I am individually measured.

Tools are not universal or integrated.

Let’s just say everyone understands the problem and we’re all willing to spend money on it, that’s great! Unfortunately, we don’t have the tools to create and execute an enterprise content strategy. It’s not just that groups are using a variety of tools to create content (XML authoring tools, Word, InDesign, PowerPoint, wikis, to name a few). We don’t have a clear and effective way to store all of the content in a single location. Some content management systems are specially designed for web content management. Some are designed for technical content management. Some try to do it all, but end up doing most of them inadequately. And then there is the entire discussion about translation management tools, terminology management and so on. Andrew rightly states that his product, Acrolinx, can and does work across all content groups, centralizing things such as terminology and style. Unfortunately, it is one component in a sea of content tool needs.

It is overwhelming.

Trying to devise and execute an enterprise content strategy is overwhelming, even for the smallest companies. We need to work with people we don’t know, with content we don’t quite understand, with definitions that vary, with inadequate tools, and more. Not to mention the fact that there is so much stuff*.

[Tweet “The 3 things standing in the way of a universal, enterprise content strategy: Lack of understanding, silo’d budgets & tools.”]

* Andrew’s definition of stuff: a technical term he learnt from his content friends at Facebook.

So What Do We Do?

This seems like an insurmountable problem. Unfortunately, the quantity of content that we need to create, store, and maintain is increasing at an exponential rate. The longer we wait, the more difficult and expensive the problem becomes. So, here are some things we can do to get started:

  1. Calculate the cost. The first thing we need to do is recognize we have a problem. And all problems must be tied to money or they are not worth working on – at least, you won’t be able to convince management that they are worth working on. There are so many items that go into this cost calculation. Some are pretty straight forward, such as the hard costs of content development, translation, content management systems, and so on. But others are truly elusive. They will take some thought and creativity. For example, how do you measure lack of customer retention and tie it to content? How do you measure time wasted by subject matter experts, reviewers, and others who have to work with content, even though they were never hired to do so? How do you measure how iterative reviews affect time to market and the cost of the delay? How do you measure the cost of non-standard terminology? I’m sure there are many other things that cost lots of money that I’m missing. If you can think of more, please write them in the comments. I’d like to create and share an inclusive list with you.
  2. Talk to somebody. You’ll probably need to talk to a lot of people to understand all of the costs associated with disorganized content. Every group that creates content (aka, every group in the company) has its own story to tell. And I bet that once you start talking to people, you will find out that you are not alone in your quest to understand and solve the enterprise content strategy conundrum. And if not, at least you’ll make new friends.
  3. Be the glue. You, alone, cannot identify the entire problem. And you, alone, cannot solve the problem. So, be the connector among your co-workers. Be the glue that starts the conversation. Get other people thinking and talking about the issues.

Notice that I haven’t suggested that you go and ask for money to solve the problem. Solving the problem is a long way off. But, if we start by talking to people and encouraging them to talk to each other, we can start to calculate how much money silo’d content strategies are costing the company. Once you have those numbers verified and in-hand, then you need to start looking for solutions. Afterall, you don’t want to bring problems to upper management, you want to bring solutions. But, you’ll never get to solutions if you do not first thoroughly evaluate the issues and why the problem needs to be fixed.

Need help getting started? Give us a call.

Val Swisher
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