The content strategy conversation is skewed, and that’s a problem

Photo credit: Smabs Sputzer
  • By Kathy Wagner
  • |
  • Jul 31 2017
Categories: |Ideas

A problem of perspective

People are having a lot of exciting discussions about content strategy these days. Technology companies are advancing the conversation about product and UX content strategy. Agencies and consultancies (ours included) share advice, tools, and case studies to keep companies competitive in today’s digital, content-rich environment. There are great things happening and forward momentum, so what’s the problem?

It’s creating a false sense of industry maturity for many companies and new content strategists.

Every client we work with, at some point or another, shares their concern and embarrassment about being so content backward. They compare themselves with other companies who lead content strategy discussions and they fall short. A tightly-regulated, public sector, not-for profit company will get discouraged that they’re not keeping up with Facebook or Coca-Cola.

Worse than that, the new generation of content strategists have no idea what it’s like to work as an in-house content strategist in a large organization. They seem to think that best practices are the norm, suggestions will be immediately welcomed, and that (from the lofty position of junior content strategist) they’ll lead their organization from the dark ages into the light. In short, they think the companies who hire them are ready for them.

Those of us who started as in-house content strategy advocates 10+ years ago, know that it’s a continual struggle to spark and maintain change in an organization. Changing the way organizations approach content needs a specific mindset and skillset beyond simply being able “to do” content strategy. We wouldn’t have been in content strategy at that time if we weren’t thrilled by the chase.

In many organizations, that struggle is still real. But rather than being inspired by the challenge of figuring out how to evolve content practices, the new in-house content strategists I’ve spoken with lately have expressed their disappointment and distaste in the inevitable politics and slow evolution of working within large, public-sector companies. Instead of getting them riled up, the working environment deflates them. I get it – it’s frustrating. But we, as an industry, need the new generation of content strategists to embrace the challenge of maturing the content and content practices from within their organizations.

Content strategists need to embrace the challenge of maturing content practices from within their organizations. Click To Tweet

It’s unfortunate, because the problems that these organizations face are complex and nuanced and interesting. True, the solutions they need (or can implement) may not be innovative or cutting edge, but the business and community impact of small, steady improvements can be huge.

If those of us who work with or within large public-sector organizations shared more of our experiences, frustrations, and successes, I’m wondering if we could become a better resource and support for others in similar situations. At the very least, we could provide a realistic perspective of the challenges that content strategists face when they work in less progressive industries and the skillsets and personalities they need to make an impact. Content strategy doesn’t need to be ground-breaking to be challenging and interesting. And change doesn’t need to happen all at once to make a difference. That’s a conversation I’d like to hear more of.

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