Content Strategy’s “big bang” theory

Photo credit: John Smith
  • By Peter Kelly
  • |
  • Dec 6 2016
Categories: |Ideas

The connection between content and cosmology (seriously)

We all learn when we’re younger some ideas about where the universe comes from. The most widely understood idea is the “Big Bang Theory.”

The idea is fairly simple (albeit mind-bending). In the beginning, there was a singularity. All of the universe’s matter was densely packed into this singularity and, through somewhat unclear mechanisms of the universe, that singularity experienced a reaction that, suddenly, so rapidly expanded that it expunged all of the stardust, plasma, and building blocks of the universe and, with it, the physical laws and behaviours of that universe. A universe that, even today, is still expanding.

Easy, right?

Well, if that’s how it all began, the crazier question is how it will all end. This is where there’s some greater disagreement.

Some scientists suppose that the forces of gravity, so integral to the fabric of our universe, will slow the expansion of the universe, ever-so-slowly, until at some point, it will actually begin contracting. That process will speed up until, one day, millions of years from now, the universe will actually collapse into itself into itself in what’s cutely called the “Big Crunch.” This would create a new singularity, which may start a whole new universe all over again, like late-night Seinfeld reruns, but even better.

Other scientists theorize that the universe’s expansion is actually accelerating, which may one day lead to the universe stretching too thin and ripping itself apart. As you no doubt guessed, that’s called the “Big Rip.”

Now prepare for the ultimate segue. Ready?

This has everything to do with Content Strategy. Honest.

road-sign-cross-unicverse

Photo credit: Steve Schroeder

 “What is a content strategist? What do they do?” – A universal mystery

Content strategists are nothing if not friendly, smart, inclusive people. It’s this inclusivity that’s brewing up a point of contention. Allow me to explain.

User Experience Design (or UX), arrived on the scene before content strategists knew what to call themselves. That historical order has placed content strategy in a “lesser-than” status, unfair though this may be, in the minds of many organizations and practitioners when compared to UX, Design, Business/Product Strategy, and other (mostly digital) disciplines.

As content strategists found their voices and shared points of view in this expanding digital universe, we realized our seat at the table was smaller than it should be. So we included folks who do similar or related jobs – content marketers, technical writers, corporate communications, social strategists – the list goes on.

This makes sense. It even makes us better at our jobs, being able to collaborate with colleagues who don’t go down the same rabbit holes as we do.

Soon, though, I worry this will bring us to a point of dilution. The question “What does a content strategist do?” is contentious and difficult enough as it is today. I see increasingly more folks include “& content strategist” in their LinkedIn profiles without clarifying what that means in THEIR specific context.

The content strategy universe has been expanding. But what will happen next?

Strength in a shrinking galaxy

Personally, I foresee a “Big Content Crunch” on the horizon.

As content marketing loses some steam and becomes less business “trendy” (please note: I did not say “less important”), the need for a firm, foundational content strategy increases. Similarly, while we’ve been experiencing a period of inclusivity and evolution to the definition of a “content strategist,” it has mostly been through the posing of questions.

Pretty soon, folks will be looking for, or defining their own, answers.

Content strategy will begin to collapse into itself. The expansion of the content strategy universe will refocus around a stronger, more well-defined core. New techniques, tools, and strategic ideas will solidify at the center of gravity.

In short, I see content strategy shrinking a bit next, but this is actually for the best. It’s time for us to be honest about what we do, how we do it, and what we believe in.

I could be wrong. I often am. It’s possible the universe of content strategy keeps expanding, continues to include new disciplines, new ideas, new questions. That has merit, too. In many ways, it’s the best way to learn and adapt to rising challenges in a fast-changing industry.

But it DOES run the risk of making the simple questions, “What is content? What is content strategy?” even more ephemeral and abstract. Even the chameleon has distinguishing features and we can’t allow ourselves to suffer a “Big Content Rip” that extinguishes our work through expansive uncertainty.

 

Further reading

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

A 12-step approach to move from content chaos to recovery

 

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