Here in Paris at the Content Strategy Forum 2010 put on by STC France, the first question that comes to mind is: What exactly is content strategy. Plausible responses are not in short supply, and keynote speaker Rahel Anne Bailie opened the event with a bit of what and a lot of why it's time to prioritize and evolve content strategy.

Content Strategy is a Cross Section of Disciplines

As knowledge workers, almost by definition what we do these days touches many parts of our organizations and is often collaborative in nature. Content strategy is no exception -- it involves a cross section of disciplines with a variety of concerns. The cross cut touches these areas:

  • user experience
  • business analysis
  • technology
  • content development

But what is the modern content lifecycle? Rahel says that just as in the information architecture world, there’s “big IA” and “little IA”, in the content world, there is “big content management” and “little content management”.

The “little content management” is about getting content to work within a content management system; “big content management” is about having a content strategy to create a repeatable system that governs the management of the content, throughout the entire lifecycle.

Analyze, Collect, Manage, Publish

The components in Rahel's model span needs analysis, business planning, authoring, publishing and managing. She breaks things into four parts: Analysis, collection, managing and publishing.

The Content Lifecycle

CMSWire readers may be most enamored with the second half of this pie, but  Rahel -- while speaking to the Society of Technical Communicators -- prefers to delve into the first slice. According to Bailie the critical aspect of the lifecycle is that it begins with analysis -- you've got to know where you are and how you're going to get where you want to be.

"You can change how it produced, how it’s managed, which tools you use to control it, translate it or not, cut aspects out of it or not – if you have no strategy, you have no real rationale for the content you produce."

Why Are We Doing this?

Fine, strategy and planning make sense. No arguments there. But why is content strategy the focus of STC's annual conference? Times have changed and the content experience, they say, is having its moment in the sun.

It's all about ROI, gaining or holding market share, improving sales, better support, smarter editorial. These are all reasons for valuing content strategy. Rahel quoted Christopher Cashdollar saying "nothing can deter confidence quicker than a broken experience."

But she says that largely due to the explosion and nature of social media, this axiom has evolved to be "nothing can damage a brand quicker than a broken experience." When competitors are a click away, the content experience is of paramount importance. It's time to get smarter about it.