The first year of content strategy students at FH JOANNEUM really liked Rahel Bailie’s workshop the year before. That’s why her session was moved to the beginning of the Master’s Program as the introduction. That’s also why we were able to enjoy working with Rahel Bailie in our first week in Graz. “As a content strategist you can become the rock star of your company,” she said and motivated us at the beginning of the workshop. She explained which aspects a content strategist should cover. The workshop combined teacher-led learning, short exercises, practical examples, and anecdotes from her work as a content strategist.
For example, she worked with the city of Vancouver to implement a content strategy. Thousands of website pages, which were administered by different people, had to be evaluated, streamlined and written in the same style. This practical example helped a lot to get a better understanding of the subject.
Rahel Bailie started the workshop with an example: “If you put a bottle of apple juice on the table and ask people, what they are seeing, they either answer: a bottle or juice. Many look at containers, others on what is in the container. Content strategists look at both!“
Content strategy – a definition
Bailie defines content strategy as a “repeatable system that governs the management of content throughout the entire lifecycle.” 1
Each aspect is important for your the goals:
- Repeatable means, that by working with content, alternatives are considered and decisions are taken afterwards.
- System is a set of principles, which works as a foundation, and is not a one-off.
- Governs means, that the system determines authority and control over the ongoing process.
- Management of content is a process that defines, how content pieces are organized.
- Throughout the entire lifecycle states, that all phases around content must be recognized, including reused and recycled content in the future.
The conclusion of this definition is that content is like a slinky toy.
Content is not for eternity, it evolves in cycles. Once published online, the content work is not over. Content evolves constantly and must be edited regularly. Each cycle is like a adding a new layer to the slinky.
Content Lifecycle model
Bailie’s content lifecycle model consists of four elements: Analyze, collect, manage and publish.
First, the content strategist analyzes the need for the content, defines the criteria and scope of the content, and creates personas and scenarios. The budget must also be considered. Some important questions for content strategists? Which user should be addressed? Who is the “owner” of the specific texts? These first steps are crucial, because the foundation of the content strategy is created. All further steps are about implementation of the content strategy.
In the second phase, the content strategist *collects** all the content associated with the project. This is not only collecting text, but also pictures, navigation elements, and metadata. These following questions will pop up here: Where will the content come from? Who’s the writer of the specific texts? Are there content pieces in different languages? Where do we get missing content? Do different versions of a statement exist? This is specifically important for translations.
In the third phase, the content strategist figures out the **management* of content elements. That means she or he structures and categorizes the content, models it for specific target groups, defines standards and defines how it is stored. Normally with websites, content will be stored in a Content Management System (CMS).
The last and fourth step is about publishing/delivering content to the people. Content is collected, prepared and edited, and published in a way users can find it. What happens after publication? There is no final version for published content, which means, analysis must begin again. Content will be updated, edited, and published again. This will be a new layer of the “slinky toy”.
Rahel Bailie’s approach to content strategy is complex. It is an ideal pattern how companies and organizations could analyze and optimize their content for specific target groups. Possibilities for implementing a content strategy are limited in companies, especially in Germany, Switzerland, and Austria. In the US, the discipline of content strategy is already much more established.
Content strategy – different approaches
Besides the approach taken by Rahel Bailie, there are other approaches to content strategy. The approach used by Kristina Halvorson aims to create the most interesting, relevant and engaging content. “Content strategy plans for the creation, publication, and governance of useful, usable content. Necessarily, the content strategist must work to define not only which content will be published, but why we’re publishing it in the first place.” 2
She outlined her approach in her blog post from 2008 found on “A List Apart” http://alistapart.com/article/thedisciplineofcontentstrategy
Also in Germany, Switzerland, and Austria, more experts emerge in the field of content strategy and help to promote the discipline. The German content strategy expert Doris Eichmeier calls companies to look after their content more carefully. “Brand owners must have excellent publishing knowledge and use it to uplift their brand.” 3 Her book „The content revolution in companies“ tries to motivate companies to open up to content strategies and invest in it.
In the US and Europe, content strategy still must find common ground. Nowadays, there are more approaches to this topic, with similarities and differences between them. Now it is time for content strategy to move from its teenager stage to an adult life.
1 Bailie, R. A., & Urbina, N. (2013). Content Strategy: Connecting the dots between business, brand and benefits. In Content Strategy. XML Press. Retrieved from http://proquestcombo.safaribooksonline.com/book/-/9781457182570/firstchapter
2 Halvorson, K., & Rach, M. (2012). Content Strategy for the Web; second edition. In Content Strategy for the Web, Second Edition. New Riders. Retrieved from http://proquestcombo.safaribooksonline.com/book/web-design-and-development/9780132883269/firstchapter
3 Eck, K., & Eichmeier, D. (2014). Die Content-Revolution im Unternehmen. Freiburg im Breisgau: Haufe-Lexware. Retrieved from http://www.amazon.de/Die-Content-Revolution-Unternehmen-Perspektiven-Content-Marketing/dp/3648056174