There is a lot of talk lately about what is Content Strategy and who owns it. Is it a part of IA/UX? Does it fit under the wing of Content Marketing? Should the SEO/SEM folks be leading this charge? Or, is the call for Content Strategy to be its own practice practical and valuable?
The first yin/yang I’ll address is the one between IA (UX) and Content Strategy.
In some ways this struggle reminds me of the pole-vaulter: There is a 100 or so foot run which is required to gain enough speed to plant the pole, to get over the bar. A great pole-vaulter can’t just be good at arching his/her back to get over the bar; they must also be a powerful runner. In order for (a) IA/UX to be successful (get over the bar) they have to do some of that running = (b) Content Strategy. Conversely, in order for (b) Content Strategy to be successful (get over the bar) they must understand some (a) IA/UX. It isn’t that (a) comes before (b) that is important but rather that (a) needs (b) and (b) needs (a).
-Content Strategy is an emerging field.
-Information Architecture is an established field.
-An Amazon search for “Content Strategy” returns 1,535 hits—not all are relevant.
-An Amazon search for “Information Architecture” returns 15,198 hits—many more are relevant.
As an agency that practices a mixture of both Content Strategy and Information Architecture, I sense that clarifications to the items below would help legitimize/popularize the practice of Content Strategy in the eyes of both clients and related practices.
* What are they for Content Strategy?
* How do they relate-to/crossover-with deliverables for other related practices?
* What is the (perceived) inherent value of Content Strategy?
* Is the value of Content Strategy different when coupled with other services?
* What are the standard rates for Content Strategy?
* Is content strategy (to varying degrees) being performed more than once by different vendors? How does client avoid having this work done by multiple vendors? (Content Wireframing vs. Design Wireframing.)
* How does a client differentiate a “copywriter” armed with hot buzzwords from a content strategist?
* What is the required experience and toolset of a professional content strategist?
* In cases where there are separate vendors performing: IA/UX, Design, Content Strategy, Development, content creation. (We all know this happens.) How do vendors agree on a language that focuses less on who’s leading the show but more on what is best for the client?
* How much of content strategy is analytic and how much is creative?
Recently I had a client request a proposal for a web/print/content project, the project was equal parts: content, strategy, design and development. When I turned in the proposal there was a line item for “Content Strategy”, it included the research/interviews, content inventory, gap analysis, delivery methodology, metadata strategy, editorial calendar, tone and life-cycle of the content.
Here’s the catch. I was asked to remove “Content Strategy” as a line item from the proposal and redistribute the money across the rest of the project. Her reasoning, management wouldn’t understand or see value in “Content Strategy” as a line item with a $ amount attached to it. Now while this could be an isolated case I think it is indicative of a larger issue.
After removing the line item (with trepidation) I contacted some advertising friends. In advertising research and strategy shapes the campaign/creative and is usually a line item with lots of 0’s. One of them said, “Rename the line item Potato Sack Races, as long as they pay you.” Good advice, but advertising is a mature market and even splinter factions like The Barbarian Group and Wexley School for Girls dedicate significant hours to strategy/research before they go off and stick pins in buildings.
On one hand, big deal, move money from line item 4 to line item 5. On another hand it says something about how Content Strategy is viewed and valued. From a client’s perspective “Content Strategy” is a practice with a scope yet to be entirely defined and understood. From a marketing/branding/service offering perspective Content Strategy is a term that has yet to be fully owned by SEO, Content Marketing, Content Strategists or IA/UX’s. And for now maybe that’s ok.
What are your thoughts?