Is content strategy a luxury you can’t afford?

The sultan's crown jewels in Indonesia

Is content strategy an extravagant luxury? Nope.

A new manager at one of my client organizations has opined that “content strategy is a luxury we can’t afford.” As a result, this manager plans to divide the many content-strategy responsibilities within the company among a handful of disparate people, some of whom have never worked together before.

Mistake.

BIG mistake.

Why? Because content strategy is a luxury only if you have an incredible surplus of time, money, brainpower, immunity to criticism, and shareholder patience. Here’s my reasoning.

  • Time: If you don’t mind making iteration after iteration, revision after revision to your content, by all means forgo content strategy. Who needs a unified approach to how your content reflects branding, messaging, and business priorities? Just throw any old content out there. If it’s not right, someone will tell you. And then you can change it. And change it again. If you’ve got all the time in the world, that shouldn’t bother you one little bit.
  • Money: All those iterations will cost something, right? Good thing you have endlessly deep pockets to pay those writerly types who fix the content…and the editor types who edit the content…and the tech types who put the content into a CMS or (gasp) hard-code it in HTML. And maybe even a contractor or two to help with those tasks, because maybe (just maybe) those folks have more pressing things to do than fix bad content all the time.
  • Brainpower: You’ve got brilliant, motivated employees who would like nothing better than to learn about user experience, SEO, semantics, analytics, editorial best practices, style guides, and usability in their free time, right? And they can suck up that knowledge immediately, being the Rhodes-scholar type. No experience in content strategy necessary. Ta da! Not to mention that they’re incredible at working across silos, communicating what they do to people who have no clue about their roles, and solving cross-company problems with aplomb.
  • Immunity to criticism: Since all those fixes and iterations and people trying to become experts overnight is likely to result in some less-than-stellar content on your website, it’s a good thing you’ve got a thick skin. Just let all those concerns voiced by people in the C-suite roll off your back. After all, you’ve got all the time and money in the world, and your people will be experts in this stuff any day now. (Bonus: If you have the ability to pass the buck, finger-point, and blame others, consider yourself even more lucky! You can ignore some of the criticism and just pass the rest along.)
  • Shareholder patience: Thank goodness you have such an understanding group of shareholders who are willing to wait just as long as it takes for your website to reach those projected sales numbers, or conversions, or click-throughs (or however you measure success). It’s super cool that they’re not like the typical shareholders who want to see actual results in a finite time period. So go ahead, keep doing what you’re doing! They’ll stick around endlessly waiting for results.

Yes, I’m being snarky. But for good reason. Content strategy — as so many people are finally realizing — isn’t a luxury. It’s a necessity, as much so as information architecture and user experience. Now I understand that content strategy is a bit of the new kid on the block, much as those fields once were. But as time has proven, without good IA and UX, you’re left with a mess of a site. And you can add content strategy to the list, too.

Is content strategy a luxury? No. But living in denial certainly is.

Image courtesy Ken Traub via Flickr under a Creative Commons license.

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