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Published on July 9th, 2012 | by Rahel Bailie


Occupying a unique content strategy space

There’s a lot of discussion within the content strategy community about the particular content strategy space that we occupy. What kind of content strategy: primarily editorial? analytics? marketing? web? multi-modal? digital? government? Because it’s summer, finally, in Vancouver, I’m taking the opportunity to look at the content strategy space from a slightly different, lighter angle. Here is the content strategy space I currently occupy:

My personal content strategy space

I’ve consulted for some ten years now, and have gone through the stages of having an office, sharing an office, renting space in a shared workspace, having a home office, and working virtually – anywhere I happened to be, as long as I have my laptop. That’s the beauty of content strategy: a portable profession that relies on brain power more than equipment, though I must admit I like my big screen for those endless Excel spreadsheets.

The past year-and-a-half have been spent working with the City of Vancouver on a website redevelopment project. I’ve been managing a team of eight to ten people (depending on who is reporting to whom at any given time), and we’ve been ploughing through a thorny, tangled, challenging, and extremely interesting project. That means getting out of the house and going to an office every day – in this case, the second floor of Vancouver City Hall – where I go down a corridor of a heritage building with granite floors with marble trim, all polished to a shine, past what we cheekily call our “secret boardroom”, all wood panelling and granite and plush carpets, until I reach the room where it all changes.

A swoosh of my swipe card and I’m into an open-plan room with sit/stand desks, double-monitor workstations, and the clatter of  keyboards – and the occasional cussing out of the CMS. I admit that I’m privileged. Every day, I get to work with a dream team. The collective skill set in that room is way greater than the sum of its parts. We have eight writers, each with a specialization area: instructional design, plain language, SEO and analytics, taxonomy, journalism, web development, editing, marketing, and infographics. Five of them have some sort of technical communication background – structured content, anyone? – all of whom contribute to content production. (If any of my co-workers are reading this, I’m not forgetting the project director, project manager, quality assurance testers, business analysts,  user experience professionals, technical professionals, and folks borrowed from other departments for their knowledge and skills. I just don’t want to inflate the content strategy sphere.)

What is the content strategy space formed by this team? If I were filling out a form, I’d chose: All of the above. We may be working on a “Web” project, but it has encompassed everything from persuasive material to instructional material, wrangling a CMS implementation to wrangling SMEs, e-publication strategies to asset management strategies, modelling content to modelling leadership, from … well, you get the picture. Oh, and don’t forget the terrible twins of change management and governance. Right from the beginning, this project has been a non-stop opportunity to contribute and learn and shine. I’ll be delighted to showcase our collective accomplishment – well, as soon as we launch. And that is a great content strategy space to occupy.

Come the end of August, the project will have eased into its next phase, and I move on to a new project for a new client. It will be exciting to enter a new content strategy space, yes. But I will sure miss the unique space at City Hall.

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About the Author

Rahel Anne Bailie is a synthesizer of content strategy, requirements analysis, information architecture, and content management to increase the ROI of content. She has consulted for clients in a range of industries, and on several continents, whose aim is to better leverage their content as business assets. Founder of Intentional Design, she is now the Chief Knowledge Officer of London-based Scroll. She is a Fellow of the Society for Technical Communication, she has worked in the content business for over two decades. She is co-author of Content Strategy: Connecting the dots between business, brand, and benefits, and co-editor of The Language of Content Strategy, and is working on her third content strategy book,

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