Content Strategist: Master of Contingencies

This is a post from Blog Secret Santa
This post was written as part of Blog Secret Santa 2014. It was an anonymous gift post, published here unedited. Here’s the full blog roll, including something by me.

In his play The Cenci, poet Percy Bysshe Shelley weaves a tragic tale of villainy and disaster.

A bloodthirsty 17th-century nobleman becomes the target of a murder plot. In today’s parlance, we’d say that “no jury in the world” would convict young Giacomo and his cohorts of plotting to murder the abusive, lecherous Count Cenci.

But after concocting their scheme, Giacomo is dismayed to hear that the evil count has escaped his clutches. By chance, the count has missed his date with destiny by embarking on a journey an hour too soon.

“Are we the fools of such contingencies?” Giacomo asks.

The best laid plans

Hopefully our everyday frustrations are neither as grandiose nor as morbid as Giacomo’s. But, in life and in business, we’ve all been in situations where our best plans go south due to any number of unforeseen developments.

Due to contingencies.

In Content Strategy and UX, we’re often seen as the Keepers of Best Practices. And we should be—standards and guidelines give us useful goals for how to conduct our projects. It’s our job to understand those standards.

But often, the client or employer asking us for Best Practices really needs not a rulebook for creating The Perfect Content Strategy, but an expert who understands the idiosyncrasies of the organization and how to get things done.

For example, the success of your content strategy project will depend on understanding such contingencies as:

  • The content management system. If you want to migrate your content to a technologically advanced platform, but the organization needs a specific type of output that your favorite CMS can’t easily handle, your project will die a painful death.
  • The people. Say, for example, the executive in charge of your department, whose buyoff you need, sees the company’s product as the high-end product in its category. Your content plan had better position that product in the marketplace the way the exec sees it. If not, you must explain why the product really doesn’t fit the “premium” label. Either way, you’ve got to address the exec’s perspective or risk your project’s future.
  • The customers. You have two main customers, one who happens to be technically savvy and spends all her time learning about technology. The other is less obsessive and prefers to spend free time with friends and family. Your content will need to tell each of these very different customers what your company can offer him or her.

A tough bill to fill

Not only does the Content Strategist need to understand the organization’s overall content ecosystem, its place in the market, and UX industry best practices. Often, in order to really enable our clients and bosses to create the best possible content, we need to understand the nitty-gritty details about the politics, technology, and economy that demands and underlies the content.

Making the Content Strategist not only a UX standards-bearer, but the Master of Contingencies too.

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Thank you, Santa, whoever you are! More about Blog Secret Santa.

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