Making corporate web

If you’re investing in brand discovery, you’d better be paying for something that makes life easier for content teams

Discovering and defining your organisation’s brand is hard. It requires introspection and optimism – which large organisations often don’t have in abundance. But get it right and you enable easier collaboration. You devolve decision-making, and you see better outputs (like, say, websites).

Let me set the scene. A senior manager proclaims that “we’re excited to announce that we’re about to spend months and months redefining our brand. Even better, we want your input!”

Widespread cynicism, angst and dread follow.

Content strategy Making corporate web

Calling all marketing people who work with content people, and all content people who work with marketing people

Update: I wrote this post and survey with last year’s CS Forum in mind, but this year I’m bringing this talk to Confab Central in June! Between now and then I’d love as many contributions as I can get.

If you work in marketing, or with content, you can tell me all about it and help me with a cool thing I’m doing. Please?

Awesome news: I’m speakingI spoke at CS Forum in Melbourne, this October! last year! I’m I was really stoked to be in the line-up again after four years, and only slightly intimidated by the company I‘mwas in.

Even awesomer, this June I’ll be at Confab Central with the latest version of the same talk, which is called Content people and marketing people: It’s complicated. The idea came from the way I’ve worked as a content guy in three companies, each with very different ways of structuring their marketing and content/digital functions, but none of which seem ideal.1 Is this relationship destined to be painful, or are there ways to make it work? I want to ask around, find out, and tell a big roomful of people all about it.

Content strategy Making corporate web

Talking Author Experience with the guy who wrote the book about it

When I first met Rick Yagodich in 2012, we got talking over lunch about his ideal CMS. I may have been slightly hampered by a karaoke-related hangover at the time (thanks, CS Forum), but as Rick raced through his incredibly detailed plans for keeping information in its context, for putting references and cross-references at the forefront of information management, and for pushing content presentation way down the list of jobs a CMS does, I realised that this needed more than a chat over a meal to explain. “He should write this down,” I thought. “Maybe then I could keep up.”

One very simple idea was at the heart of things, though, and that was to make the job of authoring and maintaining content as simple as possible. The actual experience of being an author hasn’t been taken seriously enough, which causes a lot of common problems with content. That was something else that I though Rick should write down.

Two years later, bingo. Author Experience: Bridging the gap between people and technology in content management lays out all this and more. My copy arrived this week, but by then I’d already read a draft version (and found myself mentioned in a footnote. Mum! I’m in print!).

I’d also chatted with Rick about introducing AX to the enterprise. Like most of the larger problems we content people face (or imagine ourselves facing – this was very much a theoretical discussion), a lot of it came down to interpersonal stuff, and politics, and money.

Content strategy Governance and workflow Making corporate web Risk management

One thing we all know about workflow: No-one knows enough about what’s going on

It takes a team of people with a range of skills and knowledge to create our web content. The way we work together and organise the tasks that go into creating content is, in sum, “workflow”. Approvals, stakeholder engagement, work-tracking and getting feedback on draft content are all aspects of workflow.

Problem is, there’s a standard form of workflow – the sign-off process – that makes it difficult to collaborate properly with all the people who contribute to making great web content.

Making corporate web

The value of work, or Telling idiots how to do simple things

This is the first post I’m sharing from my “500 words” experiment earlier this year. I wrote the original version early on April 10th. I’ve since changed jobs.

What I do is pretty easy, really. Sometimes I say that my job is telling idiots how to do simple things, which is mean and wrong, but like all good self-depreciating lines contains a small but important truth.

“My job is <lie>telling idiots</lie>how to do <truthgrain>simple things</truthgrain>”

Everyone else in the office knows a whole lot of stuff that I don’t. I depend on them to do all that “other stuff” that isn’t my job, and which I can’t do. They’re not idiots, and I don’t tell them what to do.

What does feel true, to me at least, is the “simple things” bit. It feels like my work is pretty straightforward stuff, which means I’m a good match for the role I have. It feels like I’m just doing really obvious stuff that anyone could do. It’s difficult to imagine that other people rely on me to do that “other stuff” that isn’t their job, and which they can’t do.

Simple things are only simple because I know how to approach them. I struggle to see that, objectively, my job isn’t simple. I forget that most people couldn’t turn up and just start doing what I do. And then I end up believing the “idiots” bit, which is bad.

Simple things

I don’t make great things the likes of which the world has never seen before. I’m not labouring at the intersection of inspiration and genius. I’m doing shit like editing things and trying to structure a lot of information in a useful way. Even if what I do seems obvious to me, I’m “adding value” without changing the world.

Sometimes I add value (that’s the last time I use that cliché, I promise) by doing things that aren’t obvious to other people. I do stuff that they wouldn’t have thought of themselves. Hell, that’s why they pay me – because not everyone can do it. This carries the related but opposite risks of arrogance (“look at me improving your shit without even trying!”) and forgetting my own value (“no, don’t thank me; all I did was make some really simple changes”).

As far as this next point is concerned, it doesn’t actually matter whether I’m mentally magnifying or minimising what I bring to my team. What can happen next is that I fall into the trap of undervaluing the people by judging them on their ability to do my job. How weird is that? Oh, empathy, you elusive bitch.

Judging my workmates on the wrong criteria like this can, if unchecked, lead to me thinking that I’m the smartest guy in the room. This is bad for my easily-inflated ego, bad for my motivation and bad for the way I behave. It’s also bad for the work I do. If I’m pretty sure that I’m the best one around, I’m not going try so hard to impress anyone else.

So I guess that the point of this is to remind myself to value other people in the right way, not the wrong way.

Or maybe it’s that I should get smarter, get better at things, and start doing work that doesn’t leave me kind of unimpressed with my own abilities. I’m not smart or skilled enough at anything yet, but that would be pretty damn cool.

But that sounds like effort, and maybe I don’t know what I want to be good at. Maybe because I don’t really appreciate what I’m already good at, this might be a rabbit hole without an end. Or a rabbit.

I’ll keep thinking.


This is 594 words long, with an average reading grade of 7.3.

Making corporate web

The “500 words” thing

In March this year I tried to get into a new habit. The idea was to start every day by writing something about 500 words long – not checking email, not reading anything, but writing. Creating.

It didn’t matter what I wrote about, so long as I did it. These pieces weren’t for anyone else to read. Sometimes work came up, though, and sometimes I might even have been onto something when it did. I’ve been re-reading some of my older “500 words” pieces and decided that maybe they’re worth sharing. So over the next few weeks I’ll dig a few them out, dust them off, give them a bit of an edit (I am not a morning person: typos and poor prose abound), and post them here. I’ll tag them all “500 words”.

So far: