The Case for Content Strategy—Motown Style

by Margot Bloomstein

22 Reader Comments

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  1. As much as I dislike the extreme division of labour that’s so prevalent in our industry, with everyone being a ‘specialist’ or ‘expert’ of some kind, which I personally find a bit ridiculous, this article outlined some good, common sense thinking with regards to planning.

    Nice work.

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  2. A similar approach is widely practiced (from a designer & copywriter point of view) in the advertising industry where an art director works in partnership with a creative copywriter to generate concepts and ideas.

    In my experience it allows a much greater breadth of creative idea generation and much more balanced, strategic and considered output. It also creates a much more appealing role for copywriters, working strategically, rather than simply on keyword density analysis.

    Good stuff!

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  3. Hi – great article, as ever.

    RE: the title. My inner pedant couldn’t resist pointing out that Aretha recorded ‘Respect’ for Atlantic in 1967 and was never signed with Motown.

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  4. …but you can’t take the content strategy out of the project.

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  5. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat…

    juuuuuuuust kidding! 

    excellent article emphasising integration of content and messaging as part of the whole brand experience design, not as an afterthought.

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  6. A great article with lots of good points to take note of. Its something that my clients always ask for help with and one that sometimes can be a challenge.

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  7. My company is in the midst of a platform migration. It struck me (the IA) just recently that we’ve been focused on the when, how, and how much of getting all of our pages moved over without focusing on the why, so I’ve been advocating for a content audit to make sure that what we migrate is the right stuff. Trying to explain the value of audits, which sound time-consuming and expensive, isn’t always easy, but you’ve made a great case for them here, in addition to just generally advancing the case for content strategy. Kudos, and thanks!

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  8. My development firm has recently jumped on the content strategy bandwagon and I am the content strategist. The downside is that I have more work than time since we are integrating content strategy into our projects. This article is great at describing how content strategy (and content strategists) fit into all parts of a project. I’ll be sharing this with my team, who all thankfully have readily accepted working with content early on.

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  9. @Duncan: It’s my hope that the “good, common sense thinking” can balance out the “extreme division of labor” you describe. In short, I believe every experience that includes words (at the very least) demands content strategy. The degree to which that deserves the focus of a specialist correlates with the overall size of the team, its talents, and the budget.

    @sonarc: BINGO! The same way “you cannot not communicate,” content will take form whether that’s by design or not. Then again, nature tends toward entropy, and far too many overgrown websites are proof!

    redmolly & carriehd: Sounds like you two should join forces. :)

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  10. Was starting the IA work for a new project today and was hunting through my RSS for any recent related articles. I should have started with ‘a list apart’.

    I was half expecting to see a list of content strategists and their mobile numbers at the bottom of the article but I forgot to look for it about half way through when I stopped and started wrapping my head around the concept and how it can make my life easier.

    Thank you for an excellent thought provoking article.

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  11. I agree with the general approach. However, when it comes to SEO it seems (at least from what I’ve noticed) that content is not the most important part of it. For example, flash sites that rank well even when the Search engines don’t see their actual content, or commercial sites that don’t have content at all (other than products to sell..) and rank well.

    In any case, thanks for a well writen article!

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  12. Margot,

    Hi.

    To realize success, esp. when success is defined as an increase in return on investment, ROI, it’s mandatory to be able to differentiate between the segment of the populace you’ve referred to as “click-through tourists” and those who will participate in a “success event”. To continue with the gym example, a “success event” is, of course, a gym membership. Depending on offerings, a “success event” could also include registration for packages of classes (volume discount incentives), an individual class, or an event; an ability to book court time, steam room time, whirl pool time, a trainer; or subscribe to a news letter, etc.

    To make such a differentiation, the long tail (search term) used by the sub-segment of the populace who both participates in a success event and reached the site after clicking through from a search engine results page, SERP, or have participated in the site’s internal search (assuming the site has one) must be harvested. In this sense, implementing web analytics tags on each click though event is the single most important task to building a strategy of engagement for a successful search engine optimization, SEO, campaign. It is with these long tail phrases that one begins SEO keyword research and with which one peppers the page content, including placement of those long tails in some 200 attributes, elements, and tags (as appropriate) to which Google pays attention.

    Thanks for the thoroughness which which you’ve presented a “Case for Content Strategy”.

    Rob

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  13. I especially like the second tip at the end. It’s true that sometimes one reads too much in what the client says and that causes the work to become less unique and more routine.

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  14. Coming from the design side of the fence, this article sums up nearly every discussion I’ve had with other designers, developers and clients in recent weeks. Everyone has an opinion—and all agree on the principle of “content strategy”—but few follow through.

    Why is that?

    For one, Websites these days are often populated with content derived from multiple sources. When a dozen/hundred/thousand people in an organization are all responsible for writing articles, blog posts and other content, it’s difficult to harness their collective voice into a singular, coherent message. It requires a deep understanding of how one writes for the Web, and how your piece relates to the larger pie.

    Some still think of a Website as a container to fill. But a Website should be an immersive experience—from aethetics to the actual content (and everything in between). To neglect the substance is both a disappointment and a disservice to the User.

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  15. I have not been following the whole IA as an actual practice in recent years, that kind of thing seemed to always just happen.  But later on down the road, something feels wrong with the site, they can often feel disassociated… and I believe IA just puts a name to that problem.  We have a general idea for a site, and it’s content, but never take the time to sit down and plan how it’ll all come together.

    It seems that combining proper IA with SEO practices is a good fit.  In my opinion, SEO and IA can conflict – at least in that when site owner focuses too much on SEO, IA sort of naturally degrades.  Interesting article.. thanks!

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  16. I have this problem a lot with my web design projects (don’t most web designers/architects/search engine marketers I hear you cry!).

    I’ve picked up some really valuable points here, which have have been jotted down for a meeting next week.

    Many thanks again for this post :-)

    Karl

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  17. I was just working on a new article today discussing the difference between simple content and targeted/optimized content – I’ve found that, as you point out, it can take a bit of work convincing a client of the sort of work that’s required to build effective content. I’ve found that many clients are very skeptical until after you start working with them and “prove” that content management is important and effective.

    Excellent post, and I’m looking forward to reading more.

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  18. I’ve told Margot this personally, but I just wanted to go on the record to say that this article will be shared with organizational teams for years to come. It’s an accessible and articulate approach to breaking down the benefits content strategy offers to projects and other disciplines alike. I love it, it’s awesome, and it makes me proud to call myself a content strategist.

    I couldn’t be more thrilled that this article has the pass-along power that we’ve seen since its publication. Keep spreading the news, folks… content strategy’s time has come.

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  19. Your descriptions had me nodding along.

    Recently I took for granted the qualities of a solid content strategist. Never again.

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  20. It seems like more and more of the projects I’m working on are in need of short term and long term messaging and content strategy. In the past, most of our clients have had a pretty strong vision of what their brand owned and how they were going to proceed with those assets. Not these days. It’s like everyone is waking up to the potential of their site and realizing that brochures don’t work so well.

    I really liked the SEO implications section, something that is also on everyone’s minds, but they don’t know how to incorporate it into their greater strategy.

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  21. I myself am a little struggling in my organization to get content strategy acknowledged in the design and planning process,I continue to go to ALA to get some inspiration for arguments to arm myself with in selling myself to projects.
    And my company is one of the largest web-service houses in Denmark mind you, and we are still far behind.
    Thanks for the Motown connection…I’m an avid soul collector and appreciate it.

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  22. I dunno…seems like window dressing to me…fancy title, big salary, same stuff.

    No one with any creative experience ever developed a concept without fleshing out the big ideas first…

    I’m not getting what’s new here…except the title ‘concept strategist’ trendy…

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