Category Archives: Content strategy

“Business casual” editorial voice

Jimmy Guterman, magazine writer/editor extraordinaire and rock ‘n’ roller, has a great post on his blog about the “business casual” editorial voice:

Yet the metaphor works. Everyone knows what business casual means, which is a key to quick understanding. A business casual voice is serious but light, focused on ease, deliberately avoiding the stuffy. Business casual is more interested in what it is doing for the audience than the writer or performer. Business casual is about communication, not obfuscation.

(Emphasis mine)

source: UCDavis

I have worked with a lot of content originators and subject matter experts who write the same way they learned in high school; stiff, formal, you know — boring. For a doc such as a technical white paper boring = death. Even worse, boring means nobody reads it.

I’m going to use the business casual metaphor next time I need to make this point. Somewhere in between a suit and cargo shorts, editorially speaking, are the comfortable khakis that will deliver you message in a serious but approachable manner.

Content strategy is easy

Gordon McLean has a great post on his blog, One Man Writes, about all the buzz around content strategy. (The post is so good, I stole its title for this post!)

For many people who don’t spend a lot of time worrying about content, it seems a bit grandiose to have to have a strategy around something that has been taken for granted or, in the worst cases, ignored altogether.

Content Strategy is easy

McLean rightly points out that content strategy is not really anything new. It’s always been the goal of tech comms and technical marketing comms to get the right information to the right person at the right time. I think the reason there is so much buzz about Content Strategy (with initial caps) is that content has become so much of the currency social sphere of the Web. And because everything is online the tech-y stuff like user guides and specs are sitting alongside the marketing-y stuff, not hidden away in dusty three-ring binder manual that “nobody reads”.

Once you mention that having good control over the content being produced, with a view to improving how it is created and delivered, will cost money, suddenly the picture changes. … None of this is new, these ideas have been talked about and debated for several years under the guise of Content Strategy, and for far longer than that in terms of ROI of content (and the teams who deliver it).

McLean’s post has some other great stuff in it, including a mention of Rahel Baillie and Noz Urbina’s book Content Strategy for Decision Makers, which is now on my to-read list.


Where are the “strategic” tech writers? (Hint: right here)

A great wish-I’d-written-that post from David Farbey on his Marginal Notes blog: Where are the “strategic” technical writers?

This week I attended another very enjoyable and interesting session of the London Content Strategy Meetup, [about] experiences of trying to implement a strategic approach to content development and management…. According to the organisers over 100 people came to this week’s meeting.

I think I was the only technical writer there.

Curiously, it was the leaders of two STC Chapters who organised the very first Content Strategy Forum in Paris in April 2010. But when I attended the 2011 CS Forum in London last September I struggled to meet another technical writer.

The focus of content strategy discussions seems to focus on Web writing and more specifically Web marketing writing. But tech comms is content too (and expensive content at that). User doc, support materials, help, etc all need to be included inan organization’s content strategy.



The book as podcast

Eric Hellman has a super post about “the book as a container”. In it he defends the book as an excellent way to deliver content for which context is not as important as timelessness.

We need to understand what it is about the book that makes it a container of media that will persist into the digital world. It’s NOT context. The wonderful thing about the book as container is the same thing that lifts Radiolab as podcast above Radiolab as radio. It’s the timelessness. …So as we evolve the ebook, I think we need to be aware of and nurture its potential for timelessness. If we put the context first, as O’Leary urges, then all we have left is a website.

The technical communications community is often as guilty as any in rushing to publish everything as pdf/web/wiki/social/flavor-of-the-day. As publishing choices increase, it becomes more important than ever to choose the right media for your content, and not discard any choices just because they are “old”.

Boston Globe gets responsive

I’m impressed so far with the redesign of the Boston Globe website. The new layout is clean and easy to use, but best of all it now features responsive design so that the page display adapts to whatever device you view it on. I have only casually browsed the site so far, but I have tried it on my notebook, smartphone, and color ebook reader. (OK, that’s a ThinkPad, Droid Incredible, and Nook Color.) The stories are easy to find and follow on all devices, and site performance seems good (unlike the old sluggishness).

I currently subscribe to home delivery of the Sunday Boston Globe, and every time the paper is wet, missing, or late I think seriously about canceling. However, access to the new online Globe is now included with the subscription. I think this new redesign may be enough to keep me subscribed.