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I’ll Tell You What I Want (What I Really Really Want)

In the February 19th closing Broadway performance of Chicago, the female lead playing Roxie Hart broke character. Personally, I’ve seen actors break on occasion, due to a prop malfunction or an audience interruption. It’s not funny, the way it is when SNL cast members break – in fact, it upsets the context and fluidity of the show.

What made this moment unique is that it was pre-planned and purposeful. Mel B, the former Spice Girl playing Roxie Hart, stopped mid-scene to sing a line from the Spice Girl’s hit song Wannabe. The audience cheered, the show went on, and plenty of press and Broadway regulars weighed in. Most agreed that the break was unnecessary, unwarranted, and unprofessional.

Don’t let your website break character Continue Reading

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Why Triggering Language Matters

“Triggered” might just be the word of the year. It’s showing up in political discussions, on college campuses, in relation to gender equality, rape culture, military history, suicidal fears, domestic abuse, racial slurs, sexual abuse, and the list goes on.

Generally speaking, we read it referred to for two reasons:

  1. People defending the right to free speech without worrying about who they might “trigger”
  2. People requesting a safe space where they will experience no “triggers”

These responses seem to assume that triggers are static things that people are impacted by, or that they make up. But a trigger isn’t always a word or phrase that defies political correctness. It’s not always a joke in poor taste, or something said to shock. For content strategists working in healthcare, triggers are associations that impact patients’ ability to care for themselves. Continue Reading

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Do You Live in a Bubble? (and why it matters)

“There exists a new upper class that’s completely disconnected from the average white American and American culture at large, argues Charles Murray, a libertarian political scientist and author.” -Do You Live in a Bubble? (PBS)

I live in a bubble. I have a career I chose and love, friends who are informed and enjoy political discussions but are generally liberal and left-leaning, and I have always been lucky enough to have family that could help me out if I took a risk and needed financial support. I have had my share of struggles, but finances have not been one of them. I have fought for many things and endured tough times, but I have also had opportunities to travel and take on internships. I have always had a safety net. Continue Reading

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Happy Holidays (or, Why Words Matter)

Every winter I’m surprised to see who comes out in defense of “Merry Christmas” over “Happy Holidays.” This year, a Facebook meme helpfully summarized how many people feel.

Merry Christmas

But words have meaning. Merry Christmas means enjoy celebrating one specific holiday, much like saying Happy Birthday, or Happy New Year, or Happy Hannukah. I wouldn’t wish you a Happy Birthday on a random Tuesday – it just wouldn’t make sense.

From a communication perspective, the difference between Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays isn’t about political correctness. It’s about common sense! If you’re not sure what holiday someone might celebrate, go for a blanket “Happy Holidays.” If you know they celebrate Christmas, go for Merry Christmas. And if it’s their birthday, then wish them a Happy Birthday.

Happy Holidays, Content Strategy Style!

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The Case for Including Content Strategy in CMS Builds

If you’re a content strategist, you have likely heard a lot about the importance of being part of designing and customizing content management systems. But if you’re a developer, you may not have the same perspective.

On a recent project, I witnessed this firsthand. While I made a point of creating content templates, identifying content types, and designing governance practices with an eventual CMS customization in mind, the (external) development team was not prepared for the same level of collaboration. They looked at my deliverables as options, and when my ideas didn’t fit, rather than open a discussion they unilaterally made decisions. Unfortunately, the result was a CMS that didn’t fit the content needs or the editorial team’s abilities.

wreckingmylife Continue Reading

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Building a Structured Author Experience

At this year’s CS Forum in Melbourne, Rachel Lovinger gave a brilliant talk about 10 (well, 8) things she has learned in 10 years as a content strategist. It inspired me to consider what we know as content strategists, as compared to what our users (particularly the editorials teams) know.

Rachel stressed the importance of author experience, explaining how necessary structured content is, in order to have easily findable, and thus usable content. She went over the basics of structured content, reminding us that it needs to:

  • Be stored separately from any display infrmation
  • Have content types identified
  • Be stored in discrete, manageable chunks

All of this is very important to us, as content strategists. But I suddenly remembered a client who told me how frustrated she was to work with Oracle, where she needed to build “links” and “assets” that could then be pulled into “sections” that could then be pulled into “pages.”

Our authors don’t care if their content is structured. Continue Reading

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Communicating via Horn

I was biking with a friend over the summer, on a back road with no traffic. We took advantage of the empty road, biking side by side in the lane – according to Massachusetts state law, on roads without a bike lane we are able to take up the full lane, but we wouldn’t typically do that at a busier time of day, out of safety concerns.

As we came back towards a more populated area, we stopped at a stop light. Suddenly, as a car approached us from behind, there was a loud, angry HONK. We both jumped, and quickly moved to the side, feeling that mix of shame and defensiveness that comes from being honked at. But as the driver passed, she waved to us in a friendly way. Her honk had only meant to let us know she was there, not intending to reprimand us for being in the road. Continue Reading

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No New Stories

“There is no such thing as a new idea. It is impossible. We simply take a lot of old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope. We give them a turn and they make new and curious combinations. We keep on turning and making new combinations indefinitely; but they are the same old pieces of colored glass that have been in use through all the ages.”

― Mark Twain

Every so often we hear this fear, or this realization: there are no new stories. It’s true, perhaps, but that doesn’t mean there’s no place for storytelling. The next time a client (or your team) is worrying about what new “original” content they can provide for their customers, point them this way. Continue Reading