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


What Goes in a Content Style Guide?

A true style guide should include not only the visual brand elements, but the content guidelines. Since the voice represents the brand, content guidelines are a key component to any style guide. Last year, I recommended some of the content strategy deliverables that should find their way into a style guide to help both designers and content creators create their own guides.

I’ve since observed more and more style guides that get crammed with information, only to sit on the figurative shelf, unseen and unused. While this sometimes comes down to a lack of governance or undefined workflow, it’s also sometimes the fault of the guide creator. We put so much in the style guide, it becomes unusable.

With that in mind, how do you decide what goes into the style guide? Continue Reading


What Do Content and Feminism Have In Common?

Q: What do content and feminism have in common?
A: I don’t care if you use a different word to describe them, as long as we both know they’re important.

In a recent webinar, someone asked me “how do you handle it, when someone on your team asks you for text or uses the term words when they really mean content?” It’s a good question, since content strategists often get mistaken for copywriters, and we are still working to define our roles and educate team members on how we can best support them.  Continue Reading


Journey Maps for Content Strategy

When we talk about “strategy” it can mean a lot of different things:

  • Creating a set of plans for creating and promoting content over time
  • Setting up a plan for a content migration and content governance
  • Defining the content touch points for a user’s experience with an application or site

The first two fall clearly under the guise of “content strategy.” But the third falls in that nebulous “user experience.” Let’s explore the value of a content strategist on a UX project, specifically when it comes to identifying audience touch points. Continue Reading


House of Leaves, Interactive Books, and Ergodic Literature

I read my first interactive book when I was 3. It was called Pat the Bunny, and it required the reader to touch, scratch, and otherwise interact with the pages. Like most people, I outgrew these sort of books by the time I was 6. But last month I rediscovered interactive books, in the adult version: ergodic literature.

What is Ergodic Literature?

According to Wikipedia, ergodic literature is a book where “nontrivial effort is required to allow the reader to traverse the text.” In other words, a book where the words go up, down, sideways, and backwards, sometimes require moving back and forth across pages, or are written within smaller boxes on the page.


The ergodic book I was reading was House of Leaves: a film critique within a book within a book. I’m still not sure whether I enjoyed it, whether I would recommend it, whether or not it’s a “good” story or a “good” book. I can’t say it’s the most enjoyable read – it does require nontrivial effort – but it did capture my attention. What is most fascinating to me about ergodic (and interactive) literature though, is the emphasis on layout. And to me, a content strategist, the possible impact of ergodic literature on intelligent content. Continue Reading


Content Types vs. Not Content Types

Often, the concept of “content types” is one of the hardest things for clients to wrap their minds around. They begin talking about content types and instead begin talking about their different products, their target audiences, or their CMS fields. Of course, all of these are related, which makes the whole mess even more difficult to untangle.

What is a content type?

I’ve yet to see a clear description of a content type, and the best I’ve come up with is this: it’s a type of content.

However, in my experience a good set of examples is better than all the descriptions in the world.

Examples of content types: An Event, a Book, a Video, a Tweet, a Product

Why are these content types? They are things, or entities, that are made up of various content attributes. An Event might be made up of the attributes (or metadata fields) Event Title, Event Description, Event Date, and Event Organizer. Meanwhile a Book may have only one attribute: Book Title, or multiple: Book Author, Book Description, Book Image.

Why does it matter? Clients don’t need to understand what content types are, but content strategists need to set up their CMSs to accurately serve up the right content to the right people.


A Rose by Any Other Name

One of the most difficult decisions we came up against in wedding planning was choosing a first dance song. While we weren’t doing a traditional “first dance,” we did want to ensure that the first slow song of the evening was one we liked, and one that felt representative of us. We had many requirements, including:

  • We both needed to like the song
  • The music needed to be something we could dance to
  • The lyrics couldn’t be about a break up or unhappy relationship Continue Reading

Don’t Call Me Goddess

I recently received an email from an organization recommending I purchase their product. It was addressed “Dear Goddess.”

When we look at examples of emails, site copy, and other content, this is the type of term that makes us smile. We think “that’s so daring!” and “Fantastic that they know their audience so well.” Guess what my reaction was when I received the email? It didn’t make me smile.

I don’t say this out of low self esteem, but I’m not a Goddess. I like myself just fine. I’m a smart person, a fun person (I think), a good speaker, an experienced content strategist, a fantastic aunt (if I do say so myself), an excellent storyteller, and I have many other lovely qualities. I also enjoy the occasional pet name. But Goddess just feels… silly.

That’s not to say that “Goddess” is the wrong address for everyone. But it was wrong when personalized for me. Continue Reading


Should We Use Video?

Following a handful of stakeholder meetings, one of my coworkers recently gave me a heads up that we should concentrate our content creation around videos. I was a little surprised to hear that, since we hadn’t spoken to end-users yet. As we discussed the situation, it became clear that these were the main reasons the client felt we should focus on video content:

  • Their team had already invested a lot of money in videos.
  • It’s easier to track user engagement on videos than for articles, because you can see both the number of views and how far into the video they watched.
  • Someone high up in the organization had expressed the strong opinion that videos are more fun than other forms of content.

None of these are good reasons. Continue Reading