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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

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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

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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

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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