“Nobody is handing content strategy down from on high” – Kristina Halvorson at Confab

Confab Events logoI’m attending Confab 2013 in London today, and as usual at this kind of thing I shall be trying to speed blog the highlights of it, starting with Kristina Halvorson’s opening keynote. Because nothing says I understand content strategy like some hastily typed, badly written, typo-ridden blog posts…

“Nobody is handing content strategy down from on high” – Kristina Halvorson

In her opening keynote Kristina Halvorson co-opted the list format to run down 10 things that everybody at Confab had in common. At the core of the list was a call to action, that everybody in the room had the power to make changes to their organisations, and should use the conference as a big opportunity to learn things that would help solve the problems with content that all of us share.

Not all of the problems, mind you, she pointed out that if you locked yourself in a room for 48 hours and solved every problem that had ever been created with content ever, another 100,000 problems would have sprung up whilst you were working.

Why is content so difficult for organisations?

It isn’t that individually we are “doing it wrong”.

Kristina argues that businesses and organisations just don’t have the infrastructure in place to deal with the incredible demands that digital publishing has put on us. She described our websites as being “land-fill”, where we’ve generally just dumped everything we’ve published in the previous five years. Plus the stuff from the old server that we migrated over during the last redesign and promised to “fix later”. And the microsites where the marketing team had decided that the website was just so screwed already they’d rather just tack an entirely brand new thing on the side instead.

Trying to move from a “launch it and leave it” mentality to one where we care about the full content life-cycle is hard and involves changing the behaviour of a lot of people. As Kristina observed, so many people — SEO people, social media people, UX people, designers, editors, developers — touch every single bit of content as it goes through the publishing process.

Kristina compared the environment in a lot of companies to the old Wild West – there isn’t anybody really empowered to say “No!” in most businesses to the creation of new content. And a lot of times our individual success is measured by how much activity we do, how many projects we can run, how quickly we can respond to demands from our boss. These are the conditions to create content madness.

She showed a big picture of Michael Stipe as part of her list, and explained that one of the things we all had in common in the room was that “Everybody hurts”. We are all facing similar issues. But, she said, we’ve all also got a great opportunity. No set of people has ever faced this set of problems before, so it is a great chance to get in on the ground floor and change the way that companies deal with content. Kristina admitted that everybody was tackling the problem from different perspectives and with different agendas, but said even those “faking it until they make it” have the chance to make an impact.

“Nobody is handing content strategy down from on high” she said. “That’s not the way it works.”


I’ll have some more blog posts during the day. Probably. That’s not really much of a content strategy, is it…? Next up was Kate Kiefer Lee talking about “Voice and Tone: Creating Content for Humans at MailChimp”

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