by Rachel Lovinger on 2007/03/26

So, when we’re done philosophizing (for now) and we’ve figured out who’s going to be responsible for the content, how do we go about infusing it with meaning?

To make content that’s relevant to people, we choose the words and sentence structures that will best contribute to achieving our communication goals. The voice should be based on a deep understanding of the intentions of the content creators, as well as the needs of the content consumers. This approach can be captured in an editorial styleguide providing guidelines and examples that will help others craft content and messages in a similar voice.

To make content more useful to machines, we structure it and define standard elements so that the content can be used and reused dynamically. We write taxonomies and add metadata so that the content can be identified more easily. We create relationships between content so that it has more context and can support a variety of complex functions.

To make content more efficient to produce, we evaluate and recommend solutions for creating, enhancing, organizing, and using content, including content management systems, metadata tools, search engines, and faceted navigation applications. We establish business rules and workflows that will optimize the use of these tools and systems.

To make content comprehensive, we determine content requirements for a site, inventory existing content, identify gaps, evaluate possible sources for additional material, and manage the process of getting that content into production. Given the right background or source material, we can write labels, overviews, or even longer content if needed.

And don’t be surprised if, in the course of doing these tasks and creating these deliverables, those old philosophical questions pop up again to complicate seemingly straightforward issues. Here’s another brain teaser for you: “What distinguishable qualities indicate that some content items will be as relevant in three months as they are today, while other content will be out-of-date in a few hours?” (Hint: There’s no single correct answer.)
Strategies for working with content strategy

If you are a content strategist,

* Start asking yourself and your colleagues the difficult questions about content (e.g., “What is content?”, “What would make it more meaningful?”).

* Open dialogs about how to generate more meaning in your content and how to determine how much is enough. Develop models for cost/benefit analysis.

* Look at different content models and determine appropriate uses.

* Explore some of the emerging tools that can help reduce the burden of content production. Invent new uses and requirements for these tools and tell the developers so that they can make them better.

If you work with content strategists,

* Find time to philosophize with them about content. Have patience with discussions of issues that may not seem like they’re leading directly to solutions–sometimes this perspective is needed to come up with the ideal content approach.

* Involve them in the project as soon as you start analyzing what the site is going to be. Don’t wait until the site is structured and designed and you realize that you need some content to fill the pages.

If you don’t work with content strategists, but you think you would like to,

* Demonstrate to your organization how this kind of role could save time and effort, help avoid problems, and make your end product better. After the conclusion of any project, you can probably come up with many examples of “If we had only realized this before…” Base your case on the content-related examples and you’re halfway there.

* If that doesn’t work, figure out who in your organization is most interested in the theory of content, encourage them to get metaphysical about it, and then bring them back down to Earth so you can get to work on the practical stuff.

Content strategy may not be fully defined or widely understood, but that shouldn’t stop you from doing it. Make time in your projects to deeply consider the content requirements, and the content philosophers in your ranks will rise to the occasion.