Style guides have a long history in the writing process. They’ve always affected more than what counts as good content. They affected our writing process and behaviors, our sense of community, even our egos. As AI pushes the style guide another step, how will it push us along too?
The early style guides came in the form of manuscripts and books, mainly out of academia and journalism. They were made for print, in print.
Usually I’d cringe to write sentences full of “do this” and “do that” imperatives. Here’s an exception: a process for writing articles. It’s a faster, easier way than what’s taught. I’ve used it to publish LinkedIn and Medium articles about my work without making it my job.
The traditional way of writing slowed me down or stumped me before I could start. I’d try to imagine a completed article upfront, as if it would emerge with rainbows and sunbeams, then figure it out in my head before writing. Which never happened. …
As content strategists, we have to stretch outside what’s expected of us, especially in the realm of product where we can be outnumbered by design, product management and engineering. How can we have more strategic impact?
Even with the good fortune of working alongside amazing teams, I always felt like my closest partners were my biggest hurdles. Why? Simply because I was limited by their unclear or fixed or pre-defined view of what content strategists do. Typically that view’s based on that one group’s needs for content within a larger set they may not have insight to.
If that underutilizes our strategic skills, it’s on us to demonstrate otherwise. How would they know what to ask from us—except for a lot more of the same? …
To start off, let’s grab a working definition of systems in the content strategy field. Within Brain Traffic’s content strategy quad, structure and process are the two parts of systems design.
Systems design is the process of defining the architecture, modules, interfaces, and data for a system to satisfy specified requirements. We’re interested in creating repeatable systems — both for machines and for people…
No arguments. It’s just pretty tied up with content management systems (another enemy, hehe). I enjoy playing around with their quad view, moving up and down, broader and narrower, more and less. …
One of the most important aspects of content strategy and being a content strategist is how you think about being one. Mentalities are cognitive frames for understanding the world, as values and norms that organize reactions and responses — a signature form of consciousness that seeds behavior.
Mentality and knowledge are two realms. You can take classes and complete projects to acquire knowledge: the facts of a domain, skills and experience.
Mentality is a mindset. It will help you succeed in content strategy. The coolest part is that you influence yours into being.
Being a content strategist means being strategic about all kinds of things beyond the content itself. We have a ton of content work behind the screen that impacts what gets on the screen. …
Remember the first time you recorded your voice and played it back? I cringed, “That’s how I sound?” My voice sounded so different listening to it than it did in my own head speaking.
Does a similar phenomenon happen when users hear a brand’s voice that’s crafted by your internal team of writers? How is it heard? Is there a gap?
With brand personality or voice, we have the task of expressing a set of attributes. Our job is to bring the attributes to life through the language in a digital experience and connect with users.
To craft an expression that’s on target, we take customer insights and market data, feedback from critiques and workshops through rounds of iterations. …
Front end? The experience, what’s displayed, the interactive parts
Back end? The infrastructure, what isn’t visible, under the hood
Full stack? A hybrid of the two, working on both sides of the screen
Content strategy requires a full stack approach, blurring the line between front and back end. Truthfully, the line was probably arbitrary to begin with. It should be assumed that your strategy is full stack. Giving yourself the title of full stack content strategist would sound silly and pretty much BS-y, wouldn’t it?
If you’re going to succeed, your core strategy has to thread throughout the stack. Follow the content. You can’t tackle the experience in isolation to solve content problems. The ability to execute is dependent on orchestration from front to back, back to front. …
Heather Hedden defines taxonomy mapping as the “linking between individual terms or concepts in each taxonomy so that the taxonomies may be used in some combination.”
Mapping was a solution our team was interested in testing out. On one hand, we were developing a central enterprise taxonomy—for the first time ever at Intuit. On the other hand, we were tasked with creating a navigation for a new QuickBooks help and support site.
The latter involved tree testing with users and getting input on labels. The vocabulary was particular to this one web experience, more volatile, a smaller set of nodes, and needed language markedly different from our central taxonomy. It tested very well. …
When I first told a design peer that our new content strategy team wouldn’t write a word for users, his mouth fell open. As a 35-year-old software company, Intuit has a history of equating content with writing. If there was a content problem, hire more writers.
Over time, many content writing teams were formed, resulting in publishing silos, suboptimal content management, and way too much content scattered all over.
This isn’t a unique story. It’s how content strategy became a thing. And it’s why we fought to form the first content strategy team inside product design. …