A Content Strategy Conversation — Colleen Jones

This is part of the series of conversations that I originally published in ContentHug, in 2015.

Thank you Colleen Jones.


[CH]: A few content strategists got into this role because ‘nobody else was doing it, and so there was a need for content strategists in the team’. Now, since it has kicked off relatively well, what next to address something else. For example if we talk about titles, what can be the next title of a senior content strategist. If not for title, what next in terms of ownership or value to a business?

[CJ]: I’m excited about what’s next in the value of content practice to every business function. I see content practice — from forming a vision through planning and implementing strategy — as the asset that makes all other business assets more valuable. Content practice makes investments in assets such as brand, technology, people, and more pay off. So, if I could pick ANY title, I’d say Chief Activator of Business Assets.

[CH]: Assume that you get your dream job or contract, as a content strategist, lead or otherwise. What is the most important thing that you have learnt so far that you will put into practice there?

[CJ]: I’m grateful to have my dream job as the CEO of Content Science. I get to spearhead products to help advance content practice; I get to advise amazing organizations and brands; and I get to lead a team of talented people who are eager to elevate content practice. Lately, what I’ve been learning is the value of having the right mindset — a growth mindset.

If you are pioneering content efforts for a client or your employer, you will run into complex problems. You will make mistakes. You might encounter some resistance to change. So, you have to let ego go and put yourself in a frame of mind of constant learning, assessing, growing, and achieving. I’ve found this mindset to be invaluable to helping Content Science and our clients succeed.

[CH]: Content strategists often need to push things around, such as to get a buy in. Can you share some experience when you had to take a really tough call, such as for style guide for voice, for user education, or governance structure?

[CJ]: I feel like we have to do this in just about every engagement. One time we delivered a workshop to a prominent nonprofit organization that needed to transform its approach from print to digital. That kind of change requires a big shift in mindset. While most people embraced it, one participant was particularly resistant and raised a big stink afterward. Her face was literally red with fury. For example, she thought making content easier to consume and understand on the web was “dumbing it down.” Even worse, she tried to influence coworkers to show the same ire. I listened and expressed empathy for the work involved in change, but I stood firm. I advised the nonprofit to do so, too. The nonprofit weathered the initial storm of resistance, and now they are a thriving hub of digital content.

[CH]: How do organizations address the content ownership concerns when we have content strategists, content marketers and even data scientists? What is your role in defining the content ownership process?

[CJ]: We help organizations define process and ownership. We first understand what the organizational structure is like, then fit content ownership in logically. For example, a decentralized, matrixed organization such as IHG or Newell Rubbermaid needs content roles embedded within brands and global regions but also needs some central oversight.

In the future, I think content practice will need to be a core capacity of business, like Information Technology. Content ownership can’t lie only in marketing or only in PR, for example.

[CH]: What role content strategists can have in disruption–technology or otherwise?

[CJ]: Content strategists (and really anyone who cares about content) can and should have a huge role in disruption. Content + Data + Technology = Huge Disruption! I love what Sharecare is doing to innovate the healthcare experience, for example, and content is a big part of it.

At Content Science, we try to model the potential for content’s involvement in disruption be inventing our own products such as ContentWRX. Watch out, web analytics! ContentWRX is changing the game.

[CH]: Can you name any companies or brands whom you admire for their content strategy?

[CJ]: There are so many organizations doing great work right now, it’s hard to pick only a few. Here a couple that have caught my eye lately.

WebMD — I like that they’re taking useful, credible content and combining it with features to make interesting products, such as the WebMD Medication Reminders for AppleWatch.

Alibaba — The world’s biggest ecommerce company is doing global content marketing well, despite the complexity. (We’re about to run a series of examples from them in Content Science Review. Can’t wait!)

[CH]: If you could weave a magic wand only once, what you wish as a content strategist?

[CJ]: I would wish that content practice received the respect in academia, science, and business it deserves and that businesses would invest in it appropriately. The ROI is a no-brainer if you do content practice well. (Okay, that might be two wishes.)


Vinish Garg | Products. Experience. Stories. I am a EEES (External Eye Experience Specialist) for startups and their goals, for content, UX, and customer experience.