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Content strategy beyond the web

Last updated on January 23, 2023

I recently returned from the Confab content strategy conference in London, and as I sit here listening to the excellent conference playlist that left us all Shazam-ing at the session breaks, I’m plagued by a nagging thought.

Content strategy isn’t limited to the web.

Oh, sure: the web is where most of your customers get their information. I get it. And really, so many of the sessions ended with an asterisk and the subtext that this applies to print, too. But that’s the thing: print is a footnote, a forgotten element of communications strategy. And this boggles my mind.

In her presentation, Karen McGrane told us that fewer than 20% of companies have a mobile strategy — fewer than 20% are paying attention to that always-on, readily accessible device sitting in your pocket — and yet every single one of these companies still produces some amount of content in printed or PDF form. Why aren’t we talking about that content?

As I’ve pondered this, I realize that I actually wrote a blog post about this in 2o11. That was two years ago, people. Do any of my clients come to me with any overarching content strategy for all forms of communication? Do the website, sales training, white papers, datasheets, brochures, and YouTube videos follow any sort of coherent message or voice? No. Do they stare at me like I’ve sprouted a second head when I suggest it? You bet.

“But content strategy is a web thing. We leave that to the web team.”

I want to bang my head against the desk. It doesn’t matter if you have 40 employees or are a Fortune 500 company: your customers don’t care that your internal structure has your communications teams separated into disparate silos. They don’t care that your product marketing, marketing communications, web and mobile teams don’t actually talk to each other. They just wonder why you’re saying different things in different voices in different places.

So, when are we going to start talking about strategy, period? Can we talk about voice and tone and user needs across devices, delivery methods and technologies? Because I can guarantee you that we all need to be discussing it.

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