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December 5, 2011

The “Meh” Strategy

Amidst all this discussion of content strategy, one common approach has been neglected. There’s little discussion of the no-strategy content strategy, even though this approach is probably the market leader.
Duck in a Pond 02 In many organizations, management pays as little attention as possible to content. Content development is assigned to administrative staff using whatever tools are lying around (usually Office) or outsourced to the lowest bidder.

This approach does have advantages:

  • Minimal resources: Management can basically ignore content and focus on other priorities.
  • Minimal budget: The content budget looks small.

There are, of course, also disadvantages:

  • Content is not useful.
  • Process is limited to a single output format.
  • Often, the content creators develop creative, but inefficient, workarounds.

This approach makes sense for some organizations. It is acceptable to review your content requirements and decide that your strategy is, essentially, “meh.”

The vast majority of organizations, however, that employ this approach have not thought about content. Ever. That is unacceptable.

The argument for the Meh Strategy is as follows:

  • Our content is not important to ensure safe operation of our product.
  • Our content meets regulatory standards, if any.
  • Providing better content will not affect the business.
  • Providing content in more formats will not affect the business.
  • We do not localize content and will never be required to do so.

If you use this strategy, you should consciously choose it and not just stumble into it. The problem I see is that many, MANY organizations are doing “meh” but don’t realize it. Once they start analyzing the situation, they often discover that content could be helping with business problems:

  • Call volume to technical support is high. If only there were a way to deliver information to many customers all at once instead of having to explain the same procedure over and over again…
  • Our submission to the government was delayed because our documents didn’t conform to the exact requirements. If only there were some way to control the look and feel of the information and to validate that all required information is included…
  • Our customers complain about how difficult the initial product configuration is. There’s even a blog warning people not to buy our product because of this issue. Product returns are too high.
  • We put our manuals online in PDF, but the files are huge and people can’t find what they are looking for.
  • We thought that we’d never localize, but we now have a huge OEM deal that is going to require us to translate into at least three languages.
  • We sell a high-end product, but our manuals look like pond scum.

Are you sure that the Meh Strategy is right for you?