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July 3, 2013

Content strategy and change resistance

There’s already lots of discussion about change management in content strategy (for example, here, here, here, here, here, and here).

In our experience, making the case for content strategy is actually much easier with executives than with content creators.

Trevi fountain coins

Content creators, by necessity, are focused on details. They spend their time creating brochures, books, help systems, wikis, and web sites. They have developed a preferred way of creating information, keeping track of files, managing reviews, and so on.

And until now, management has been largely indifferent to the details of how the work gets done. (This is one of the advantages of being perceived as a not-so-important part of an organization.)

Along comes content strategy with the idea that the organization’s business goals should drive the organization’s approach to information.

This catches the executives’ interest because they want to:

  • Increase the visibility of products in the market by making information available on the web
  • Shorten time to market globally
  • Close the feedback loop with customers to understand their needs better

In other words, the content creator—or the Evil Consultant Content Strategist™—suddenly has the attention of executive management. But here is where things tend to go sideways. The content creators often think of themselves as owning the content creation process (authoring and publishing tools) and its results (book, web site, etc.). It comes as a rude shock when Joe the VP of Engineering or Jane the CTO shows up on your doorstep to tell you that your content is a component in a bigger picture.

Executive management sees the world differently than a middle manager or a writer. And once they decide that content is of strategic importance to the organization, they are unlikely to go along with demands for “easier tools” or “less overhead” or “I don’t feel like collaborating with that other, inferior writer.”

Trevi Fountain

So it’s a double-edged sword. Executives are finally looking at content strategically. Content creators have been whining about being red-haired organizational stepchildren for decades. Now they are getting attention, and what’s the result?

“These tools are too hard.”