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November 4, 2014

Content strategy vs. the undead

Implementing a content strategy can involve overcoming many challenges. Some of these challenges can be quite scary and hazardous to your strategy. In fact, overcoming these challenges is a lot like battling the undead.

Folklore and Hollywood portray the undead as hideous, evil creatures that we should fear and avoid. Unfortunately for content strategists, the undead that we encounter are unavoidable and need to be dealt with. Ignoring them or working around them can be detrimental if not fatal to your strategy. As silly as it may seem to compare workplace challenges to the likes of zombies and mummies, the similarities in their basic traits are uncanny.

Lego zombie hunter; image via Kenny Louie on Flickr (Creative Commons)

When battling the undead, make sure you have the right tools for the job.

I recently spoke at LavaCon about these ghoulish nasties, and afterward several people approached me to relay their own stories. While they found the undead comparisons amusing, it did help them identify and categorize some of the issues they had faced or are faced with now.

So what are these so-called undead creatures in the content strategy world? I’ve broken them down into five categories.

Zombies represent a persistent resistance to change and comfort in monotony. Their will is strong and mindset is contagious. Rather than spending your energy battling them, find out what drives them and harness that in your content strategy. They may have good intentions that you can build upon.

Vampires are very charismatic and feed off others for personal gain. They are often influential and will make promises so long as it benefits them to do so. As with the traditional monsters, the vampires we face in the content strategy world can be kept at bay if not defeated by shedding a bit of light on the situation. Connect your strategy to your company’s core mission and bottom line, and redirect the conversation back to this core intent.

Mummies are sleeping guardians that awaken when they perceive a threat to their charge. If you plan on replacing existing technology or significantly changing workflows, you may find yourself faced with opposition. Rather than confronting these mummies directly, acknowledge the successes that the outdated tools or workflows have brought. Ask the mummies to assist you in furthering that success.

Frankenstein’s creature can best be described as a patched-together mess of a solution that can become extremely unwieldy without constant attention and care. The creature could manifest as tools or files that are being used (or misused) beyond their intended capabilities, or as a workflow that is more convoluted than beneficial. Whatever they may be, they have one key thing in common: someone at some point thought it was a good idea and implemented it. As a content strategist, you need to undo the harm that these implementations have caused. Perhaps even more important, you need to prevent yourself from being a mad scientist like Victor Frankenstein when implementing your own strategy.

Ghosts are the fears and regrets that haunt us. We all have them in some form. It could be a past mistake that you hope not to make again, the fear of change or how it might be received, or the realization that the strategy you are implementing needs to change. Remind yourself that your strategy will certainly change over time as new tools emerge and as new information is discovered. As for the ghosts from past experiences, set them free by acknowledging and learning from them.

Have you grappled with the undead? Please share your stories in the comments.