Do you know a content strategy concrete head?

Alan Pringle / Content strategy, Opinion5 Comments

In lean management, a concrete head is someone resistant to change. In my years working on content strategy projects, I have noticed many people are resistant to changing how they develop and distribute content—sometimes without even knowing it.

Easter Island head statue

Don’t be a content strategy concrete head (flickr: William Warby)

If you hear any of the following things, there is a good chance your team includes a content strategy concrete head.

Disclaimer: I have heard the following thoughts expressed by multiple people working for different clients. This list is not focused on a particular client or two. Believe me.

“I don’t mind copying and pasting content.”

Copying and pasting is more efficient than writing something from scratch—in the short term. But creating another version of the same (or nearly identical) content sets up another maintenance headache. When a feature or product name changes, authors have to track down every mention and make the change. What are the chances they will miss one? Or two? Pretty high, especially if the information is across departments and developed in different content tools.

Reliance on copying and pasting is a sign your content needs a reuse strategy.

“I won’t give up the authoring tool I’m using now.”

It’s great that an author has mastered Tool You’ll Pry from My Cold, Dead Hands™. Yes, that tool may have served the authoring team and the company well. But business requirements change, and if a tool no longer supports the company’s overall requirements, it’s time to consider other options.

Ferocious loyalty to a tool can be a career-limiting move.

“The minute you put in a real process, things become unmanageable.”

The ad hoc processes in place may be working for individual authors, but probably not for the company as a whole.

Implementing consistent, repeatable processes can be inconvenient. But content creators must balance the short-term pain against the need to adapt for company growth.

Automatic dismissal of any process as “unmanageable” is really code for “I don’t want to be bothered.”

And speaking of not being bothered…

“Changing process is fine as long as it doesn’t affect what I’m doing.”

People are not really supporting change when they shift the burden of change onto others. Successful content strategies encompass the entire organization—not just a department or two. No department is an island.

“We put a PDF file out on the web. It’s searchable and easy to use.”

The PDF file is a dependable format, and it will likely be around for a while. However, reading a letter- or A4-sized PDF on a smartphone is not optimal. Also, searching a PDF for specific information is more difficult than, say, using a search field to find information across a set of web pages.

Putting a PDF file, help set, or any other content deliverable on the web is not the same thing as making content findable and useful. Find out how customers are accessing your content (or would like to), and adjust your content distribution methods accordingly.

What else have you heard from a content strategy concrete head? Put it in a comment, please!

About the Author

Alan Pringle

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Content strategy consulting. Publishing (electronic and print). Eating (preferably pastries and chocolate). COO at Scriptorium.

5 Comments on “Do you know a content strategy concrete head?”

  1. How about “the content writers will never go for it” — where “it” can be any change to the status quo: collaboration, structured authoring, you name it. Related to “I don’t want to be bothered,” but it also reveals a lot about internal politics and culture.

    1. What’s more horrifying/sad is when a CONTENT PERSON says writers won’t “go for it.” It’s like they have already given up!

  2. Do you know what doesn’t convince people? Giving them cutesy nicknames like Concrete Head. Slicing the users into categories labelled with cutesy nicknames will also damage your judgement as a manager. Instead of using actual adjectives, i.e., obstinate, assertive, or practical, you ‘re stuck with a pile of angry writers with “concrete heads”

  3. Yes, cutesy nicknames aren’t a cure-all for the block-headed idiots who tend to reign supreme over documentation workflows. Yet they are useful to attract attention, as they hit nerves.

    Scriptorium could have said “Easter Island Historical Artifact” but it would not have brought you here.

    “Concrete Head” is a wonderful metaphor actually.

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