What is content?

It’s a question I frequently find asking myself and others at the start of a project.

Take one recent example when I was asked to input to a kick off meeting involving content inside our applications. With little by way of detail before the meeting, it was my first question. Getting an answer to this, involved lots of supplementary questions like:

  • What was the audience?
  • What level of detail they required?
  • When did they need it?
  • Why did they need it?
  • Where did we need to place it?

Armed with the answers, I could start to give meaningful suggestions on the content strategy moving forward. Without them, I’d be suggesting solutions without fully understanding why they were necessary. The end result would almost certainly be (at best) a solution that only partially met the objective.

This project highlighted the need for two distinct content types:

  • A more marketing / educational deliverable designed to make users aware of something (e.g. a new feature the first time they go into that area of the UI).
  • Specific problem solving content (e.g. how do I ensure the machine separates the blue widgets from the red widgets).

The project also means auditing the existing content to see what is already there, to highlight any gaps that need filling. It also enables us as a team to identify what content is out there that we weren’t previously aware of. Marketing may have material to address the first use case. Our Technical Trainers may have handouts and video tutorials also. Our online knowledge base should address the second use case, albeit in a generic fashion. If there are specific customer specific questions, we may need to look into how best to meet that need.

Wouldn’t it be powerful if once we’ve identified what’s out there, if we all took it upon ourselves to utilise it rather than reinventing the wheel. It encourages collaboration, and prevents that scourge of content providers everywhere: content silos.

So the easy part I’d over. The talking has finished and the content strategy is carved in stone. Now all we need to do is deliver it!

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