I began the first section of this book by noting that our discipline has no playbook from which “content strategies” can be selected. Which is too bad, because that would be much easier. What we have instead is a collection of principles, goals, approaches, and tools.
It might be useful to think of these pieces as the axons and synapses and other physical structures of the brain. The chemical and electrical impulses that make up our thoughts zoom along and hop between these structures; they aren’t the structures themselves. In the same way, the values, approaches, and processes in this book are not “content strategy.” Content strategy is what happens in the spaces between.
Ten years ago, most “content” was either published using traditional print communication processes, or created by web writing pioneers and the first generation of specialist web editors.
Today, a slippage has unsettled these categories. Content is published on the web, in print, across multi-channel social networking systems, and in smartphone applications. And it’s made and managed by people from a very wide range of backgrounds, from copywriters to data wranglers.
I predict that as the ways in which we communicate continue to evolve, the distinction between organizational communication strategy, company-wide information management, and content strategy will blur and disappear. And as this happens, our processes and tools will necessarily evolve to meet the changing needs of our clients and to serve the new shape of content itself. And from here, we can’t quite see what that will mean.
If you’re reading this book, you’re probably part of that uncertain future. And you’ll probably live through more than a few more gold rushes and subsequent periods of disenchantment. But no matter what happens around us, and no matter what challenges we’re called to answer in the coming decades, a few things are constant. Those constants are the things that this book—and especially its first two sections—are meant to help nail down.
The better we understand the principles that underlie our work, the better prepared we’ll be to advocate for content and its readers, long after the robot maids and flying cars finally come to lead us into the new world.