Aug 292011

Content Strategy: What It Is, and Why You Need It (Part 1 of 3)

Content Strategy: By Rick Wilson, August 29, 2011, via Learning Solutions Magazine
 “We are at a crossroads. Meeting the objectives of content for both business and consumer in this age of digital disruption comes down to some wizardry and craftsmanship. While my theme here, and in the following articles, holds true for our business of learning, we have to think in a broader context.”

Content Strategy: The first thing I have to say is this: “Anyone attempting to make a distinction between good learning experiences and good content doesn’t know the first thing about either.”

In a world where anyone and everyone seems to be authoring content (and more and more of it), is there any reason to care about how well content gets put together? Is there any reason to care about what happens to that content on its merry way to distribution, or after it is in the hands of the consumer? From all appearances, particularly in the case of stuff passed off online as “learning content,” you might just say “no,” or (in my New York City lingo) “fuhgeddaboudit.”

Well, let’s not throw in the towel just yet. I’m going to advocate for a content world with an “open door” policy on contribution to the content pool by anyone at any time. Here’s why. The individual who takes possession of information is the best one to determine its value. The value increases as the information gets blended or mashed up with other information. What is important is that, come hell or high water, we have sensible ways to ingest the various content elements and process them in some orderly fashion so that four things are true:

  • anyone can get to the content;
  • when they get to the content, they know what it is;
  • the content serves its intended purpose; and,
  • the content carries with it a reasonable means to verify its authenticity, or at least its source(s)

Here’s where I am going. Corral the “thought leaders,” and not just the folks in the learning world, but our sisters and brothers in media, and develop from them a slate of acceptable vehicles for content management and outlets for content distribution. The result will be a veritable laundry list of technologies, tools, and techniques, ranging from highly structured and sophisticated systems with hefty price tags down to downloadable products and online resources for little or no cost.

Among these distinguished thinkers in the corral are the mobile-learning mavens and social-learning enthusiasts. They have already opened the door to the wider content world by advocating liberalized content authoring and relaxed constraints on what we define as a “learning experience” and how it is useable. It’s easy to see that water-cooler coaching has given way to “tweets” and other social media chatter. The preferred method for accessing content now consists of the various social media and mobile devices. Those who fail to appreciate change and change management further validate Marshall McLuhan, who said: “The past went that-a-way. When faced with a new situation, we look at the present through a rear view mirror. We march backwards into the future.”

We just have to get over ourselves and face the learning world as it takes us into this technology renaissance. It’s no longer the Pleasantville of our instructional ancestors. Wait, though! We can master the content tsunami if we raise attune ourselves to the changes in the order of this new world. Not “order” in the sense of neat rows of tables and chairs in a classroom, but as seen by those thought leaders.

We learning content developers should be beholden to this group. They are offering us a fresh look at the concept of content strategy. Even as we concern ourselves with helping our organizations persevere, compete, and grow in these dreadful economic global environments, the distinguished thinkers are giving us new rules and guiding principles that are highly adaptable to our particular brands of content. I am enthralled with the prospects of what we can do for ourselves and our organizations.

So, for the remainder of this article, and through the next two, I’m going to spin a story about why we need content strategy and who needs to care about it.

content strategy


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