Tag Archives: content strategy

Recent social media training

Hi long-neglected blog. Here’s a recent presentation I gave with my good friend and colleague Nina Miller to Arizona State University units/communicators:

And just because Google juices still keep flowing here to this blog, here’s another fun link; my flavors.me site is handy little aggregator of what I’m up to nowadays. Updated daily! (now with more Julie)

April Content Strategy Events in Phoenix

Can’t contain my joy that I have not one, but two (!) opportunities here in Phoenix to meet content strategists that I have admired and talked to from afar.

First: Kristina Halvorson, author of Content Strategy for the Web, will kick off the first-ever Phoenix content strategy meetup with cocktails, conversation and a casual Q-and-A. We’ve got a fledgling community, and this is a great way to get people interested and energized. The event is free, but RSVP today

Second, Phoenix is hosting the 11th-annual Information Architecture Summit, and a bunch of content strategists will be in town. Thus, it’s another great chance to meet informally and talk about that most important of business assets: content. If you’re up drinks, let me know!

P.S. If you have no idea what I mean when I say content strategy, check out the background knol on the subject. Why is it so important? Well, if you build Web sites, have a Web site or write for Web sites, and you’re sick and tired of disorganized, headache-inducing content, you need to learn about content strategy. And if you what you read strikes a nerve, join us for more.

Upcoming talk on style guides

I’ll be presenting all you ever wanted to know about style guides at March’s Commpose group, and I’m stoked. I wrote an intro to Web style guides in September and I’ve got even more to add now. So, to recap:

Who? Me, talking to a bunch of cool, local copyrighters

What? ’Bout style guides

When? at 6 p.m. Tuesday, March 16

Where? at the offices of Terralever in Tempe

Featured Fall Content Strategy Graphics

Kristina Halvorson just tweeted something I have been thinking of too: there is an exponential growth of content strategy posts being published. I have a list of more than 200 posts from just these fall months piling up in a WordPress draft, due in part just to my blogging slackerism. What used to be a manageable group of new links every few weeks is now growing much faster in the same period of time. Which is great! But what is the best way to share? I should take my own advice: people’s meaningful sorting is superior to an unsorted dump. Now, there’s a strategy!

Considering Erin Scime’s recent superb article on the content-strategist-as-curator, I am trying to do just that: showcase the best around a theme. An upcoming post will be social media-themed links. Today, enjoy the theme of informative content strategy graphics:

  1. The Velocity B2B Marketing Tube Map by Doug Kessler. I could rename this a content map.
  2. The Big Picture: End-to-End Content Strategy by Shelly Bowen. Love your in-the-moment illustration!
  3. Web Site Migration, Implementation, or Redesign in Five Steps by David Hobbs. Really comprehensive yet simple break-down of that process.
  4. The Three Spheres of Web Strategy –Updated for 2009 by Jeremiah Owyang. Balancing business, community and technology.
  5. Common questions from the content creator by Richard Ingram. What a cool graphic for a hot topic.
  6. Time & Our Focus on Content by Colleen Jones. Not gonna lie. Kind of hurts my head. ; ) But important to recognize.
  7. Jobs in the Interactive Media sector by Skillset. Two graphics: what’s your take on related professions and experience around content strategy?
  8. Updated: Web Content Cogs, latest graphic by Richard Ingram. He just keeps coming up with good ones. (See his past Flickr uploads.)

Please, if you have any other good content strategy graphics to add, let me know! And I look forward to publishing more themed link lists, more regularly.

Thank heaven, 11 fresh content strategy links

A fortnight has passed since my last article round-up. Here are some articles from the last two weeks, divided by topic:

    The Discipline of Content Strategy

  1. A Content Strategy Primer, by Rahel Bailie
  2. The Value of Content, Part 1: Adam Smith never expected this, by Melissa Rach
  3. Content Strategy for the Web Professional, by Jonathan Kahn
  4. Social Media Strategy

  5. Avoiding web white elephants [assessing time, team, budget, and heart for an effective social media presence], by Richard Ingram
  6. Social Media Outsourcing Can Be Risky, by Jakob Nielsen
  7. Metadata

  8. Metadata: Defined, by Rachel Lovinger
  9. Are you my Elvis? on the NYT digital index, by Rachel Lovinger
  10. Where to put the keywords, by Jesper Åström
  11. Content Marketing

  12. Content First: Step One in Web Marketing, by Rick Allen
  13. Big-picture Changes

  14. The Changing Face of Communication according to IBM, by Joe Pulizzi
  15. The end of aggregation? by Jevon MacDonald

Other recent activity of note on content strategy sites:

This is the fourth in an ongoing series of content strategy link round-ups. From most recent to least, see part 3, part 2, and 1. Thanks for stopping by!

All About Web Style Guides

I was reading the well-reasoned article, Content Strategy for the Web Professional today and saw commentor David Mosher’s question about what writing a style guide entails and how to write one. I found myself writing an outrageously long comment and decided it was less annoying if I just posted this response on my blog and linked to it.

The short answer is, different people have different definitions for style guides. Here’s what I’ve seen:

Broad and Narrow Definitions

To some people, a style guide can mean a comprehensive listing of standards for your Web project, encompassing everything from structure to design to graphics to W3C standards to word choice (a la the Web Style Guide: Basic Design Principles for Creating Web Sites, by Patrick J. Lynch and Sarah Horton).

To others, the style guide means a document that is more content-specific and unique to your project, focusing on editorial style. For those of us with a word background, we would probably think to printed counterparts like the Chicago Manual of Style, the AP Stylebook and Strunk & White’s The Elements of Style, to name a few. The style guide in this mold deals with spelling, punctuation, word choice and even SEO issues.

Writing a Style Guide

I’ll elaborate on the second definition, which I use because, in practice, I find it is easier to distinguish between a general design/development/content checklist and a project-specific, editorial-focused style guide.

A style guide is an internal resource that can also be shared with the client and any content collaborators. Its purpose is to foster consistency and effective communication, making editing easier on you and ultimately making your content easier for readers to understand.

What do you put in?

Your style guide entries should write certain things in stone, for example, the company name and trademarks. It can also include frequently used words that you always have to look up because of tricky hyphenation, or some other reason. No style guide is exhaustive, which is why you should specify a back-up source, such as the AP Stylebook and a specific dictionary.

The difference between print style guides and Web style guides is that the latter have to take into account the interactive nature of the medium, usability research and Web writing conventions. Links and lists are two specific areas where print and the Web differ greatly.

Often overlooked, one of the most important part of the style guide is guidelines (and examples!) of the project’s voice and messages. I love the idea of including a project-specific word bank (hat-tip Brain Traffic…see “5 Tips” link below).

Who writes it?

Writing a style guide should involve whoever is making decisions about content for a given project, including content strategists, copywriters, editors, proofreaders and the client.


Here are some real-life entries from a university style guide I update:

  • course work Two words. (Merriam-Webster)
  • curriculum vitae Plural is curricula vitae. (Merriam-Webster)
  • GPA Uppercase without periods, and use only initials in all references. Include the hundredths place.
  • URLs URLs should not stand alone, but be linked from copy by words that relate to the link subject. Do not link from “click here.”

This style guide also contains a long section dedicated to lexical style, with discussion and examples of the university voice and messaging.

A related document I work off of is a site redesign checklist. It specifies 128 actions dealing with content, design and development that must be completed before, during and after launch, under the following categories:

  • Introductory Process
  • Pre-usability Testing
  • Initial Content Review
  • Technical Audit and Development Site
  • Design
  • Structure and Navigation
  • Content Migration
  • Photography, Images and Multimedia
  • Site Review, Testing and Finalizing

Revising and Using a Style Guide

In my opinion, a style guide should be open to revision as the project evolves. The style guide revision process doesn’t have to be overly formal, but it’s essential to:

  1. Keep track of your style questions.
  2. Discuss them with your content colleagues.
  3. Come to a consensus (whether the result is black-and-white rule or just a guideline).
  4. Keep your style guide up-to-date.

Elizabeth Saloka wrote the helpful 5 Tips for Working with a Style Guide. She warns against deviating from your style guide mid-project, and I agree: consider where you in the publication process and whether you can implement the change now or whether you should hold off until the next content roll-out.


Provocatively, Jeffrey MacIntyre recently proposed a radical “reboot” of the style guide, framing it as a “living, breathing process document.” In his presentation on the elements of editorial strategy (see slide 24), he proposed the style guide take on a more “show bible” aspect (referring to the world of TV production), and that it be a training document, with publishing walkthroughs for each content module.

I tend to think that this documentation is vital for any Web site with regular publication of new content, but that perhaps it’s outside the province of the style guide. However, if it isn’t included in style guides, is there a good chance the publication process part gets overlooked?

To all others who have written or worked with style guides, do you think the style guide is the place for publication processes? How much do you see the style guide as set in stone vs. living and breathing? And what other questions or issues have come up in working with a Web style guide?

He who speaks the truth about websites

Recently, I saw a fantastic presentation by Paul Boag, “10 Harsh Truths about Institutional Websites.” Vimeo link

It’s about an hour long and I encourage you to watch the whole thing if you work on the website for a university or school or even a corporation (there are similar communication pitfalls at all types of large organizations, after all…speaking of which, Paul has previously written about 10 Harsh Truths About Corporate Websites). I can’t stress how clear and helpful this presentation is. As a teaser, here are the headlines of each topic, but you must watch it for an explanation and more importantly, a solution:

10. A CMS is not a silver bullet.
9. Social media is hard.
8. Users don’t care about organizational structure.
7. If you try to appeal to everybody, you appeal to nobody.
6. Your site is bloated and out of date.
5. Too many techies and marketeers!
4. Great content needs central control.
3. A lack of direction/focus
2. Course finders suck.
1. Politics are killing your site.

Right now, I’m particularly interested in #9 and the topic of social media for higher ed, as we are actively planning for long-term social media strategy. More on what I’ve learned about that soon. (And as for #5, I happen to work for a university and wouldn’t characterize any of my colleagues as clueless techies and marketeers. They are the saintly opposite; they get it.)