Waving not drowning: or how I gave in and learned to love the content strategy flood.

KEEPING UP WITH CONTENT STRATEGY

Here’s a sobering admission. If the body of knowledge of content strategy is an ocean, I’m currently about ten foot out from the shore – probably with a dorky inflatable ring around my middle and certainly nowhere near enough sunscreen. The comforting bank of sand under my feet is suddenly and rapidly sliding away, leaving me somewhere near to out of my depth. I’m not sure that anyone has realized I might be out of my depth and I’m not sure I want anyone to notice. That would be awkward. I’m meant to be a good swimmer, I mean, content strategist.

I had a Skype conversation with the (insanely adorable) Erin Kissane earlier this week. It started with me flapping my hands and wailing “Do you ever feel like suddenly there is SO MUCH BEING SAID about content strategy that it has now reached a point where it is IMPOSSIBLE to take it all in?!!”. I was very relieved to find she replied in the affirmative. I was beginning to wonder if it was just me.

Not all that long ago, as Kristina Halvorson said at Confab this year, it was a simple enough ask to keep up with the chatter on the #contentstrategy hashtag on Twitter and the occasional Google alerts that came in. Now it is probably next to impossible and also likely very foolish to attempt this. I mean, we’re content strategists. We crank stuff out every minute of every day. Put simply, the CS community doesn’t shut the fuck up so I am never going to catch up. It’s almost liberating to know this, in a demotivational poster kind of way.*

I have found a trend, though, where I go into client meetings with a rough outline of what I think we should do, which is met with a range of nods but then followed up by someone asking ‘What do you think about our $%£$%^ ^*&(&*&&&^!@££’. And what I mean by that is the words they say might as well be in Swahili. Oh, God, I think, another area of CS I don’t know. And then it gets awkward as they all look at me expectantly. I mean, I am a content strategist. Apparently.

I don’t know anywhere near everything there is to know about content strategy but here is something I do know: it takes a lot of confidence to say those words out loud, to a client, in a meeting.The difficulty is that content strategy is so big and covers so many aspects that I think we will have to get better at saying it. Before long we might increasingly need to band together in small mercenary tribes to cover the range of skills within CS, especially for larger projects. (You can imagine it, can’t you? One burly agency lead, a stats nerd, a library scientist with an eye for digital services and a rogue content writer – Left 4 Dead: CS edition.) But for now we need to accept that we can’t know all that there is to know that CS touches, we can’t read everything and hear everything or take part in everything spilling out of the CS community, and to practise saying ‘I’m not sure but I will look into it and get back to you as soon as I have a good answer.’ (Which isn’t, by the way, an admission of weakness. It’s just how big CS is.)

As for me, I’m still a long way out from the beach but now I’m happy to lie back in my rubber ring and enjoy the sun (dammit, still not enough sunscreen). There’s a whole ocean out there to discover but as little old me only has a rubber ring I’ve made do running a big rope back to shore. Anytime I feel I’m drifting too far out I can ask to be towed back in safely. Once back on dry land I can charter a ship and set sail for any promising new lands like a true sailor. I mean, content strategist.

*THIS DOES NOT MEAN I WANT ANYONE AT ALL TO STOP POSTING ABOUT CONTENT STRATEGY. IN FACT, IF YOU’VE READ THIS GO AND POST ABOUT SOMETHING YOU’VE BEEN THINKING ABOUT RIGHT NOW!