Review: The Elements of Content Strategy

The Elements of Content Strategy - Cover

Author: Erin Kissane
Publisher: A Book Apart
Published: 2011
Pages: 81

A Book Apart has so far put out two volumes which exlain some of the basic details of writing code for the web. These have been brief yet detailed enough to provide useful information. This trend is continued with the third entry in the series, The Elements of Content Strategy, written by Erin Kissane. This book steps back from coding and design, and takes a look at a more basic issue: the practice of writing content for the web.

The headings below match the book’s outline; I’ll write in each section my impressions and take-aways of the respective book chapter.

Introduction

The introduction starts with establishing the difference between being a writer of web content, and a content strategist; the latter not only writes, but also organizes and coordinates content to maximize communication. The intent of the book is laid out here as well: it is not intended to be all-out comprehensive, but rather an outline of concepts core to the discipline of content strategy.

Basic Principles

This section lays out the core principles of content strategy. The main points are that content should be appropriate in delivery, style, structure, and substance; content strategy is the process of determining the precise needs of the project at hand and how to go from “raw” content to “finished” content.

At the end of the process, content should be clear, specific, and above all else, useful.

The Craft of Content Strategy

Content strategy is not a one-time step, but rather a continuous process. It’s worth appreciating the difference between different roles, since they approach the same content with different perspectives and goals. It’s also important to keep the end reader in mind, and to write for the intended audience.

Tools and Techniques

The third chapter describes a number of tools and techniques to power the content strategy process. The approach taken to content srategy depends on the focus of the content strategist, so methodology can vary. There are numerous categories of content, some core and some related to the core content.

I particularly liked the suggestion of doing content inventory, which is the systematic listing of all chunks of content already in place. An inventory should be followed by a qualitative audit to identify unneeded or poor content. This process doesn’t apply to new projects, but sounds wortwhile for handling existing content.

In Conclusion

The book content is capped off with a brief rumination over the future of content strategy. Considering that content is now no longer solely in print, the content strategy process has changed greatly. Given the evolving content mediums, content strategy must evolve accordingly.

Bonus Track: How Do I Get In?

Some advice is given on beginning content strategy. Surprisingly, web writers are already doing content strategy, if not specifically, when managing content. Parallel skill sets and work experience tend to lead writers into content strategy whether they know it or not.

Resources

Lists a number of other resources, mostly books and major websites that cover content strategy in some form. A link is included to the author’s website where a larger and more current list is maintained.

Index

Not much to say about an index. This one spans a page and a half, and does hit upon numerous key terms within the text.

The bottom line: this book is not an exhaustive reference. Rather, it is suitable as a gentle introduction to the concept of content strategy, and is a worthwhile read for those who write content for the web, regardless of profession. The underpinnings of content strategy are brought to light, and the basic methodologies are explained in a reader-friendly manner.