What do you do when your online presence keeps expanding with websites, campaign sites and new online channels, but your resources (surprise!) stay the same? So far to most the futile answer has been to try to maintain and update the ever-growing mountain of sites and content. But that’s a battle you will eventually lose as many have found with bad and uncontrollable content; content that is forgotten, cases of no-one remembering why the site was launched initially, and no-one taking responsibility for the content.
The new and better answer that increasingly is appearing in many organisations here in 2012 is to take a more radical approach: To go from too many websites to simply 1.
The task of identifying 10 European individuals that make a difference when it comes to content strategy has not been easy. The emerging field is dominated by US-based consultants and at least in Europe, many don't use the term to describe what they do.
I was first introduced to the concept of content strategy, when Kristina Halvorson, author of Content Strategy for the Web, spoke at the J. Boye 2009 conference in Denmark. She introduced and defended this still up-and-coming practice as a valuable, necessary addition to web strategy and user experience design.
Since then, content strategy has come up as a term mostly on my travels to the US. A recent blog asked when content strategy will break out of the US and in an interview with Gerry McGovern from last month he said he wasn't quite sure what content strategy really meant.
This is a list of 10 interesting European individuals who make a difference in the emerging industry and who share their thoughts with the world either on their blog, Twitter or elsewhere. It includes some well-known as well some new names. For each I have picked a selected quote or something they've recently shared to give you a taste of their style.
- @faundex_alex: Alex Faundez is working as web project manager at UNCTAD (United Nations Conference on Trade and Development) in Geneva, Switzerland. Outside his day job, Alex also organizes local Geneva Content Strategy Meetups.
Instead of starting the social media discussion on the tools, focus on the comm needs of your client or company first
- @boudewijnbugter: Boudewijn Bugter is commercial director and co-owner at Sabel, a Dutch-based communications agency. Previously he worked as content manager for the Dutch Road Traffic Safety Association (Veilig Verkeer Nederland) and as web manager for ProRail, the government organisation that manages and maintains the railway network infrastructure in the Netherlands.
Make your intranet as task oriented as possible to get more satisfied users
- @BrianBentzen: Brian Bentzen is online communications manager at Servicestyrelsen (The National Board of Social Services) in Odense, Denmark. A regular speaker in Denmark and previous Lecturer of Communication Studies, he has also worked at a local digital agency
Most important thing on the web? Content - nothing but good important content that matters to the reader. It is actually quite simple.
- CJ Walker is CEO of Firehead, a Swedish-based recruitment firm, which specialises in placing both contract and salaried English-speaking communications professionals throughout Europe. Firehead runs a popular blog which features columns by guest writers and must-read content strategy links.
Flowchart: Who can sort your content strategy?
- @destraynor: Des Traynor is lead UX designer at Contrast, a Dublin software firm. He’s also a lecturer in Computer Science at the National University of Ireland. He writes about content in the broader context of business development.
No one joins an empty network just for the hell of it
- @elreiss: Eric Reiss has been actively involved in the creation of menu-based programs, hypertext games, service programs, multimedia, and web projects for over 30 years. Today he lives in Copenhagen and is the CEO of the FatDUX group, a full-service interactive agency. He is also a professor at the IE Business School in Madrid, Spain where he teaches usability and design.
Usability is often quantitative. But design is qualitative. Is this why usability experts so often make poor design recommendations?
- @gerrymcgovern: Gerry McGovern has been around the Web longer than most. Gerry has spoken, written and consulted extensively on web content management issues since 1994. Gerry has written four books including Killer Web Content in 2006.
Web content is not a cost to be minimized but an asset to be maximized. Tech. doc. is the new sales
- @lucidplot: Jonathan Kahn is principal and founder at Together London, the London-based agency behind Content Strategy Forum 2011.
It’s time to regain control of our content management systems by harnessing the power of content strategy
- @lisejanody: Lise Janody, president and chief content strategist at Dot-Connection, a small, bilingual consultancy based in Paris. Lise was previously with Alcatel-Lucent in various roles, including as Digital Content Management and Online Maketing Director, Enterprise Solutions and Intranet Content Manager
Hard for geeky engineers to explain what they do in simple terms. Video great for this., plus can be used at events
- Nikki Tiedtke, senior content strategist at eBay Europe in Berlin, who recently presented at the Content Strategy Applied conference where she told the story of how she turned business seller communications around from being reactive and driven by corporate needs to user-focused, consistent in tone and written in plain language. You can view her slides on Slideshare
A content strategy framework enables us to continuously improve, react fast and structured within virtual, international teams
Who did I miss? If you think we have left out any unmissable European content strategy expert(s), please feel free to leave a comment!
Most governments don't have to worry about winning and retaining customers. Perhaps that is why they have such a very long way to go in terms of speaking human. Today, many government websites reflect this and are very difficult to understand and use for the average citizen. This leads to complaints, negative press and excessive numbers of phone calls, which could have been avoided or handled much cheaper and more efficiently over the web.
At our Philadelphia conference earlier this month Eric Karjaluoto made a very compelling case for organisations to 'speak human' in order to better connect with customers. He illustrated his keynote with best and worst practice examples from large and small enterprises that made it clear why you can no longer “lie, cheat, steal” your way to making it big. This advice applies equally well to government administration, which would be able to make real progress if they became better at connecting with citizens.
A few stories to illustrate the potential and how the web could help:
- In Denmark with a population of 5 million, the Danish Tax and Customs Administration receives about 4,5 million phone calls every year with questions about taxes. In a a story in a Danish newspaper, a government representative says that the Danish tax rules are particularly complex. That might be true, but a good content strategy making the website much easier to use should be able to reduce the number of calls greatly.
- In the US, The New York Times recently reported that doctors, once used to answering patients’ questions about their hearts or other matters physical, have lately spent up to half of their time answering a range of different questions — about the new health care law. Needless to say, substantial policy changes will always lead to questions. Better websites with plain language texts should help answer most of these.
Part of 'speaking human' is about using plain language. In the UK, The Plain English campaign has been campaigning since 1979, "against gobbledygook, jargon and misleading public information." Here's an educational example from their website:
High-quality learning environments are a necessary precondition for facilitation and enhancement of the ongoing learning process.
Children need good schools if they are to learn properly.
Plain language will indeed get you far in terms of speaking human. You've probably seen plenty of examples like the above in both paper and online communication if you have had to deal with government. Plain language in a sense is the easy part, the difficult one is the "connect" part. This is where you actually listen and builds a relationship - regardless of whether online or offline. I can name several enterprises that do this well at the moment and Eric Karjaluoto also named a few.
Please, dear reader, can you mention just one government agency that 'speaks human' today?