Newsletter of the Society for Technical Communication, San Francisco Chapter
Last year I got to know members of the newly energized STC Sacramento chapter as part of the hosting group for last year's Society Conference. The group had reformed, and was small but growing. I signed up for their emailing list and was additionally impressed when their meeting invitations rolled out on topics like: "Making Videos: Adobe Captivate and Beyond," with Paul Zinn, "Stalking the Wild SME Bird: Learn how to deal successfully with Subject Matter Experts," "An Overview of Trends, Tools, and Technologies in Software User Assistance," "Write More, Write Less: Embracing the value of crafted words and images," "Development Techniques for User Interface Text and Web-based Content in SmartPhone Applications, and optimizing the Googleability of Your Content." Unfortunately, many of their meetings overlapped with the Berkeley or San Francisco chapter meetings, and in the end, the shorter trips always won.
Finally, the stars aligned in mid-March, and I attended "Thinking Outside the Content Strategy Trap." by Scott Able, the Content Wrangler. In his own words:
"Attendees will learn how avoiding the trap led one retailer to become a publisher of online repair manuals designed to teach "do-it-yourselfers" how to fix things, while selling them the goods they need to do the job. Sales are driven completely by visually engaging, standardized instructional content delivered to the web, to smart phones and to mobile devices. Return on investment is no longer a wild guess. It's directly tied to individual pieces of content."
I wasn't familiar with the phrase "content strategy trap," but who doesn't want to know the magic formula for making money online, especially with information wrangling?
A quick search revealed several traps. To Ann Rockley, the founder of the Intelligent Content Conference, the trap is keeping the silo-like structures of departmental information within an organization, with isolated authors often duplicating efforts due to a lack of coordination. An additional trap identified by Bob Knorpp is focusing on producing fresh content to drive traffic to a website rather than focusing on engaging the audience, and the user experience.
Scott Able's presentation addressed both of these issues using a case study of a company selling the parts to repair a range of Apple and other consumer electronic devices, and how their non-traditional approach to their site's content returned profits quickly, and provided concrete proof.
The company took a typical content strategy at first, publishing the PDFs provided by the parts makers. Now that much of the manufacturing has moved out of the US, translation issues have turned assembly and repair instructions into reliably comedic material. A highlight from one of Scott's slides says it all: "For glue the sex rubber mat (be applicable to 16/24 give cones change the machine)."
Needless to say, this did not help them sell as many parts as they had hoped. Then they decided to do something radical, and rebuild their content from the ground up. Their success in doing so has tested many technical writing best practices, and provided proof of their ROI.
Scott highlights these key parts of their winning strategy:
And the whole thing has to be a replicable, iterative process. These steps give you the opportunity to spin content management into a data-mine full of gold. Your site's analytic software can measure not only the clicks, but the usefulness of the posted content.
Many of these ideas were presented and discussed at the STC Summit last May, and more people will surely be discussing it this May in Rosemont, Il (near Chicago – see you there!). However, because this is a case study of a stunningly successful real -world site, the Content Wrangler was able to illustrate in glowing detail the best points from many different presentations. If you didn't make it to Sacramento, or if you may not make it to Rosemont, you can get a huge chunk of it from this single presentation. My hat is off to our guide to the future of the web – which is going mobile at astonishing speed. Thank you Scott, and thank you STC Sacramento for snagging him after the Content Strategy Applied 2012 conference stage, as Keynote Speaker.
Cheryl Hunt's blog: http://cherylhunt411.com/blog/