Two Books on Content Strategy You Should Own

ContentStrategyfortheWebWhat is this content strategy everyone talks about?

Note the emphasis on the term strategy. I've written extensively about content marketing and strategy — mapping your content to the buyer's cycle, producing content for business-to-business (B2B) companies and brands, and even provided a fun way to visualize your content to check if it has story value.

Strategy is the framework you use to plan, create, distribute, and manage the content you create.

One of the most popular posts at this site was a conversation with Kristina Halvorson about this very topic.

Wrestle Website content into a usable, long lasting asset

Halvorson is the CEO of Brain Traffic, a content strategy consultancy, and the author of Content Strategy for the Web (Amazon affiliate  link). If you think writing a blog is hard, try writing a whole Website for an organization, even a simple one.

Without a proper plan, soon enough, your content spills over the seams of a poorly conceived site and becomes a costly proposition in addition to not living up to its potential.

This book will not teach you how to create content that gets noticed. There is a different process for that, which includes similar thinking about longevity, utility, and learning to listen to online cues. So it's not for you if you're looking for ideas on how to be discovered and read by millions.

It is a handy guide for those of us who are called to audit, analyze, strategize, categorize, structure, create, revise, and revise some more, approve, tag, format, publish, update, and archive content. Think about your last Web project, how did it go? A year later?

Because an organization Website is very visible, content is an unknown, it's political, and it is time-consuming, says Halvorson. Yet, often there is nobody in charge. If this sounds like your situation, take a look at this book.

Core principles about what makes content effective

Kissane-elements-of-content-strategyAlthough we're consuming more content online, on tablets, and increasingly on smartphones, content lives in a variety of media.

Knowing how to integrate content across the Web, print, and multi-channel social networking systems, as well as mobile applications is a good skill to have.

Which is why I found The Elements of Content Strategy by Erin Kissane (Amazon affiliate link) equal parts insightful and accessible. It is no "for dummies" guide, so make sure you're passed 101 when you pick this up.

It is full of little nuggets that will help open the door to better content and to a better relationship with your clients by showing you how to approach approval processes, for example. If you haven't worked inside a large organization, this alone will help guide your choices and presentation successfully.

The biggest point this brief book makes is that you will need to think through the high touch stuff that lives behind even the best content automation systems.

When it's all said and done, you still need to come up with requirements, workflows, version control issues, the preservation of content (a requirement in highly regulated industries), site-search search tools and processes, taxonomies, and so on.


I met both Halvorson and Kissane at Confab2011, the Content Strategy Conference last May. My keynote content is a business asset touched upon how content is a product and needs to be treated as such. This has an impact on how you design your organization to create and deliver this product to maximum effect and returns.

My advice: Worry less about the widgets you make available for people to share, and more about the substance of what you're putting out there. Then design to deliver that consistently and with clarity. Close the gap between the promises you make and those you keep, and you'll be making a better investment.


What have you found to be most daunting about developing a content strategy?


[Disclosure: I received a copy of Content Strategy for the Web from Kristina Halvorson. A copy of The Elements of Content Strategy by Erin Kissane was part of Confab2011 conference bag. The reason why I decided to review it is because I am focusing on brand strategy in my work. This review and recommendation is based upon the quality of the material — and not on how I obtained it.]


0 responses to “Two Books on Content Strategy You Should Own”

  1. Thanks for mentioning these, Valeria. I think a little content strategy will be important for my community development efforts at Gearbox, but before I delve into that world, I would like to focus on getting our promises figured out – and made.
    Appreciate the reminders of substance and consistency, too. Once we’ve crystallized our promise(s), I figure we’ll begin trading them in earnest through providing substance and consistency.

  2. I’ve read both of these and agree, they are essential starter guides for practicing strong content strategy. Halvorson and Kissane’s books have offered me helpful insight and inspiration more times than I could count.
    After you read these books, I suggest you pick up Colleen Jones’ “Clout: The Art and Science of Influential Web Content,” which gets more into the nitty-gritty of how to plan and create content of a thought-leadership calibre.

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