A colleague sent me a link to a post by Gerry McGovern entitled “Is there such a thing as content strategy?” I made the mistake of clicking-through and reading it late last night before going to bed. At first I took it lightheartedly, thinking, “That’s an interesting perspective… although I don’t think I agree with it.” Then it started to gnaw at me, and sure enough, I ended up NOT falling asleep for about an hour while getting increasingly bothered… to the point that I *almost* got out of bed to draft a response. I didn’t. Fortunately it was wasn’t top of mind in the morning, and I’d all but forgotten about it, but I happened upon that link again while clearing out the inbox at the end of the day.
The two things that bothered me the most:
- The premise that strategy lives alone at the executive level…. and that everything below that is execution. Yes, strategy *should* be established at the executive level (and too often it isn’t), but not only does it exist at levels below that, but it *should* exist at every level below, otherwise everyone is shooting from the hip.
- The idea that you shouldn’t talk about content to senior management. From my perspective (as narrow and near-sided as it may be), content is increasingly *the* interface between company and customer. Good content results in good sales performance and happy customers. So, not only *should* we talk about content with senior management, but the more we do and connect the dots between content quality and business results, the more we can push for dedicating more resources to generating and publishing good content… in turn netting better results for the whole company.
I could leave it at that, but the lost hour of sleep left me with a chip on my shoulder…. and I’m bothered by the strongly worded arguments that really didn’t make any sense.
For example, to the point that every organization or role wants a fill-in-the-blank strategy, the author states, “This silo-fication of strategy does not lead to a better customer experience.” Aside from introducing me to the awesome word “silo-fication,” the statement is troublesome. I would argue that silo-fication in organizations is more likely due to the lack of strategic planning than the result of it. I would continue, then, to suggest that good content strategy is, in fact, a strong progressive force to reducing the silo-fication of organizations.
To the author’s point that Kristina Halvorson has done a great job promoting the importance of quality content, he adds, “However, I would argue that content is strategic, not strategy.” What does he mean by that? That’s the same as arguing against the need for business strategy by saying, “I would argue that business is strategic, not strategy.” The meaning of his statement is either hovering above my intellectual reach, or it just doesn’t make sense. On the other hand, what is growing clearer and clearer is that Mr. McGovern doesn’t seem to understand what content strategy is.
Bothered as I became about this post in general, as I started to deconstruct it in order to grasp the logic (still haven’t), the last paragraph actually made me start to feel sorry for the author in the same way you might feel sorry for a sad, lonely drunk who is proudly and passionately singing an 80’s rock ballad – off key and off beat – at the local dive bar’s not-popular Karaoke night. (Don’t ask me why I’m there, too, but I’m sure it’s something to do with drowning my sorrows for not being able to write a brilliant, yet brief analogy.)
The bulk of the last paragraph serves up a series of statements that each alone may or may not be correct, and together they fail to add up to any real argumentative statement against content strategy.
“To me the essence of strategy on the web is customer centricity.”
Yes, customer centricity is an important part of web strategy, but one could create a fabulous customer-centric web site that does nothing to support the business. The essence of web strategy, I might argue, is more like that elusive sweet spot that is customer-centric and perfectly satisfies the needs of the organization. Am I too nit-picky? Customer-centricity is a good point to make, after all. OK… let’s let the author continue to make their point:
“The Web is about the rise of customer power. Social media is just one example of that. Is the organization truly going to focus on and organize around the customer? That’s the key strategic question. How do we frame content in that context?”
Hey Sherlock! This series of statements, if anything, supports the need for content strategy – the strategic planning for identifying, creating, delivering and governing content – which in any strategically-driven business *is* all about framing content that helps the business succeed in the context of what the customer wants and needs (and in the format and through the channels where they consume it).
But can the author finish with a punch to drive the point home? (I think that’s a mixed metaphor. Sorry. Kinda.) No. The author concludes:
“So, it’s not about content but rather about culture, because as the great Peter Drucker once said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”
Two things irk me about this:
- Without a doubt, culture is a strategic consideration when planning content, whether it’s the cultural landscape of your target audiences, or the culture of the silo-fied organization who is creating the content intended to engage those targets at various points on the customer lifecycle (or not). Culture is relevant to the discussion about content and strategy, but to say “it’s not about content, but rather about culture,” is like saying “it’s not about pickup trucks, but rather about utility vehicles.” The author’s series of statements is illogical and irrelevant — it isn’t either/or when it comes to culture and content.
- Although I don’t claim to be a Peter Drucker scholar, I believe his statement “Culture eats strategy for breakfast” is in reference to the culture of the organization, and the notion that business strategy (or any fill-in-the-blank strategy) is not effective in an organization who’s culture is in the dumps… that business leaders need to foster a strong positive culture in their organization in order to expect any success from their lofty strategic plans. Well, I don’t claim to be an organizational psychologist, either, but that makes sense to me. What doesn’t make sense is how Drucker’s statement supports an argument against content strategy, other than how it minimizes any kind of strategy if there isn’t a culture that will support it.
In conclusion, I mostly walk away with the idea that the author just doesn’t understand content strategy. It is the lack of content strategy that helps promote the silo-fication of content creation, in which the silo with the strongest voice prevails, however disconnected from the customer’s needs and culture that voice might be.