The LavaCon Content Strategy Conference | 23-28 October 2020 | UX: Virtual
Larry Swanson

Larry Swanson PhotoHi! I’m Larry Swanson, a UX content strategist with strong information architecture, digital design, writing, and communication skills.

My professional intent is to collaborate with awesome colleagues on impactful, user-focused initiatives.

I host the Content Strategy Insights podcast. Since November 2017, I’ve interviewed industry experts from a variety of content-strategy backgrounds: UX, product, technical communication, marketing, SEO, publishing, journalism, and more. I’ve also talked with strategy gurus, startup founders, and experts on emerging trends like AR/VR/MR, AI/machine learning, and conversational design.

Find podcast recordings on: ellessmedia.com.

Modeling Content Strategy

Short Description:

To cultivate professional self-awareness, it can be helpful to rise above the day-to-day concerns of our occupation and reflect on the bigger picture. Models are a great way to do this. This session explores a number of models that describe the content strategy field:

  • Maturity models that measure organizational content-strategy capabilities
  • Systems models that illustrate the big-picture content ecosystem
  • Evolutionary models that describe the development of the profession
  • Conceptual models that use familiar ideas to show how the profession works
  • Service models that show how content serves an organization
  • Lifecycle models that illustrate content strategy practice progress

Long Description

To cultivate professional self-awareness, it can be helpful to rise above the day-to-day concerns of our occupation and reflect on the bigger picture. This step back can both add or restore meaning to a practitioner’s work, and it can help us speak more eloquently and persuasively to stakeholders about the benefits of our profession.

Models are a great tool for this. Models move us up one or two levels of abstraction from our daily concerns so that we can see patterns we might miss when enmeshed in the details of our work.

This session sets out and explores a number of models that describe the content strategy field:

Maturity models that measure organizational content-strategy practice. There are many examples here: Carrie Hane, Dina Lewis, and Hilary Marsh’s work on association content maturity; Colleen Stone’s content ops maturity model; Blaine Kyllo’s content maturity model, and many others.

Evolutionary models that describe the development of the profession. Erin Golden and a colleague from Publicis Sapient used the Kardashev scale to show the evolution of content practice in a talk at the 2020 Design & Content conference. Most other examples here are more straight-up history, but I think they’ll look more evolutionary in the context of this example.

Systems models that illustrate the big-picture content ecosystem. Jonathon Colman has been talking for a while about incorporating systems theory into content strategy work. Carrie Hane took the logical next step of looking at the discipline itself through this lens in her presentation at the 2020 OmnichannelX conference.

Conceptual models that use familiar ideas to show how the profession works. Brain Traffic’s famous quad diagram, Jesse James Garrett’s five-planes of UX model, and many other examples here, including a cake-shaped conceptual model that I have used to describe content strategy to startup founders.

Service models that show how content serves an organization. Cruce Saunders and others have proposed Content-as-a-Service/CaaS models that have appeared along with the arrival of micro-services models. I think I can also work in here David Dylan Thomas’s oft-asked question, “What are you hiring your content to do?”

Lifecycle models that track content strategy progress. Even after you eliminate the many content-marketing examples, a Google search for content strategy lifecycle images yields several good examples.

One other possibility is a taxonomic model of the field. Sara Feldman recently published a blog post listing content disciplines. And I’ve made a very cursory top-level pass at this with a blog post on the “Three Flavors of Content Strategy” (business, product, and technical). (A family-tree model like this might pair nicely with the evolutionary model above.)