I spoke at the Congility (=”content agility”) conference, earlier in the week. It was a well run and interesting conference.
Here are my post-conference reflections.
Content strategy from two perspectives
Congility had a good mix of content strategy speakers from both the technical communications and the marketing fields. Paraphrasing Rick Yagodich’s presentation, the technical communicators can be criticised for building systems that create dull content efficiently, and the marketers can be criticised for creating great content inefficiently. So it’s good to learn from the two different perspectives.
I was talking to Tony Self about this “dull content produced efficiently” issue at the conference, and he argued that there have always been limitations. The manuals he worked on in 1979 as a trainee technical writer were printed in black and white, because that was more efficient and less expensive than colour. It’s also true that magazine adverts used to be in black and white, and use illustrations instead of colour photographs, due to time, technology and cost constraints.
Ideally, organisations will build a system that works for both sets of requirements, or at least offers interoperability between the marketing and techcomms content systems. As marketing content becomes more structured, we might find technical communicators working within a content system that’s been implemented by the Marketing department.
In my talk, I mentioned the growing importance of technical, enabling content in the process that turns prospects into customers. Research by Google found people read an average of 10.4 pieces of information before they decide to buy a product. This raises the importance of technical content in the role of marketing a product, and it might even mean techcomms will become part of the Marketing department.
Peering into the future
Some speakers took a look into the future for content. Google Glass and Augmented Reality were mentioned quite a few times, as was the Internet of Things and the increased use of video within the field of User Assistance. What’s unclear is who will creating this type of content – whether it will be technical communicators, programmers or a new type of professional.
There were a number of very interesting case study presentations. It did seem that the decision to implement a structured authoring system was often driven by a publishing system that had fallen into chaos, or was becoming so complex (thanks to demands to translate content) that there was a danger of it falling into chaos. They’d built systems that could manage all the complexity of today, be ready for the challenges they may face in the future.
The value of content
I asked the audience in my presentation if any of them knew how many users/customers/prospects had read their content last week. Only one person put up their hand. Technical communicators still seem to measure their productivity and efficiency more than the value of their work.
Minimalism and reductionism
Quite a few speakers talked about reducing the number of words in text to the absolute minimum, as this would make localization and comprehension easier. If no-one measures the value of their output, how do do they know? No one seemed to question this or outline how to integrate user forums (and user generated text and videos) into their content strategy or systems.
Where you there? What are your reflections?
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