Podcast 79: Content Strategy at Babylon Health, with Rahel Anne Bailie

In this podcast episode, Rahel talks about Babylon Health and her role as Director of Content there. We discuss content strategy, content design, and the issues Babylon Health faces. We also look at the skills needed to be a good Content Designer, and how to get those skills.

Transcript

This is the Cherryleaf Podcast. 

Speaker 1 

Hello, let me just set things up here. 

Speaker 2 

I’m increasing my volume here. 

Speaker 1 

We normally start off the interview episodes of the podcast by getting people to introduce themselves and say what they do, say who you are and what you do. 

Speaker 2 

I’m Rahel Bailie. I am the director of content at Babylon Health. I have been a content strategist for a couple of decades now, longer than I ever imagined. I would be in this field and I also teach at FH Johanneum in Graz Austria. That’s a polytechnic there and they have a masters of content strategy programme, which is the only one of its kind in the world. Really so very proud to be part of. 

Speaker 1 

And you’re based in London and you’re from the middle of Canada, if I remember correctly. 

Speaker 2 

Actually, I grew up near Niagara Falls, but spent many years in Montreal and then spent many years in Vancouver. 

Speaker 2 

I left that chapter behind me, but of course I have a very strong connexion there. All of my families there, and I go back every year to see them. 

Speaker 2 

Well I love Vancouver, I’m really thriving on the London art scene. That’s kind of what nourishes me. 

Speaker 1 

Well, there’s loads to do in London. It was a case of taking advantage of what’s on offer there. 

Speaker 1 

Babylon Health what are they up to? 

Speaker 2 

Babylon Health is a company that produces healthcare apps. It looks like 1 app to the public. But actually when you open that app, there are many icons you can press and each icon is its own app. So we create a series of healthcare apps that are driven by artificial intelligence that help people with health and wellness and in the UK, we’re an NHS provider. And in other countries we operate slightly differently where we’re a B2B company and those companies provide the apps to their customers. 

Speaker 2 

As you can imagine, what you interact with is content, so content very big part of the app. It’s the primary interaction point for people and that’s why there’s a maturing content function now at Babylon Health. 

Speaker 1 

And it’s a relatively new company for remember correctly. I’ve seen it in the news from time to time, but it’s it’s is it fair to say, it’s a relatively new company? 

Speaker 2 

It’s relatively new. We’re a few years old. We’re going through that stage from startup to, you know, the next step up on the maturity ladder. 

Speaker 2 

I think we’re about. 

Four years old and yes, we are in the news quite often. It’s amazing 

How journalists can get it wrong so many times. But people are starting to understand more about what we do and how we do it and the benefit we can bring. 

Speaker 1 

And it’s artificial intelligence and data analysis to provide the best answers for people for their health. 

Speaker 2 

There’s some of it’s that we’ve got a symptom checker, so some sort of think of it as a chatbot, a symptom checker that can help with. 

Speaker 2 

Sifting through your symptoms without the human bias that goes with it, and they’ll give you an answer that is 

Speaker 2 

As good as if not better chances of getting it right on the first time than a human doctor, which is lovely to know that we can provide that. 

Speaker 2 

So if you wake up with a headache and you wonder if you have a brain tumour, or if you’re just hungover you. 

Speaker 2 

Can kind of. 

Speaker 2 

Go through the motions and figure it out, but there’s a whole. 

Speaker 2 

Other side of we actually provide services so you can go and make an appointment with the GP on your phone, sometimes within half an hour.  

You can get an appointment by phone or by video call, and for a lot of things you don’t need to go and see a doctor so you can have your problem resolved in a few minutes and go on with your days. Those are the kinds of things we do. There are kind of the two sides is the. 

Speaker 2 

Clinical side. And then there’s the AI side. 

Speaker 1 

And this is provided through the NHS, so it’s effectively free for people. Or is this a private service? 

Speaker 2 

No, we are an NHS provider so. 

Speaker 2 

If you register with your local clinic, you can also register instead with Babylon Health and the difference is that you know you can be anywhere and get it. You don’t have to go physically to a clinic. 

Speaker 2 

As a first step. 

Speaker 1 

So your role within Babylon 5…Babylon 5! 

Speaker 1 

Your role within Babylon Health is as director of content. 

Speaker 1 

Is to do what? 

Speaker 2 

So what we do has a number of branches, so as you can imagine, content is everywhere. You have to kind of triage what you’re going to do with content. 

Speaker 2 

So we’ve got product content, so if you think of dealing with anything on your phone in an app or on the web you are interacting with content. 

Speaker 2 

So there’s all the product content you think about. 

Speaker 2 

In app strings and so on. So you’ve got that content you’ve got. 

Speaker 2 

Technical documentation because as a company in a regulated industry, medical is very regulated and medical device is very regulated and some of our things are considered a medical device. 

Speaker 2 

We have to publish content and so we’re not only regulated in the product content, we’re also regulated in the technical documentation and so. 

Speaker 2 

There’s that part of it, and then there’s training content, and there’s clinical content and marketing content, and there’s all sorts of content. Now I I don’t try to control the whole. 

Speaker 2 

World. My big push is to make sure all of our critical operating content is within compliance, that it’s good quality that it’s at an appropriate reading level that it can be localised. We’re in many languages and so imagine that. 

Speaker 2 

Being able to translate. 

Speaker 2 

And localise our content for other markets is very important. So all of this kind of comes together, kind of. 

Speaker 2 

In this kind of Nexus of content operations, that’s quite complex. I in in a way I feel my entire career has been building to prepare me for this wool. 

Speaker 1 

That sounds very exciting and very daunting. 

Speaker 1 

And I know you’ve been hiring over recent times, so I know part of the challenge is finding people that have the right skill sets for it so. 

Speaker 1 

How is this different from sort of other types of digital publishing’s around, and what sort of skill sets are needed for the people to do this type of work? 

Speaker 2 

That’s a very good question. I have a number of rules and I’ve been trying to kind of diversify our skill sets so that we can all learn from each other so we don’t really publish what you would call articles or topics if you will. So on one hand we have lots of strings, so. 

Speaker 2 

You have. 

Speaker 2 

Things like question and answer pairs for the tap box you know. Do you have a 

Speaker 2 

Headache, yes or no. 

Speaker 2 

Where is your headache? And then? Here are five areas of the head that you could have a headache in, and so on. 

Speaker 2 

So forth so question and answer pairs are one type of writing. There’s also a chatbot for voice for Alexa. That’s a slightly different kind of. 

Speaker 2 

Conversational tone. 

Speaker 2 

Then you’ve got the usual kind of API as SDKs. Those kinds of things for companies that want to integrate. 

Speaker 2 

We have this, we call it the 2000 endpoint situation. It’s not. 

Speaker 2 

A problem, it’s. 

Speaker 2 

It’s a. 

Speaker 2 

Good problem to have. 

Speaker 2 

It’s a problem, So what happens when we have 2000 clients that are all trying to integrate our stuff and use our stuff? 

Speaker 2 

And how do we make sure that all of this content can be personalised for each country for each client, for each locale or region? 

Speaker 2 

So if you think about, for example, Canada, Canada is not like the UK where you have the NHS in Canada, you’ve got 13 health. 

Speaker 2 

Parties you have to be able to personalise your content in 13 different ways. 

Speaker 2 

To some extent that even if it’s just changing the name of the health authority, you have to be able to do that. 

Speaker 2 

So I look for people that know about semantics, not just linguistic kind of language. The nuances of language, but also that they understand structured content. 

Speaker 2 

And semantic content and tagging up content for personalization and single sourcing and all of those kinds of things. And it’s not easy to find. 

Speaker 2 

And there are a lot of people in the same metadata. They kind of go. Oh SEO. Like Oh no. SEO is so far away from what I’m looking for, but. 

Speaker 2 

I am looking for someone who does understand that to how to put metadata onto content for other purposes. 

Speaker 2 

So it’s kind of an interesting and interesting conundrum because I get tonnes and tonnes and tonnes of resumes. And it pains me to mark them as underqualified or overqualified. 

Speaker 2 

But they’re coming from such a different place that it’s not really going to be a help to me. You know, it’s it’s. It has to be someone who can come in. 

Speaker 2 

And hit the ground running. I really don’t have that time to have kind of a six month learning curve. 

Speaker 2 

We’ve got to get them on the ground and really just being very high functioning members of the team right away. 

Speaker 1 

There’s a conference coming up and there’s a couple of Babylon health people speaking and they think they’ve both had an ex government digital service background. 

Speaker 2 

We do have some extraneous people, and that’s great because they bring that discipline of content design with them so content design or any of your North American readers. It’s kind of like the UX of content development. You are doing a UX process. 

Speaker 2 

To do user research and look at analytics and do all that kind of making sure that your content is fit for purpose. 

Speaker 2 

As well as developing the content, it’s great that we have those folks and now I want to balance it off with other people that the GDS people can learn from and these other folks can learn from the GDS people to make sure that we’ve got that balanced skill set. 

Speaker 1 

How have you tackled this information design monster that you’ve got there? 

Speaker 2 

We are still in the process of running at it, and some days I feel like Don Quixote running at the windmills. I don’t want to be like those people that come to conferences, you know. 

Speaker 2 

We have this great new project and it’s going to be wonderful. And then you hear the following year that it actually fell apart and fell over and and got cancelled or whatever so I would rather just say we’re in the process of slaying it. 

Speaker 2 

I’ve got a plan so I have a strategy. I got a content strategy, but like any other content strategy. 

Speaker 2 

Unless you. 

Speaker 2 

Actually implement it. The strategy doesn’t do you any good. It’s like getting a prescription from the doctor and then not taking the pills or not going through the treatment. 

Speaker 2 

So right now we’re taking that strategy and trying to implement it, but one of my big bugbears and and you may know this from previous years is I’m a big fan of. 

Speaker 2 

Standards, because that means that if your content needs to go from one system to another, if it needs to be interoperable if it needs to be put into a different system. As long as you’re following a standard and you’re doing it quite rigorous. 

Speaker 2 

Actually, you can migrate your content. You can do other things with your content. You can transform your content into any other form without too much mapping. I decided that popping into Excel term of choice these days. 

Speaker 1 

You’re doing XML or JSON or combination of the two or…? 

Speaker 2 

It’s an interesting conversation and probably one that could be a whole other podcast so. 

Speaker 2 

The short answer is that even though developers say things like XML is so old fashioned. 

Speaker 2 

Can’t we do something new and cool as soon as I start getting into? Well, we need to be able to do this and this and this and this and this and this and this and this, they kind of go OK. 

Speaker 2 

I can see why using XML, but of course XML is at the back end where we’re authoring. That’s not at the front end where you’re delivering. 

Speaker 2 

We can deliver in any. 

Speaker 2 

Flavour you want or any flavour you need, so you need HTML. Fine you need Jason fine so we can give it to you in that format because you transform the content, but at least you know we want to give authors a power authoring environment because every time. And this is just basic content operations anywhere. Anytime you copy and paste. 

Speaker 2 

And change something you are creating administrative overhead. 

Speaker 2 

And once you’ve copied and paste five 1020 times, once you’ve created all these versions of something, you have multiple versions to maintain. 

Speaker 2 

You have multiple versions store to track. So let’s say you’ve got doctors checking this stuff, and we do. We have doctor’s check this stuff. The doctor’s hourly rate. 

Speaker 2 

Check one topic versus checking 20 topics. 

Speaker 2 

That adds up, you know, when you want to think about content operations, you’re thinking about that entire ecosystem and all of the ways that you can either save money or waste money. 

Speaker 2 

You know in. 

Speaker 2 

Your efficiencies, and also it just means that. 

Speaker 2 

You have a. 

Speaker 2 

Chance of having better content when you can author in a more efficient. 

Speaker 2 

Way because you don’t have a writer going across 20 topics and looking for all the little fixes that they have to do and missing one of them or having a typo or whatever. 

Speaker 2 

So in one place they read it, they can do a quality job in that one place and then they can move on to their next. 

Speaker 2 

So just if you think it kind of cognitively how it works when you’re editing. 

Speaker 2 

You need to have a really robust back end so that when you push content helps the front end, it’s going to be that quality that you want, right? 

Speaker 1 

Just made me think it’s like juggling it with a piece of content. You publish it, you’re throwing it up in the air, and at some point it’s going to come back down for you to maintain and change. 

Oh exactly. 

Speaker 1 

And if you’ve got 20, cut and pastes, you’ve then got 20 balls in the air, all coming down at different points. All that need to be maintained so. 

Speaker 2 

And that’s why we call it a content life cycle and not a supply chain, because it always comes. You might say we’re thinking this once and we’ll never look at this again. And three days later, surprised. 

 

Yes, yeah. 

Speaker 1 

So technical authors have a lot of the skills that you’re talking about in terms of thinking about information design and repurposing of content and single sourcing. But content strategy and technical writing are often seen as quite separate things and the. 

Speaker 1 

Often there isn’t a natural progression for technical authors when there’s a content strategy project around herself. Knock on the door and say here I am. 

Speaker 1 

Let me do it, what is it? 

Right? 

Speaker 1 

The technical writers need to do to bridge that gap to get into the more meaty, more operational. 

Speaker 1 

Content strategy content design project. 

Speaker 2 

Right, I know I I know what you’re asking and a lot of it has to do with perception and presentation. 

Speaker 2 

In North America, I found that technical writers did everything from recipe validation for Betty Crocker, right? 

Speaker 2 

So you know they 

Speaker 2 

Did lots of things. 

Speaker 2 

They wrote instructions for the public. They wrote what we here we would call guidance. They did anything that wasn’t marketing. 

Speaker 2 

And what I found when I moved to the UK is that technical writing here is very different. They think of technical writing as doing APIs and SDKs and software documentation. It’s a very more narrow scope. And then there’s this 

Speaker 2 

Class of people called guidance writers and what I found is that people that go into guidance writing come from all sorts of different backgrounds. 

Speaker 2 

They don’t necessarily have the training that tech writers do, so when you sit down and say, how do you 

Speaker 2 

Write a task. 

Speaker 2 

You put any tech writer and sit them down on how to write a task. They know the theory. 

Speaker 2 

Behind it because there’s. 

Speaker 2 

That rigour and technical writing, or as the guidance writer you can. 

Speaker 2 

Get some people. 

Speaker 2 

Who do it really well and other people don’t even know how to number steps right a step properly, and so it’s really frustrating for me because I’m looking for somebody who’s going to be writing that kind of content. How do you separate them out quickly 

Speaker 2 

When you got. 

Speaker 2 

20-30 fifty resumes in front of. 

Speaker 2 

You. Who knows how to write a test? 

Speaker 1 

Here’s a good ones, yeah. 

Speaker 2 

There have been a 

Speaker 2 

Number of technical writers who have rebranded themselves. 

Speaker 2 

And I say rebranded very consciously because it’s not that they do anything differently. They just call themselves something differently, so they’re calling themselves UX writers. 

Speaker 2 

And I happen to really detest the term because like write me some UX, it just doesn’t. 

Speaker 2 

Rate me some technical content I can understand. Write me some UX is just dumb. It makes linguists cry. So the idea that technical writers can only write in a boring way our technical writers only create. 

Speaker 2 

Really key content that’s going to be the box that people are put into then just build another box and painted a different colour, but they say, you know we’ve gone into UX writing. 

Speaker 2 

Well, UX writing is to be called technical writing, and it was done back in the 1990s and then they. 

Speaker 2 

Probably even earlier than that, but I remember. 

Speaker 2 

That from the 1990s 

Speaker 1 

Embedded help in those days. 

Speaker 2 

Is that it help exactly, and then write me some embedded help that I can understand so they can take those skill sets. 

Speaker 2 

But there’s this whole thing now about writing on brand, so it’s like cute writing or engaging writing. It has a little bit more flavour to it. Instead of having very. 

Speaker 2 

Be straightforward, there’s this emphasis on being on brand. You have to be able to demonstrate they can do UX writing, but that it can be on brand. 

Speaker 2 

And if you can do that then you can rebrand yourself as a UX writer and you can get in on these other things and then. 

Speaker 2 

Bringing those two skill sets to the table, the technical knowledge of being able to say I can single source this with one hand tight behind my back and I can do your UX writing, which is actually the same thing and do it on brand. 

Speaker 2 

And then you’ve got a winning combination, so I think that really that’s the key is to stick to your roots and know that. 

Speaker 2 

Theory behind how to make the magic happen. 

Speaker 2 

And not to be afraid of the technical side of things, and not to be shy about using metadata, using single sourcing, being able to understand XML or JSON and so on, but also being able to shine in the front. And I found a few of those people who have made the transition and their goals. 

Speaker 1 

So it’s being able to write appropriate to the context and to the audience and understand the information design aspects. 

Speaker 2 

Research and to be able to work with the UX people to say OK. What is your research showing? 

Speaker 2 

How do we translate that user research into the actual language that we’re using and making sure that the language is appropriate to the audience and that it’s showing at the right time in the interface, so it’s also not just taking direction, it’s questioning direction. 

Speaker 2 

It’s not just saying OK, put this label here. It’s saying why are we putting that label there? It doesn’t make sense that it’s there. 

Speaker 2 

It makes sense on the previous screen or on the following screen or whatever that might be to make sure that the user experience. 

Speaker 2 

Is frictionless for the user so that they don’t get stuck in kind of going. 

Speaker 2 

What am I supposed to do on this screen? 

Speaker 2 

You never want that. 

Speaker 2 

To happen, it’s more collaborative working with the UX. People working with the developers, working with the product managers, working on this multidisciplinary team to make sure that. 

Speaker 2 

Content can. 

Speaker 2 

Be delivered into the app and create that delight. That’s another one of my terms that makes which is I don’t want to be debated with. 

Speaker 2 

Let me get on with a task, but in that sense that when a user gets to the end of their journey, they’re very satisfied. They just did it without friction, and they go wow, it worked. 

Speaker 2 

To me, that’s something. 

Speaker 2 

Satisfying moment is when somebody says I just used this and it and it was great. 

Speaker 1 

Do you make a difference between content operations and content strategy and if you do, what’s the difference between the two? 

Speaker 2 

I do make a distinction. Content strategy is in very simple terms. It’s a plan. Plan to do something in the content world. 

Speaker 2 

So if you go back to management consulting and say you do a gap analysis while we do a gap analysis and we create a road map, if you. 

Speaker 2 

Think about it in those terms. 

Speaker 2 

But unless you actually put it into. 

Speaker 2 

play, then it’s just the strategy, so the strategy is the planning of it and then the execution of it or the implementation or the operationalization of it. 

Speaker 2 

That’s where you actually the rubber hits the road. That’s the traction that’s taking that theory of here’s the plan. Here’s how you can make it happen. And then. 

Speaker 2 

Putting it into. 

Speaker 2 

Two operations, and. So once you’ve operationalized things and that’s the content operations part is, it’s like creating a plan for a house. 

Speaker 2 

That’s your strategy, and then you build the house. That’s the implementation and then you live in the house. And that’s the operations. So the operations is 

Speaker 2 

A much longer stage because that’s just where you’re doing the work, and so if you don’t set up the system well. So if you don’t have a good content strategy, you can’t operationalize it well, but you can’t operationalize unless you have a strategy. So Can you imagine trying to build a house when nobody drawn up any plans? 

Speaker 2 

Doors that go nowhere and stairs that go. 

Speaker 2 

Nowhere, and cliff edges outside of the door. 

Speaker 2 

So those are the kinds of things you don’t want to have happen, so going from a strategy to operations, that’s actually what’s exciting. Me at Babylon is. 

Speaker 2 

Being able to take this plan this strategy and actually put it into action. There’s the editorial side. There’s the operational side. 

Speaker 2 

There’s the compliant side. There’s the tooling side. There’s all these different aspects of it, and they all have to come together like to make a choir sing right and so. 

Speaker 2 

I think of myself in a sense, like kind of the. 

Speaker 2 

Conductor, I’ve got great people. 

Speaker 2 

That I work with and. 

Speaker 2 

They’re taking a lot of the heavy. 

Speaker 2 

Lifting, but I’ve got to make sure that all of this works together, that if you do something in sector A then it won’t break something in sector C. 

Speaker 1 

Terms of other organisations that are doing it well. 

Speaker 1 

Are there any out there that 

Speaker 1 

Have done this and the ones to aspire to? 

Speaker 2 

Of course there are lots of companies out there that are doing this. Fortunately, I would say it’s a small percentage overall and you think of the hundreds of thousands and millions of companies that are out there. I don’t think the majority of them are doing a good job. 

Speaker 1 

No, there’s a lot of PDF’s and word documents still going around anyway, sorry. 

Speaker 2 

Even if you’re looking at how people do stuff on the web, I’m reminded of Deanne Barker, who he’s Gadgetopia on Twitter, and he wrote something. 

Speaker 2 

That said, nobody works in the. 

Speaker 2 

That comes about 85% of the. 

Speaker 2 

Way down the line. 

Speaker 2 

Everyone works in something else and they copy and paste stuff into the. 

Speaker 2 

CMS that’s so. 

Speaker 2 

If you look at the typical quote unquote technology stack for our content, you’ve got email, Word, Google Docs, Excel spreadsheets, and FTP sites. 

Speaker 2 

Think like that’s not a technology stack. That’s like this ragtag cool running. Was it with the bobsled team? 

Speaker 2 

That’s not a technology stack. That’s just a bunch of leftover bits and bobs put together because they’re free and it doesn’t really help people work efficiently, especially for production, especially when you want to scale. So if you’re little. 

Speaker 2 

Company of three people, and that’s your inspiration is to be a big company of five people. You don’t need that kind of operational rigour, but. 

Speaker 2 

I had put in a plan for a company that is started off with two developers and the owner and it grew to, you know a few more developers. 

Speaker 2 

And the owner and all they did was write algorithms for noise cancellation. 

Speaker 2 

But they put in the system at the beginning because they had to auto generate 163 documents from this subset of APIs and descriptions and so on, because it was in a regulated environment. And so by showing them how to single source at the beginning and they just took it and. 

Speaker 2 

Made it their own and ran. 

Speaker 2 

With that and it. 

Speaker 2 

Was a thing of beauty to see but. 

Speaker 2 

I can look at like IBM, you know they invented the standard for single sourcing and so for doing content operations and they’ve got it’s like close to 20 million articles in their knowledge base and they just manage it. 

Speaker 2 

It takes over. 

Speaker 2 

Without having to have hundreds of thousands. 

Speaker 2 

Of editors, right? It just takes over. 

Speaker 2 

You look at GE Healthcare where they built their own system from scratch because it didn’t exist back in the day and. 

Speaker 2 

I watched I think her name is Jeanette. 

Speaker 2 

Over the years. 

Speaker 2 

Building it out and so on and today you can buy that stuff off the shelf. 

Speaker 2 

But at the time, she was just determined to make it happen, and so it took a number of years before they got all the pieces in place. I went to OmniChannel X in Amsterdam last year, and there were a few. 

Speaker 1 

The conference, Yep. 

Speaker 2 

Companies there that were showing how they were operationalizing their content. It was very impressive and then you’ve got the whole kind of information. 4.0 thing that’s going on where it’s delivering content into automated. 

Speaker 2 

Areas, Internet of Things and augmented reality and so on. So you’ve got lots of these examples. You know, real life examples of how they are delivering content out. 

Speaker 2 

And I think what is the key part of this is that we’re not publishing content anymore, we’re delivering content someone. 

Speaker 2 

Else downstream publishes it. What do we do? So here’s the example. That’s everybody can kind of relate to. 

Speaker 2 

If you’re driving a car and you have in North America, we would call it OnStar or GM cars where you can talk to your car and it’s connected. It’s connected car and so you can ask the car about. 

Speaker 1 

Right? 

Speaker 2 

Your car you can talk to the voice and the voice goes and gets content for you. So where does that content come from? Say to the OnStar voice? Can you tell me what my tyre pressure is? 

Speaker 2 

So what happens in a case like that goes to a server, and this server sends a command down to your car. 

Speaker 2 

The sensor takes the tyre pressure and sends the result back and then it based on the result. It gives you an answer. 

Speaker 2 

To grossly oversimplify. 

Speaker 2 

What’s happened is that somewhere there’s a programmer who said, OK, what are the different states? Do we write something for each different tyre pressure or do we write for a category of tyre pressure like zero to 10 PSI, 10 to 2020 to 3030 to 40 and so on so forth? You probably have something like that. 

Speaker 2 

Where there’s three or four states that they write for, so when. 

Speaker 2 

It goes to measure your tyre pressure and it comes back. It says OK this is the tyre pressure. It fits into this category based on that category it’s either in a danger zone in a needs to be seen zone. 

Speaker 2 

It’s in the OK zone or it’s in the overinflated zone. So you know, there may be those four categories, and so depending on the category. 

Speaker 2 

It will give you back. 

Speaker 2 

Something that’s been written by a writer that works with the developer. So the developer says I’m going to programme that these in four states write me 4 lines that can be read back. 

Speaker 2 

By the voice. 

Speaker 2 

And maybe you have to write 4 states as well that go into an app or that. 

Speaker 2 

Display a warning on your head console, so there might be two or three things that you have to write, so maybe you have to write 4 states times 3 media. 

Speaker 2 

And then you park that somewhere. 

Speaker 2 

And it’s only called upon as needed, and this is becoming more and more ubiquitous when you think about all the apps that we have that only gives you that information that you need at the time you need. 

Speaker 2 

It and you’ve got factories that run themselves in the industry. 4.0 principles that these factories are. 

Speaker 2 

Running themselves and you provide information for the operator that is in charge in case of a safety emergency. 

Speaker 2 

So the factory is running itself, but when a machine needs oiling and there’s some overheating or something, you will get content delivered to the operator who is standing by to make sure that the machines behave themselves and it will give you the information you need. So that’s becoming more common. 

Speaker 2 

And as this phenomenon rises, we are going to have more and more need for people who understand that type of processing because. 

Speaker 2 

There’s a certain amount you can do. 

Speaker 2 

By saying I’m just going. 

Speaker 2 

To write all this stuff. 

Speaker 2 

Handed over to developer and let them. 

Speaker 2 

Develop all the. 

Speaker 2 

Rules in one way it makes sense to do that. 

Speaker 2 

But there are other cases where if you have enough content in the back end that you have to manage all this on a regular basis. Then you need to manage it at. 

Speaker 2 

The authoring end. 

Speaker 2 

And you have to be able to tag up. 

Speaker 2 

That content safety information for a nuclear power plant, maybe all of it, is just downstream because it’s one power. 

Speaker 2 

You’ve written everything for that power plant specifically, and you’ll never have to localise it. You never have to do anything else with the content. Fine, but now you have anything that’s consumer based where you have. 

Speaker 2 

Lots of different variants in your audience in your locale. Domain wise. All of those differences need to be made kind of like subject to write if else if you’re writing 12 different variants. 

Speaker 2 

It makes sense for the author to just tag them up as you’re going as you’re writing it like. 

Speaker 2 

I’m writing this for. 

Speaker 2 

This audience I’ll just tag it with that audience I’m writing for this audience in Lithuania. 

Speaker 2 

I’m going to tag it. 

Speaker 2 

For that group, right? So it. 

Speaker 2 

Just makes sense to do it up front. 

Speaker 2 

And then that uses the load. 

Speaker 2 

On the delivery end because they know, you know, they still have to write the rules to pick it up and deliver it at the other end, but they don’t have to do that extra load of determining what’s where and who’s this for. 

Speaker 1 

But playing devil’s advocate here, writing structured content is hard. It’s harder than writing unstructured content. We we were both involved with a project last year, a strategy for structured content and what they’ve done is they’ve implemented confluence for the content because that’s all they can really achieve. 

Speaker 1 

With the skills and time that they have. 

Speaker 2 

Right, well what you’re saying is they are accumulating content debt and they have chosen to that, which is like how many times has my personal trainer said to me you have to go to the gym every day and do I go every day. 

Speaker 2 

No, but it means I will never be a size 10. And if that’s my goal is to be a size 10 and then I’m going to fail at it. But if my goal is to stay healthy. 

Speaker 2 

I can manage then maybe what I’m doing is OK, I don’t. 

Speaker 2 

Think that there’s. 

Speaker 2 

One answer somewhere the debt has to be paid, right? 

Speaker 2 

That content that has to be paid so they will pay for the content debt down the line when they want to do something and they can’t do it. And then someone has to down and go OK. 

Speaker 2 

Stage two, right? Those are the kinds of tradeoffs that companies have to make and different companies make different tradeoffs based on a lot of the times it’s internal politics, internal governance, and heat to turn feather this group with the same brush but the technologists because. 

Speaker 2 

If the technologists don’t want to play, you’re kind of up against the wall, because they hold the keys and they don’t care if you create content debt, it doesn’t come under their budget, and they don’t have to suffer the pain. 

Speaker 2 

It always comes down to, well, we’ll just get more writers and we’ll get them to copy and paste stuff and they will suffer. We don’t suffer so. 

Speaker 2 

There’s no incentive for. 

Speaker 2 

Us to fix it. 

Speaker 2 

The truth of the matter is that people underestimate the complexity of content. The nuances of content, the finer points of how complex it is to manage and deliver content. 

Speaker 2 

We write rules for our code language. We can write rules to process. 

Speaker 2 

Uh, natural language and then they see how complex it is and how frustrating it can be. And then you know the project just quietly goes away because. 

Speaker 2 

They can’t make it happen. 

Speaker 1 

If we go back to what you’re saying earlier, what prompts companies to look at content strategy, and what you were saying about General Motors? 

Speaker 1 

It seems to be that the future for companies to be successful. Is there content it needs to be structured content? 

Speaker 2 

Part of the problem is that who’s that company going to get in to do their consultation? Are they going to bring in? 

Speaker 2 

I can’t even remember the big consultancies anymore. A lot of these places don’t even understand. 

Speaker 2 

How this stuff works? 

Speaker 2 

So they go to a big company. The big company brings in people who have no clue that’s structured content. 

Speaker 2 

For whatever reason, they will have some sort of agenda to do the work and do the work the way that they know how. 

Speaker 2 

And because of that. 

Speaker 2 

They don’t even know where to find the right consultancy to steer them in the right direction. It becomes a self perpetuating cycle of and we kind of do it this way and then we can’t scale it. And then we try again and I can’t tell you the number of times. 

Speaker 2 

That I’ve had. 

Speaker 2 

I don’t want to call them arguments, but you know, debates with the company where they go. Oh, we’ve implemented this and I say, but what about? And they’re going what? 

Speaker 2 

And they don’t even know the difference between CCMS and the CMS. And if they don’t know the difference between those, how much faith do you have in their ability to actually guide you in structured content up at the authoring end? They’re all about the delivery end, you know it’s the shiny and the flash. 

Speaker 1 

So it’s the hope for the future then. 

Speaker 1 

Trained people with the right skills you’ve been involved, he said in this course that about Johanneum and in Graz this content strategy masters course. 

Speaker 2 

They do this very broad spectrum, so you learn everything from brand and message architecture and editorial and write down to CMS and content modelling and so on and so it’s a very broad spectrum. 

 

They’ve got a lot. 

Speaker 2 

Of very good lecturers there, there are a few that are. 

Speaker 2 

Well known in Germany, so there’s. 

Speaker 2 

Doris Meyer and Hans Bradl. It’s a good mix of of instructors. It really is. 

Speaker 1 

Outside of that, how would you recommend people get the right skills to move into content, strategy and content design? Any thoughts on that? 

Speaker 2 

Well, content strategy is hard because it’s not really about strategy, it’s about writing. 

Speaker 2 

It’s I would say that most of the content strategy courses that I’ve seen are workshops that I’ve seen. 

Speaker 2 

Being advertised, their more content design course is really for content strategy. I would say you know take your course in pain management consulting because really, that that’s you know where the actual strategy part happens. I’m being a little bit. 

Speaker 2 

Facetious, but. 

Speaker 2 

Not to facetious content. Strategy alliance is trying. 

Speaker 2 

To put together a programme. 

Speaker 2 

For content strategists focusing on. 

Speaker 2 

That **** **** content strategy, so not in writing per southeast, but in all those overarching principles that you need to know. And I would say that if you’re a technical communicator, you are really. 

Speaker 2 

Quite set up with the core skills to do content strategy consulting. Do take a content design course. Take some UX courses and learn to do user research. 

Speaker 2 

The Who’s someone who wants to get involved to learn some of the methodologies and learn how to work with those user researchers and. 

Speaker 2 

UX designers and so on. I think that’s really important. 

Speaker 2 

And combine them together to say OK. Now I understand the editorial side. I understand the UX side and the design of content side and I’ve got the technical skills as well. 

Speaker 2 

And now you can go out and you can create a strategy. When I went into content strategy, it wasn’t like I took a course. I just. 

Speaker 2 

Knew enough about all of the what I would call adjacent programme. So I learned how to do the basics of being a business analyst. So I did some. 

Speaker 2 

Project visit business analyst. 

Speaker 2 

For awhile took courses in how to write code and hated it, but I could do it if I add two wouldn’t be able to do that today, but it did serve his purpose because then I understood enough about the entire ecosystem that I could go and create the plan. 

Speaker 1 

On our advanced online course we do have UX writing. We have data and we have information design, but we don’t call it content design and we called information design and advanced technical writing and that, and maybe that’s something in terms of using the right titles that we should be describing our courses as content design courses rather than advanced. 

Speaker 2 

Might be that you know you do need an advanced technical writing course for things like API documentation and SDK documentation and so on, because that’s you know a unique skill set in itself. I could easily you adding a content design course that’s unique. 

Speaker 2 

To the industry. 

Speaker 2 

Think of it as like a balance and you don’t want to be lopsided, right? So right now all the content design courses are a little bit lopsided because it’s all about editorial on the UX side and not about the technical delivery side. 

Speaker 2 

And so if you can combine those two, you’ve got a killer course, because now, not only can you deliver that content side. 

Speaker 2 

But you can figure out. 

Speaker 2 

When I need to scale, here’s a better way to scale it. 

Speaker 2 

Then I’ve been taught to date. 

Speaker 2 

Love to work on that with you. This is one of the challenges is how do you train people to make it? 

Speaker 2 

Not a scary thing, but a welcome thing, so I think you and I might be hanging out in the near future. 

Speaker 1 

We’re happy to talk about that. I’m sure we could put something together that would cover the requirements on that. 

 

Yeah, I’m. 

Speaker 1 

Are there any other? 

Speaker 1 

Questions I should ask you. 

Speaker 2 

Of course, you and I could. 

Speaker 2 

Talk forever about this stuff and. 

Speaker 1 

Such a huge topic and interesting topic. 

Speaker 2 

It is. I mean, he’s a CTO. He’s got, you know pH D in computer engineering, but he’s always really gotten content. You know he gets content, he used to speak at a lot of the content strategy conferences. 

Speaker 2 

And he said to me. 

Speaker 2 

We’re doing something. 

Speaker 2 

With the company I can’t tell you the name of the company. We built a content operations plan for them so they they created content strategy. 

Speaker 2 

And he said the company recognised it as such an important competitive advantage that we had to sign an NDA that we would not talk about the content operations that we put together. The plan that we put together for them. They locked down the document. 

Speaker 2 

So that nobody could steal it. They got that like that’s how important they realised content operations could be to their company. 

Speaker 2 

It came like a huge strategic thing so I never did find out the name of the company. I never did find out. 

Speaker 2 

Kind of what? 

Speaker 2 

Was behind it, but I have a lot of respect for this guy. He’s. 

Speaker 2 

Very well respected in the industry and so when I look at that kind of reaction to content operations, I realise that there are companies out there. 

Speaker 2 

That are getting it. 

Speaker 2 

And the more companies there are that need to rely on. 

Speaker 2 

This kind of fast turn around agile delivery and so on of content and they want to be able to scale. 

Speaker 2 

The more they’re going to reach out to whoever in the industry is doing this, you know, because there aren’t that many people. 

Speaker 2 

Who get it

Speaker 2 

When you know how to do it, then it becomes that thing that will propel you forward in the industry. 

Speaker 1 

Thank you Rahel. That was very interesting. 

Speaker 2 

I hope so. 

Speaker 2 

Thanks for having me on the show. 

Speaker 1 

Thank you. 

 

2 Comments

Sarah

Why no transcript? Those like many other podcasts isn’t accessible for me 🙁

ellis

We’ve just added a transcript to the blog post. We’re a bit better at adding transcripts to the more recent episodes.

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