On my flight to New York yesterday I brought along my freshest reading material, The Elements of Content Strategy by Erin Kissane. This short and to the point book weighs in at 80 pages. As such, I figured it would be a great, light weight book for the road.
While a book on content strategy is not exactly what I would pick out, it turned out to be well worth the time and money. I do of course write a lot, but the notion of a content strategy is something new to me. The real reason I purchased the book was because the previous books from A Book Apart were fantastic, and I just wanted to see what this one was about. So, much as the author fell into her role as a content strategist, I fell into the book.
The book is broken down into three core sections: The Basic Principles, The Craft of Content Strategy and Tools and Techniques. As such, I will briefly review each.
Section 1 - The Basic Principles
This is by far the shortest of the three with only 10 pages of content. In this section the author establishes basic concepts, or principles, that define a content strategist. It also sets the stage for some basic ideas of how good content can fundamentally be identified from poor content. I particularly enjoyed the process she went through on page seven in establishing how to properly define the goals of any given piece of content. Through this process of getting to a more descriptive purpose I was surprised to see how often I fall into the way to generic bucket. This gets you thinking and opens your mind for what is to come.
Section 2 - The Craft of Content Strategy
This section was by far my favorite. Through it, I felt like my entire perspective on content was tweaked and my mind was opened up to a new way of visualizing it. This portion outlines the four key influences to the role of a content strategist. These are: the Editor, the Curator, the Marketer and the Information Scientist. In assessing these four influences and their individual views on content we come to a much clearer purpose of the content strategist. This was the highlight of the book for me as it got me thinking more and more strategically about content in general. Being a person that generates a lot of content, this has obvious importance for me. But again, even if your not in such a content generating role, I think the insights will impact how you design and build sites. After all, the content is the entire purpose of a site, so it just feels diligent to learn about it.
Section 3 - Tools and Techniques
I struggled with this section. I found it to be the most difficult to digest. Perhaps this because the knowledge of the previous section was still settling in. I believe another factor is that this section outlined methods for actually doing content strategy, as such, it inevitably gets more complex. I suspect that I will soon return to this section as I become ready to use the knowledge it contains.
In the end my opinion is probably fairly evident, this book is well worth the $18. Its short and to the point and exposes the fundamental concepts of this niche with brilliant clarity. After getting through section two I can't imagine not having an altered view of content. Its shortness ensured that I did not get bored with an exhaustive study of the topic. Instead, I was introduced to a way of viewing content that I had not expected. Even if you work as a designer or developer and content seems like a problem for someone else to deal with, I highly encourage you to give this one a shot. The notion of content strategy might fall primarily on those who specialize in it, but it impacts everyone. Much in the same way SEO is everyone's problem, even if there is an SEO specialist on the project.
Check out the book, you won't regret it.