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David Bowie–Content Strategist? (Yes!)


“The actual context and the state of content is going to be so different to anything we can envisage at the moment–where the interplay between user and the provider will be so in simpatico…it’s going to crash our ideas of what mediums are all about.”
–David Bowie, 2000

The world is mourning the loss of an incredible musician and artist who made a huge impact on the world. David Bowie was always thinking outside the box, always changing and adapting his style and music, but was always true to himself–and admired for his boldness in doing so.

One of the things that I always thought was very cool about David Bowie beyond the music, fashion, and Ziggy Stardust makeup was that he was an Internet pioneer. No, really, he was! I remember many years ago reading about how much he was playing and investing in websites and creating content for websites.  Some of the websites and content stuck, and some of it didn’t, but Bowie wasn’t afraid to give things a try.  The best example I can think of off the top of my head was a children’s music site.  Bowie’s daughter is about a year older than my own son, so I thought it was pretty cool that he was curating musical content that was age appropriate for our children, but not so dorky/corny stuff that parents wouldn’t want to listen to it as well. It was an amazing site that closed down later, but it was a significant step towards digital music content as we know it now. He may have done some other experimental sites with music, but I was only tuned into the children’s music at the time.

If you do a search on “David Bowie Internet Pioneer”, you’ll see many articles out there right now telling you more details about his heavy involvement. He knew that the internet was all about CONTENT, and he tried to be one of the earliest content providers.

One of the things that popped up in the many memorials to him was this interview about the role of the Internet and content and the wide possibilities.  The interview below was done in the year 2000, just as internet access was starting to become more mainstream (AOL was the big provider at the time, to give you some perspective), and he was SO ahead of his time.

Hopefully, as technical communicators, we can not only learn how to be creative individuals like Bowie was with his music, art, and fashion, but also think beyond our current scope of thinking to what content–not just the arts that he represented, but much more and beyond–can truly be, and have a better understanding of what our relationship to content should be.

Listen and learn. RIP, David Bowie.

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Three ways to look at the future: perspectives from a writer, reader, and marketer of content

My friend, Parth Mukherjee of Jifflenow, created an excellent SlideShare presentation that he shared at the STC India conference while still at Adobe, but shared recently on LinkedIn. While I didn’t attend the conference, he created a great conversation about the role of content in marketing that still applies now, and is highly relatable for technical communicators and digital marketers alike.

Take a look:

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Assessing old libraries–where’s the content audit?

Does this look a little familiar? This is the Jedi Academy Library. Taking from the old to the new, for sure.

One of the first places that I went to during my holiday in Ireland was to University of Dublin, Trinity College. Why would I visit there? Trinity College is a world-famous university the likes of my “hometown” of Princeton or more close by, Oxford or Cambridge. The renowned Book of Kells exhibit is at the college, and part of the tour is the university’s Old Library. When people see photos of the Old Library, they recognize it instantly, and it’s a book lover’s fantasy room with books stacked from floor to ceiling on two floors. Rumor has it that the library of the Jedi Academy in the Star Wars films was based on the look of this library. To see the room in person is truly a sight to see.

This is just before the entrance of the library.

At the entrance of the library, there were several shelves of dusty books stacked in bookcases that reached to the ceiling, with a sign in front (as seen in the photos) that restoration work was still being done to preserve the library and its contents. To put this photo in perspective, I’m guessing that the door well, which you can barely see from the right corner, is a normal-to-tall door well of about 8 feet tall, and the rope blocking these shelves barely seen on the bottom right is the normal hip height, so the ceiling has to be at least a good 13-14 feet to the top! As you can see, there are even a lot of books here!

Inside the Old Library, looking towards the entrance.

Once in the Old Library itself, I looked at all the old books, marvelling at the sheer enormity of so many books in one place. I wondered how old some of these books were! The historian in me wanted to find cool books to see perspectives from another day and age, and lovingly leaf through pages of an old book. Then the technical communicator in me stepped in and took over my brain. I wondered if anyone could still access and read these books at all. I wondered if any of it had been digitized for current use, because all of the books looked like decorations now. How do we know what books are still in here? Had anyone done an audit? How relevant is any of the information? What is worth keeping in some form, and which items are, as I said before, purely decoration or kept in perpetuity? The historian in my returned in my head, wishing I could head up a restoration project of this kind to digitize every last book in that room. Why, if most likely 99% it is outdated? It’s because in auditing the content, sometimes you find a gem of information or data that has gotten lost in the shuffle, and ends up being a great piece of information that provides the missing piece to a puzzle.

TechCommGeekMom selfie in the Old Library.

In this modern age, this is something I think we need to keep in mind. Content audits are important in a content strategy. You don’t want to include information that isn’t relevant anymore, naturally. That’s a waste of space and the end-reader’s user of time. That’s logical. However, should you throw away all the information once you have deemed it non-usable at this time? I don’t think so. There will come a day when the manual of an old product will be needed to service that item–as an antique, and the manual will be helpful. Understanding our content past, just like any other piece of literature or antique artifact, is a connection to understanding how we have progressed, how we can improve, and where we have made mistakes. It can also provide clues to why we have the content we have now–did someone leave something out in more recent versions that might have been thought to be irrelevant during that edition, but older editions are relevant now? You never know unless you get the entire picture, and see what treasures you may have at your fingertips. They could be the key to success.

What do you think? Is keeping old content–at least, archiving it–a worthy endeavour? Post your comments below.

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Happy 3rd Birthday, TechCommGeekMom!

Now, if I only could eat this to celebrate, but I'm on a diet. :-(
Now, if I only could eat this to celebrate, but I’m on a diet. 😦

Can you believe it?

TechCommGeekMom is celebrating another birthday–it’s 3 years old now!

I guess this means it’s not a little baby blog anymore. And by the numbers, it’s definitely grown. Last calendar year, this blog had over 10,000 hits! I’m hoping to do more than that this year, naturally. Based on the stats I’ve seen so far this year, I’m off to a good start!

The blog has also evolved. While it started out concentrating on m-learning and e-learning (and I still try to talk about that when I can), it has shifted more towards where my other interests in tech comm lie, and where my career has shifted me thus far, namely in content strategy. Even more recently, as content strategy evolves and has encouraged me in this direction, I’m starting to include more on digital marketing as it relates to content marketing. And in between, I’ve included articles about technology and education, better ways of writing, thinking about globalization and localization issues, and a whole lot more. I know I have over 900 posts on here between content curated and original posts, and it’s not stopping yet!

Thanks to all who read and support TechCommGeekMom. I still look at this blog as a work in progress, and I always look forward to getting feedback and conversations going on here. That was the whole intent of this blog–to incite conversation and to help share information that can educate my fellow technical communicators! (I think it’s working!) So, thanks again for visiting from time to time, and keep coming back for more! I’m hoping to do new things and continue to grow this blog as time goes on!

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Online Student Again Part 5: Content Marketing: Wait, didn’t I hear about this a year ago? 

"We have a sound content marketing strategy! PR, marketing, IT, the social media team, and the content strategy team all pitched in! It's gonna work!" says Don Draper.
“We have a sound content marketing strategy! PR, marketing, IT, the social media team, and the content strategy team all pitched in! It’s gonna work!” says Don Draper.

Almost exactly a year ago, I returned from a conference that changed a lot about the way I think about content. It was the 2014 Intelligent Content Conference (ICC2014). My brain soaked in a lot of information, and new friends and networking connections were made during that trip. (Good times!)

One major point–which is also a big focus of this year’s 2015 Intelligent Content Conference–was that content marketing was the next big focus item. Joe Pulizzi of the Content Marketing Institute (CMI) gave a keynote that compelled content strategists at the ICC2014 for us to consider embracing marketers and work together toward tearing down the silos so that we could share skillsets to create better content to promote goods and services. In other words, we should all be shifting towards being content marketers. It made sense, but it was overwhelming for me.

Fast forward to a year later, and here I am now, taking my digital marketing coursework, and this week’s module was about content marketing. Ooh boy. Here we go. The very reason that I’m taking this coursework in the first place–to have a deeper understanding of digital marketing, what content marketing is, and how I can try to fit into it my skill set going forward.

The instructor for this module was Greg Jarboe, a well-known YouTube guru and president of SEO-PR, a content marketing agency which has worked with several well-known brands. While I hadn’t seen Mr. Jarboe present before, his name rings a bell, and I don’t know why. Hmm.

Anyway, Mr. Jarboe’s lecture was enlightening, enjoyable, and took some of my anxieties away.  While content marketing is still a little overwhelming because of the scale of all of it, I came away with six main points that I’d heard before in content strategy, but hit home for me for content marketing.

1) Content needs to be relevant and have value for the end user. This seems obvious, but it’s generally overlooked.

2) Storytelling works. People are drawn in by stories, not jingles or catch-phrases. This is how blogging for a company actually can have some big benefits. (Yay!)

3) Tear down the silos by working with other departments, such as marketing, IT, public relations, etc. Gee, I’ve definitely heard that multiple times in last two years on the content strategy side!

4) A structured, documented content strategy is necessary to build for success. Like we content strategists didn’t already know this one!

5) Measurable metrics for ROI based on outcomes, like website traffic is up, sales, sales leads, customer retention, higher conversion rates, etc.  The first thing that came to my mind was good ol’ Mark Lewis with XML Metrics as a start. Mr. Jarboe took this a step further from a marketing perspective.  An easy way to do this is to track what you do! Measure URL hits against results using special URLs from the Google URL generator. For example, create a special URL for a promotion, and measure number of clicks to that special URL against sales results during that time period. (Makes sense!)

6) Brand recognition is not the goal anymore; generating leads and sales is. This makes sense too. I’ve learned from marketing this blog that once you knew my “brand” of TechCommGeekMom, then it’s been up to me to keep you coming back. While my “product” at this point it sharing information that I think is relevant in the tech comm world at large,  I want you to keep coming back and sharing your experiences and interests with me as well.

So there you have it. I think from a content strategist’s point of view, these are easy to understand and remember. The trick is, going back to point #3, is that it’s good to have more than one perspective working on content marketing. By combining the different “superpowers” from various groups, a great content marketing strategy can result. I think if I can keep these basics in mind, I might just have a chance at finding a content marketing position if the opportunity arises.

Do you think I’m leaving any basics out? Let me know in the comments.

Next module up is called, “Personalized Digital Experiences”. Again, this is another topic that I know I’ve heard before several times in content strategy, so it’ll be interesting to hear how digital marketing approaches the same topic.