Much like Godzilla, Content Strategists have to contend with small things trying to trip them up underfoot. While in the case of Godzilla it might be pesky tanks, buildings and electrical pylons, one of the things content strategists need to think about is the arrangement of content within an information hierarchy. While much as we might like to take the Godzilla way and simply stomp on things, Content Strategists need to be a bit more delicate, despite a natural inclination to do otherwise.
A client I have been dealing with recently has a large website (4,000+ webpages) that needs to be restructured, with its content completely overhauled and redone. The approach I know some content strategists might want to take would be to simply start from scratch and start all over again–the Godzilla stomping-on-things-approach. That is really not an option, since while the new site will be scaled down over the old, there is still a lot of good content that exists that will need to be re-purposed in order for the organization to be able to meet its deadlines. A good Content Strategist would never “throw the baby out with the bathwater” when it comes to saving good content. Similarly we all know what happened when Destroyah threw Baby Godzilla into a building, so the task for the Content Strategist is to discover the good material and concentrate the client’s efforts on that so that new content can naturally emerge, just like the fully-grown Godzilla did from that same building.
Just as Godzilla rises from the seas of the coast of Japan, a good Content Strategist needs to venture forth and meet with the client and the target website’s intended users. I have seen some Content Strategists work completely in isolation, much like some of the more ineffective lab-coated scientists working for the Japan Self Defense Force (JSDF). Simply reading through the content of the site and then trying to come up with a new structure and strategy in isolation without a full understanding of its context, in the same way that Mecha-Godzilla once took on his enemies. We all know what happened when he did that… (he was soundly defeated). To avoid the same pratfall as Mecha-Godzilla, Content Strategists need to engage with their client and its audience to fully understand the context in which they work.
There are some simple and well-known ways of doing this. One is to have meetings not only with the client and an organization’s internal stakeholders, but if possible to do the same with the intended audience of the target website. In my case I was lucky in that the client had a dedicated membership list and allowed me to connect directly with its members (after contacting their membership first to let them know that they might be hearing from me). (I should probably insert a Mothra reference here, but the parallels are too obvious to need further explaining). I interviewed both internal and external stakeholders, noted the differences and similarities between the two groups while prioritizing the results from the external users, as they are who the revamped website is for. Another good tool at hand for the Content Strategist is the Card Sort, borrowed from Information Architecture in the same way that Godzilla once used an alien’s giant oscillator to defeat Titanosaurus. Card Sorts can help reveal the mental model that the user has in associating one label with another, which is valuable information when assembling, say, a sitemap (though sadly, not for rebuilding flattened bits of Tokyo).
This is only a short introduction to the subject, but by engaging with your client and their user base a good Content Strategist can learn enough to make an effective Content Strategy. This approach admittedly does not crush Tokyo infrastructure in any way, but we can be sure that Godzilla would understand as he heads back to sea, somehow sharing in our victory.
(Godzilla will celebrate its 60th anniversary in 2014. Keith has been a fan of Godzilla since he was a kid, and wrote the lyrics to the song “Merry Xmas for Godzilla” for the band Miscellaneous “S” while at University. Yellow Pencil does not advocate stomping on any city with giant monster feet, no matter how much fun that may seem to be at the time.)