Things We Owe Clients: CONTEXT!

By 03/29/2010 April 1st, 2010 Content Strategy

Aside from providing a point of view and plan for creation, governance, and delivery of content, the most important thing a content strategist should be able to provide its client is context for what it produces. Our job as a content strategist is not to sell a huge content creation approach. We owe our clients the effort of providing better context for the content they provide consumers.


This post (or maybe rant is a better word) comes on the heels of reviewing some very good presentations and explanations of what content strategy is and others that physically make my stomach turn over (Read As: If I see one more giant content marketing presentation disguised as content strategy I’m gonna go crazy!).

There are too many content marketers out there disguising themselves as content strategists. There, I said it. I think a lot of these small shops are out there selling content marketing as the end all, be all to a brand’s problems and saying that they back it up with content strategy, and it’s just not true.

Good content strategists must help to define the context for content that is created and published before suggesting a huge increase in volume and promising brands that relentless publishing will help them to become a “thought leader.” To be perfectly frank, without context, content marketing and content period, is lost on readers.

I like how Tristan Harris frames up context:

Context is information that informs your understanding of the world, literally allowing you to derive more meaning from an experience.

I liken context to being what a detailed recipe is to someone who has never baked a cake before. Without the context provided by the recipe, all we have is whatever is in our refrigerator and (possibly) our personal experiences with tasting a piece of cake. As strategists, we must define ingredients that relate to content production before it begins and provide the relational elements and materials to make sense of the different pieces of content. This provides contextual relevance to the people consuming the content, thus providing them greater understanding and deriving more meaning from their experience with what we’ve provided.

These elements might include stuff we already think about:

• Categories
• Hashtags
• Source
• Taxonomic Data

Or some stuff we might not, but should be considering:

Geo Location data
• Voice of the related content
• Structure & Design of contextual support

Context guides the content and frames it, but it also needs a true voice. ENTER THE CONTENT STRATEGIST!

So much of contextual info is provided as related links, footnotes or through other experiences that fall short of painting a complete picture. As such, it lacks personality and ends up being easily ignored by people just might need it most. This is where the content strategy discipline really needs to work its magic.

We need to start building context into our messaging strategies, our governance plans and into our analysis of content. It should be examined, amended and revised as often as possible.

We put so much time into layering in the SEO, the product information and the message into content, that we forget that often times people need context for the topics we’re covering and that’s why content marketing programs can often fall flat on their face.

Help provide me content that is relevant to where I am right now. Does the delivery, message or voice of your content need to vary based on the time of day I’m reading it? These are all things we need to begin to consider as good content strategists. To eschew context is plain lazy and it’s a disservice to the people we’re trying to help (and in that statement I mean end users and our clients).

So, if you’re one of the content marketers or so called content strategists I’ve mentioned above, start thinking about context before you start recommending a massive play for content creation. We might better solve our client’s problems, by auditing and inventorying their current content and really analyzing how we can give it more contextual relevance to their users.

Ok. I’m going to step off my soapbox now.

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