Content strategy – a conversation with Kristina Halvorson

In June GatherContent ran a live Q&A with Kristina Halvorson on the topic of content strategy for redesign projects.

Kristina tackled 20 questions from the audience in 90 minutes. You can listen to the Q&A recording on the GatherContent blog.

Here are my key takeaways.

Content strategy is not copywriting

Not all copywriters are strategic thinkers. Copywriting is one element of content strategy. It also includes:

  • content inventories and audits
  • setting objectives/ goals for content
  • informing the future development and governance of content

How can we make people care about content strategy?

It’s a sad truth that nobody really cares about content strategy (other than content strategists of course). The best way to make people care about anything is to demonstrate why it’s important and what problems it can solve. It’s no different with content strategy. Sell the benefits.

Linking strategies for online and offline content

I deal with a lot of clients who miss the connection between the content they produce for print and the content on their websites. Here are some questions to ask yourself when linking or combining strategies for online and offline content:

  • What are the needs and expectations of each?
  • How are they linked?
  • Can content be reused?
  • How will content be updated/deleted?
  • What are the priorities?
  • What is in place for workflow and governance?

Content and style guidelines need to be linked to training

We need to support our clients who are writing content, not just hand them the guidelines and leave them to get on with it. We should be teaching them why the guidelines are important first and then make sure we€™ve made it as easy as possible to follow them.

Managing content around an event

Tips to ensure content created for an event is relevant before, during and after:

  • build a community through a blog, talk about key themes and issues, start the conversation
  • use twitter for real time engagement with your community at the event and those participating remotely
  • share outcomes and resources through your blog and other channels, eg Slideshare

Essential elements of a project postmortem

When the project is done and dusted how are you going to review it? Here€™s Kristina€™s advice:

  • get all stakeholders in a room with a neutral facilitator
  • review the core outcomes
  • link the outcomes to the project goals
  • review what worked well and what didn€™t


So much was covered in the 90 minutes that just reading through my notes to write this post my head is popping. There€™s scope for further discussion around all of these takeaways €“ to keep the conversation going share your thoughts and questions in the comments.

Further reading

In defence of Lorem Ipsum €“ Karen McGrane

How agile and lean principles can improve content strategy and governance €“ Josh Tong

A new approach to training web editors

In Content Strategy for Mobile, Karen McGrane says we should “use going mobile as a lens to make all our content better regardless of platform.”

This is what we’re doing at Newcastle through our Go Mobile programme. The project has two main aims:

  1. to make our external website mobile friendly
  2. to improve our web content

As part of the editorial team it’s the second aim I’m principally engaged in. Although they’re clearly intrinsically linked. Our greatest step forward with this is a brand new training programme for web editors.

In the past we’ve focused on writing for the web. With this revamped package we’re looking at all aspects of managing a website, including:

  • creating a site purpose
  • prioritising content to support the site purpose
  • the content lifecycle
  • evaluating site performance
The content lifecycle: analyse, plan, create, publish, maintain

The content lifecycle

For the first two of these we utilised a couple of exercises we heard about at Confab Europe:

For the latter we covered how to:

  • analyse existing content using audits and readability checkers, like Clarity Grader
  • plan content using calendars
  • write better web content
  • use quality assurance tools, like SiteImprove, to keep content consistent and accurate
  • use Google Analytics to evaluate site performance

It€™s taken our team a significant amount of time to develop this practical workshop. Delivering it for the first time at the beginning of May was nerve-wracking and exhilarating.

We’re asking a lot of our editors. Essentially we’re asking them to think in a whole new way about how they mange their sites. We’ve got a good mix of theory and exercises to support it. This worked well for the participants – it was clear to see that the exercises helped them to translate the theory into practice and relate it to their own site.

Delivering training is one aspect of my life as a librarian that I really miss. So I€™m excited to be back in the training game with an offering like this. And I can€™t wait to run the next session.

Mind your language

Last weekend I visited a local heritage site where I picked up a leaflet about its history. When I read it later I found myself getting frustrated at the lack of care that had gone in to its creation; an extra space here, a misspelling there, a complex sentence. I’ve found this happening a lot lately – I can’t disengage my proof reading, copy editing brain.

The people I was with were sympathetic; they’re also language geeks. But one said:

“No one but the people in this room will care. Just read it for the facts.”

Was she right? Probably in this case. The leaflet did its job. The information I wanted was there. The errors were minor and didn’t stop me from understanding what was written.

In a recent blog post Seth Godin asks himself a similar question – does it matter that a shop selling paper and pens doesn’t know the difference between stationary and stationery? He concludes that while it may only stop him (and me) from shopping there if formalities of language are important to us then they are cheap ways to earn trust.

I agree and think that there are times when language errors like this do matter; when they impact on your brand and your reputation. An obvious place this damage to your reputation can occur is when the errors are on your website. Especially if you’re in the business of education.