(My buddies over at Contently included an essay of mine in the latest version of their Content Strategist magazine. I’ve been doing a lot of content strategy work for different clients … and I’m watching the term turn into a catch-all for anything from editorial to marketing to body copy to UX. Here’s a stab at sorting out the mess.) “Nowadays, ’content strategist’ is another phrase for ‘unemployed editor,’ “ my colleague laughed.
Ouch! There’s a sting of truth in those words. Granted, the title is better defined in some sectors — such as digital agencies, where it’s closely aligned with user experience. In other spheres, it’s quickly been devalued as a catch-all phrase for any activity that generates blocks of words.
That’s especially true for companies outside traditional publishing, where words haven’t been a source of revenue. These enterprises are accustomed to content marketing, and they’ve heard that content strategy is important. Nevertheless, they may not see a role for customer communications beyond “brand enhancement” or “thought leadership.”
The result? Many job descriptions for “content strategists” that aren’t strategic at all, and lots of corporate microsites half-full of articles that live in isolation from the actual business of the company.
Think about it: A manufacturer of cleaning products launches a WordPress blog and hires someone to populate it with articles about housekeeping. Is this strategic content, or is it simply commoditized copy that is (a) disconnected from the business of driving glass-cleaner sales and (b) just another small voice in a Web already teeming with household tips?
There’s a better way for companies to approach content — one that’s truly strategic. To me, the key to genuine content strategy is integrity, both in aligning with the company’s brand and its business goals.
Next step toward getting real with this blog: transferring it to a more flexible platform that will let me turn matthewrothenberg.com into a lean, mean self-promotion machine.
That means porting the blog over from its old digs on Blogger to a hosted WordPress environment I can skin like a bunny. I’ll also try to apply plug-ins to maintain whatever modest links this pig has collected over the years.
I’m looking forward to a technical assist from my pal, former Amazons bassist and Sceneroller partner Jason Brownell, who’ll be visiting from San Francisco tomorrow. We’re going to be talking about next moves for our software … and setting me up in a better position to publicize it won’t hurt!
Stay tuned for this blog to start looking a little more legit in the next few days. (Isn’t this meta?)
There is at least one Rothenberg who’s taking real advantage of blogging as a tool for personal branding: my 81-year-old father Jerome Rothenberg, a lion of experimental poetry with more than 80 books to his credit.
My parents’ participation in the “little magazine” movement during the 1960s and ’70s inspired my own excitement about the DIY power of early desktop publishing in the 1980s. (I remember blue-lining literary magazines from about age seven.)
My folks have not slowed down, and my father hasn’t lost his interest in new ways to spread the word. He started his own blog, “Poems and Poetics,” in 2007, and he has built a substantial following based on his own reputation and his steady attention to adding new content that combines poetry with personal insight and autobiographical detail.
Jerome Rothenberg recently added a Facebook account to his arsenal, quickly picking up a set of fans along the way, and has been using it to great effect to promote the work on his blog. Next stop, Twitter?
Like Geraldo Rivera prying open “Al Capone’s vaults,” I broke a few electronic locks on this blog and slid into the dusty darkness. And like Geraldo, the results are pretty underwhelming — a few bottles here, some mummified rats in the corner, and not a lot of content.
For a blog titled “matthewrothenberg.com” — a blog that bears the domain of someone with decades in the business of communicating, mostly via the written word — this place really sucks. To start cleaning up this mess, I might as well consider how it got so musty and flyblown in the first place.
Confession #1: I only set up this blog as a container for my resume. Back in October 2006, my friend and then-Hachette colleague Chris Herring pointed out that while I’d been happily participating in social media for years (including curating the user-generated content for ZDNet News), I’d never gotten around to taking this simple step toward self-promotion. D’oh!