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Why Don Draper would embrace Content Strategy

Anyone who has ever worked in an agency setting should watch Mad Men, a television series about advertising set in the 1960’s. Don Draper, the lead, is head creative and watching him spin magic is—well—magical.

However, this season, Don and his partners are faced with the possible dissolution of their firm, following the loss of a huge account. When his right-hand woman asks him, “Isn’t there anything we can do?” he responds, “No, we’re creative…the least important, most important thing there is.”

How can we communicate the importance of content strategy to our peers?
What struck me most about this comment is how it applies to web content (and having worked at an ad agency, about creative as well). After all, isn’t web content the least important, most important thing there is in a web project? Kicked to the curb, until the designers and developers actually need real words to fill up the modules, content is mostly ignored. As content strategists, we evangelize the need to change this project cycle so content gets the focus first. But web specialists are entrenched in their process. How can we convince them content strategy is necessary to improving the outcome of the final product?

Talk to people about what they know
Information Architects understand the process from one point of view, as do developers and designers. While at the The Washington D.C. Chapter of the Usability Professionals’ Association User Focus Conference this past Friday, I met many other web professionals who care about content, but don’t really know how to manage a project that makes content first. That’s why mapping out what we do and how we do it is so critical. Case studies, help, yes. Another approach involves talking to web specialists and demonstrating the added value we bring to a process they already feel comfortable with.

Following are some examples I thought of, but you may have your own thoughts on the matter:

What do we say to the UX professional?
The personas you’re creating will be very valuable when thinking about how to write the content so the audience is engaged and involved.

What do we say to the IA?
Understanding the content from the beginning will help us label pages more accurately, from a keyword perspective as well, avoiding a last minute shuffling, adding or deleting of pages.

What do we say to the developer?
If the content is planned from the beginning, we’ll avoid the 11th hour shitstorm and you won’t have to scramble to figure out where it all goes.

What do we say to the designer?
When we talk about designing a page, we should explain why a page spec is important to avoid content breaking design.

What to say to Don Draper?
Can I buy you a drink?

I’m interested to hear how others approach working with Web specialists when talking about adding content strategy to the project lifecycle. What’s the best argument you’ve used to explain why it’s so important to a project’s success?

About Ahava Leibtag

Ahava Leibtag, MA

Ahava R. Leibtag has more than 15 years of experience in writing, messaging and marketing. She is a well-recognized content expert and writes thought leadership about content strategy and content marketing. Ahava is the President and owner of Aha Media Group, a content strategy and content marketing consultancy founded in October 2005. She... More >