content strategy articles 2014 aha media

I’m a practical girl. So typically when I write these lists (check out 2012 and 2013), I tend to like articles that give me practical guidance for how to do my job as a content strategist.

There were a lot of great articles this year. But there were fewer than last year, and even fewer than the year before that. Which means two things, possibly:

  1. We’re not writing about content strategy passionately anymore
  2. We’re calling it something else

I think a few factors are influencing this trend:

  1. The terms content strategy and content marketing are used interchangeably (they are not the same thing) and are still confusing many “content-which-camp-do-I-belong-in?” practitioners
  2. The chasm between editorial/brand content people and technical/adaptive content/content engineers is widening
  3. Content strategy as an umbrella term works to describe how we plan, create and manage content. But when people write specific articles about SEO, governance, structured and adaptive content, as well as mobile usage patterns, they don’t necessarily call it content strategy.

You will see that I divided the list into two parts: 1-5 are really classic more technical takes on content strategy, and the 5-10 are where content strategy and content marketing intersect.

All in all, it was a good bunch of articles, but it was hard to find “the classics”; the articles that I believe starting out content strategists stumble upon and say, “Oh my—there’s a name for what I do, and this is it.” (Think Rachel Lovinger’s Nimble Content: Content should be free, like a bird, not like beer, or Jonathan Kahn’s on web governance.) When I read those I actually shook with joy because I recognized that someone out there was also trying to figure this stuff out.

So I challenge you, oh beloved community, to pick up your pen and start to think big once again. We need the inspiration.

Content Strategy Articles of 2014

#10 Has Content Marketing Hijacked Content Strategy?: This is the perfect post to set up the content strategy vs. content marketing debate. Is content marketing winning the war? Colleen Jones (@leenjones) answers in this smart, tight post that reveals that the two have a lot to learn from each other and can even be used—shock and horror-together.

#9 How To Repurpose Content Without Looking Like A Total Jerk: This is the classic article that’s about content strategy (and also about content marketing) without making reference to either. Erin Everhart (@erinever) walks us through a solid challenge for content professionals: How to keep creating content that keeps people engaged? She walks through very concrete examples of how to repurpose content, while also explaining some basic concepts. Great post for all levels and insanely practical.

#8 4 Ways Content Sharing Can Fit Into Your Content Strategy: Herbert Lui (@HerbetLui) emphasizes a common challenge shared by giant publishers and small businesses: How do you keep content creation manageable, high quality and resonant for your audiences? He gives four practical tips that explore some of the basic and more intermediate concepts in content strategy.

#7 Is Your Content Strategy Guided by Audience Intent (or Just Keywords)? I know some of us want to admit that SEO is not important in the life of a content strategist, but it is. This article describes search innovation and how context and user intent are shaping the search algorithms of the future. Going in depth, Laura Lippay (@lauralippay) demonstrates how thinking through your content strategy will result in far better optimization. Pay attention, dear content strategists. Before long, we’ll be talking about entity modeling.

#6 A Definition of Content Strategy: Jonathon Colman (@jcolman) does it again by explaining that content strategy at its core is about providing a better user experience. It’s short but makes quick work of defining content strategy against content marketing and information architecture. To quote Jonathon, “Content strategists use language, data, and systems to build better experiences for people than either IAs or designers can working by themselves.” And that really should be the last word on this subject: The digital world needs content strategy because without us, no one is paying attention to these weeds.

#5 A Content Strategy Template You Can Build On: While I’m not a huge believer in a one size fits all package, this approach to content strategy means you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. At 17 pages, the content strategy template is a great starting point for companies starting out with content strategy, or even the lone content strategist who is trying to inspire change in her organization. Hats off, Isla McKetta (@islaisreading)!

#4 Training the CMS: We’ve all been there—we’ve done all the work on the content model and then we ask the CMS authors to input. Yikes! All that hard work down the drain? In this incredibly important piece, Eileen Webb (@webmeadow) poses the following solution: Put detailed instructions for how to input content into the CMS itself! Great examples help to bring this might-have-been-boring topic to life.

#3 The Battle for the Body Field: Jeff Eaton (@eaton) explains the challenges in multi-channel publishing, some of the current solutions we have and what we have to know as content strategists to implement them. Rich in examples, this is a potential classic for those of us struggling to understand the technical back end of content and markup.

#2 How to Adjust Your Content Strategy for Adaptive Content Personalization: I heard Noz Urbina (@nozurbina) speak at LavaCon in Portland and was truly captivated by these ideas. Then this article came out I  remember reading it and thinking—wow, this really is the future. Why aren’t more of us talking about this? My interest led me to talking to fellow content strategists like Jenny Magic and Emmelyn Wang, who are thinking about these concepts every day.

#1 Content in a Zombie Apocalypse: It’s about zombies (ok, not really). It’s content strategy (the part of content strategy that talks about separating content from form). It’s Karen McGrane (@karenmcgrane) (It really is). It’s classic (already). Read it now.

And there they are. You may disagree and even think there are ones that I missed. Please post in the comments below!

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