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Raise your hand if you’re frustrated by the way content gets treated in your organization.  Ok, now that we all have our hands raised, what are we going to do about it?

Read Melanie’s story and find some real solutions and thought-provoking ideas around making content better, and more importantly; making it safe for organizations to make it a priority.

1. Tell me about your background and how you got started in content strategy.

I started my career in publications management before moving on to SEO and then eventually discovering the world of “content strategy.” In a way, I think I’ve always been a (“wanna be”) content strategist at heart; I just didn’t realize until a few years ago that this discipline had a name and a whole community of practitioners behind it that was dedicated to the same issues and best practices I’ve been thinking about for years.

It wasn’t until Kristina Halvorson invited me to CONFAB that I saw all the pieces come together and I started to understand all the work the community had already done to address the common questions and issues related to content. I really love how content strategy spans so many sub-disciplines, which all come together to bridge the needs of organizations and their users.  I certainly still have a lot to learn from content strategists who’ve been at this longer than I have!

2. What is a major challenge you’ve experienced with content and how do you solve it?

A few issues that come to mind all relate to a theme of content not getting the respect it deserves. In many organizations, the planning, creation and governance of content very often take a back seat to technology or design considerations. I’m sure we’ve all heard “just write something” or “we’ll fill that in later” when working on a project, as if anyone with passable language skills can create content out of nothing after all the other pieces have already been completed.  A strong content champion can help people understand where in the process content strategy can work its magic.

I don’t think there is a single tool or deliverable that suffices to address those types of issues. However, they are not insurmountable. Communication and teamwork are key.  You’ll accomplish much more by:

  • Clearing roadblocks
  • Providing requirements before decisions are already set
  • Coming up with solutions (even before anyone notices they are needed)
    … than by just pointing out problems or forcing people into processes that feel unnatural to them.

You can’t just hand people documents, or even data, and expect that to change behaviors, but you can move mountains if you help people solve their pain points.

3. What, in your opinion, is the biggest challenge for content professionals currently in the marketplace?

In a marketplace where organizations can swing from chasing the latest trends to trying to prove bottom-line “ROI” for every activity, content strategists are under pressure to show a lot of value for things that may not be directly measurable. Figuring out how to prove value, again and again, to those who control the budgets, even if it’s not directly obvious in a P&L (Profit & Loss) analysis, will continue to be a key challenge for content professionals.

4. What do you think the next “big” thing in content will be?

Would it be a cop-out to say, “I have no idea”? I’m not one to chase “the next big thing”. The latest tactics come and go, but high-level strategy tends not to be very trend focused. Some trends obviously have a huge impact on solving our audiences’ needs (e.g., mobile usage) while others arguably do not (e.g., “we need to change all our content to be in X format to be relevant on Y social platform in order to go VIRAL!”).

We need to keep the focus on bridging the needs of the business and the needs of its audience. So many organizations aren’t doing the basics right that I think there is plenty of work for content strategists who can keep clients focused on doing the right things for the right reasons.

Melanie Phung is an online marketing and content strategist from Washington, DC. She believes great digital strategy helps bridge the divide between content, technology, and user experience. You can find her at or @melaniephung on Twitter.


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