Book Review: Content Strategy Connecting the Dots for an Epic Win

Content Strategy: Connecting the Dots Between Business, Brand, and Benefits, by Rahel Anne Bailie and Noz Urbina

stars-5 of 5 “Highly recommended to anyone looking to take their existing business-critical content life-cycle to the next level.”

review: content strategy connecting the dotsI have a habit of relating most things in my life to video games and board games (some people call this gamification). I find that this way of thinking is especially relevant on a professional level. My quest—as someone who produces and manages content within a content lifecycle—is to overcome obstacles, to complete these tasks, and to achieve my epic win:

  • Have content recognized as a business asset
  • Continuously demonstrate a positive return on investment (ROI)
  • Make content more valuable to users, by continuously improving the user experience (UX)
  • Make content adaptable enough to be future friendly (multi-channel publishing)
  • Leverage existing technologies (markup and semantics) and industry best practices (structured content and reuse models)
  • Use content assets to manage risks, wherever possible
  • Implement a repeatable process for implementing, managing and growing these tasks

Anyone who’s ever played a game without a strategy probably realized they should have had one. Sure, you might win the game or eventually complete your quest, but at what cost? Why spend 100 hours accomplishing something that you could have accomplished in 50; or why do something wrong three times when you can do it right the first time? This is where a strategy guide would come in handy.

The snapshot review: Content Strategy: Connecting the Dots Between Business, Brand, and Benefits is the strategy guide I was looking for (weighing in at 383 pages for the eBook version). It contains just about everything you would ever need to know to get started developing a comprehensive content strategy, in any industry, and for any type of content.  Authors Rahel Bailie and Noz Urbina have put a lot of their thought leadership and practical experience into a book that serves its readers well in achieving that epic win. As a gamer, I found it easy to interpret the book’s content:

  • Introduction (to business-critical content and content strategy)
  • Your first day in the field (why having a content strategy is important, how it can add value to your organization)
  • Tactics (why content should be treated as a critical business asset and the importance of ROI and UX)
  • Resource management (a close look at what content is, and why this resource is so critical)
  • Tools, equipment, and crafting (the importance of using the right tools and technologies to create and manage content)
  • To battle (developing and implementing a content strategy)
  • Glossary

Overall, I’m really impressed with this book. As someone who’s worked in the technical communications field for over ten years, most of the terminology, strategies, processes, and technologies etc. were already familiar to me. The information is well-focused, well-organized and easy-to-read, a trifecta for professionals who have packed schedules and a need to advance their skills and knowledge.

The authors clearly state that this is not a ‘how to’ book. I tend to agree with that; however, there are several case studies that did contain valuable ‘how to’ type information. But the real value, I found, was how the authors brought everything together to explain why content lifecycle and content strategy are important, why you shouldn’t have one without the other, and then listed all the things that need to be considered.

Since content strategies come with often-hefty price tags, being able to being able to sell your sponsor on this idea is crucial. Noz and Rahel present the business case for content strategy in clear and compelling terms. They also manage to bridge the gap between the technical side of things (XML, DITA, semantics, and structured content) and the business side of things (ROI, risk management, and brand building).

I recommend this book to anyone who’s interested in content strategy or anyone who works with content now (with or without an existing strategy in place). I recently noticed that content strategy (+16%) was one of only two skills on my LinkedIn profile that were identified as trending upwards (the other one was online publishing). So jump on this trend, buy this book now, and plot a strategy towards achieving your epic win.

 
Title: Content Strategy: Connecting the Dots Between Business, Brand, and BenefitsAuthors: Rahel Anne Bailie and Noz Urbina

Paperback: 306 pages

Publisher: XML Press (December 28, 2012)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1937434168

ISBN-13: 978-1937434168

 


Scott Abel (@scottabel)

6 years ago

“Content Strategy: Connecting the Dots Between Business, Brand, and Benefits” is indeed a great example of bringing “everything together to explain why content lifecycle and content strategy are important, why you shouldn’t have one without the other”. I’m glad you found it useful. And, you are correct that content strategy as a search term on Linkedin (and elsewhere is trending upward). But, before technical communication pros start referring to ourselves as content strategists, we actually have to understand HOW to perform such work. I’m hopeful more books will come out that explain the “how to:, otherwise, we’re likely to find the label just another piece of worthless metadata.

My view: If you don’t know how to do a content inventory, a content audit, model content, structure it, create a reuse plan, etc. you aren’t a content strategist.

Ryan Minaker

Ryan Minaker

6 years ago

I completely agree.

While I was writing this review, I kept thinking back to the Word of Warcraft strategy guide that I bought way back in 2005. It explained what the game was, the important things to know, how to get started, and a few tips. Adding ‘how to’ information wouldn’t have been realistic because there was just too much to know and too many variations on what to do to fit into one book.

I think ‘how to’ information relating to content inventory, content audit, structure etc. would end up being just as vast.

Every so often I come across a really great book that saves me a lot of time (e.g., The DITA Style Guide), but even this book didn’t cover everything that I was looking for.

Maybe we need to compile list of ‘how to’ books that are out there now?

Richard Hamilton

6 years ago

Hi Ryan,

Thanks for the review. As Noz and Rahel’s publisher, I appreciate thoughtful reviews like this one.

Regarding your points concerning how-to information, I think you are correct that all together there’s a lot. Each area deserves an in-depth treatment (maybe not always book-length, but in-depth).

I also think Scott is on the money with his assessment of what it takes to be a competent content strategist.

Richard Hamilton

John Paz (@techwriterninja)

6 years ago

Ryan,

I’m strongly considering purchasing this book to assist me with developing a content strategy at work.

But, I’m a little hesitant because it seems like it could possibly be more than what I need. Any way to get a sneak peek at the TOC? That would help.

A quick Google search didn’t reveal much, and nothing on Amazon either. I just don’t want the first purchase I make using company money to be one I don’t get much use from.

I’m the first tech writer ever hired at my company, a healthcare technology software developer. I’ve not been tasked with developing a comprehensive content strategy, but it’s becoming apparent that we need one. My fear is that I spend considerable time planning a strategy and making a business case for it, but that it could inevitably be shot down. The company tries very hard to keep costs low, so much so they had to delay hiring me in order to find funding in their budget for doc. I worry that my salary may have taken whatever money was allocated for documentation, and that many content strategy proposals start with expensive CMS technology.

I may just purchase the Kindle version with my own money, but I always prefer having hard copies of books I reference frequently. Sometimes I just prefer paper.

Thanks for the great review of this book, it’s been the driving factor in my consideration of purchasing it.

Ryan Minaker

Ryan Minaker (@RyanMinaker)

6 years ago

Hi John,

Thanks for the comments.

I also had some trouble finding this book on Amazon the first time I looked for it

If you look on Amazon.ca, it’s definitely there (http://www.amazon.ca/Content-Strategy-Connecting-Business-Benefits/dp/1937434168). If you click on the image of the book, you can ‘Look inside’ and there are quite a few pages to take a peek at, including the ToC.

Good luck!