20 year content strategy veteran, Sharon Burton. Sharon Burton consults about content strategy, content business issues, social media and managing post-sales customer experience issues.

Content strategy – Complete or Done?

Content strategy – Complete or Done?
Content strategy – Complete or Done?
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When I was 18 years old, I realized I didn’t know much. I also knew this was the nature of being 18 but I still felt I should fix it – I should know more.

I was a US Army wife, living in Naples, Italy and for reasons I don’t remember, we had an encyclopedia set. I decided to read the encyclopedia, starting at A and reading to Z. I felt this was a reasonable solution to not knowing. It was, in a way, a content strategy.

Complete information?

My reasoning was something along the lines of “I don’t know anything. The encyclopedia is the place people go to learn about things. Therefore, if I read the encyclopedia, I will know everything.”

(Like you didn’t do silly things when you were 18.)

And so I did. I read the entire encyclopedia. When I wasn’t taking care of my household or the baby, I read. As I remember, it took me about 6 months. And at the end, I didn’t know much more than when I started.

Part of the problem was that I didn’t know much to start with. I didn’t have the context for most of what I read to know how to use the content or relate it to other content. I didn’t have the hangers to put the information on so it could become knowledge, all organized in my mental closet. To extend the metaphor, the information just wound up thrown around in my mental closet, disorganized and impossible to find.

The right information?

Recently, an article appeared in Popular Science about what we lose when we deliver product instruction manuals that are not complete. Or, at least not as complete as they once were. Are we losing something when we deliver content that’s following Minimalist principles instead of the complete information that was the norm for a long time?

This is a tension in all content development: What is the information the customer needs and how much is too much? What does “complete” mean? Is there even such a thing as “complete”?

How do you know?

One of the ways I help my clients think about content is the Customer Journey. Each stage of the journey has different information requirements. So, at the Information Gathering stage, we create content that educates about the products, for example. We include the value proposition and why this product over the competition. Sometimes, this may include education about why X is a problem in the first place.

At the Onboarding stage, we need content that educates about getting started with the product. We don’t need to explain the Value Proposition anymore because we’re past that phase in the customer journey. Now we need to get the customer using the product, quickly and easily.

And so on. Each stage of the customer journey needs different information out of the total Corpus of Information available.

Content strategy

It’s our job to know which article to pull out of the entire encyclopedia to show the customer. We’re responsible for making sure they have the right hangers in their mental closet for the information they need next. We need to guide the customer through the entire journey with the right information at the right time.

So, while you may have an encyclopedia for your products, use a progressive disclosure process to make sure the right content is in the right place at the right time. We don’t hand the customer an encyclopedia and hope for the best.

That’s called a Content Strategy. That’s why you need one.

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By Sharon Burton

1 Comment

  1. Carolyn Watt

    Another amazing article…progressive disclosure…an excellent way to explain the information sharing process.


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