For my first article of 2011 I thought I would tackle the issue of Content Strategy from an Enterprise Content Management perspective. How do they fit together, especially in terms of your internal content strategy.

Remember, when I talk about Enterprise Content Management, I mean ECM as in the AIIM definition of strategies and technologies for capturing, storing, managing and archiving / disposing of all types of content across your organization. I do not mean just the technology as in an "ECM system" from say EMC Documentum, OpenText, Oracle or Microsoft etc.

Content Strategy as Part of ECM

The first issue is one of definitions and language. Content Strategy is often discussed in terms of an organization's external web presence and social media activities. It may focus on editorial or delivery channel issues, but it is really a complex "system of systems" style endeavor.

In her article "The Discipline of Content Strategy", Kristina Halvorson says that in her experience the content strategist is a "rare breed who will often be willing to embrace many of the roles required in order to deliver useful and usable content".

Depending on how your organization likes to nest its strategies, a Content Strategy may exist as a sub-strategy of the Enterprise Content Management Strategy -- or they may exist as "peers" at the same level (but perhaps as sub-strategies to an overarching Information Management or Knowledge Management strategy). Either way, your Content Strategy should cover your external facing web presence (including social media use etc) and also your "internal content" -- that which is used exclusively inside the organization to facilitate its operations.

As Kristina suggests in her article, the strategy should cover the editorial and web writing side of things, metadata and SEO, and content channel distribution. Kristina suggests it should also cover content management, but of course I have kind of turned that on its head.

Will the Internal Content Strategy Differ?

In outline I don't see why it should differ at all. In fact only the details with respect to the types of content, the delivery channels and target audiences may change. In another excellent recent CMSWire article, Patrick Walsh asked: "What are the real differences between Intranet and Internet sites?". Patrick comes to conclusion that they are really quite different, and that content on the intranet is different because it is generated by, and in support of an organization's activities and thus is unique to that organization.

He states: "If users can't find it on the intranet then they won't find it anywhere else". Whilst I could nit pick at that statement (they might find the info "inside" a colleagues head), generally I agree with Patrick. Could this make Content Strategy for the Intranet even more important than for the external, public Web? Surely it puts it at least on a par?

A Brief Example

Let us say you are collaboratively working as a team to develop a new internal policy document (doesn't really matter which policy, but lets say it's really important!). The end result must live on the Intranet where it can be easily found and referenced by all your staff.

So lets briefly examine the content strategy elements:

1. Editorial

It's a major corporate document so it must follow guidelines or policy on tone of voice, use of language, legal aspects, etc. You may also have style guides and visual design standards.

2. Metadata and SEO

In this case SEO applies to ensuring the 'findability' of your content by your enterprise search solution; which really boils down to your metadata strategy. Does your system tag automatically, or is it easy for the team to manually add metadata? Should this be done at early draft or final publishing stages of the content lifecycle? Do you have a well managed taxonomy, or a CMS that allows users to tag content in a 'folksonomy' approach?

3. Content Management and Distribution

What is your delivery strategy for this type of content? Does the final version get published as a HTML page(s) on the portal, or is it linked to a PDF in the document and records management system? Does the content item live in a single system throughout its lifecycle, or will it be collaboratively authored in a Wiki (or even Google Docs) before the final version is published to the Intranet? Is there any collateral content, a news item for the portal home page, a video clip or audio clip, etc -- how are they to be managed?

We can go further and ask other questions that might need to be covered in your particular Content Strategy, such as should there be a link to the 'content owners' profile in the Staff Directory / People Finder system? Will there be a link to a discussion forum or other way of generating user feedback?

Final Thoughts

If you are thinking "really, you want me to think about all this, just to chuck a policy document up on the intranet?" then I have done my job with this piece. If you work for a smaller organization (say 20 people in one office) then you may not have to worry too much about the fine details of a Content Strategy, or decide that the focus needs to be on your corporate web site.

However if you are in a 50,000 person global organization with three different portal, document management and collaboration systems, no enterprise search solution and a metadata standard developed 15 years ago, it might be time to start thinking in terms of an ECM strategy, and within that your Content Strategy for internal content!

Check additional Content Strategy articles from Marisa Peacock , Ahava Leibtag and other stellar CMSWire contributors.