Once you get past the Why, these are the other types of questions that need to be asked. Just as companies need to evaluate the efficacy of their widgets when being designed, the words they use need the same level of attention.
Why Words Matter
Fact: Humans don’t consume content the same way zombies consume brains.
But oh, how we wish they did. Then they’d be like content strategists, devouring every word, its meaning and how it can be applied to design and communication.
In her session, What are words for -- a holistic approach to content and language online, Erika Hall, co-founder and Content Strategy Director at Mule Design, didn’t have to convince us what words are for -- effective communication, of course -- but she have a lot of great ideas on how to convey to our clients and colleagues that words are essential to design.
Halls says that the result of great content isn’t content, but the thing itself. Whatever it is that you’re trying to sell, the right words help to create it. Yet to find the right words, you need to find the right story to tell. Most of the time, it isn’t that a company needs an overhaul of values and brand attributes -- it’s that they aren’t telling the right story. A successful content strategist ask questions, listens and uncovers the juiciest morsels of the story, which are often overlooked.
Why Message Matters
By now, content strategy is both a viable asset to and product of the enterprise. The right words hold strategic consumption value, but what about the way you talk about it -- internally and to the customer?
Thankfully, Margot Bloomstein of Appropriate, Inc. helped us distinguish between brand attributes and a messaging architecture. It’s clear that, before developing a company brand, you need to figure out what that brand is. Similarly, before you can find the right design for the brand, you need to define its attributes. But attributes are the journey, not the destination. Once developed, they help to develop and prioritize communication goals.
Content is not limited to the printed or digital page. It encompasses every piece of language the touches the consumer, as well: The "thank you" page, the package receipt, the FAQ, customer support. How do you talk to your customer once the product is sold, shipped or consumed? The words used set the tone for the company and work to reinforce the values it represents.
The message matters because it can quickly misrepresent. The company that boasts a commitment to sustainability sends out lots of paper. The organization with a dedication to transparency can’t be contacted. While the right words can’t fix a broken company culture, the wrong words can help ruin it.
As George Orwell wrote,
The enemy of clear language is insincerity…"
At Confab 2011, content strategy is about more than just words, it’s a commitment to honesty, integrity and sincerity.