Janine Warner is a Los Angeles-based consultant whose DigitalFamily.com business offers web design, software training, Internet marketing and content strategy services.

The former new media director at the Miami Herald newspaper, she has written 25 books about the Internet and is a frequent and in-demand keynote speaker at gatherings like last January’s Digital Internet Marketing Association Conference.

I asked Janine to explain the concept of content strategy, a topic that seems to produce at least as much confusion as clarity in the business world.

Kevin Featherly: What is content strategy?

Janine Warner: The whole idea of it seems to be coming from the fact that there are so many web sites now that have been around for 10 or more years that have sometimes tens, or thousands, or sometimes tens of thousands of pages of content. And some of that content has not been looked at by a human in the organization in a decade.

And so the first thing most people who are called content strategists do is called a content inventory, or a content assessment.

KF: It’s a bit like culling a newspaper’s archives?

JW: It is literally going through the site, because no one has done this in a decade. It’s finding that article that somebody put up 12 years ago that is now obsolete, or that contradicts current messaging so that is likely to confuse the potential customer.

Nobody in the organization has seen it because it is kind of buried. But customers are coming in with search engines and finding these things.

So a lot of what leads people to go and find a content strategist is that somebody stumbled across an old piece of content and they say, "Oh my God, we’ve got to do something about our content!"

KF: What makes a good content strategist?

JW: Let’s say we have a medical site with 30,000 pages. That content inventory might take a whole team of people. The first thing they will do is to develop some parameters around what makes a piece of content outdated and obsolete. What needs to be replaced, updated, or maybe repurposed into a different format?

A good content strategist knows that things that maybe worked as text items 10 years ago might better be portrayed in a video today, or an info graphic, or an animation. And because there are emerging ways of sharing content and there are all these different messages we want to put out, there are all these different formats we can use to put them out.

So a good content strategist is looking at all these variables. And they ultimately create something that is called a content strategy plan. Some people call it a content matrix. That becomes the detailed plan.

On big projects, Janine adds, there are several key steps that must be taken:

  • Perform a thorough content inventory or analysis
  • Create a gap analysis—decide what messaging is not present on the digital platform that needs to be there
  • Develop a content matrix
  • Take your time: This is something you usually are going to implement over a period of months or a year on a really big project.

If you are interested in contacting Janine, your best bet it is to post an email message at www.digitalfamily.com/contact-info/.

Topics: Content strategy, Design & Development, Janine Warner, Kevin Featherly

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Kevin Featherly is a creative content specialist with more than two decades of experience in writing, videography, photography and graphics production. He is a former managing editor with Washington Post Newsweek Interactive and former news editor for McGraw-Hill’s Healthcare Informatics. Learn more about Kevin at: www.featherly.com