Embrace the mess. Content strategy is dirty.

mr_messy

Last year, I attended…

ConFab Central, a content strategy conference that took place in Minneapolis, MN. It was a great place to learn new things, and find my people. One important fact I learned about myself was that I love getting messy. And even more than that, I love to clean up a good mess. Basically, I’m not afraid to get my hands dirty.

I was in a workshop on the first day of the conference when Kristina Halvorson, who was leading the workshop (and has spent her career spreading the message of how important a good content strategy is to any organization) gave us some important insight on who was all in her workshop.

[I’m paraphrasing here, but just bear with me]

“If you look around this room, you’ll see a mixture of people who touch content at some level. Some of you may be copywriters and web writers. Some of you may be information architects and librarians. Some of you may be marketing managers and directors, or even if we’re lucky, a few actual content strategists.”

She smiled slyly at us, like she was about to blow our minds with her next words.

“But I can split you all down the middle and say that you fall in one of two camps. And this applies to everyone in this workshop, and even, those attending this conference.”

Side note: Did I mention she created this conference? I was kind of star stuck throughout her workshop.

“There are those of you who look at all of the content needs of your organization, you look at all of the random, discarded campaigns and content pieces and blogs, and think, ‘I see the mess, but I’m not touching it with a ten-foot pole.”

A couple people laughed softly and nodded their heads. There were two sitting at my table.

“But then there are the rest of you. You see the same thing.  You see the mess and the chaos, but instead of running from it, you embrace it. There’s nothing you like more than to roll up your sleeves and get to work on organizing that mess.”

I smiled and nodded and looked around at some of the others at my table who were looking back at me, like, “Yes! That’s me!” It felt good to be around kindred spirits.

That day at lunch, I sat down by a couple people who looked familiar from my workshop. We talked about our need to get in and get our hands dirty. We didn’t see the mess as intimidating or daunting, we just wanted to get in and figure it out. It was clear we all came from different industries, had different content needs, and yet that simple fact united us all.

After that conference…

I went back to my job and felt reassured that I was in the right spot. We were about to undergo a massive website redesign and I just couldn’t wait to get in and clean up the mess. Today, nine months after that conference, our redesigned website is now alive and the mess is no more. Sure, there are areas where we could always improve, but for now, everything has a place and everything is in its place. This is the first time in a while where I feel like I can truly see the fruits of my labor in a really large and tangible way.

But how do I keep it from getting messy again? Workflow and process (and governance).

I’m good at applying a process. I’m also good at knowing what the process is in my head. But I now have to take all of that information and put it down on paper so that I can help others keep this good thing going.

My thoughts are messy. My notes are chaotic. But that’s not something that intimidates me. So yet again, I’m embracing the mess and am certain that I’ll make sense of the chaos.

Are any of you going to ConFab Central this year? I’ll be signing up next week and I can’t wait to be surrounded by my kindred spirits, once again. If you see me, say “Hi!” (I might turn around to see if you’re talking to someone else, but I promise I will have a conversation with you.)

Cheers!

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