If spring is the time of gentle new beginnings—chicks hatch, flowers bud, iced coffee sweetens up with caramel—summer is the time of gung-ho immersion.
Here in Boston, there is no subtlety to the season. The sun scorches our potholed pavement and rocky beaches. By Friday afternoon, the highway is clogged with cars escaping to the Cape, the North Shore, and Walden Pond. There’s no joy, just realization, if you’re stuck in traffic and the sweat glides down the small of your back, mimicking the condensation beading up on iced coffee in the cup holder in front of you.
Summer demands your love, attention, and commitment. You can’t do summer in New England halfway. You can’t pause and reflect on the nature of a roadtrip, just gas up and commit to it, sweaty seats and all.
We say that content can be messy, political, and difficult, but sweaty? Arduous? That too. This summer, I’ve been deep in it, 100%. Commitment to the work at hand sometimes keeps me from other projects, like this blog. But today, that’s changing, and I’m wading in to new waters to talk more about content strategy, the interactive industry, and the community it comprises.
Wading in is worth it
“Work hard, play hard” is a common mantra in our community, and it takes practice. I try to escape work with the same commitment and focus as I bring to it. After the last meeting of the day or when I can declare a breaking point in the content model, I head to the lake down the road. It’s a short drive but a world away.
Clear water laps at a small beach at a break in the woods. Trees overhang the shore, dropping leaves that form a thin bed with the sand at the bottom. Little fish zip around my ankles and calves as I wade in. The water is cool and bracing, especially on the 90 degree days we’ve had so often this summer.
Even though I know the water well, I never just plunge in. I want to feel every sensation and recoil a bit from the cold even as I push to wade deeper. That’s how I approach content strategy too: after working as a content strategist for more than a decade, I appreciate the big epiphanies and triumphant success of clear communication—but I really like the thoughtful, attentive, and pragmatic engagement that helps me get there. I help my clients wade deep, but I want them to experience the process to that point and understand the commitment it requires.
You don’t just create content, I tell them. You commit to it. And don’t create content you cannot sustain, you there, eager to start blogging.
We do so much to isolate ourselves from experience. We rush through enjoyment, pop a Tylenol at the hint of pain, and turn up the air conditioning at warmth, let alone heat. I worry about growing ignorant to process and lowering my tolerance of subtlety as I rush to the end goals, especially when those end goals belie the process. That’s my fear with blogging: we treat the end product of communication as synecdoche for the process of conversation and contemplation.
But over the past few years, the field of content strategy has grown hot. There’s a lot to do and a lot to discuss as we forge the future of the modern web. We declare content first—or at least communication goals first—in the budget race of UX, mobile, and responsive perspectives. We sweat through speaking at conferences, writing, and figuring this out with clients. So today I’m wading in. I’m equally excited for the experience and wary of the depths. I’m eager to explore the interstitial stuff that I’ve gotten to touch on in talks and presentations: practical ways organizations of all sizes implement content strategy, the role of mentoring in diversifying our industry, and how clear communication goals can drive tactical execution.
Thank you for paddling out with me.