Content Strategy: The Case for Collaboration

Ducks in a huddle

Content strategy enables collaboration on the web.

During our webinar last week, Georgy and I talked about content strategy as change management—how content strategy can provide a framework for making positive changes with your organization. While discussing the current unchanging landscape in higher ed, one issue that topped the list was collaboration.

Really? We’re Still Talking About Silos?

This week, a colleague said in a moment of exasperation, "When will we stop talking about *&#^% silos?"

If you go to any higher ed web conference, you will hear repeatedly how silos are the cause of our problems on the web, including content, marketing, communication, community management, and much more.

Department silos hinder collaboration and our ability to evolve on the web.

Content and communication doesn’t exist within a single department or business unit—it exists in every facet of an organization. If we can’t effectively bridge the gap between silos we will never be able to realize our institution-wide objectives on the web. (Not to mention we’ll have to keep hearing about *&#^% silos.)

Change is Hard

If all we need to do is collaborate, well that seems easy enough. Let’s do it! Unfortunately, like content, collaboration is tougher than it looks.

Maybe you have a monthly interdepartmental meeting or you’re on a committee (or three!)—and at these meetings people share good ideas and people nod and grin. But, if your experience is anything like mine, when people leave these collaborative meetings and return to their daily work little change occurs. People have work they’re charged with and that often trumps any new ideas or requests for help that people have. Collaboration takes time that most of us don’t have.

We don’t make change a priority. And that’s a problem. In the words of George Bernard Shaw: "Progress is impossible without change."

So, how do we change our thinking to adopt a mindset where collaboration trumps isolation in web publishing?

Content Strategy: Change in the Making

The reason so much talk about the modern web leads to content strategy—whether it be UX, IA, or even responsive design—is that content strategy is change management on the web. It forces us to shift our thinking, shift our priorities, and adopt a holistic view of web governance. Here are a few ways I’ve found content strategy helps.

Content goals

Content strategy forces us to define content and communication goals. You can’t create great content without understanding your organization and user needs. And by defining these we’re able to see more clearly how the content we create supports others’ work, as well as illustrate how and why goals are prioritized. Content goals are only meaningful if content contributors understand how they relate to their work.

Everyone creating content in your organization should be supporting the same broad communication goals. Seeing your goals in the context of the larger picture allows people to realize the benefit of collaboration—as well as identify the opportunities for collaboration.

Roles and responsibilities

Even with an understanding of overarching communication goals, it’s not easy to identify opportunities for collaboration if people don’t understand:

  • what do I need to do?
  • who is needed to get the work done?
  • what resources are needed to get the work done?

Content strategy forces us to define publishing roles and responsibilities. Who is creating content? Who is editing content? Who is approving content?

"Roles and responsibilities" is not a sexy phrase and often has negative connotations. What am I on the hook for now? But the reality is that defined roles and responsibilities make everyone’s work easier because people understand how their work fits into the bigger picture. This allows for greater collaboration, not to mention more efficient workflow and happy employees.

Content measurement

Change takes convincing—whether it be convincing someone else or yourself. It’s hard to open the doors to collaboration without recognizing the benefits. Content measurement helps by assessing web performance against established website goals (aka, KPIs).

By evaluating the success of shared goals you can realize the benefits of collaboration—which stops being an abstract “nice-to-have” and becomes a clearly critical element of publishing on the web.

What ways have you seen content work support collaboration at your institution?

Photo by foxypar4 / Flickr Creative Commons

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About Rick Allen

Rick Allen has worked in higher education for over twelve years, helping to shape web communications and content strategy. As principal of ePublish Media, Inc, a web publishing and content strategy consultancy in Boston, Mass., Rick works with knowledge-centric organizations to create and sustain effective web content. Keep going »


  1. Was involved in setting up the original service group model that was used for a couple of years at my institution. The approach was to meet every 6 weeks(ish) with business representatives for a particular audience group. An excellent model for keeping everybody in the loop and on the one page. The main issues experiences with the model were – getting the right conversations happening and strategic leadership. Many business ares thought – this is a web meeting – its about technology, so the wrong reps were sent. Some business areas only relied on competitor analysis for identification of what should be done in the web space.

  2. Easy Meet does not supply such a phone cfcnerenniog server. Currently it relies on corporate or third-party service providers for voice cfcnerenniog.The whiteboard feature has been implemented in 2007. It’s currently disabled mainly because most cell phones do not have a touch screen or stylus for drawing. It could be released soon (after a little more cross-platform testing).Video still seems difficult on mobile browsers. Application sharing is being planned depending on how it is interpreted…

What do you think?