Month: September 2015

What are we talking about when we talk about content?

Even though I still consider myself primarily a writer and editor, over the last few years my role in various projects has also been described as “content strategist,” “content manager,” or “content marketing manager.” What always surprises me is how differently people interpret those titles—even when they’ve bestowed them upon me.

I’ve been working across the organization at my current job to learn more about how we’re using content and forming content strategies in our different divisions and among different teams. What was really surprising to me was that there was no consistent vocabulary to discuss our various projects. People, even people in marketing or communications roles, often mean different things when they say “content” or “content strategy.”

So I scoured the internet and came up with this list of definitions to help us all speak the same language when we talk about content. (I tweaked all the wording of the definitions a little to suit my own needs, so consider then paraphrases. I cite my primary sources for the definitions in italics after each one. This was one exercise where I thought it was valuable to have the backing of industry expertise, rather than just my opinion about what words mean.)

  • Content strategy
    The plan for the creation, delivery and governance of useful, usable content.
    Kristina Halvorsen
  • Content management
    The processes and tools/technologies used to collect, create, manage and deliver content.
    Halvorsen, Wikipedia, Slice of Pie
  • Content marketing
    A marketing technique of creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience with the objective of driving profitable customer action.
    Content Marketing Institute
  • Thought leadership
    The ideas, research and content that showcase and validate an individual or organization’s expertise, foresight and unique perspective.
    Thought Leadership Strategy
  • Sales enablement
    The messages, information and tools that help customer-facing personnel advance the sales process.
    American Marketing Association
  • Product literature
    Content that assists with the selection, purchase and use of specific products.
    AMA, Marketing Wiki
  • Media
    The format of production (PDF, video, blog, etc.)
    Northwestern University Content Strategy MOOC
  • Platform
    The destination/method of delivery (paper, browser, mobile, etc.)
    Northwestern University Content Strategy MOOC
  • Content
    Specific, purposeful pieces (a paper, a microsite, a video, etc.)
    Northwestern University Content Strategy MOOC
  • Copy
    The actual words/text on the page or website
    Northwestern University Content Strategy MOOC

Have you encountered words or terms that are being used differently in your organization? How do you get people speaking the same language? Do any of these definitions seem debatable to you?