Summer’s almost over, most people are back from their holidays: about time for a Content Strategy Meetup (CSMB). The gathering took place at the beautiful offices of Namahn in Brussels, like the very first one we held in April this year. We had a very interesting subject to cover: content modelling. Three awesome presentations and one very practical exercise laid it all out for us.
A blogpost in English, since our Content Strategy Meetups attract quite a few non-Dutch speaking guests.
So what is content modelling exactly? Is it a model showing content on a catwalk? Sorry, it’s Friday afternoon, and this is my Friday afternoon humour.
Content modelling helps you structure content. It links relevant content pieces to each other. To be fair, if it where up to me, I would have called it content mapping. Because you’re actually mapping out content types and topics and their relation to each other. Simply put, and as we practiced during the exercise:
Let’s say you’re creating a content model for a music website that specializes in album reviews. That means that the album is a central topic. So what other elements are important to cover? Stuff like: artist, label, genre, review, songs, for instance. So how do these elements relate to each other? Is it a one-to-one or a one-to-many relationship? An album can have one artist, but an artist can have multiple albums. How are the reviews connected to the genre? Are they? Try it yourself, and draw a quick model of content pieces you need and how they are connected. Content models (or maps, according to my head) can look linear, like a tree structure or like a network of elements. Often, they are even a mix of these types and forms.
We split into groups to do the exercise and make models. This is what our quickly and roughly drawn models looked like:
As we did the exercise, it all fell into place. Can you even imagine creating a very complex website (government! higher ed!) without a content model?
Koen Peters gave a presentation on a recent Namahn project in which they practiced content modelling in co-creation with a client. Very interesting, as it can be tempting to do this yourself as ‘an outsider’, while stakeholders in the company you’re working for hold such invaluable input and information. It’s important to mention that this modelling exercise took place after hefty research on the target audience, their experience, existing content and the topics that needed coverage. So, as some attendees rightly pointed out, it is a bit of an ‘inside-out’ approach, but I believe it’s very valuable as long as it’s combined with earlier mentioned research. People inside the organization have at least a good view on what they are working with too (hopefully). Why not do the same exercise with people from your audience, for an ‘outside-in’ view on the same matter?
After a short break, Gilbert West took the stage. He reminded us of the fact that we’ve come so far: from ‘leaving the website to the IT-guys’, to ‘getting an information architect, a copywriter and designer or two on board’ to having a whole muti-disciplinairy team assembled. He was able to draw a few clear parallels between development and content strategy, since programmers use similar models. He warned us against using prefab CMS’s and told us to be aware of the fact that you are less and less in control of how your content is shown, not only referring to mobile and responsive design, but also to aggregators such as Flipbook and Zite. Good points!
Lastly, Joris Heyndrickx talked about his experiences with content strategy in the workflow. He stressed that instead of working in our own little silos (web dev, design, content, etc.) we should be working together more, thinking about content in the earliest stage possible. He was not so much preaching to the choir rather than visualizing how this affected his work. He told us how content models, a good strategy and having a content strategist on board from the beginning of a project, helped him in the whole process of creating a great website. You’re welcome, Joris.
We closed off with Turkish pides, drinks, some reflections on the talks, exchanges of cards and some laughs, of course. All in all, it was a great session.
Thanks to everyone who was there. Kudos to the speakers for, well, speaking, and thank you Namahn for the venue, food and drinks!
Next Content Strategy Meetup will probably take place in November, so please sign up for our group if you want to stay updated on coming events.