Notes: Went to Facebook’s office in London for the ‘Making sense: content strategy for products’ event, Wednesday evening, 26 October 2016.
Invite reads: “Facebook London’s content strategists invite you to this exclusive event dedicated to the emerging practice of product content strategy.
“Content can drive a product experience – onboarding new users, signalling clear choices, even showing empathy at stressful times. We’ll be in discussion with leading content strategists about the challenges, opportunities and future of designing content for digital products.”
On the panel:
Beth Aitman – technical writer, Improbable Stephen Gill – content strategy lead, Government digital service Erica Hoerl – content strategist, Facebook Alex Hunter – content strategy manager, Facebook Elizabeth McGuane – content strategy lead, Intercom Robert Mills – content strategist, Gathercontent
Mike Atherton asked the questions, John McGarvey gave the introduction.
John McGarvey began the event by telling us what product content strategy is, at Facebook. Briefly: it concerns the content around the main Faceboook feed – notifications, error messages etc. The content needed so that a product “makes sense”. Also mentioned: the complexity of translated content, at Facebook’s scale.
At Facebook, content strategists deliver:
Empathy – tone of voice etc
Clarity – look at whole experience etc
Success – 1.71bn users per month etc
The panel then answered questions from Mike Atherton, and the audience. The conversation explored the various aspects of the product content strategist role.
Answers I can recall, include:
Stephen Gill from GDS mentioned “failure demand” and the book ‘The Whitehall Effect: How Whitehall Became the Enemy of Great Public Services – and What We Can Do About it’ to underline his point that content strategy is about “finding out what people want to do – then helping them”.
When asked about the traits needed to be a content strategist, “perfectionist” Erica Hoerl mentioned the ability to love rearranging three words, for hours.
Perhaps not wanting to get bogged down in detail, the strategy part of product content strategy was not explored in depth at this event. Which prompted me to wonder about the amount of actual “strategy” in these roles.
However, near the end of the evening, Alex Hunter did explain, simply, why a product content strategist is more than a copywriter or editor “polishing” words.
In reply to a question, he said: “people don’t want to read” and that “to stop content getting created” is an important part of his job.
My interpretation: To many a copywriter, the solution to a problem will be to create copy (to a hammer every problem looks like a nail etc), but a successful content strategist will have the wider business knowledge, experience and ability needed to understand when not to create content. This is an important distinction – and a key reason why product content strategy will continue to grow in importance.