Episode 26: Christine Polewarczyk, SiriusDecisions - Enterprise Content Strategy and Operations

September 3, 2019

Christine is the Service Director of Content Strategy and Operations at SiriusDecisions. In this week’s podcast, she describes the Content Transformation Roadmap she uses to identify the strategy, people, processes, and technology needed to achieve these milestones. She also shares some thoughts on the definitions of “content marketing” and “content strategy” in B2B environments. (Kristina gets VERY excited.)

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About this week’s guest

 Christine Polewarczyk

Christine Polewarczyk is a Service Director of Content Strategy and Operations at SiriusDecisions. She has more than 20 years of experience in B2B technology, content, campaigns, and digital marketing across a range of in-house, agency, and consulting roles. Christine helps SiriusDecisions clients build and optimize their B2B content engines and transform them into competitive differentiators. She is a passionate leader and evangelist for audience-centric content strategy, content marketing, and content operations.

Prior to joining SiriusDecisions, she ran global marketing campaigns and field marketing at SDL Language, where she transformed a traditional marketing organization into a high-performing lead-generation machine. Christine has worked full-time and as a consultant for a variety of organizations ranging from startups to large enterprises, including Alfresco Software, Cisco, Iron Mountain, Manhattan Associates, PTC, Salesforce, SAP, and TechTarget. Her areas of expertise include digital marketing, web strategy, content strategy, localization, SEO, lead generation, publishing, and content management.



Episode transcript

Kristina: Hello again. Welcome to The Content Strategy Podcast. I’m your host, Kristina Halvorson. This podcast is brought to you by ContentStrategy.com and Brain Traffic, a content strategy consultancy. Find out more about Brain Traffic at BrainTraffic.com.      


Thanks again for joining us this week on The Content Strategy Podcast. This week I am super excited to speak with Christine Polewarczyk who is the service director of content strategy and operations at SiriusDecisions. She has more than 20 years of experience in B2B technology, content campaigns, and digital marketing across a range of in-house agency and consulting roles.

She is a passionate leader and evangelist for audience-centric content strategy, content marketing, and content operations, which is why I already like her and cannot wait to have a conversation. Hi Christine.

Christine: Hello Kristina. Thanks for having me.

Kristina: Thanks for being here. So Christine, where are you located?

Christine: I actually work out of my home in a very small town called Skaneateles, New York, which is in central New York or the Finger Lakes region of New York.

Kristina: You live in Skaneateles, in the Finger Lakes region of New York?

Christine: I do. It’s very beautiful here.

Kristina: That is like a poem unto itself. It is.

Christine: Well I recommend anyone who’s into wineries and rolling hills and farmland and beautiful clear water lakes to come here. It’s a very popular place in the summer for vacation.

Kristina: I will be there in just a minute. But let’s record this episode first. So Christine, I came across your name because I stumbled on a couple of interviews that you did about your observations around content strategy in the enterprise and how it’s shaping operations. So, I’m really excited to dig into that topic with you.

Can we start by having you tell me a little bit about how you came to the work that you do today?

Christine: Oh gosh, that’s a long journey but I will keep it short and sweet. So again, like you just said when you introduced me, I have 20 plus years of experience, I started very early on in my career actually like as ... it’s not even on my LinkedIn profile, but way, way back, I started as a PR assistant and then I was in investor relations for a couple of years, which I said to myself, “What am I doing in investor relations? This isn’t what I want to be doing.”

And then I moved into a marketing copywriter role, which was getting closer. I knew at that time I wanted to do something that was related to writing and editing, and I wanted to do something that was related to the internet. Back when, this was in the 90s. I’m dating myself. And then I spent almost eight years at TechTarget, which is a publishing company and tech media company, managing websites for IT professionals and creating content for them.

And then I moved into global marketing roles as a content strategist, a global content strategist at Cisco. I spent a couple more years as a senior content strategist at a supply chain software company. Spent a little bit of time doing some content marketing agency work and, a little bit of time doing social strategy. And then a couple of years doing global campaigns and field marketing, before I moved over to the analyst role that I’m in now where I’ve been for about four and a half years.                

So, pretty well rounded. I’ve touched a lot of pieces of global enterprises from a marketing perspective, marketing roles but almost everything that I’ve done has had a content strategy, content creation, or content management component to it which has really set me up well for what I do now.

Kristina: That is an extraordinary and very exhausting sounding career. You have done a lot—

Christine: I hope it wasn’t too long winded.

Kristina: Oh my gosh no. I can’t believe the experience that you just tallied up. I mean that’s really amazing. And in 20 years.

Christine: Well, right place at the right time I guess.

Kristina: I have said those words about myself and content strategy as well. Let me ask you a question. How long have you been calling yourself a content strategist? When did you start using that title?

Christine: So, that was my actual title starting in around 2008. I was a global web content strategist. That was my official title at Cisco and then when I moved to Manhattan Associates, which was the supply chain company, I had the official title of senior content strategist, which expanded beyond just web, because I also managed the internal content management, the intranet, all our marketing content. I completely overhauled the website, optimized it for search, rewrote all the copy, built the back end web content management system with a development company and, helped define all the content process workflows in that web content management system.

So, there were a lot of creative elements because I was creating a lot of the content, but there were also a lot of more content ops, content strategy related element as well with all those more technical things I just described.

Kristina: And were you working on a team at the time or was this ... did somebody just say, “Hey Christine, can you fix the content everywhere?”

Christine: I was working within the global marketing team in corporate. There were a couple of other marketing communications managers that were more focused on event content, collateral, case studies, that sort of thing, and there were some graphic designers and folks like that and, a trafficker or a project manager within that larger group that I sat in. But I was the only one with a content strategist title and the only one focused on, of course, working with other stakeholders. I mean I had to go talk to product managers and IT teams and all of that but I was sort of the shepherd of everything related to the web content strategy components.

Kristina: And that was how many years ago?

Christine: That was several. I think I left there ... don’t quote me on this, you’ll have to go look at my LinkedIn resume because I can’t remember exactly. But I think I left there around 2011.

Kristina: So it sounds like at that time you had that title content strategist and the company knew what to do with you?

Christine: I would say they had a rough idea. I would say they did not know what to do with me and if you even look, my former manager there has like, she gave me a recommendation on my LinkedIn profile and, it says something like ... I don’t remember the exact words but she said, “Christine is tenacious even under the ... given the most abstract requirements.” [laughs]

Kristina: That sounds like most job descriptions that I see for content strategists to this day.

Christine: Exactly. They didn’t know. They knew they needed help but they didn’t really know how to bring it about so they wanted to bring someone in who could help them define that and kind of solve some of the ambiguity that was in play at the time.

Kristina: So fast forward to the work that you’re doing at SiriusDecisions because I think that that is part of what you’re helping organizations do today. Is that right?

Christine: It is. We basically serve marketing leaders and content professionals. A lot of different titles that I work with. Anything from a CMO to a VP of marketing to a head of content marketing or, a content strategist that sits within a global campaign’s group in a large enterprise. Or it could be just a content marketing manager who is just getting started with content marketing.

So, pretty broad and deep in terms of who we work with. But in general, we’re trying to help them solve for ... we want to help them develop higher performing content and high performing content engines. So, when I say content strategy there’s three components: content strategy, the content creation component, as well as the content operations stuff.                                        

So, strategy, what do we know, how do we be audience centric? What informs what we create for content? Then creating content in a best practice way that has quality, relevance, consistency, all of that. Scale. And then from a content ops perspective, making sure that ... I always say that the foundation, the electric, the plumbing, everything we need to be in place so that we can build a strategy and execute on it is in place and measure it. So, that’s really looking at process design, tech stack, measurement, those sort of things.

Kristina: So, and this is all specifically in marketing, kind of around content marketing operations?

Christine: So, it’s typically within marketing. We do have some sales clients as well that are trying to solve sales content specific challenges. I honestly see a longer term ... I have a longer-term vision that organizations, when they start talking about optimization of the customer experience or being able to measure and have transparency in to all touch points and technologies across the customer life cycle, that content strategy and ops will be something that has a huge part to play in that and it will extend beyond marketing.                                          

The clients that we work with that are more advanced in their thinking on this, that typically lands or starts in marketing and then expands into sales content and then product and support and so, I would like to see longer term clients having an enterprise wide vision of what content strategy and ops means.

Kristina: And you said that you do see that in some organizations?

Christine: I see organizations just starting this. We have small handful of clients that are on what I call a “content transformation journey.” So I’m very much evangelical about this idea of, if you care about digital transformation, if you’re talking about business transformation overall, why isn’t content transformation a major part of that conversation?

Whereas for many years, I feel like it’s been sort of too far down the list of priorities in that whole transformation conversation. I just lost track of what you just asked me because I got so caught up in what I was just saying. What was the original question?

Kristina: You keep saying it. I don’t remember what I asked you but this is amazing so just keep talking.

Christine: I tend to ramble sometimes and then lose track of where I started.

Kristina: No, but here’s the thing with any conversation about content strategy though and, this is real. Is that I love that you call it content transformation because frankly and this is, I don’t know for so long, I was stomping my feet and shaking my fists about, “You can’t do content marketing without considering strategic implications across the organization or across the enterprise because you can’t just create content in a vacuum”.                                        

And everything that you’re saying is ... that organizations will potentially start with, okay we need content or we want to use content within our marketing, what does that mean? And then they can dive into it and immediately begin to recognize, “Oh this is not just about creating content and putting it on some fancy, expensive engine and then waiting for it to work.”                                        

So that’s where that conversation starts. And I think that in organizations where leadership can spot or where the people working with the content can effectively communicate to leadership, yes, this a complex ecosystem that we need to be talking about that moves beyond just this team of content creators. Those are the organizations where that conversation is moving forward and where we see that process of maturity.

Christine: Yeah, I remember where I kind of lost track of what I was saying now. You helped bring me back to it with everything you just said. So, we have a handful of clients that are on ... they’ve committed to this idea of content transformation. They’re starting in marketing with it but they fully have the intention and a lot of them have already tackled marketing and sales together but, with the full intention that they will extend that out to support content as well.

Kristina: So, I wrote a book ten years ago called Content Strategy for the Web and that was largely rooted in my experience of creating content for websites. You said you started out as a copywriter, I did too.

Christine: I read that book, yes.

Kristina: Oh yeah? Okay, great.

Christine: I think I still have it on my bookshelves in my living room actually.

Kristina: In your living room? Oh, that’s great.

Christine: In my living room.

Kristina: Just curl up in front of the fire … Sometimes people will send pictures of themselves reading it on a beach and I’m just like, “Really? No, put that away. What are you doing?”

But when I wrote that it was largely from my perspective coming out as a writer for website content specifically. This was really before product content or ... had taken off. Where I came to it from was, “Content is important, why doesn’t user experience design treat content as important? Please pay attention to us.” And right at that same time content marketing kind of started to become a thing.          

So, can you talk to me a little bit about your perception around the relationship between user experience design functions and marketing functions within organizations because I hear all the time, more from UX and for marketing but, “How can we work better together to better serve the right kinds of content at the right time, at the right place to the audiences that we’re focusing on?”

Christine: So, when you say UX relationship with content folks, I see that obviously like you said, most often the relationship from a web content perspective. Is that what you mean, from a website content perspective?

Kristina: Sometimes, yes. But I think that also when we’re ... Because more and more content strategy products or UX writing, they’re starting to take more of a view of content across from marketing communications about, “Hey, look at what this product is?” to content within the product to content that the product generates like emails or reports or whatever to the support content. So not necessarily just ... I mean unless you look at websites as a product which some people do.

But it really is any kind of user experience designer who is working on making things that people will use and come to for information and, their relationship with folks who are really pushing or working with or planning or executing content marketing campaigns.

Christine: I have to be honest, I don’t see a lot of UX designers involved with the seat holders or the clients that I’m working with. There are relationships there especially on the web content side. I have clients that, we just gave Red Hat a programs of the year award at our US Summit Conference in May for their adoption of agile content creation processes. And that started with web content because there was just a natural opportunity to leverage that there between the content strategists, the content creators, and the UX folks.                                          

But, when I see clients that are very still outbound campaign driven, they’re still struggling with being audience centric, they’re still very much in a product centric mindset even if they’re paying lip service to audience centricity, the UX people are sort of in the background. They’re not a seat at the table person, they’re more of a supporting function. Which isn’t necessarily correct.                                      

Now when you talk about web content it’s very different. I see them actively involved. I saw when I was at Cisco I was locked at the hip with a UX person redesigning web page templates right? But I do not see it as much in the collateral campaign’s world.

Kristina: When you say collateral campaigns what do you mean by that?

Christine: So, when I work with, especially larger enterprise clients, first of all I probably should take a step back and talk about how we, if you don’t mind, the difference semantically or from a terminology perspective about how SiriusDecisions defines content marketing versus marketing with content. Do you mind if I take a minute to do that?

Kristina: No, you do it.

Christine: Okay.

Kristina: I can’t wait. Talk fast. Not like hurry through it but hurry up and say it.

Christine: When I came to SiriusDecisions I was really surprised that there was still so much confusion around ... “content marketing” was a loaded term. Because people were using it in so many different ways and did not have a consistent point of view on what that meant. So, some people when they would say content marketing, they meant all the content that was being created by the marketing organization.                                        

Some people when they were saying content marketing, they were using it as a synonym for outbound campaigns which it’s not. And then others were using it more the way that I define it which is, it’s focused on the education stage of the buyer’s journey. It’s usually education stage, early solution stage content, at most early solution. And it’s really highly audience centric, it has a heavy SEO or keyword strategy component to it and I’ve said for a long time, I call it my digital or my inbound marketing grand shrine.                                            

Which, if you combine your content, align your content marketing, your search strategy, and your social strategy around a common keyword universe, that that is the secret sauce for driving inbound traffic. But I consider content marketing to be very much an organic play around search, social, and content and, like I said, more early in the buyer’s journey. So, it’s not product content and it’s not ... You can certainly use it and I talk about this when I share the content marketing strategy turbine model that we have at Sirius and, teach people how to build a content marketing plan.                              

But, you can use it secondarily to support. Like sales for example, will use blog posts all the time to drive continuous buyer interactions throughout all their sale cycle stages, throughout the buyer journey stages but, that’s not the primary use, right? So I really like to distinguish the primary purpose for content marketing content and then opportunistic activation opportunities for other use cases.                                  

But if I don’t do that, I find that the executives within these marketing organizations, they’re confused about what content marketing is supposed to do. And then when it doesn’t do everything and anything and it’s not some magic button that solves all of your marketing challenges, they deprioritize it, they divest from it and just say, “That’s not working for us.” And they don’t see the success they ultimately could have seen if they understood what content marketing is supposed to do. So that’s content marketing to me.

And then marketing with content is really not just that piece of it. It encompasses the content marketing piece, but it’s looking holistically at full customer journey, awareness content or education stage content. It’s awareness and solution and selection stage content. It’s everything, it’s the whole enchilada.                                        

And then content strategy to your point I think there are different applications of content strategy. So, there’s content marketing strategy, there’s campaign content strategy which again, is more full buyer customer journey and then, I think website content strategy is also a very distinct discipline. Which it doesn’t mean you can’t be good at website content strategy and content marketing strategy and campaign content strategy, but I often find that those skills are not ... You can’t find that in one or two or three people in a marketing org.                                    

So I can work with a senior content marketing manager who gets everything I just said about content marketing. They run the blog and the social strategy. They’re very good at it. Then I talk to someone who’s running campaigns. They’re very good at understanding how to create nurture streams and build all this outbound content and figure out their pay tactics, but they don’t really understand content marketing. They don’t understand keyword strategy, they don’t understand how to build inbound traffic.

And then when I talk to website folks it’s usually completely different teams who own that than the other two. I’ll stop because I’m going on and on. Does that make sense?

Kristina: Oh, it’s so good. It’s so fantastic. I guarantee that people who are listening right now, they’re either jumping up and down in their seats in their cars or they’re doing a jig in their office. I mean, this is fantastic clarification. And I think it’s really, really … Bt the other thing is that it’s very nuanced right? It’s clear to you because you’ve spent all this time sorting it out in your brain. But, for a marketer, who to your point, has been tasked with create content that gets me leads or that what are your success metrics that you can then parade in front of leadership to protect your budget moving into the new fiscal year. That’s a longer conversation.                                            

And I think that one of the things that I hear all the time is that people who understand content strategy, whether it is within the marketing context or within the website context or within the product context, have a very difficult time telling that story in a meaningful, effective way that gets leadership on board to, “Oh right. This is more complicated and it actually does take time and thought and I can’t just commission the agency I’ve been working with to create 1500 pieces of content and make it happen.”                                        

How do you help facilitate that conversation with leadership or is it leadership’s already onboard and that’s why they’ve hired you to come in?

Christine: Sometimes that’s the case but oftentimes, it’s someone who is just one or two tiers down from that and they have the vision, they see what needs to get done, they feel the pain points on a daily basis of the lack of contextual understanding by a broader group of stakeholders including executive leadership.                                

Oftentimes when we kick off with a new client, we’ll start with a current state review; help me get a roll up sleeves view of the world that you live in, show me your reporting, show me some content, when’s the last time you did a content audit inventory gap analysis, do we need to do one? Just anything that we can do basically. Do you have personas, do you have buyer journey maps, show us what you have.                                    

And then from there, we will oftentimes and we do this with a lot of clients, help them build their vision deck. We will help them either ... based on the current state, we’ll set up and say, “Okay, here’s the flow,” understanding who the audience is first of all because we’ll actually have some good conversations around that too. What are the personalities in play, who are you trying to get buy in from, what are the political landmines we need to be aware of, what are the limitations on budget and resources, whatever. Just get us a good understanding so that we can give you actionable advice that doesn’t feel too idealistic, that it’s still pragmatic and achievable based on where you are today.  

From there, we’ll help them build ... and this is where we actually have a model called the “Content Transformation Roadmap.” And it’s broken out ... the idea is ... of course you can customize and tailor, but the standard version which we do customize with clients starts out as a three phase model and we basically establish what are the milestones that we think that we need to achieve and, what’s the progression of those to build upon each other across the four dimensions of strategy?                                

People, so strategy being do we have an audience framework and prioritization, do we have messaging framework, do we understand our go to market strategy and is that aligned across sales and marketing and product and, there’s consensus around that? All the building blocks you need to be successful when you move into the content piece of it.                                          

And then from there we’ll say so strategy, do you have sound strategy? Then people. Do you have the right people, are those people aligned and do they have clear understanding of roles and responsibilities as part of the strategy or whatever the initiative whatever it is? And, do they have the right skills and where are their skill gaps that we’re going to need to take into consideration as an assumption as part of this plan we’re building.                                            

Then we look at process. So, the phase one step is usually table stakes stuff like doing a content audit and inventory and gap analysis, establishing a cross functional content council, documenting the current process or content life cycle to understand where there are challenges. And doing a skill assessment on those people ... actually I forgot to mention in people.                                          

And then the tech piece. So, what’s your current tech stack, what are the tools you have available to help improve what you’re doing today, where may we need to make some recommendations for some tech improvements, whatever. So, strategy, people, process, technology across three phases and then we sort of build that into a vision deck that they can then bring back or, we can support them and come back to their whatever stakeholders or executives are involved and try to sell that vision to them.

Kristina: So, this is all great and I’m nodding and thinking, “Yes, this is what Brain Traffic does too.” We are all in agreement. This is great. And then, we get to the vision deck which is the result of all of this incredible, rigorous analysis and synthesis and hard work and let’s say you sell it in. How often then do you see organizations successfully implement?

Christine: Well, I would say all of them are different. So, there’s a maturity spectrum right? So we have some folks who are very early in their maturity and some who are more advanced and, a lot of people sitting right in the middle and what I would call intermediate stage or sort of midway. Not like there’s ever any end to the journey but midway in terms of what they think needs to get done.              

I would say that most of the organizations we work with experience some level of achievement or milestones. But these are longer term goals. There are clients that I’ve worked with for the full time that I’ve been here. And when we started out four years ago they were just starting to do persona research and, they were just starting to understand that they needed to prioritize audiences and they were doing journey maps and all that. And that took them, because of how slow the organization can be, a year to get that done. Or they did that plus their content audit and inventory.  

And then year two it was, “Okay now we are going to invest in this new tool so we can unify and create transparency, more accountability, better measurement of what we’re doing, introduce work flow automation,” whatever. But, we sort of start where they are and then there’s some big bucket items that we’re like, kay, everybody needs this: Documented audience framework, personas, journey maps, messaging framework, content process design, master calendar, intake requests forms or creative briefs, content briefs, whatever you want to call them.” So content measurement dashboards, keyword universe.                                          

So, we kind of go through the laundry list and say, “What do you have and what don’t you have today? What’s the right progression in terms of adoption of these things based on where you are to get you where you need to go?” So, again, I typically see it as a multi-year effort. But everybody is on that path that we’re working with today. They’re just at different stages of that in terms of maturity. Some are just getting started, some have been on that path for a long time and are trailblazers.

Kristina: So what do you see coming up? What do you see is next?

Christine: Oh gosh, we just did a whole presentation on this at our Summit Conference as well called Future Vision: Content Strategy and Ops. We aligned it around five trends that we think are universal trends across all of marketing over the coming years. But we sort of did this look ahead saying, “What do we think B2B content engines are going to look like in 2025?”                                            

And I really focused ... we used these 5 As of artificial intelligence, which we think of course will play a huge role in everything we do even more than it is today. Accountability was the second A. And I really focus there on being more accountable in terms of our content analytics. And then we talked about atomization and needing to move more towards componentization of content on a really strong meta data layer to support hyper customization of content and all the personalized experiences that we’re trying to create.                                            

Talked about authenticity and how that’s really already mainstream today, but of course will just become increasingly more important as we move into the future in terms of being trustworthy and credible and audience centric and all of those things. And then all of that really culminates in the fifth A which is adaptability.                                          

Which is leveraging all those things to just be more adaptable and have more agility as marketers and content professionals in terms of how we serve up those experiences to our audiences. So, I don’t know if that answered ... That’s a very short answer to your question. I could dig in and provide a little more detail on any or all of that.                                            

But, at a high level we really see AI being more ubiquitous across the content lifecycle in a lot of different ways. We know already that it’s used for some level of personalization today. We know that there is some level of auto tagging using AI within asset management systems and things like that. But I just think it’s going to be exponentially more important.                                          

But, another thing that we’re pushing and evangelizing pretty heavily is this idea of adopting a unified meta data layer or unified meta data model. Because we did a state of B2B content study last year and only 40% of the B2B marketing organizations that we surveyed ... We surveyed 316 B2B marketers. They had to directly contribute to one or more stages of the content lifecycle and they had to be manager level or higher within their organization.                                          

And 40% of them came back and said, we have a universal taxonomy, everyone else said they had multiple taxonomies but no universal one which is a very common scenario, disconnected taxonomies or information architectures. And then, a lot of other ones said they had one but their universal taxonomy was completely out of date. And the rest said we just don’t even have one at all.  

The challenge with that is that if you don’t have meta data you’re not going to be able to have advanced analytics and, you’re not going to be able to leverage AI the way you want to moving into the future. So, we’re pushing pretty hard on that. And we do have several clients that are in the process of trying to get a handle on that.                                          

But, it’s surprising because a lot of organizations they’re not even tagging for the most basic tags right now, like audience or journey stage or things like that. So, that’s something I see as being a big deal in the future if we really want to realize our full potential within a digital world.                                    

And then the automatization piece, I think that’s longer term. It’s really hard for people now. In that study again, 49% said they were using componentization or chunking up of the content for web content. But that still leaves 51% of marketers or organizations who aren’t even doing that for their web content, which is where I think the most pragmatic use case is for that. It’s much harder to componentize or atomize collateral pieces.                                          

We’ve had clients who’ve tried to do that. I think it’s doable but it’s really hard because there’s so much change management and behavioral change that needs to happen to support that. So, I consider those to be more longer-term advanced use cases. But I do think that if we really want to be able to leverage AI, we’re going to have to be able to componentize our content so that AI can take those disparate pieces and package them and serve them up in different ways with some level of autonomy.

Kristina: This is blowing my mind. I’m so excited. I feel like I want to talk to you for another eight hours. I’m not kidding. And I just want you to talk ... Unfortunately our time is just about at an end. Let me ask, I have one more question to ask you.                                            

So, if I work at an organization, frankly whether it’s a mid-size, medium size organization, or an enterprise, global enterprise, I want all those things you’ve just said. Like I want them all. Where do I start? Is it with those pieces that you’ve discussed? Do I start with making sure that we’ve got information about our audiences? Where can I begin?

Christine: I really think you have to start with do we have a sound strategy? Because you can enable process for a bad strategy and that’s not going to get you the results that you want right? Because there are plenty of people creating tons of content and they built this machine that’s just pumping out stuff, but it’s not doing what they want it to do for them. And it’s not doing what their audience want it to do for them either. So, it’s not really meeting anyone’s needs from that respect.                          

So, if there isn’t an audience framework or clear audience prioritization, if there isn’t a clear understanding of what makes those audiences tick, what we call knowledge requirements are, I like to say what are those frequently asked questions that an audience is most likely to have in each buyer journey stage? Are we addressing those? Are we making that content discoverable in the way that that audience typically consumes content?                                            

I think those are the questions we have to ask ourselves and say, do we have a sound content strategy first? Do we have a messaging framework that is grounded in validated data from search analytics, from social listening tools, from customer intelligence tools, from sales interviews, customer interviews? Have we done our due diligence? Do we even truly understand our audience?    

That’s where I think it really has to start. And then from there, like I said, I really think you have to address your maturity level across those four dimensions of strategy, people, process, technology. Get a really sound sense of current state. And then from there, like I said, you build your road map. How do we ease our way into what we want to do based on the assumed budget and resources that we have?                                          

For example, even if you take something as simple as a content audit and inventory which we know for years and years and years has been a table stakes thing that we need to do to get a sense of what is our current content house look like, is it in good order? Which usually it is not. Even doing that one thing with clients we typically have to advise them and guide them through, “How do I scope this in such a way that it’s actionable for me? We’re a small team. We have 10,000 plus assets across a dozen repositories. We’ll be doing this for two years and we won’t be done with everything else we have to do day to day.”                                          

I don’t know if I really answered your question but, I would start with strategy but I really think it’s more about honest, current state assessment of your maturity as an organization across those four dimensions, and then working from there to build out a logical phase plan to mature.

Kristina: And you know what is true, or what I have found to be true is that everything you just described requires people to slow down for a minute and ask questions and, reflect upon those questions. And asking marketing teams to slow down, they’re just like, “I’m sorry but the train left the station lo these many years ago and I can’t stop it.”                                          

And so, it requires a lot of commitment and support from leadership I think to be able to hold smart, sound strategies in place. And I’m thrilled to hear that you are advocating for that and that you are seeing great results with your clients over time. That is very inspiring and hopeful for me.

Christine: Thank you. And I could talk for hours about this too because I feel like we just barely scratched the surface. And I’ll think of ten things I wish I had said after we get off this.

Kristina: How about if I just come to your beautiful, little town and we can just like do a spa day and talk about content strategy all day?

Christine: Fabulous. I’m up for it and I’m happy to do this again sometime.

Kristina: I would love it. And I actually now Content Strategy Spa Day I think is potentially going to be the next event that Brain Traffic hosts.

Christine: That’s perfect.

Kristina: This is great. This is where good ideas come to me. Christine, where can people find you online?

Christine: Obviously, LinkedIn, Twitter, I don’t use Facebook for business but LinkedIn and Twitter for sure or of course, the SiriusDecisions website.

But, I just want to thank you again for spending some time talking to me. Like you said, I could talk about this stuff all day and I do and I love it.

Kristina: I do too. I love talking about it with you, so thank you so much.


You’ve been listening to The Content Strategy Podcast. I’m your host, Kristina Halvorson. This podcast is brought to you by ContentStrategy.com and Brain Traffic, a content strategy consultancy. Find out more about Brain Traffic at, of course, BrainTraffic.com. Thanks and we’ll see you next time.

About the podcast

The Content Strategy Podcast is a show for people who care about content. Join host Kristina Halvorson and guests for a show dedicated to the practice (and occasional art form) of content strategy. Listen in as they discuss hot topics in digital content and share their expert insight on making content work. Brought to you by Brain Traffic, the world’s leading content strategy agency.

Follow @BrainTraffic and @halvorson on Twitter for new episode releases.