I talked to some of the world’s leading content strategists and technical communicators, in a series of conversations. I published this series in a Medium publication.

Here is the list of guests who contributed to this series. You can see the detailed conversation within each guest reference, below.

Kathy Wagner

Published on 02 May 2017, see the conversation

How do you provide your audiences with the ability to control the things they want to control (without overwhelming them with too much choice), automatically serve them valuable and relevant information when and where they want it, and still give them the option of reaching out to an actual human being when that’s the best way to serve them?

I like to spend my time on the content experience design side of things, so these are the questions I wrestle with. And content, in general, is much more structured and granular than it used to be, so that is making things easier.

Cruce Saunders

Published on 25 April 2017; see the conversation

The next generation shift will see that same content targeting facilitated by predictive analytics and machine learning, wherein what content appears within which interface varies, based on the track record of performance of certain content targeted at audience segments. So, our customer experience platforms will start to design the most efficient and effective customer experiences out of the millions of possible combinations.

However, regardless of how effective our platforms are in testing, targeting, and optimizing, there will always need to be the purposeful human storyteller that weaves the overall customer journey and is at the heart of each customer’s experience.

So, AI will only enhance the effectiveness, reach, and personalization of its stories, but never replace the need for a storyteller.

Mathias Maul

Published on 18 April 2017; see the conversation

For example, the main issue here in Germany is that only very few people are convinced that content provides real, lasting business value. They are irritated and repulsed by the “content marketing” hullabaloo, and it takes a lot of effort to explain that content is not a marketing topic.

<>When I talk to people in Japan or the UK or Spain or the US, I am presented with very different ideas about what “content” can mean and what makes or breaks a strategy.

Heinz Wittenbrink

Published on 11 April 2017; see the conversation

The hypermedia nature of the web, its universal character, and its openness make it the canonical place for content today. I see other delivery platforms (print, native apps, maybe chatbots, whatever) as secondary with respect to the web. They are lacking essential features of the web. Only content on the web is really linkable. If content has to be stored in a source format which is different from its form on the web (e.g. as markdown or XML files), it should be accessible via the web. For example, Github shows a way to go for content in a source format.

Hilary Marsh

Published on 11 April 2017; see the conversation

Content strategy really touches organizational development and change management, as much as or even more than content creation. And an organization’s digital presence often reflects is dysfunctions. If a organization budgets in siloes and recognizes employees only for their individual, disconnected work, it will be an enormous challenge to create a holistic, effective content strategy.

So I guess the answer is awareness and buy-in of the causes of content dysfunction and a willingness to consider making organizational changes to become more strategic and effective.

Lisa Trager

Published on 28 March 2017; see the conversation

At the heart of predictive intelligence is personalization. The work we do as Content Strategists involves developing critical building blocks used to program the technology, to ensure that it functions properly. I see no contradiction between the work we do to develop standards, rules, and models related to content engineering and human-centered design, and the final output as computers and robots provide predictive results through artificial intelligence. Our work provides the foundation, insights, messaging, strategy, which can be used as a basis for programming AI.

Chris Turner

Published on 21 March 2017; see the conversation

After seeing Marvel Comics do an incredible job keeping consistent between their film, television and printed content (while DC flounders), I would love to serve as a Chief Content Officer or Content Strategy Director for DC to ensure greater synchronicity between the various properties.

Michael Andrews

Published on 14 March 2017; see the conversation

I’m concerned that too few content strategists understand metadata. They may create systems to structure and organize content (for example, custom taxonomies or content models), but these efforts can’t inter-operate with content created by other organizations. When this happens, we have content strategists creating silos, rather than bridging them. Structuring content is just the first step. The chunks of content need to be based on standards that explain to outside parties what they are, and how they can be used.

Joe Gollner

Published on 07 March 2017; see the conversation

Design a content system that features solution patterns for validation, analysis, and controlled adaptation and that adheres to the greatest extent possible to the principles of lean system design. It is one of the more challenging attributes of content, although also one of its more fascinating qualities, that it naturally tends towards complexity. If you take steps towards designing a robust content system you will be able to quickly and efficiently capitalize on the above two measures for positioning your content for an unknown, and unknowable, future.

Scott Abel

Published on 21 December 2016 (republished from ContentHug, 2015); see the conversation

Sometimes when you have buy-in, you have confusion. I also believe that it is the job of a content strategist to bring everyone on to the same page, so that all decision makers and stakeholders have a clear understanding of what their roles are.

All team members must have a common understanding of their role and how they fit into the team. I would say that in some organizations when there is an argument for what needs to happen, it is premature for a content strategist to be involved, especially when a company does not have a clear understanding of its content problems.

Marcia Riefer Johnston

Published on 20 December 2016 (republished from ContentHug, 2015); see the conversation

Lots of companies are doing inspiring things with content strategy. To name one, I admire what IBM is doing to treat content as a business asset across the enterprise. I’ve never worked for a company that large, so I can’t imagine the magnitude of the challenge! But, with a little help from Scott Abel, I have interviewed two IBMers who have given me a peek into Big Blue: Andrea Ames and James Mathewson.

Ellis Prat

Published on 19 December 2016 (republished from ContentHug, 2015); see the conversation

Technical communicators are comfortable with content re-use, multi-channel publishing and single sourcing, and it’s easy to forget these can be radical concepts to others. Disruption can create a need for clarity and simplicity, and technical communicators have the skills to provide this.

Noz Urbina

Published on 16 December 2016 (republished from ContentHug, 2015); see the conversation

We’re still pushing for our goals first and we’re still too often saying “Customer journey” when we really mean “Our sales cycle”. Enterprises need to learn the customer’s real journey, not their paths to and through your website to a close, but their whole story, before and after they’re touching you. They need to really understand their lives, their interests and their needs, and develop content that adds real value. If you add value, they will come. I’m a huge devotee of content marketing and challenge selling, and both emphasize that you need to show up earlier in the journey and show that you’re not just presenting the best offers, you offer the best relationship and knowledge (for content marketing, your knowledge travels in the form of content).

Ray Gallon

Published on 15 December 2016 (republished from ContentHug, 2015); see the conversation

It means rethinking what our interactions with technology need to be — should we be using augmented reality? Or simplified reality (using digital technology to provide clear detail of what the user needs to focus on, and stripping away all the rest)? Should we be thinking about how we control the Internet of Things so that it doesn’t get carried away — for example, ordering things from our fridge that we don’t want or need? Who will take responsibility for unwanted products that are ordered by connected objects? How will returns, rejects, defects, be managed for users when most of the process is automatic and without human intervention? Who will tell the machines what they need to watch, what to do when certain events are triggered, and whom to inform? How will they do this?

Colleen Jones

Published on 14 December 2016 (republished from ContentHug, 2015); see the conversation

I’m excited about what’s next in the value of content practice to every business function. I see content practice — from forming a vision through planning and implementing strategy — as the asset that makes all other business assets more valuable. Content practice makes investments in assets such as brand, technology, people, and more pay off. So, if I could pick ANY title, I’d say Chief Activator of Business Assets.

Rahel Anne Bailie

Published on 13 December 2016 (republished from ContentHug, 2015); see the conversation

Two big lessons that I’ve learned along the way is that (a) without executive buy-in, the strategy will fail. It’s hard enough to get a content strategy implemented when there *is* executive buy-in. Otherwise, it’s like Sisyphus, rolling a rock uphill only to have it roll down again; and (b) for the most part, companies don’t want “excellent”; they want “good enough”. The metaphor would be to not to suggest a Rolls Royce when a Volkswagen would do. Sometimes that is hard when you know that for another 20%, they could have a far more elegant solution, but they choose to save the 20%, even if it means they have to do more manual steps.

Mark Lewis

Published on 12 December 2016 (republished from ContentHug, 2015); see the conversation

We must continue to be the voice of education. We must continue to analyze bleeding edge technologies and determine the real benefits and risks. We must continue to communicate the benefits and risks to both executives and end-users so that they can make educated decisions on whether or not to incorporate these technologies. But long before this, I think we should be involved further upstream establishing the requirements and design of these technologies, rather than getting involved after they have been implemented.

Val Swisher

Published on 09 December 2016 (republished from ContentHug, 2015); see the conversation

Content strategists should be playing a big role in disrupting the status quo. The status quo of content has led us to having way too much content that is difficult to find, hard to manage, outdated, and more. Content strategists need to be looking for better, smarter, more advanced ways to help companies manage their content through the entire lifecycle. The status quo will not do any more. There is just too much content to not be strategic with it. If you aren’t strategic with content, it becomes a liability, rather than an asset.

Sarah O’Keefe

Published on 08 December 2016 (republished from ContentHug, 2015); see the conversation

Content strategists are accustomed to thinking of content as a malleable asset. Nearly everyone else thinks of content as having a fixed form.

Kit Brown Hoekstra

Published on 07 December 2016 (republished from ContentHug, 2015); see the conversation

Be curious, ask lots of questions (especially the impertinent ones that people are afraid to ask), listen, make sure you are talking to all the stakeholders. I like concept of “beginner mind” that the Dalai Llama and Thich Nat Hanh speak of. It frees you to approach the situation with fresh eyes, and to ask questions.

Larry Kunz

Published on 06 December 2016 (republished from ContentHug, 2015); see the conversation

We can accelerate acceptance of the new technology by being the ones who explain it to other technologists (such as people who write apps for a new mobile device) and to consumers. We’re uniquely positioned to understand each audience in terms of the questions they need to have answered, in terms of the problems they hope to solve, and in terms of their frame of reference.

Mark Baker

Published on 05 December 2016 (republished from ContentHug, 2015); see the conversation

The content industries no longer own the filters. The Web is a filter, and the power to filter belongs to the reader. The represents an enormous transfer of power from the content industry to readers, and naturally the content industry is fighting back. It is not trying to disrupt, but to resist disruption. And because this loss of power to control the reader’s experience is pervasive — affecting individual writers as much as the presidents of media conglomerates — the resistance to disruption is pervasive as well.

Tom Johnson

Published on 02 December 2016 (republished from ContentHug, 2015); see the conversation

Working in an environment that gives the doc team some autonomy and flexibility is key. One area that I’ve had to wrestle with is where and how to publish docs in an authenticated way (without an application GUI doing the authentication). I’ve learned to compromise and do what works. The account management team wanted to publish the content on Salesforce. You have to pick your battles, I guess.

Don Day

Published on 01 December 2016 (republished from ContentHug, 2015); see the conversation

For the past 15 years, there has been little meaningful innovation on the Web’s use of content. If we characterize this era as “the age of doing-it-our-own-way,” then the true disruption would be to create larger communities of shared methods and techniques. Vendors achieve this by locking users into a closed system. Communities of use who gather as a consortium or center of competence may disrupt this state of affairs by creating appetite for shared, open standards.