Last night four members of team Speak headed down to the Book Club in nearby Shoreditch for an evening of fast-paced content strategy talks organised by Meetup. The format is simple, every speaker has a strict five minutes, with timed slides that change automatically. More than a little stressful for those on stage, but fun and insightful for those in the audience. Here’s our (very brief) rundown of the speakers and their talks.
User experience guru Martin Belam kicked off proceedings, drawing on his experience working with the Natural History Museum to get across the importance of categorisation to make sense of large amounts of content.
Top tip: to get to grips with your content, try categorising it in as “ridiculous” a way as possible first (one of his suggestions was ‘gross vs cute’). It might uncover something you eventually use when you lay out your strategy.
Lucie Pitcher described three ‘on-a-shoestring’ tools she found invaluable in her work with the BBC. Google Analytics, and SEO Moz will be familiar names to most, but Lucy also mentioned Crazy Egg, a very cheap click-tracking software that she highly recommends.
Depressing fact of the day: Lucie spent most of last Christmas doing deep analysis of the BBC site’s keyword performance. Manually.
Rick Yagodich, information architect extraordinaire, used his five minutes to talk about the necessity of including authors in the content management system (CMS) creation process. As an author who has suffered at the hands of an unruly CMS in the past this is something Junior Copywriter Tom wholeheartedly agreed with.
T-shirt slogan: “I’m hear to clear up your CMmess!”
Emily Turner told a tale of social media brand-jacking. Specifically how she created a parody twitter account off the back of John Lewis’ Snowman advert from November last year, and saw it snowball in popularity (and how it wasn’t so popular with the brand’s social agency).
What we learned: brands get very touchy when you hijack their ad campaigns. Especially when you do it better than the agency they hired to do the same job!
David Hawdale from Westminster City council crammed a huge amount of information into his short talk, which covered the use of content framing and layout to nudge users towards a desired behaviour. David explained that content is helping local government websites streamline operations by promoting less expensive services, from refuse collection to parking ticket challenges.
Quick quote: “Content is never neutral.”
James Offer is a freelance user-experience expert who talked about gamification of content and how ‘game thinking’ can help solve content problems. James picked out a couple of examples of ‘shell-games’, which can be used to pique your audience’s curiosity, create intrigue, and draw people in.
Favourite example: Condoms for pets, a neat shell-site used to get people excited about a fairly dull subject.
Paul Rissen‘s talk was interspersed with fun sci-fi and cult comedy references, which he used to explain his ideas about web organisation. For Rissen, interlinking storytelling principles are at the heart of a solid content organisation system.
Our main ‘take-away’: Don’t see your content as a block; identify connection points that link it to your other content and allow it to be re-used/modified.
Hannah Bullock, from the Eden Project, closed out the evening with a talk on applying agile principles in project management, a topic that captured the attention of our account executive Nick in particular. Hannah was keen to stress that agile is nothing to be scared of, but warned that being flexible was very different to simply ‘not having a plan’.
Lesson: don’t lose sight of the fact that words and pictures are the lifeblood of your site.