Editorial November/December 2021

Guest Editorial: The Business of Content

By Andrea L. Ames

We’re all in the business of content, whether we recognize or acknowledge it, or not. And like any business, we are achieving some level of success — sometimes very little and sometimes a lot. Defining an organization within a larger company as a “business” is akin to discussing reputation: You’ve got one. The crucial question is, “How consciously are you managing it?”

In fact, our business is quite complex, as we have “customers,” such as executive stakeholders, and “partners,” like engineering and product management, inside of our organizational ecosystem, as well as the external users for whom we create and deliver content.

Building Blocks of Business

Even taking that complexity into consideration, the basic skeleton of all business is the same:

Lead generation: Creating interest in products or services among prospective customers, or “prospects,” typically accomplished through marketing activities

Conversion: Turning prospects into customers, typically accomplished through sales activities

Delivery: Building and delivering the products or services that customers have purchased, typically accomplished through product or services development activities

At its core, lead generation is about understanding the needs and desires of a specific market well enough that you know where to find them and, once you find them, how to communicate effectively with them about your products or services. Consider in your content business: Who is your market? What do they need to know, believe, or do to be open to, and interested in, your products or services?

When the market (audience) and their needs and desires are aligned with messaging about products or services, conversion is much more likely to happen. The journey to conversion typically has several stops where prospects get to know, like, and trust us.

After a prospect has paid us and become a customer, we deliver value (hopefully!) to them. If we’ve designed the product well, to meet the needs of the customer and to live up to the claims we communicated to our prospects, then there should be no surprises, except positive surprises of overdelivering.

Content Team as Business

While we don’t often think about our team processes as including marketing and sales, in reality, they do. And again, the crucial question is, “How consciously are you performing these activities?”

We have two key markets that we want to interest in our wares: Our internal stakeholders and our external content consumers. From a marketing standpoint, the internal stakeholders are most important, as they are the gateway to reaching our external consumers with our content.

And when we have achieved the “know, like, and trust” factor with our internal stakeholders, then sales can begin. . .sales of our ideas, for support of our initiatives, and for requests for resources. This process takes time, as it requires that “know, like, and trust” factor, but the rewards of support and resources are worth the effort of building credibility with stakeholders.

For a more in-depth discussion of how to get what your content team needs, watch “Aligning Your Ask” on Coffee and Content: https://www .brighttalk.com/webcast/9273/441642

After we have that coveted support, we can begin to deliver value to our external consumers in the form of success through our content, as well as to our internal stakeholders as the outcomes of that content. . .outcomes that align with business priorities, such as trial conversions, product adoption, customer retention, and customer advocacy.

To accomplish all of this, we must be on our toes, ready to pivot, as any good business is, and we must be constantly learning and developing capability in areas that ensure success for our content consumers and enable us to operate efficiently and effectively. We must know how we are doing — collecting the right data and measuring the right activities and outcomes to demonstrate the value we are delivering.

As individuals in organizations, we need to acquire and strengthen our business skills to maintain our relevance. As contractors and consultants, we must run our own businesses and contribute to the results of our clients.

There is much to do, friends, and this is your invitation to join me on the journey!

In This Issue

The business of content is a huge topic and can’t be covered exhaustively in one Intercom issue, but the authors have done an outstanding job of covering some of the most challenging and important issues with practical advice that you can implement right away.

First up, in “Representing Documentation as Revenue Generating,” Jenifer Schlotfeldt, senior content strategist and content experience architect for IBM Cloud, provides the keys to showing the revenue-generating impact of documentation.

Next, Melissa Breker, CEO of Breker Group, and I team up in “Coaching Change: When Professional Becomes Personal” to provide advice for approaching change (the only business constant) positively from the human side.

Then Jennifer Fell, CEO of JF Content Solutions, and I tackle a perennial issue of organizational knowledge and learning by leveraging a business model in “The Done-With-You Model for Building Organizational Capability.”

Breaking from the organizational view of content business, Jack Molisani, President of ProSpring Technical Staffing, hands you a roadmap to the business skills every technical communicator needs for the most successful career in “Business Skills for Technical Communicators.”

Bonnie Denmark, former freelancer and current coordinator for the Business & Technical Writing option at Western Connecticut State University, sheds light on the business side of freelancing in “The Business of Technical Content for Freelancers.”

Aleshia Jefferson, a Senior Technical Content Writer at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois, shares a detailed case study where she puts to work the concepts of telling a content story with data to executives with great success in “Architecting Standard Operating Procedures in SharePoint Online.”

And finally, we have a reprint of “The Business Value of Content,” a 2020 paper from the STC Roundtable program. In it, we look at the costs of doing business, and how quality content, and in particular the outcomes of that content, can improve your organization’s bottom line.

The authors have provided their email addresses. I hope you will reach out and engage in discussion with them — I know they look forward to hearing from you and participating in some lively conversations about the business of content. I also hope that you enjoy the issue as much as I enjoyed curating it for you.

Here’s to your wild business success!

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