There must be a difficulty in writing books about content strategy. It’s an area that has existed for a very long time but only had a name for a few years. People who have been performing content strategy tasks as part of their job will be familiar with many of the techniques explained in a book that introduces concepts. Meanwhile, there might be terms that were agreed upon by those who are active in the content strategy community but are unfamiliar to those performing the role of a content strategists in an isolated bubble.
Colleen Jones’s book, Clout: the ART and SCIENCE of INFLUENTIAL WEB CONTENT, faces this problem from the outset. Right there on the cover it straddles the fence of condescension. Its subtitle invokes the renaissance and dares to use the word “influential”: Influence being the characteristic sought by all who write content for the web but never mentioned explicitly for fear of being judged manipulative.
In that way, Jones’s title teaches us the first lesson the book has to offer: Sometimes it’s better to be explicit than pretend to be something you’re not.
Inside the book, the lessons continue and it’s quickly evident that these are lessons for the less informed content creators. The reader is eased into the concept of content strategy. For the uninformed it’s an introduction while the informed are given some ready-formed arguments to help sell the idea of content strategy to those who need to buy it.
Jones’s book is a primer for content strategy, focussing more on creating content with a taste for the planning and analytics that go along with other parts of the strategy. She describes in appropriate detail why creating the right sort of content is difficult and how it’s a job that is never really finished.
Important for any introductory book, and successfully achieved by Jones, is informing the reader that there is still so much to learn before becoming an expert. Throughout Clout, she refers to the other leaders in content strategy like Ann Rockley, Kristina Halvorson and Erin Kissane, and she prescribes further reading into areas of marketing, planning, heuristics and analytics.
In Australia we’re particularly bad at explicit instruction. The title garnered some judgement amongst colleagues and judgemental looks on public transport. Our attitude is often “what could a book tell me about what I do?” The answer is: “A lot. Now, shut up and read.”
Clout puts the concept of content strategy into perspective for those who do it on a daily basis and those who are new to the idea. For those of us who work in the field, it serves as a reminder of what it is we’re trying to achieve and who to talk about it to those who have no idea.