Everybody thinks that content strategy is restricted to online businesses and the digital space, vis: Internet. Not so. In today’s post I’m going to make the point that even in perhaps unexpected areas and industries, content strategy is important.
This post also demonstrates that there may even be issues with the field calling itself “content strategy”.
Content Strategy: It’s information management in the 21st Century … only slightly different, and much bigger.
First, an example: Penfolds Wines
Note that this example was written in 2014; since then — five years! — the landscape may have changed. Consider this a snapsnot.
The brand examined here is one of the Barossa Valley’s largest wineries: Penfolds. This examination is purely to illustrate a point. I must also be very clear that I’ve never had any business dealings with Penfolds (though, wouldn’t it be nice.)
The reason I chose Penfolds is because it is not only a household name in Australia, it is a significant company.
Penfolds is an iconic South Australian brand. In fact, even if you don’t know much about them, you would surely know about their Grange, which is a National Trust heritage-listed wine.
With this on their side, and their age (200+ years — a long time in a young country!) Penfolds is, shall we say, old-school Australia. It is also one of the most trusted brands of wine. It is simultaneously luxurious and affordable, and those who can’t afford bottles of Grange still feel like they’re getting amongst it when they have any of the Koonunga Hill range on their bench tops.
This perhaps odd perception of the brand is because Penfolds has class but isn’t stuffy — and perhaps it’s because the brand always seems to be imbued with a youthful energy, despite its 200+ years.
So, let’s get into this. We’ll start with Penfolds online.
What content can we see?
Penfolds’s website has in the order of 228 pages, categorised into News & Events, Wines, Vineyards, Penfolds, Cellar Doors. It also has approximately 143 images, 66 pdfs, 30 external links, and few errors (I think I found 2). There are some things that could still be fixed to optimise the site, on a cursory glance, but otherwise all is good.
Keeping all of this in good order is a job in itself, not to mention the social presence that the winery has (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram), their iconic book that is released every five years, and more besides. The website’s blog (News & Events) is literally what it says it is: News and Events. There is not one item in that feed that you could say doesn’t fit the category. This has the additional benefit of meeting audience expectations immediately, and continuously.
Online content fits the brand
Penfolds’ presence online is friendly and conversational, and youthful. See my point earlier about the brand having class and youthful energy. Perhaps this is because the company has always been an innovator? I’m guessing, but likely it’s a good guess.
But think about the internal content!
Now, Penfolds is a large business. It has vineyards in the Barossa Valley, Magill, Eden Valley, McLaren Vale, and the Coonawarra. It also has cellar doors in Magill and the Barossa Valley. It maintains a restaurant at the Magill Estate, is an icon of South Australian business and tourism, and is extremely well regarded internationally.
Penfolds also has offices in Melbourne, in the Barossa, at Magill, in North America, and in the UK.
The sheer scale of content that this organisation would produce is enormous, just in keeping the business side of things running. Communication between offices is one thing; but communication between vineyards, wineries, staff, and the rest of the business is also enormous; as is communication with export and distribution.
External communications in terms of public relations, media, and advertising is another arm that also needs to be considered. These communications elements may appear online as well, and should certainly tie into the online presence of the brand, but let’s consider them separately, as each is a separate discipline.
The customer experience at all points is a further consideration: Is it the same, does it have the same feel, and is the brand represented the same way online, at cellar doors, over the phone, by email, and even in-store or at wine shows? In Penfolds’ case (from personal experience and in seeing representations online) the answer is a likely yes.
Whether their content strategy is is tied into the strategic direction of the business is a question we can’t answer by observing, but if it’s not then probably it would be close.
Websites are just the tip of the iceberg
You can see that when we start looking at a wholistic content strategy, we are in iceberg territory when we look just at a website. The notion of content strategy relating only to digital spaces is remiss. It doesn’t see the opportunity to help a company of Penfolds’ dimensions to assess the performance and lifecycles of their content as a whole.
All of an organisation’s content needs to match the business’s strategic goals, values, beliefs, goals, and style. And all of it must be maintained and kept current.
You can also see the danger of content strategy as a field limiting itself to “digital content” when in fact, we should perhaps be named information strategists instead.
Since this was written, some things have changed. Among them, “content strategy”
While this article was originally a post about the field of content strategy, and how damaging it is to you to imagine that it covers just digital content, a fair bit has shifted in five years.
Critically, the field is moving to “content operations” to better describe its impact.
As for us, here at Brutal Pixie? We’ve simply gone back to what we know, and what we know works. Communications, information, content… it’s all published at some point. It doesn’t matter whether you hit send on an email, publish a post on an intranet, or publish a vlog on YouTube: It’s all publishing. So, really, that’s where this whole content strategy/marketing/operations bizzo has ended up for us.
Web pages are often where content operations people find their work ends up, but there is so much more to the work.
It was interesting that, when this piece was first published, a rep from Penfolds reached out to us and told us that we were on the money with our assessment. Goes to show that people can understand a vast amount about your business, even externally, using some basic (free) tools and the right understanding.
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