The Elements of Content Strategy by Erin Kissane (also available from the publisher, A Book Apart, possibly cheaper. Support your small press publishers!)
Note: at the time of this writing, the paperback has been out of print for quite a while. I’m hoping that’s because they’re doing a second edition because this is a fantastic book. Meanwhile the e-book version is still available through A Book Apart through the links above.
As an Information Architect, I’ve dabbled in the more IA-like parts of Content Strategy for a number of years… but without necessarily knowing that’s what I was doing. CS has been a thing that the Documentation/Writing/Marketing teams did, not something that directly affected me. On the other hand, when I’ve worked with Content Strategists, we’ve produced better projects than I could dream of doing on my own.
Erin Kissane’s book, as a primer on content strategy, will provide you with a short history of the field, the kinds of skillsets that are adjacent to Content Strategy, the kinds of work that Content Strategists do, and the kinds of pitfalls to look out for as a Content Strategist.
If you know nothing about Content Strategy, pay close attention to the Design Principles provided at the beginning of the book. Strategists I’ve worked with who align to those principles have been highly successful; strategists who work off of “please the client” principles instead have caused nothing but disruption for otherwise on-track work.
For me, one of the biggest takeaways is that I need to learn more about editorial work if I want to pitch in as a content strategist as needed. Your takeaways will likely be different, because you likely don’t have my work history ;)
How to Make Sense of Any Mess by Abby Covert will help you do two things:
- Understand how to break a big hairy problem into smaller steps so that you can approach solving it.
- Understand some approaches to solving it.
It will give you examples of various activities, tools (i.e. worksheets) and things to understand about problems. It’ll do this one page at a time, which is to say each of the 150ish pages covers exactly one topic, and covers it well enough that you’ll know how to move forward to the next topic. It also gives references and resources to places that you can learn more, because let’s face it, 150 topics is a few too many for anyone to cover in depth in one book.
Many of the topics in this book are topics of their own.
But that’s really the point of this book beyond all the others: it’s the book to help you find the path through the mess you’re dealing with, and help you identify what you need to know more about. It’s the solution to the “I don’t know what I don’t know” problem, at the highest level.
It’s immediately on my recommendation list for all new Information Architects, User Experience Designers, and a good number of others that are both inside the Information Technology field and outside of it. This book is well-written enough that I feel like I could hand it to someone in a totally different industry and say “Hey, here’s where to start” or “Hey, if you’ve ever wondered what I do for a living…”
I’m glad it’s a tool I can now use to make my own work better.