What is content strategy really about?

This week on the Boagworld Show we chat with Kristina Halvorson about what it really means to offer content strategy.

Skip to the interview (18:36) or this week’s links.

The transcription for this week’s show has been kindly provided by the team at Template Monster. Meanwhile this week’s terrible joke is brought to you by Perch! Support the show

Paul: Hello, welcome to boagworld.com, the podcast for those folks who are designing, developing, and running websites on a daily basis. My name is Paul and joining me is Marcus.

Marcus: Hello, Paul. How are you?

Paul: I am super lovely and wonderful.

Marcus: [Laughs] That’s good to hear.  

Paul: Do you know why I’m super wonderful and lovely?

Marcus: Go and tell me.  

Paul: Because I’m finally escaping your evil clutches.

Marcus: [Laughs] Yes, I guess most people would have read this, whenever it was. I could never know what day is supposed to be –

Paul: Yes, don’t worry about it. I don’t think they would have read it. You see, I think you overestimate how much people pay attention to us. I think it’s fairly – no. So shall we let them know the good news?

Marcus: Well. We’re finally getting rid of the deadwood?  

Paul: You’re finally firing me.

Marcus: [Laughs]

Paul: Hey, do you want to explain it or should I? Never mind. If I explain it, it will be explained from my unique perspective.

Marcus: You start off and I’ll just set you right.  

Paul: You’ll tell me where I’m wrong.

Marcus: Yes, yes.  

Paul: So I’m stepping down as a full time employee of Headscape and I’m striking out on my own, doing lots of exciting things that I don’t know quite what they are yet. I’m actually crapping myself now. I’ve suddenly realized what an easy life I’ve had at Headscape. And now I need to do some proper work. But Marcus and Chris are continuing on –

Marcus: We are, right.  

Paul: – which I find deeply hurtful probably because you won’t notice the difference of me being gone.

Marcus: Oh, I think we will because I’m going to have to struggle hard to say nice things about you, Paul. We will but I think to be fair, you’ve been doing the kind of thing that you want to do more of for quite a few years now anyway.  

Paul: Yes, I have.

Marcus: You’ve done less and less project work. So, going along this route of doing more of writing and that kind of stuff. You’ve written how many books over the last few years. And it seems to be the thing that you like doing and you’re good at. So, it wasn’t a huge surprise, a bit of surprise. But it wasn’t a huge surprise if you wanted to come and just see how you get on just doing it on your own. Of course, we’re going to miss you, Paul.

Paul: I don’t think you’re going to miss me that much mainly because I don’t think things are going to change as much as we think that. When you say something nice, it sounds so big, doesn’t it? And it’s true. But I’m still remaining a director of Headscape or non-executive director. I don’t even know what that means, so it’s probably – find that out at some point.

Marcus: It means I still own you.  

Paul: You still own me. Ah, is that what I’ve agreed to?

Marcus: [Laughs] No, not really, no.  

Paul: I still have a small shareholding in the company which means that I can tell you you’re doing it wrong.

Marcus: Yes, that’s again not wanting to say too many nice things about you, Paul, but you’ve had a huge part in Headscape. You’ve been the figurehead of the company for a very, very long time now. So, continuing to have that voice as part of us going forward is really important to Chris and I, and so the rest of the guys. So yes, that’s why we wanted you to stay on as a non-executive director.  

Paul: And most importantly, the thing that people care most about isn’t going to make any difference to this podcast, whatsoever.

Marcus: No, definitely. One of the things that obviously are a concern to me going forward is that everyone’s going to forget about Headscape.  

Paul: No. They obviously love Headscape. They love you, Marcus.

Marcus: Of course they do. That’s, yes. That’s why you kept me on because people love me and they don’t love you.  

Paul: Yes, I knew that if I threw you off the podcast, essentially there would be uproar.

Marcus: Yes, exactly. And it would go back to like first [crosstalk 04:51.8].  

Paul: Yes, it’s just we say, “Hello. My name is Paul.” Like that.

Marcus: [Laughs] Yes, so it’s kind of down to me and some of the other guys, Lee, who’s obviously been on the podcast many times previously, and I’d like to get him back on it again at some point.

Paul: Yay!

Marcus: It’s kind of down to us to wave the Headscape flag or banging the drum, mixing my metaphors or whatever. Banging the flag, that sounds bad, doesn’t it?  

Paul: Banging the flag.

Marcus: [Laughs] Waving the Headscape flag, it’s down to us to do that more now that you are going to be doing that on your own much more. So, me, continuing on the podcast is something that obviously I’m very keen to do.

Paul: I think to briefly explain to people what I’m doing and what you’re doing; so people, if they want to spend money with us, which – Why wouldn’t they? Do they know where to go?

Marcus: Yes.  

Paul: So here’s the summarized version. So I’m going to be mainly focusing on – There are four areas I’m going to be focusing on. I’m going to be doing my speaking and my writing still. I’m going to do training stuff. So if you’ve got an organization or company, and you want me to get me in to do some training on various issues, then you can do that.

I’m also going to be doing some mentorship. So if you got a web design agency and you want a little bit of help and advice somebody that you can – If it’s just a web design agency; and so if you’re a founder or a digital leader – something like that, when you’re on your own and you need a little bit of support, then you can get in touch with me and I can help with that.

The area that may cause a slight bit of confusion – because none of that, that I said so far is really Headscapey thing. The area that needs a bit complication is consultancy, because Headscape will continue to do its design and development stuff. I’m not going to do design and development stuff. So, that’s Headscape for that kind of thing.

When you hit consultancy, it depends on what type of consultancy you want. If you want that kind of in-depth research or stakeholder interviews, analytic reviews, that kind of stuff then that’s very much a Headscape thing. If you’re looking for someone to come in and spend a day doing some workshops with you or write your site review, or that kind of more lightweight thing, then that’s probably more my kind of area.

We will overlap a little bit. And to be frank, it doesn’t really matter that much, so you go to; because if we work out, we need the other person. We can sort out the difference and we can get them involved. So I’m hoping that I will be hiring Headscape and Headscape will be hiring me.

Marcus: Yes, that’s how I was going to test or tag along to the end of that. I’m trying to think of a good example. You’ve recently worked with St. Andrews University on the –

Paul: I’ll tell you a really good example. Sorry to interrupt you. St. Andrews isn’t really a particularly good one because that’s been mainly me. The good one is the University of Hull because on that particular project, Chris was doing a lot of work with them – doing stakeholder interviews, and analytics reviews, and writing strategy documents, and all this kind of stuff. And lo, we will do some strategy documents, no doubt. Generally speaking, that was kind of Headscape part. And then I came in and I did some workshops, and I did some big presentations, and that kind of thing. So that’s how the model I think would probably work in most cases.

Marcus: Yes, I wanted to use St. Andrews as an example, as a one-off, like you will only deal for them. You just go up and bang a few heads together, looking in the right direction, that kind of thing. If we had a project like that, we’ve gone to hire you to do that piece of work. But I guess if what you’re looking for is something that’s more across the board, if you want something bright, we got this new project. We need to start from A and end up with Z.

Then, if part of that was stuff that you don’t do but part of it is stuff that you do do, we still want to work with you on that very much. So if there is a piece of that project that is something that you would have done in the past, then we’re just going to just go bring it up and say, “Hi, Paul. We got this project. Can you come in and help us?” So in that point of view, I still think that people will be able to hire Headscape in the way they have been hiring Headscape. It’s just that it will be a subcontracted thing.  

Paul: Another thing is also, is a degree where it’s been an opportunity for you guys to reimagine Headscape a little bit as well, which is good. We know that you will continue to deliver work you’ve delivered in the past. It’s opening up the new kinds of design and development work that you can do. So, if before, you’ve gone, “Oh, perhaps Headscape isn’t the right fit for us,” it’s worth keeping an eye out on the Headscape blog that we’re going to be launching soon. And just what Marcus is tweeting and stuff like that, because I know that they’ve got some great plans in-store for the new kind of design and development work that they’re going to be taking on and, yes.

Marcus: Definitely, it does feel a little bit like new beginnings I have to say.  

Paul: Yes, it does.

Marcus: And we’ve been doing this for so long. A little bit of an injection of something new I think is a good thing. It’s quite scary as you said, scary from everyone’s point of view. But I think Kris and I wouldn’t be carrying on if we didn’t think we could keep it going in a good way. So –

Paul: Oh, yes.

Marcus: – it’s exciting as well as scary at the same time.  

Paul: It would be insanity for you – you just stop at this point. It was really interesting because when we originally started, that’s what we said we would do, wouldn’t it? If one of us stopped, we said we would all stop but Mary comes to it, who’d be silly?

Marcus: Yes, but there’s a lot of people, were for Headscape who were great and we want to carry on doing that. But at the same time, it does feel a bit of new beginnings.  

Paul: But it’s really important that you could carry on. Do you want to know why?

Marcus: Go on then.  

Paul: So that when I horribly screw up and I’ve got no work, I can come grovelling back to you, and ask you if I could have a job as a junior designer.

Marcus: [Laughs] I really don’t think you will, Paul. But obviously I’ll enjoy that day. I’ll listen carefully if that day comes.  

Paul: To be honest, I don’t think I could get a job as a junior designer.

Marcus: No one would employ you.

Paul: No.

Marcus: Not because you couldn’t do the job but just because they think, “No I can’t go working with Paul because he’d takeover.”  

Paul: I wouldn’t.

Marcus: Yes, you would.  

Paul: I’ll be a broken man by that point. Don’t forget [laughs].

Marcus: Now I’m excited for you as well. I’ll be very interested to see where life takes you because one of the reasons that you’re keen to make the separation was that you can manage your own time.  

Paul: Oh, yes.

Marcus: Which obviously, if you’re a part of –

Paul: A team.

Marcus: – a company, you head up the company and you have demands on your time, all the time – “Can you do this?” “Can you do that?” If you’re your own boss, you can go what? "I’d fancy that today,” or “I’m going to go away for three months and work elsewhere,” which obviously wasn’t something you could do easily.  

Paul: Yes, don’t you think you stock up an interesting point? We haven’t said why I’m doing this.

Marcus: Yes, why are you doing this?  

Paul: It’s not because I’m fed up with Marcus.

Marcus: [Laughs]

Paul: That’s obviously the case but that happened several years ago, and I’ve managed to struggle on. So it’s not anything to do with our relationship at Headscape. To be honest, the main part is we started home school at St. James. And that’s given us a load of flexibility in life. And now, it was just really my responsibility to Headscape. They were holding us back a little bit. So it’s a lifestyle choice really. That’s all it comes down to. And Headscape is always supposed to be a lifestyle business for us, and we’ll continue to be so for you. But in my particular situation, change; so I thought, “Yes. Let’s do something a bit different.”

Marcus: So have you got any plans on that front? Are you going to go anywhere?

Paul: Oh, yes. We’ve already started planning. We’re actually seeing really sensible shop – a new business; and then, buy a new motor home.

Marcus: [Laughs]

Paul: We will. We’ll basically become travellers, right? And we’ll sponge off the state and various other things. We’ll let our dogs running loose in some people’s gardens, and sell them heather. This is going to mean anything to anybody that doesn’t know all of the stereotypes of –

Marcus: No, I’m noting the time where I have to identify these things.  

Paul: No, no. It’s okay. I’m talking about stereotypes. I’m not suggesting other people already know that. You can in this area because we have loads of travellers right now. In fact in Blandford, the church that we have here is one of the big places where they bury their dead.

Marcus: All right.

Paul: And so you have huge funerals that are really very cool funerals. They know how to do the funeral. But anyway that’s so beside the point. So yes, we’re going to do a bit travelling and stuff like that, which will be cool. But I don’t know really. I don’t know whether I’m going to be able to feed my family in a fortnight, so one thing that I make.

Marcus: Yes, that’s –

Paul: [Laughs] So yes, talking of feeding my family, please check out [laughs] – Check out boagworks.com. With space, it just takes you to Boagworld site, but it gives you a new section of Boagworld site which has got all of my information about what I’ll be doing, and how I’ll be doing it. So link in show notes to that.

Marcus: Yes, move on.

Paul: Let’s talk about what we’re going to be talking about, if that makes sense. Actually before we get on to that, before we go on to our interview that we’re going to do in just a minute, I do want to quickly mention TemplateMonster that is sponsoring this week’s transcription again. This is going to be a change that you notice with the Boagworld podcast because Paul no longer has any money, and isn’t being funded by Headscape. Paul is going – I started talking in the third person; I don’t know why I’m doing this. I’m going to have to introduce some advertising into the job, but we’re going to do it very discretely. You won’t even notice it’s happening. It’s fine.

But we’re getting TemplateMonster to sponsor the transcriptions because they’re really important. I want to keep doing them. But they’re quite expensive. And TemplateMonster agree to help out with that, which is wonderful. They’ve got over 46,000 designs on their site. It’s quite incredible site. TemplateMonster has been around since 2002, Marcus. That’s as long as Headscape.

Marcus: Wow, I didn’t know that.

Paul: I know. They’ve got so much stuff on their site – 46,000 designs. But it’s not just websites here. They got Facebook, then page designs. They got newsletter, email newsletter designs. They got Flash stuff. They got PowerPoint templates, all kinds of stuff. So go, check them out at TemplateMonster.com.

I’ll say more about it next week because they’re sponsoring transcription again next week, because they’re just awesome. But let’s move on to our interview for today. We’re talking to Kristina Halvorson who’s – Yes, you’re a little bit of a fan boy, aren’t you?

Marcus: I am, yes.

Paul: And you adapted that you miss this interview, wouldn’t you? Ha! Ha! Ha!

Marcus: Yes, I have some important Headscape business –

Paul: Important Headscape business.

Marcus: – to deal with. I can’t even remember what it was. And no, I can’t. Actually I had to do a presentation, so it’s hard. That’s the way it goes. I saw Kristina Halvorson speak at South by Southwest in 2010, I think. It was like, “Oh, this sounds important.” And also, stuff I’ve been thinking at that time in my – I didn’t describe it in the way that she described it eloquently. But it was stuff that I thought, “This is important people –” because I can just remember the time I kept going on about people weren’t dealing with content. It’s just being like snapped on at the end, or even worse than that. People didn’t even realize that it was something they had to worry about.

And we were guilty. Agencies were guilty of that as well. It’s kind of "Oh, just fill up this great thing we just built with words. And she opened my eyes to the importance of content and content strategy; and put some thoughts I had into sensible words that other people could understand. So yes, that was good. But I missed the interview so, “Hi-hi.”

Paul: But you did read her book which is very unusual, “Content Strategy for the Web” by Kristina Halvorson and Melissa Rach, right? Rach. So we’ve done that anyway.

Marcus: Well, I have recently bought – which is to that –

Paul: Oh, was it really?

Marcus: Yes, maybe the updated version has got more – I’m pulling it off the shelf yes, “Content Strategy for the Web” by Kristina Halvorson.

Paul: There you go. So yes, that has been incredibly good, useful, and inspiring book but I haven’t read it. I’ll put a link in the show notes. It’s worth getting. This is second edition now. So it’s more relevant than when Marcus read it in 1943.

Marcus: [Laughs] 2010, I’m looking at the date in the front cover.

Paul: That’s incredible.

Marcus: Five years ago. So 2010 in my head is not five years ago.

Paul: I know. Just don’t even start me on that. So we got Kristina on the show. It’s a great interview. She talks about content strategy and why content strategy is so important. So here is Kristina.

Interview with Kristina Halvorson

Kristina Halvorson
Kristina Halvorson joins us to discuss what it really means to be a content strategist.

Paul: Hello.

Kristiana: Hey, good morning.

Paul: How are you?

Kristiana: Good afternoon, yes.

Paul: Afternoon [laughs] because obviously we’re at the center of the universe and everything revolves around our time.

Kristiana: That’s what I hear. That’s what I hear.

Paul: Great in the meantime, see?

Kristiana: Exactly, exactly.

Paul: We’re in zero sound [laughs]. Good to talk to you, Kristina.

Kristiana: You too. It feels very funny that we’ve never spoken before.

Paul: I know. It’s peculiar, isn’t it?

Kristiana: It is.

Paul: I’m not quite sure why that’s the case. We’ve never been at a conference together. Is it that you don’t get out much or you’ve been avoiding me? What’s going on?

Kristiana: [Laughs] That’s my problem. That’s my problem. I don’t get out enough. That’s right.

Paul: [Laughs] Yes, basically thank you very much for doing this.

Kristiana: Oh, absolutely. It’s my pleasure.

Paul: The plan with the season is that we’re looking at areas where we at Headscape, or we – Marcus and myself – are particularly weak. Basically, we’re using the podcast as an excuse to get a lot of free consultancy from people.

Kristiana: That’s fantastic.

Paul: So that’s the plan of today. So I think your brains learn a lot of stuff; and then, look cleverer later.

Kristiana: [Laughs] I need to pick up on that.

Paul: It’s a good tactic.

Kristiana: Indeed.

Paul: So, you know what? I was going to do a proper introduction to this podcast but we started on such a high, then I think – and I’m recording this anyway.

Kristiana: Of course, you are.

Paul: I think we’d just keep going.

Kristiana: [Laughs] Okay.

Paul: So shall we count less this part of the interview?

Kristiana: Absolutely, that’s fine. The one side note I will let you know is that I don’t know what happened to my Skype call recorder. So I am not able to record on this one. Is that okay?

Paul: That’s no problem at all. I will just make sure I don’t screw this up like I did the last interview.

Kristiana: Okay [laughs].

Paul: Where I completely –

Kristiana: I’m sure. I think it’s all in the casual conversation anyway so, exactly.

Paul: Exactly. People don’t want a formal interview.

Kristiana: They really don’t.

Paul: It sounds far too boring. Marcus sent his apology. He’s not with us today.

Kristiana: Oh, that’s too bad. Well, no problem.

Paul: He’s got some excuse about he’s got a British telecom guy fixing his telephone line.

Kristiana: A-ha.

Paul: But I think he was just a bit star struck.

Kristiana: Oh! [Laughs]

Paul: Seriously, he’s got a little bit of a fan boy thing going on with you. He saw you speak, years ago, somewhere. I can’t even remember where it was. And he came back and bought your book and started raving about you.

Kristiana: Well, isn’t that lovely?

Paul: Well, it isn’t going to say to the ocean?

Kristiana: That was back in the day before I was jaded, jaded and bitter.

Paul: Oh, I know that feeling.

Kristiana: [Laughs]

Paul: It’s nice to have Marcus as a fan boy. It’s unless there’s an ocean between you and him; otherwise, he gets a bit disturbing.

Kristiana: Little stalker, little stalkers.

Paul: Yes, he’s got a little bit of that about him.

Kristiana: Yes.

Paul: So, thank you so much for coming on the show. It’s absolutely brilliant and that’s pretty shaky. We’re supposed to be talking about content strategy stuff; because as I explained, I basically want you to prop up my failing business. Okay.

Kristiana: [Laughs] Getting it, all right, all right.

Paul: So, is that work for you? Because we’ve talked about working together for a long time and it’s never actually happened, is it?

Kristiana: No, it hasn’t. I talk quite a bit with a few superstars like you in the U.K., and it just never seems to come to fruition. It’s a big ocean between us.

Paul: It is. It is. One day, it’s going to happen. So tell us – You run a content strategy agency called “Brain Traffic.” Is that –?

Kristiana: I do.

Paul: Is that a good way of describing you?

Kristiana: Yes, although we prefer consultancy.

Paul: Ooh! See, we avoid the word “consultancy” because I always think consultancy sounds like you’re paying money for nothing.

Kristiana: Oh, [laughs]. Our clients don’t think so. Sorry.

Paul: Okay, but I wonder if that’s an American-U.K. thing?

Kristiana: No, I don’t think so. I think that typically, when I think of the word “agency,” I think about at least the folks I tend to run into via my clients. They’re people that are making stuff, right? They’re selling stuff. And I find that my clients have enough stuff and they don’t know what to do with it. And so that’s where we tend to come in and assist with the purpose piece.

Paul: Yes, so that makes it a lot of sense because if you’re completely right, most people I encounter have got far too much content. They don’t need more of it. They need less, save it.

Kristiana: No, they don’t. Indeed, they do.

Paul: So this is a really interesting area for us because we position ourselves as a user experience agency. So we help our clients create user experience. I know it’s to use the word “experience” rather than the interface intentionally because we spend as much time working on government stuff and organizational stuff, and that kind of thing as we do user interfaces.

Now obviously, a big part of that is managing message, and not just the message but how content’s put on there, how it’s managed, what’s removed, what’s added, all of that kind of stuff. I wouldn’t say we’re content strategists, if that makes sense. It’s overly wooly, isn’t it? Where it is what you do start what we do stop?

Kristiana: Yes. No, that’s an outstanding question and more and more. I’m not sure I could tell you. I think that there are a couple of big problems that we tend to run into when we walk through the door. People will call us and they’ll say, “We have too much content,” or “We have a million websites and they’re not connected,” or “We’re producing content in silos and it’s all very inconsistent or redundant.”

And usually when we walk in, the very first thing we end up talking about of course is process and the governance, which is also a sticky word which we can talk about in just a minute. But more and more, the pieces that we see missing are client or a customer research. That’s just a really big one where we have companies really operating on assumptions or on data points that are like number of clicks or time spent on the website.

It’s sort of antiquated metrics which is difficult because there is so much data available. But again, there is really nothing that replaces just talking to customers or potential customers or ex-customers. And a lot of times, organizations are like, “Ah, yes we haven’t,” “We did that in 2012 or 2011” right? And so, while we don’t offer customer research services oftentimes, we’re able to find where those services are supposed to sit within an organization; and then, we put the screws through them.

And so, really though our primary areas of service are broken down at this point. We offer content strategy for websites which frankly I think is more likely to – We approach it more as content planning and not just what should go where, but also to your point, messaging and structure, even looking at a very high level at any rate, the CMS or the lack thereof that’s managing the content.

And then, the other piece that we enter into very quickly is what we’re calling right now “Content Strategy for the Enterprise” which again I don’t know if that’s the appropriate thing to call it because oftentimes, what it ends up being is ensuring that the vision for how this content is going to live and be shared throughout the enterprise, and in the digital space. That vision is often either inarticulate or unknown to the team members. And then we get that down into strategy which is, “Okay we can’t realize the vision in the next six to nine months.” So, what piece of that are we going to tackle in order to move us forward?

That’s really where we begin to talk about content strategy. Are you going to focus on your technical infrastructure? Are you going to focus on content quality? Are you going to focus on getting websites all in a row or at least working together? And then obviously, how is this going to have an impact on team structure who, from the government standpoint, that’s to make decisions about what is going to happen and what’s not going to happen?

And again, that sort of leads more towards change in management, I think. And that’s an area where we’re just feeling our way through. But as you know, so much of any process in getting people to make a decision is simply getting them aligned. And that is where a lot of the workshops and the on-going interviews and conversations and documentation that we do, that’s all what that geared toward. But ultimately, we want them to make smart decisions about their content. And that can manifest in a lot of different ways.

Paul: Oh, it feels like people are coming at these problems from lots of different angels, doesn’t it?

Kristiana: They sure are. Oh, yes.

Paul: You’ve got the market; you people coming at it from that kind of angle. You’ve got your business strategies. You’ve got your content people. You ask people, all coming and essentially confronting the same problem which is that from a digital perspective, organizations are – A lot of organizations are just digitally incompatible. They’ve got processes and ways of working from a pre-digital world that no longer adapts to the way that consumers think and operate these days.

Kristiana: Yes, I couldn’t agree more. And I think that interestingly, when we talk about customer’s centricity, which is one of those buzz words but I think it’s very relevant, we often are pointing to companies like Amazon or Netflix or Zappos. But these are all companies that were born online, right? And so they were built in the realities of digital and the internet. And a lot of these, especially large companies are still even – They can’t manage their websites. The very basic building block of the digital presence; and so kind of coming to terms with the fact that this is going to take much larger change than just expanding our adding headcount to your digital services, that’s a really, really difficult thing for organizations to come to terms with.

The other piece that I see is – this is very difficult to companies who have sort of big, big teams with skillsets that just aren’t – They’re not the right skillsets, so organizations were like, “Well, what do we do?” “Do we just lay all these people off?” And obviously, their first thing that they want to do is try to get these people into different roles and train them how to be digitally savvy, and that’s a really long process that is not going to be fixed by a couple of workshops.

Paul: I mean the other problem as well, while even within the kind of digital teams you’re going to an organization that’s got a web team; and because that web team is originally born out of IT services, 50%, 60%, 70% of the team are techies, when actually 50%, 60%, 70% of the team should be content people.

Kristiana: Yes, I agree. And the content people, often times what we’ve find, are still sitting in creative services. And that’s really difficult too, because these are folks that don’t necessarily have first-hand experience with usability or with what it means to create a user experience. And then; oftentimes, don’t have direct access to customer research that is really going to help them start seeing things from the inside out, versus talking from the outside…wait.

Paul: Yes. I know it could be.

Kristiana: Right? Yes, [crosstalk 0:31:44.5] –

Paul: I know where you’re getting at.

Kristiana: – stop, right.

Paul: Yes. I always have to say probably with the phrase being a small fish in the big pond and a big fish in a small – I always get that the wrong way around as well.

Kristiana: Okay, good. Thank you.

Paul: One of those things I learned. Hey, talking about people coming at the problem for lots of different angles, and of one of the things that disrupt me recently is how SEO people are beginning to move on to your turf. Have you noticed this?

Kristiana: Oh, sure. I think I always referred to Erin Kissane’s book, “The Elements of Content Strategy” where she talks about content strategy as a very big tent. And I see I was definitely a part of it. And so, I think that at least what’s difficult here is that now we have this new tent called content marketing, right? And SEO folks – Well, what we’ve seen is SEO folks and social media and digital marketers have also re-jumped on this train – “Oh, yes it’s about the content, it’s about content marketing”. But of course often times, the way that message is interpreted, we need more content if we’re going to stay relevant.

And you know this is something that SEO folks were preaching 10 years ago – "Well, you’ve got to have a more contents that are regularly updated. But what we’re seeing more and more, and actually something that I have very quietly started fabricating for, is that search engine optimization really does come down to ensuring that the content that is on the page is well-structured, relevant, and complete, right? However large of the role metadata plays these days, it’s so important that it’s clean because the meta description is what shows up in the search results. That’s going to determine whether or not people click on it. That requires thoughtful approach to planning.

What they’ve started to advocate for is “Well, why don’t we start thinking about search engine optimization since that has a direct impact on the substance and the quality of the content? If so, why don’t start thinking about SEO and search engine in marketing as sort of two different areas of expertise,” because I find that they really lumped in together and that can really have an impact on the end product when we talk about content quality.

Paul: I find actually sometimes, looking about this things like SEO can be quite a good way to get a client to focus on only user and only questions that users have, because that determines the questions that people have of what they type into search engines. So, it does actually – There is a huge SEO benefit of being used as centric to writing in a way that users can associate with the answers, directly the questions they have rather than just pushing the marketing agenda or whatever.

Kristiana: Yes. And I think, Lou Rosenfeld wrote that great book, “Site Search Analytics” [sic] were here, it was basically like, “Look! The things that people are actually searching on your site are really your biggest –” That’s a gold mine that a lot of companies don’t really think about because they’re so focused on getting on page one or two of Google results.

Paul: Yes, absolutely. You talked about the fact that people are producing probably more content than they need to. One of the things you advocated in your book – I’m interested to see whether you’re still taking this approach – is this kind of site audit approach, because what’s become relevant just from chatting to you now is that, you seem to be dealing with some fairly hefty organizations these days. And certainly some of the clients we work with, they’ve got hundreds of thousands of pages of content. So, kind of going through that and auditing it is always impractical. So I’m interested in how you approach things these days.

Kristiana: Yes. Well, there are really two reasons that we’ll do an audit. We have never audited nor would I recommend trying to audit a site with hundreds of thousands of pages. But to your point, it’s impractical and I don’t really know what the end purpose would be. Okay. We’ve got 500,000 pages and 400,000 of them nobody’s touched in the last three years. Great! We already knew that.

Really, there are two reasons that we’ll audit content. The first of which is, if clients just simply have no idea where anything sits or they’re concerned about a bunch of orphan pages. It’s clear that the metadata is in poor shape, or they need to build some kind of a business case to really show “Look. These experts came and they ranked 80% of our content totally not readable". I think that most pages we’ve audited were 5,000 help pages for a large technical services organization. And that something that we ended up doing manually simply because they really needed to understand the quality of this support content.

The first thing we’ll do these days is run outside, spidering tool to get that quantity of data spit back at us, and the one that we prefer is called “Content Analysis Tool” developed by Paula Land and Content Insight. It really gives lovely data that then we can tweak and work, and if that’s all we want to present to clients saying, “Look at how poor the structure this is or you had 5% for four pages". That’s something very helpful but when we are dealing with any sort of qualitative information, that is something we usually can’t get to more than those 5,000 pages. That itself is a really hefty project. But those are sort of what do you have, where does it sit, and how could we assess quality; and then, prioritize where and how to get started on improving it.

Paul: Absolutely. When you get then into – You’ve talked about governance earlier. We touched on that briefly. You said at one point that that is the key word, and going in time, we just find this, it’s hugely problematic area to get into, because it starts affecting organizational change and who reports into whom and power struggles, and all those kinds of things. So, I’m quite interested in how you go about approaching that side of the content strategy work you do.

Kristiana: Governance, I feel, is a process because to your point, everybody wants ownership, right? And the minute you start talking about governance, people are like, “Well, you can’t tell me what do with my content because I know my content best, and I know my audience." And where do you get off telling them to change messaging or who is in tone or the amount of content, or whatever. And really, the way that we try to talk about governance is that look. Yes, there’s got to be a top down quality to it, but it’s a lot less about necessarily oversight, and a lot more about the decision making process, and who gets to make those calls.

Lisa Welchman has a book coming out on governance which I’ve been waiting for about 10 years that really talks about how to introduce it into an organization; what the structure of the council or decision making framework looks like. And there’s going to be an element of it where people get to say no, but somebody has got to say no because the fact that we don’t know who’s making those calls is what gets us into these masses of content in the first place.

Paul: I think there could be some advantages as well to being on the outside in conversations like that. Being an agency, you can go in and say and do things that the internal client could never get away with. So you can kind of make suggestions about governance and ask the stupid questions because you know no better. So, that’s your bit of an advantage. But for us, that’s just the technique that I do, complete ignorance and stupidity seem to work for me [laughs].

Kristiana: Exactly. Do you find that in all areas of your life?

Paul: I do actually, yes.

Kristiana: [Laughs]

Paul: It’s a recurring thing that seems to come up quite a lot.

Kristiana: Yes. I find it the most powerful thing and I talk about this a lot. And the talks that I give are not even necessarily coming to the table with recommendations. Obviously that’s the end product, but a lot of times, it’s just in the questions that you’re asked. I always know if somebody stops and says, “That’s a really great question that I’ve really hit on something," right? Because they’ve never considered it or they don’t have an answer to it. That is usually I will come back to the table with recommendations, and a lot of it is like, “Here are a bunch of gaps in knowledge that I found. It’s difficult for me to make recommendations about where to prioritize content initiative, if we can’t prioritize answers to these questions first.

Paul: Yes. Basic things like, who are your target audience; what priorities have they got? What are your business objectives? It amazes me when established organizations can’t answer some of these basic questions. It’s quite scaring me [chuckles].

Kristiana: What’s interesting to me is that leadership often thinks they have the answers to those questions and that it’s everybody else’s faults that they don’t know. Every article you read on leadership is, it is your responsibility to create articulate, informed stories that you can then share with teams, everything from your director, all the way to the front lines – I hate saying up and down. You know what I mean? And make sure that everybody knows what they’re working towards and how they’re contributing; and ultimately, if there isn’t a sound of business strategy right at the top of leadership, you’ve got some significant challenges.

Paul: Absolutely. Okay. One moment I love when you sit down with clients and you start trying training with them, the moment when they go and close the door, you have –

Kristiana: [Laugh] Yes, for sure.

Paul: The moment when they want to tell you something, and I always find that a very encouraging moment, because when you got engage that kind of personality element which I think is a big aspect of managing content, or structure, or how digital it’s approached for any of these crazy kinds of things, do you get involved in that kind of thing? Do you try and stay clear of it?

Kristiana: Oh, no. You have to get involved in that kind of thing. There are several folks in the content strategy community that write about and talk about empathy. And not just for our clients but for the teams that we’re working with. Because there are very few people that wake up in the morning and think, “How can I go into work and do a crack job today?” People want to contribute. They want to feel good about their work. Interestingly, a lot of what we see is just taking the time to get to know the culture, and the different personalities involved. Our business model is such that I have a couple of fulltime content strategists, but that I also will contract with a lot of different folks throughout the country.

And part of that, is that the cultural stuff that we tackle and the company cultures that we work within, oftentimes, require certain kinds of personalities. So, some clients neither are really strong leadership almost who’s going to be able to – someone’s who’s going to be able to really push them through a process. Other clients want to kind of take their time, and it’s more important to them that they’re relax and get to know the folks that they’re working with; and that those people become more of a real part of the front lines or an equal part of the team. Some companies are from the Midwest; some are East Coast; some are West Coast. And those are all very different cultural fits. And so I find that that works very well when it comes to personalities.

Paul: Yes. I think it’s massively important. It probably explains why Marcus and Chris don’t let me talk to some of our clients [chuckles].

Kristiana: Yes. Well, same here, right?

Paul: Yes. There are some people I just rub up the wrong way. I know I did. And so, while other clients really have warned my style and my way of working, et cetera. Hey, you mentioned a little bit about your staff. Tell me about – I mean how big are you guys. How many of you are all there? What kind of makeup do you have as a team? I know with my kind of agency – a more traditional web design agency. You have your designers, your developers, project managers, et cetera. I wouldn’t have a clue what made up a team such as yours.

Kristiana: Well, I’ll start by saying a couple of years ago, I was really focused on growth as many agencies are. I really saw us as 40 people. I had an idea of the makeup of that team. I knew I was going to need people to help me lead the organization. And, essentially we sort of got a little hot headed and grew very, very quickly. And it was broken. It didn’t work for a million different reasons, and that the least of which is that I’m an inexperienced business owner and didn’t know what I was doing, really how to lead.

The other thing I realized is that I just don’t like managing people very much. It’s not that I don’t love people, it’s just that I just want everybody to come in and do their work and correct each other up. And so, financially we hit a big wall and I dug myself into a really deep hole, and ended up having to let go of about 75% of my staff. I wrote an article about that for the Pastry Box, about how having really good intentions doesn’t always mean that an agency is going to run real well.

And so, we were down to six people and now we’re at nine and that seems to be a good size. Three of my folks are focused almost exclusively on producing our confab contents strategy conferences. We’re actually doing four this year and we work with – I had a fulltime producer in the house. He just went out on his own to start his own production company which is really exciting. And I think that we’re also going to be working now with an outside production company. So, that’s sort of the confab side of things.

And then for my contents strategies team, I have one fulltime content strategist, I have one fulltime senior copywriter; and then, I contract the rest of it. And it works really beautifully because of the amount of time I’ve spent in the content strategy community since about 2009. I really know well some of the top players in the industry. And so, I’m able to bring them in on projects. It’s worked really well for us and for our clients. Again, having that flexibility of skillsets and areas of focus, and personalities has really been great. And then, I have a business manager I just couldn’t live without. So, there you go [laugh].

Paul: No. I thank you so much for sharing. That is really lovely, Dear because we went through a not dissimilar experience that we grew – And there’s always the pressure, isn’t it? – to grow your business that you feel –

Kristiana: Oh, there absolutely is.

Paul: And we go up to 21 people, something like that. On this, we stopped being fun. I felt –

Kristiana: Yes, exactly. I hated going into the office. It’s not that I didn’t love every single person there.

Paul: Exactly. But if you spend all of your time doing management stuff and dealing with personnel issues, that look bad personnel issues which is stuff that needs dealing with.

Kristiana: Oh, some of them are bad [laughs].

Paul: Yes, okay. Some of them yes, okay. But then, I suddenly realize what that – I can’t remember the last time I sat down and did some work with the client. It just stopped being fun, so we just naturally shunned it back down. We were very fortunate we didn’t have to let anybody go, and I’ve got so much sympathy with you over that because I’ve been down that road and it’s horrible, horrible experience.

Kristiana: Oh, and I did it so badly. Oh, during that time, I did it so poorly.

Paul: Oh, did you?

Kristiana: Well again, I was inexperienced and scared, and guilty.

Paul: Oh! I know those feelings.

Kristiana: Yes.

Paul: Anyway, so we got away with that doing that, and shrunk back down to 13 of us now just by replacing people when they moved on. And it’s so much nicer. It’s so much nicer. I guess it depends what kind of business you’re trying to run but for us, ultimately, it’s a lifestyle business. It’s about enjoying what we do and having fun with our clients and providing good service, and all those kinds of thing. It’s encouraging to see other people have gone through a similar feeling with it all.

Kristiana: Whether or not an agency is really focused on growth, I don’t know a single business owner who hasn’t gone through times of expansion and times of contraction. That was one of the most helpful things, being in crisis and just being confident that it was all going to fall apart and that it’s going to be embarrassing, and humiliating, and painful, and expensive. And hearing every single agency owner I spoke with say, “I will be fine“. ”You’ll be fine." And we are. We’re not just fine. We’re great, and I’m great. It’s also been really helpful for me to be able to provide that same kind of support and the insights that I can share, and now having them through with other agency owners.

Paul: And to be open about it as well, I think so often, we kind of hide our dirty old grave that way.

Kristiana: Oh! For sure and writing that post for the Pastry Box was not difficult for me. Everybody goes through this and it will be helpful to know that everybody goes through this. Oh, the response that I got to that, the number of people who read it was – The emails that I got, was really, really something else. And I think too, part of it is that we worry that our clients are going to see us as on the rocks or in real trouble. I found that just being open with them and saying, “We didn’t work as a large agency; and now I’m going to be contracting with people; and here’s why; and we’re going to provide really great services to you; and the majority of our clients stuck with us.

Paul: Yes. I think people are willing to give you a second chance. I remember when we sell our Headscape. I mean, we sit down going off on complete tensions but before Headscape, we ran an agency that it didn’t born out the dot-com bust. We got to a point where the debts of the dot-com company formed down our agency. And so, the whole thing fell apart but we went to all of our clients. We said to them, “Well, bad news –” I said, "We’re falling apart. Good news is that we’re going to go on with it anyway. We’re going to start to do our own thing.

And all of them except one, turned around and said, “Well, but if you can do the work, then that’s fine.” I think clients are a lot more forgiving than perhaps they get credit for. And you always imagine the worst case scenario in all these situation that you’re in. It very rarely happens [chuckles].

Kristiana: Oh, my worst case scenario happened [laughs].

Paul: Ooh! What was that?

Kristiana: Oh, it’s just the –

Paul: I would say smelly, late people, it awfully is pretty bad.

Kristiana: Well, friendships were lost and I dug myself into really deep financial hole. And the money part has worked out and everything’s great. Now okay again but there are friendships that I’ll never recover which is really very painful. And understanding, I think, that when you go into something like this, it is business and you are taking a risk, is really important. The other thing that I’ll say is, as a content strategy pure play agency, nobody has really done this before. Nobody had done it before; and so, we’re really making things up.

And especially 2010, 2011, 2012, people knew they had content problems but they would call and they’d be like, “Okay, so you say you can fix my problems“ like ”What am I going to get at the end of this?“ ”What will I be able to hold in my hands?” And say, “Here’s what I’ve paid for." And, it took as a long time to really be able to articulate it and to understand, hear the people that we need to be working with internally, and here are the outcomes and here’s the business case and business values.

So, I feel really strongly that after five years of going around and having been in circles, we’ve really proven our methodology is in our approach, and the value that we’re able to bring to the table with clients. And so, that’s been a really great process. And it’s still continuing, right? We’re doing work that nobody’s done in these large companies before and somebody you kind of have to make up as you go.

Paul: Oh, absolutely. I think yes, I think that’s still that huge quantity of that in all aspects of digital really, of us making it up as we go. We do a lot of work with digital transformation projects of restructuring the company, so that they are better meeting the needs that connect to consumers. And one of the questions we always get asked is, “Who’s done this?” It would point me to an example that that is done in this work.

Kristiana: Oh yes, the magical land of best practices.

Paul: Yes. We have to turn around and say, “Whoa! There are a lot of people doing it, but nobody’s done it, nobody’s finished." This is a journey where we’re all finding our ways we go along with this.

Kristiana: Well, yes. That’s another message I bring to just about every talk, that none of us are caught up. We’re perpetually catching up and accepting that and embracing that principle, and those values are going to help us move more quickly, and with more confidence.

Paul: Yes. One of the things I’m interested in this is, whether you have got over that initial problem that was around for a long time that our client’s not wanting to invest in content in the sense that they’re happy to produce it but to get in somebody else to fix that content, they’ll pay hundreds of thousands for an enterprise level content management system. But they won’t pay for someone to come in and provide a framework for producing and managing quality content. Is this still a little bit of that safe surround doors that go on the way now?

Kristiana: Well, the good thing is that people who are ready to invest in it or the ones who call us, right? Nevertheless, we had that problem for a really long time. We started out as a web writing agency where we were providing writing services for large scale web projects. And, when we start to go into companies and say, “You’re having as write all this content, we’re delivering it, and you’re refreshing it, or your new website’s going up. And in six months, it’s all going to suck again and we would really like to assist you with some strategic initiatives to make sure that doesn’t happen.“ And then a lot of companies, they say, “Oh no, we just need web writing services, right? It’s clean now, we’ll take care of the rest.” And sure enough within six months, it would be awful again.

Again, it was right around that 10, 11, 12 period where companies were coming to us to get things fixed. But ultimately, it ended up being real focused on the content itself and not necessarily the process and the decision making framework or the principles or being able to really clearly state what your strategic initiative or priorities are going to be. That would hold them back. So now we’re very, very clear about saying, “Look we can assist you with cleaning up this website".

A lot of times we’re called in for rescue mission projects where – and that’s always difficult because they’ve blown $3 million on the CMS and the design, the fancy design and all that. And they’re like, “Okay. We have a couple of hundred leftover for the content." The message that they get, sometimes too late is, “Why are you doing all of these things? Why are you building this brilliant, intelligent engine when the fuel which is the content is bad?” And that is something that we’re really able to introduce and being kind firm about. We’ve seen real progress with the clients that we’re working with. More than that, they keep asking us for more work and for deeper work and with other parts of the organization. So that’s been very gratifying.

Paul: Yes, absolutely. We’d still have problems getting clients to invest in putting together a proper content strategy. I guess probably because we’re known for it in practices that we don’t know how to sell it right. I mean, look at the examples of where we’ve come to you guys before. How we’ve got this project that we think – “This could be the one.” [Chuckles] “This could be the one.”

Kristiana: [Laughs] You’re right, you’re right.

Paul: And that it never quite happens, and it – I find it so frustrating. “You ever pay for us to do a training workshop on writing for the web although the only guest who would find them on that selection of content management system. But to go beyond that, to really kind of digging to this property, we’d find it a painful process that we’ve really struggled with. What are we doing wrong in the way we send it? Well, if that’s the impossible question for you to answer.

Kristiana: Well, not necessarily. I mean a lot of people will call; and I’m doing two sessions this week, two working sessions where I’m going onsite with the client for a day and they’re bringing different folks from across the organization. All of them have a best in interest in content quality, who cannot get aligned on where to spend the money next, or where content should sit.

I have a client who has done extra-ordinary work preparing their content for multi-platform, multichannel delivery but they don’t know what to say. They don’t know what to do next. The other client I‘m going to speak with, they know there’s a challenge, their content plays – It should be playing the same role no matter where it sits but no one is really aligned in what it should be doing ultimately.

And so, getting the players all in a room and helping them not only – Really what we do is we have everybody list out all their priorities; and then, we have people think about, “Okay, in order to move this forward, what are the kinds of question we need to have answered?” And then, we really get in and dig in and look at where the gaps are where the assumption are around content and that’s where people say, “Wow“ We have some real work to do around what our customers want or what the purpose of this digital property is.” Or "Wow! We want to get ready for cross-platform delivery but our CMS doesn’t handle it. What should we do there?

So, a lot of times in the sales process – Again, it’s about asking the right kinds of questions that we can kind of get to. Well here is really our next step. I can’t count the number of times people come to me with one set of problems they think need fixing. And after a conversation or two, we will put together a proposal that doesn’t tackle any of those issues because they have some foundational things that need to be fixed first.

Paul: Yes, absolutely. Yes, it’s like you said very early on. It’s about asking those questions that nobody can answer, the ones they say, “Oh, yes. That’s a really good question.” And yet, you’re essentially highlighting problems because a lot of times, I think clients come to you with symptoms rather than the underlying issue.

Kristiana: Exactly. And I talk about that, and I teach that in my content strategy workshop. But I’ll also say I think that getting to those questions and asking those right questions, you can’t do it without a lot of experience. And that is a difficult thing. And I think that’s when companies bring in third parties. We know that there are things that are wrong. We know that we have a lot of competing agendas. Where are the gaps? And I ask much better questions now than I did, even two years ago when I really got very closely involved with client work again.

Paul: Yes, yes. Absolutely. This is why things like traditional procurement processes – I’m writing in the front page on this at the moment. So, it’s my pet subject. Well, traditional procurement processes drive me nuts when you don’t get to speak to the client, where there’s these invitations that they have sent out. And you’re supposed to respond to that even though they’re probably looking at entirely the wrong issues, and there’s none of that initial kind of consultancy sense overlap that.

Kristiana: Yes. We don’t participate in those. If I can’t talk to the client personally, I won’t fill out the RFP because to your point, what’s the point? You’re signing off on a bunch of services that may be at the end of the day unnecessary or the wrong kinds of services.

Paul: Yes, drives me nuts. Anyway, Kristina, thank you so much. I can just keep going forever, but I set limits. I’m not going to talk, because that’s the way it should go throughout the whole day? It’s so good to talk to you. Thank you so much for coming on the show. And we need to meet up at some point.

Kristiana: At some point, I’m confident we will.

Paul: Well, as you said already, you do a lot of events. And some of those happen in the UK, don’t they? So, I’ll have to come along.

Kristiana: Yes. I haven’t spoken in the UK – Well, that’s not true. I guess we brought our confab content strategy conference there last year in 2013. But yes, I would love to come back.

Paul: So tell us a little bit about where people can find you, and about your conferences, and about your books, along the other stuff.

Kristiana: Yes, great. Well, our consultancy is at braintraffic.com. It’s a renowned one page website with the contact form. And that’s I’m trying to walk the walk there.

Also, you can go to Confab Events, that’s C-O-N-F-A-B. We are producing four events this year. They’re all going to be in the United States. So, sadly we won’t be returning to Europe this year. I know. Sorry. And then, you can actually go to contentstrategy.com to learn more about our book.

Paul: So, basically you’ve got around the one page website problem by having three websites?

Kristiana: Yes, right. Exactly, yes [laughs].

Paul: Such a cheat.

Kristiana: Oh, I’m caught.

Paul: Okay, thank you for that bombshell. Thank you very much for coming on the show. And hopefully, we’ll get you back at some point in the future.

Kristiana: It’s my pleasure. It’s an honor. Thank you, Paul.

Paul: Okay. So, you wanted to apologize, Marcus.

Marcus: Yes. I wanted to apologize for Paul’s inability to record today.

Paul: What? Hang on. Why am I getting the blame for this suddenly?

Marcus: Because I wasn’t part of the interview.

Paul: Oh, I see. Yes.

Marcus: [Laughs] No. I’m trying to get the audio as best we could on that. It wasn’t great. And also, last week wasn’t great either. Apologies, apologies, apologies. I’m going to make the excuse that recording over Skype is tricky because it is. But they get better. So, stick with us on the audio quality side of things.

Paul: Oh, dear Marcus. And then, you’re going to have to apologize again because you’re going to tell a joke and it’ll be bad.

Marcus: Oh, no. Jokes, jokes.

Paul: Ah. You haven’t talked about that, have you? You’re right. You got a second. I’ll leave you to get the joke a minute because I’ve got some really exciting news, Marcus. Do you remember last year, we shared a joke about sponsoring your podcast? Do you remember that?

Marcus: Yes.

Paul: No, sponsoring your joke.

Marcus: Sponsoring joke, yes.

Paul: Someone has come forward and agreed to sponsor your joke.

Marcus: Bad people out there in the world.

Paul: That’s Rachel. Do you remember Rachel from last week’s show?

Marcus: That’s really sensible.

Paul: Rachel Andrew. I know, sensible people although admittedly their product, which is Perch, does have a yellow bird, a little cutesy bird. So, they’re not entirely sensible as their logo.

Marcus: Fair enough.

Paul: So yes, Rachel said, “Yes, go on then. We’ll sponsor Marcus’ jokes for a couple of weeks.

Marcus: Okay [laughs].

Paul: I just think this is awesome. I feel that this is a new beginning. But I do want to make something very clear. This podcast is the property of Boagworks. You do not get the payment for your joke.

Marcus: [Laughs].

Paul: Just to make that clear.

Marcus: I’d love to know how much we’re talking. I hope it’s just a pound.

Paul: Hundreds. Hundreds and hundreds of pounds.

Marcus: I don’t believe you.

Paul: They were so generous. It was unbelievable. Money was part of it. They said, “If it keeps Marcus’ joke going, we’re happy to throw money at you.”

Marcus: Well, you have to buy me beer then, next time you see me.

Paul: Maybe, maybe.

Marcus: All right. Well, bearing that in mind, I’ve got good jokes by a good actual comedians. I’ll do more than one.

Paul: Right. Do you want to talk about Perch a bit first?

Marcus: Talk about one, won’t you?

Paul: Okay.

Marcus: With last week’s show, we talked a lot about Perch.

Paul: Yes, but we didn’t talk about really what it did.

Marcus: Okay.

Paul: So, Perch is content management system that is used by design agencies and individual freelancers, right? So, it’s a kind of an easy way for them to deliver content management. And you think, “What? Yes, that’s what the world needs – another content management system.” But Perch is actually a really good alternative to something like WordPress. Most of us use WordPress, don’t we? For small assignments.

And actually, WordPress is not the best thing for delivering this kind of smaller content management systems. And I’ve got to say, I honestly think that this is something Headscape should be looking at because it is so much better than something like WordPress.

So, I’ll give you three reasons why. First of all, it has no themes, right? So when you build something for WordPress basically, what you inevitably end up doing is you get a basic seam. You strip out all the crap you don’t want from there; and then, kind of build up your own bespoke version. And it’s a pain in the ass, and you’re kind of messing around with other people’s code. Code gets injected into what you do and it’s all a bit messy.

But with Perch, basically what you do is drop in editable regions into the page, into the HTML and CS you have written, you’re not fighting against somebody else’s HTML CSS. You just drop in these editable regions, and then away you go. And you can add then content directly via the content management system, directly to the page. So it’s a much, much simpler way of working. And it basically allows you to take any existing static site and turn it into a context managed one, which is incredible really.

Second thing it does is the Perch control panel is based around pages. It’s not a blog thing. So, if you’re trying to add pages in something like WordPress, or something like that, really that was kind of retro-fitted into WordPress afterwards. And really it’s a blogging piece of software, not a content management software. So, Perch is very page-orientated. And that makes things a lot simpler for the client. And then, a lot of the time, you’ll find you don’t have to give as much training. You’re answering fewer questions from clients once the CMS has been launched.

And then, the last thing that I really like about Perch is that it’s design – Drew and Rachel are obsessed with performance. And so, it’s been built up to be really fast. I’m talking about incredibly fast. It doesn’t fall over. You don’t leave visitors. You don’t get some crappy plug-in that screws it all up or you don’t have to worry about installing some plug-in that helps caches. It’s just fast. It’s got a great set of add-ons you can use. It’s got a great community behind it. And it’s lightning fast. But also, there’s a great upgrade pass to Perch runway, which I’m sure we’ll talk about more on a future show.

So, there you go. That’s Perch. You can check it out at grabaperch.com. And if you can go to grabaperch.com/boagworld, then you will tell them, “Yes, it’s worth sponsoring Marcus’ joke. Yes, we appreciate the fact that you have supported what is the most important part of the Boagworld podcast. And with that, over drum roll please, to Marcus’ amazing joke. This could be better than ever because it’s now sponsored.

Marcus: Yes. This is the one true constant to this show. Okay. I’ve got three.

Paul: And I took a drink, and it nearly went up my nose.

Marcus: [Laughs] I’ve got three jokes. The first two are from the wonderful Tim Vine, as last week’s almost. Obviously, I’ve got a list of his jokes here. I’ve decided to sell my Hoover, but it was just collecting dust.

Paul: That’s terrible.

Marcus: [Laughs] And more appropriate one for a web design show, conjunctivitis.com. That’s a site for sore eyes.

Paul: [Laughs] That one I quite laughed.

Marcus: [Laughs] And finally, on this sponsored joke. This is from Jimmy Carr.

Paul: All right. Are we allowed to make money off of somebody else’s – a professional comedian’s joke.

Marcus: Well, I’m probably not.

Paul: It’s your delivery that matters.

Marcus: Exactly, yes. It’s not going to be good like they are. Anyway, I saw that show, “Fifty Things To Do Before You Die”. I would have thought the obvious one was shout for help.

Paul: [Laughs]

Marcus: Half.

Paul: That’s a good one. See? I like that one.

Marcus: Well, there you go.

Paul: There you go. Brilliant. Now you’re going to put the laugh track behind that now to make you sound simply funny.

Marcus: I’ve got some silly laughing stuff at 9:00, yes.

Paul: Well, you don’t have to. It just shows commitment. Now, Rachel and Drew are investing money.

Marcus: So, I’m not seeing any off.

Paul: No. But think about me. Think about my son. He’ll starve if you don’t do better. So, if you want to – I can’t even say it seriously. If you wish to promote and sponsor Marcus’ joke, then please email me at paul@boagworld.com and I would be glad to take your money [laughs].

Marcus: That’s not really an awful lot. I can add to that. So I’m not going to.

Paul: Should we finish this week’s show?

Marcus: Let’s, let’s.

Paul: Good to talk to you guys. Oh, you want to know what’s on next week’s show? You always ask me.

Marcus: What’s on next week’s show, Paul?

Paul: I don’t know. Hang on. Let me have a look. What season are we? 11. One day, I’ll be prepared for this part. Next week, we got Jon Hicks. Awesome. So, that means we’re going to be talking about iconography and logo design, and all that kind of cool stuff. So, really good evenings to you. Really enjoy your cognac. Jon’s always incredibly fun to talk to. So, that’s next week. Join me then.

Marcus: Bye.

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