When Content Strategies Collide: Marketing vs Technical Communication

We’re in an intensely exciting time now in “the World of Content”.
Content Strategy and Social Media are the buzzwords on everyone’s lips.
Like any new and game-changing hot-button, there’s as much debate about
what we’re even talking about as there is about why it’s important, or
what we should do about it.

See a discussion on what Content Strategy is on the CS Group on LinkedIn

This multi-part blog is going to take a look at how Content Strategy is
affecting the ‘Word of Content’ and the world of the content
professional.By the time I’m done I’ll have concluded that both Marketing and
Technical Communication are both mired in the past – and probably annoyed
and offended some people in the process for which I apologize in
advance. I won’t be saying that that I’ve got the magic 100% effective
snake-oil/silver-bullet-salve to fix it all but hopefully I’ll have
gotten some discussion started about what potential solutions could and
should be.

Whatever type of content-related work you do, be it Content
Strategist, Tech Writer, Brand Manager, UX, IA, Web Writer, Content
Manager, etc., this blog’s for you.

Here in part one we look at the fact that we’re seeing the early
impact-zone wrinkles of a bigger collision to come: I think what we’re
going to see is a unifying and blurring of the content functions around
an organisation. There will be increased collaboration, re-titling of
staff, new services offerings from traditional
teams/consultancies/agencies aimed towards closing the loops in and
outside the organisation itself.

We’ve been talking about content standards unification and
integration for decades now, but now, with the recognition of Content
Strategy, we have the catalyst for change.

What difference does CS make?

Because once you really start to think of content itself as a strategic
asset, and put a well conceived strategy together, our artificial
traditional separations need to come down to support the business’s true

To put it another way, you can’t serve customers best interests while
maintaining high walls between the communications and content-centric
parts of your operation. Ergo, they’re going to start to integrate. This
will delight some and horrify and confuse others.

Content Strategy as a discipline is generally focussed around content
that is for communicating. There are two main Communications areas in the
average enterprise. On one side, you’ve got MarComms, where Content
Strategy concerned mainly with the public web, and websites and closing
the loop with brand management and the sales cycle. On the other side,
TechComms is working to close the loop with product development,
training, the support lifecycle, and training. Traditionally, they’ve
scuffled over the word “content”, approaching it with different
personalities, tools, budgets, departments and sometimes perceived goals.

This blog addresses major topographic changes coming in the World of Content, integration of silos, and the customer experience. The theme of the
Congility 2011 Conference, May 24-26th, is “Content Integration” and its effect on customers. It, and this post, will focus on how the work of all of us as content professionals is similar in important ways and would benefit from increased collaboration. Our efforts should seek to close the loops in the customer lifecycle, user experience, user interaction design, and often benefit from similar processes, skill-sets and even underlying tools and technology.

The World of Content, Communication and Content Strategy

As fast moving as the details are, ask anyone who’s been specialising
here in the World of Content for 10 or more years, and they’ll likely
tell you that in fact, in many ways, it moves at a tectonic pace.

The chasm of time between a methodology or technology’s introduction and
its going truly mainstream can be huge. There are still jaded old

folks hollering, “I told you so! In 1970! Without us there’d be
no web!” from their dusky digital retirement homes. And they’re right
too. Content Strategy is by no means new. What is new is the recognition
it’s receiving, and the effect it’s starting to have.


Some content professionals really like to think before they cross
the chasm.

I see it as two Continents of Content colliding right now, in “the World
of Content”. I’ve dubbed the continents:

  • The Archipelago of Internet Marketing”: Not really
    a unified landmass, but more of a well connected set of large islands
    peopled by Web Copy Writers, Web Editors, User Experience Designers,
    Brand Strategists, Marketing Managers, and the rest. It’s enjoyed a rich
    past of big budgets, booms and bubbles (there was a .com burst, but it
    hardly killed the internet, now did it?), its wealth is fed by of the
    most valuable of natural resources in the content world: visibility.
  • The Land of TechComms (and a bit of Training)”:
    Peopled by robust and hearty breed, they’ve put up with neglect,
    starvation, apathy, segregation, misunderstanding, and sometimes
    commoditization to a point that resembles slavery. I picture the land
    without a lot of trees, considering all the printed paper that gets used

Along the borders of both nations, there are those that make their living
crossing back and forth across the gaps – consultants like to live here.
Generally the disciplines of Information Architecture, Content Modelling,
Minimalist Writing, Taxonomy, etc. are all on the borders, but generally
only familiar to the more forward thinking of Tech Communicators.

Inland on each, you have those who are more known for their work in their
own nations, like JoAnn Hackos in very forward thinking TechComms,
Training and Support material, and Kristina Halvorson
for the Web.

But… so what? It’s always been this way…

In Part 2, we’ll look at the differences between these worlds and
why the separation between them is creating problems for even the most
forward thinking of organisations.

Update – since the time of authoring, the recent tragic situation in
Japan has developed. Of course no insensitivity or relationship to that
situation is intended or implied. I debated rewriting the entire piece
to remove the metaphor, but that also seemed inappropriate.


  1. Julio Vazquez

    Your initial premise is spot on. The separation between the two continents is creating an environment that is no longer sustainable. People on each continent need to learn what’s on the other continent so they can prosper. Even the Archipelago of Internet Marketing can become a commodity without an understanding of the underlying concepts of the products so that a corporate-wide strategy for customer-facing information can be implemented successfully.

  2. B Noz Urbina

    Thanks, Julio. I want to raise the bar without people feeling that it’s out of the realm of possibility and just giving up at the first hurdle. I’ve not met the perfect organisation yet, but as the line between presales and postsales content disappears (because all content is becoming available online at all points on the sales cycle) then we need to rethink more drastically.

  3. iorient

    Interesting. I don’t know if the twain will ever meet often enough to mate and produce a new cross-breed that is comfortable in both the lands. Or maybe it will take many years before that happens.
    With the wide variation in genes (read aptitude required), I’m not sure if it will be a sustainable population. Some genes will always be recessive, so that we’ll still have a lot of hybrids who’ll prefer one land over the other.

    As Julio says, commerce between the two lands will benefit all. I’ll be content with that.



  1. When Content Strategies Collide Pt 5: Is Communication Mired in the Past? | Urbina Consulting - […] *See the first post in the series. […]

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