An Event Apart: Message and Medium

by April 7, 2010

In her Message and Medium: Better Content by Design talk at An Event Apart in seattle WA, Kristina Halvorson provided some tips on how to align content across multiple digital channels with content strategy and deliberate messaging. Here's my notes from her presentation:

  • Web copy should align with people’s “final destination”. When you begin to think about designing a Website, you need to create text, images, video that aligns with the final destination in people’s minds.
  • Text is often the messy part because it is the part everybody can do and change. Text is page copy, articles, links, labels, alt tags, error messages, instructions, and more...
  • Content strategy plans for the creation, delivery, and governance of useful, usable content. Strategy is a plan for obtaining a specific goal or result. How to get things done. Content strategy defines: messaging, content requirements, structure and channel delivery, editorial guidelines and process , and governance.
  • Messaging is not a mission statement, a brand promise, or a tagline. Messaging is a tool to prioritize content types and choices, keep content consistent, guide design choices, and align content owners. It sets a tone for an organization’s efforts online.
  • You can only have one primary message in which every word has been poured over and has deep meaning. It needs to be laser-focused as all other messages will be born from this one. Make it recognizable and memorable. 3-6 secondary messages can support the primary message. They should provide context for audience, the type of task and information you are presenting, and so on. The remaining 1,000s of details support your primary messages.
  • In one second the user should understand generally where they are–largely driven by visuals and functionality. If we can keep people for 10 seconds, they should understand our primary message. If they stay fro two minutes, some secondary messages should be getting through. All this feeds into a call to action.
  • Page tables are wireframe-based content definitions that allow you to inform how content will play out on a page. At the top-level, page tables describe what the page is intended to do, list locations for source materials, and a plan for maintenance of the page. They also identify key page messages – what will be conveyed to users.
  • Your primary message is not your mission statement –do not publish your mission statement on Website –no one cares.
  • It is inevitable that content will drift across multiple parts of an organization distributing and sharing primary messages helps keep organizations focused. Messaging has to come from you internally –it needs to capture your passion. It is not for your audience, it is for you.
  • When you design for mobile, you have to concentrate on what really matters. There isn’t room for more.
  • Search results metadata is an opportunity to engage your audience with messaging and tone.
  • Selling anything related to content is not easy. Copy does come down to designers and developers so they will be impacted by content strategy decisions. You have an opportunity to shape the experience online. Don’t hand it down as a rulebook but more as a tool to streamline and focus efforts.