It was an absolute pleasure for me to attend and present at the 2015 LavaCon Conference on content strategy and Techcomm management the week of October 18th. Little did I know what was in store for me when I arrived in New Orleans that Sunday morning.

The trend of content strategy

As you might have guessed from the theme, a number of the sessions during the conference were about content strategy. For some, this was a newly heard term. For others, it is a term that has been bounced around the industry for quite some years, although there appears to be a fresh breath of air filling its sails. Perhaps that is because in many environments the costs of publishing are on the decline or nearly gone.

There are more tools, channels, and platforms for sharing information. Who today has not seen some type of video on YouTube? Heck, I’ve learned how to fix my septic system’s motor and replace the control panel of my microwave, all thanks to the guidance of YouTube. No matter the reason, this trend poses new challenges for those of us trying to tame the beast of content management. I’d like to thank the LavaCon Conference for giving participants the outlet to exchange ideas and share their experiences with these challenges.

PayPal Track focuses on understanding your audience

One of the sessions that stuck out in my mind after the conference was “Start with Empathy: Content Strategy and Design Thinking” by PayPal’s Lead Content Strategist, Karin Ikavalko, and Design Lead Catherine Walker.

Understanding your audience is a key component of the Information Mapping methodology, and one of our top priorities as consultants during any customer engagement. In our training programs we stress that “a document, course, or web site is only successful if it meets the needs of its readers [or users].” The basis for analyzing the audience includes defining their job responsibilities, knowledge of a subject, demographics, attitudes, and work environment.

I’m not suggesting that Ikavalko and Walker used the Information Mapping methodology in their approach, but we can certainly identify with their description of the PayPal team’s efforts to understand their customers. Surely, it is an evolution that is occurring thanks to our online world.

Empathy-driven content strategy

PayPal came to the realization that people make decisions based on emotion rationalized by data. If they could drive an emotional response, then they would be far more successful in meeting their customer’s needs.