Podcast Episodes

Episode 9: Develop a Strategy for Your Content (w/ Kristina Halvorson)

July 19, 2022 | 40:31 | Kristina Halvorson

Corey and Deane talk a little about that time Kristina Halvorson (founder of Brain Traffic, co-author of Content Strategy for the Web, and executive producer of Confab and Button) visited Sioux Falls.

Then, Kristina chats with us about content strategy — defining content strategy vs. content design, what tasks are often overlooked, and some basics on spinning up an internal web content team — including a bit of conference talk about the upcoming Button Conference.

The Web Project Guide (webproject.guide) podcast is sponsored by Blend Interactive, a web strategy, design, and development firm dedicated to guiding teams through complicated web and content problems, from content strategy and design to CMS implementation and support.

Show Notes and Further Discussion:


Corey: (00:11)
Hello, this is the Web Project Guide podcast, and this is episode nine, Develop a Strategy for your Content. I'm Corey Vilhauer, Director of Strategy at Blend Interactive and co-author of the Web Project Guide. In just a bit, we'll talk to our friend, Kristina Halverson, founder of Brain Traffic, co-author of Content Strategy for the Web, and Executive Producer of Confab and Button. But first I'm joined by the other Web Project Guide co live host Deane Barker, Senior Director of Content Management Research at Optimizely. Hi Deane.

Deane: (00:38)
Hi Corey.

Corey: (00:39)
There's going to be a lot of people who are downloading this as a podcast, and so I want to say right now we're doing this live. And so Kristina is currently watching us, but she doesn't get to talk yet.

Deane: (00:47)
So I want to tell a story about Kristina. Can I? Is that fair or is that too early?

Corey: (00:53)
Go for it. Kristina can't say a single thing.

Deane: (00:56)
Okay. This is great. So for our Now What conference, we did a Now What conference series in Sioux Falls. It was like six years we did it. And we got Kristina, we had Kristina come in for our second one and she was supposed to come down the night before, because we were going to have the speaker dinner, but she was sick and so she couldn't be at the speaker dinner, and I was really bummed out. Because the speaker dinner was like my favorite part, right. We had this dinner at Parker's Bistro in Sioux Falls and it was really great and all the speakers there and it's always like super fun. So we printed out a picture of Kristina's face and I think we mounted it onto a candle, it was something that stood up, and we sat it at the end of the table. And so we had Kristina's face at the speaker dinner, and there were many comments about how Kristina was sulking in the corner and being very laconic and not wanting to say anything because she was just too cool for the rest of us.

Deane: (01:44)
And so that happened the speaker dinner, but Kristina did come down the next day. I think she left the Minneapolis-St Paul area in the morning and she got down there about noon and she killed her keynote. So that was my story of Kristina at the Now What conference, and this would've been, when was year two, Corey? Was that 2013?

Corey: (02:01)
Deane, I don't remember.

Deane: (02:02)
So here's, what's lovely about Kristina is Corey and I live in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, which is very much in the heart of the Midwest. And it's what I would call a second tier city. It's a lovely city and I love to live here, but maybe not a lot of people have heard it. It's like 250,000 people and it's in the Midwest, and like tech is concentrated on the coasts. Kristina is a fellow Midwesterner. She is famously from the Minneapolis-St Paul area, which is known to residents of Sioux Falls as like the big city. Like when you go to the city for the weekend, you're going up to Minneapolis-St Paul. It is a lovely town and she is from there, and I am desperately trying to recenter the tech hub of the United States to the area between I29 and I35. So thank to you to Kristina for being true to her Midwestern roots. She can't say anything right now, but I believe she's a native. I believe she's like a Minneapolis native.

Corey: (02:51)
Kristina, just say something.

Deane: (02:52)
Oh, Kristina talk. Where are you from Kristina?

Kristina: (02:54)
I'm not even on mute. I could have been providing color commentary this entire time. Can we start over? Because I have so much to say about everything that has happened so far in this podcast.

Corey: (03:05)
No, I'm sorry. We can't do edits.

Deane: (03:06)
Are you in fact Minneapolis native?

Kristina: (03:08)
I'm actually an Air Force brat.

Deane: (03:11)

Kristina: (03:11)
But Minnesota was always kind of our home base because this is where both my parents grew up. So this is, no matter where we lived when we were in the United States anyway, we would always come back to Minnesota over the summer and we would visit my mom's parents in Roseville, and my dad's parents in Sauk Rapids, and then we would go up to Brainerd to go lake for two weeks. And I'm confident that in the show notes, there will be links to maps to all of these fantastic places, which should you ever come to Minnesota, don't bother visiting any of them. That's what I have to say about that.

Deane: (03:44)
So before we start talking about content strategy, I do just want to talk a bit about Confab, which is, I would say the reigning content strategy conference, and love the fact that you have solidly kept that in Minneapolis. Was there any talk of ever doing that somewhere else or was that a love letter to the Midwest?

Kristina: (04:04)
Oh, we have done it ... Well we've always done Confab in Minneapolis in May. And for a period of time that was known as Confab Central because we were also doing Confab Higher Ed, which happened at a couple different cities, including Philadelphia and Atlanta. We did Confab Intensive one or two years, the teens are just kind of blur to me, which were two days of half day workshops, two or three days. And then we also tried Confab Europe two years, once in London, once in Barcelona, tried being the key word in that sentence. That did not take, we had a great time. I think the people that came at a great time, but in terms of just like a sustainable commerce effort, that did not work out. But yeah, so then I think in 2018 we decided just to go back to Confab Central in Minneapolis.

Kristina: (05:00)
But yes, every year Confab is a love letter to Minneapolis, for sure. We make a point of including a bunch of resources on our website of where to go. And we're always so impressed and excited by how people really do get out and explore the city. And the reigning over action is always Minneapolis. Who knew? So we like that quite a bit.

Deane: (05:20)
So when I was first getting into the kind of content, I don't know what you even call it, conference circuit, the reigning content management conference or content technology conference was Gilbane Boston.

Kristina: (05:34)
Oh, wow. That is a deep cut.

Deane: (05:36)
And then Gilbane San Francisco. And for years, that was kind of ... You went to Gilbane and there was like a nice fraternity of speakers that spoke up at Gilbane. But then Gilbane kind of trailed off. Frank Gilbane sold the conference. And my understanding is the last time, it was run concurrently with another conference in DC. And so there really has never been another pickup for the content management conference circuit. And what's very interesting is that I think this speaks to the bifurcation of technology and strategy in the content space.

Deane: (06:06)
I was on the final board of Content Management Professionals, which was an industry group. And we shut that organization down in 2014 because we realized that the industry had fractured so much because content strategy had very much grown into its own thing. For a long time, content strategy was kind of a subset of content management, but then with the publication of a certain red book back in the day, content strategy like grew up and became its own thing. And the existence of Confab, I think really obviated the need for Gilbane, and so Kristina, what was your experience with this?

Kristina: (06:43)
Confab ate Gilbane? Is that what you're saying?

Deane: (06:44)
Yes. Something like that.

Kristina: (06:45)
Yeah. We shut it down. That's right.

Deane: (06:48)
So when content strategy sort of came into its own, I feel like there were a lot of people that were existing in the content management space that realized content strategy is really what I should be doing. Was that how you saw it from your side?

Kristina: (07:03)
That is a really interesting question. And I will say categorically, the answer is no. What I saw, there were two things that I remember distinctly happening when I started kind of jumping up and down and waving my hands and finding other people who were excited about content strategy, for websites in particular. One of which was that I got a lot of pushback from the tech community, from the content management community, because they really felt like I was taking the phrase content strategy and appropriating it for marketing, which I thought was totally ... I didn't understand that at all. Because of course, what we were trying to do is help people look at content through the lens of user experience versus just the lens of marketing or just the lens of words to replace Lorem ipsum, which is primarily it. So I had a lot of pushback and I won't use the word trolls, but people who were not happy with me and I didn't get it. I was like one love, man.

Kristina: (08:10)
On the other side, what was happening was in fact, the content marketing community was exploding, and I felt they were appropriating the phrase content strategy, which in fact they were. And after lo these many years of kind of fighting the good fight around like what strategy is and should be, in my opinion, when it comes to content, in many ways, I feel like the phrase content strategy, in the marketing world anyway, that we've kind of given up the ghost.

Corey: (08:43)
We are talking to Kristina Halverson, founder of Brain Traffic, a content strategy services and events company, also co-author of Content Strategy for the Web and host of the Content Strategy Podcast and Executive Producer of Confab, the content strategy conference, and Button, the content design conference. But first this episode of the Web Project Guide podcast is brought to you by Optimizely, who is on a mission to help people unlock their digital potential. Optimizely equips teams with the tools and insights they need to experiment in new and novel ways, which means now your company can operate with data driven confidence to create hyper personalized experiences. Building sophisticated solutions has never been simpler. With Optimizely, no matter your goals, no matter your industry, no matter your expertise, there's no limit to what you can do.

Corey: (09:34)
We are back and we are making a professional podcast. Kristina, you kept sort of alluding to the difference between content strategy and content strategy for the web. As a person who makes websites, I think of content strategy as content strategy for the web. How would somebody who maybe doesn't fully understand the concept of content strategy, big picture versus content strategy for a specific application, understand the balance between those two?

Kristina: (09:56)
Content strategy for the web is really about content strategy for websites. I mean, if you get in there and you read about it, we're talking about content audits, we're talking about analysis, we're talking about editorial style guides, we're talking about governance for websites. We were starting to get our heads wrapped around content strategy for products and services at the time. But candidly, that was neither Melissa nor I's area of experience and expertise.

Kristina: (10:22)
I founded Brain Traffic, which is my content services and events company in 2002, and we started out as a website copywriting services organization. Like that's what we did, we wrote copy for websites. We developed our own content strategy for websites methodology out of necessity, because we would just come in and ruin website projects in the 11th hour because we would start asking questions that nobody had asked up front, right. And that is where content strategy for the web was born, was just getting in there and reading what little we could find from Anne Rockley, from Jerry McGovern, blog posts by Colleen Jones, by Jeff MacIntyre, Margot Bloomstein, Karen McGrain, and pulling those together and creating content strategy for websites.

Kristina: (11:13)
And in that instance, there really were four areas that we were specifically focused on. We were focused on editorial, kind of the substance of what we would be putting on websites. The structure, how are we categorizing and creating what we now call content models, or at least the general public calls content models, for those websites. How are we taking care of those websites over time? And then there's one other component that now I have forgotten because I'm on the spot. I've got the quad. If anybody else knows what it is.

Corey: (11:44)
It's people, the people.

Kristina: (11:44)
It's structure, substance, people ... People in process, right? Yeah. Something like that. Yeah. Anyway, whatever, people. But that all comes together around a website property. Now, when we talk about web, we're talking about properties, products, and services, right. And when we think about content strategy and processes, different ones apply. Like for example, sprint, right. I don't know how many people are working on websites and sprints, but 90% of the time when I see that in organizations, it's just an abject failure because websites are so many different things to so many different people and to so many different audiences. And when you tackle one tiny little feature of a website without thinking about the holistic user experience, you're typically just like compromising somebody's experience somewhere.

Corey: (12:39)
I was a copywriter for a long time. I was on a project as a copywriter where I was tasked with writing web copy. And the developer had come up with a site map and the client just sent me a bunch of stuff and I was supposed to write this stuff and I couldn't figure out why it wasn't working. Like what is missing from this? And it was that like at the time I thought, well, it's because I don't have control over all these things I should have had control over. And now looking back at it, yeah, it was kind of a situation in which they had not thought of the content and copywriting process as a piece of something larger, as far as like actually solving web goals and things like that.

Corey: (13:17)
And I thought about it because I had reached out again on Twitter to say like, "Hey, I want to write content, but for websites in a way that makes it make sense." And Abby Jones, who I believe still works for Google now, she said, "What you're looking for is content strategy." And then I looked it up and I said, "What is this? Look at this amazing thing that is apparently exactly what I want to do." And I remember writing a blog post about it, was called On Discovering Content Strategy. And I posted it, and then I got a bunch of retweets all of a sudden. I was trying to figure out where this traffic came from, and it was somebody named Kristina Halverson, who I didn't know. And I remember looking it up being like, "Who the hell is this?" And I'm like, "Oh, oh no. She wrote the actual book on it," that had I think just been published at that point.

Corey: (14:03)
And I think about that a lot because every day somebody else encounters that. They're like, wait, there's this whole discipline that's sort of has already formed a process around making this content work better. And then you look into it and you say, "Okay, well, yeah, I got to do content audits and I got to do, this and that," like the bullet points of what is on every single, like the equivalent of a Buzzfeed What is Content Strategy article.

Corey: (14:32)
So like what are the things that are overlooked at that point? Somebody coming into this and saying, "Listen, I know we need content strategy. I've heard the terms." What are the things that you think always end up getting missed for those people who are either really new or those organizations that are really new to the process?

Kristina: (14:49)
As an aside, I just want to say, we were just talking about like Confab and how Confab can or should evolve. And I always come back to, we have so many first timers at Confab every year, like a shocking amount of first timers. But what we realized is that Confab is the place that people come when they have exactly that realization where they're like, "I know what I'm doing is more than writing." Content seems really complicated, and I want to dig in and see what else there is to see and the number ... and then it just like blows people's brains, all of the light bulbs that go off at this one little event, which is great. But then I think that part of that is they're like, "Oh, I am overlooking so many things," or, "Oh, there's so much to do. And a lot of times, there's only me," right. Like there's only one person sort of managing it.

Kristina: (15:39)
We actually do not recommend, I don't mean we, the royal we, I mean, we, Brain Traffic, that people start with the content audit. Because, especially now, when people have been creating content for these websites, when was the web commercialized, '95, '96. Audits are just like completely overwhelming and, short of slashing and burning websites, they almost become useless to try to do a full scale audit of the entire site. Typically, what we suggest people start with is actually what we call a situation analysis, which is talking to stakeholders, running what Jerry McGovern calls like a Top Tasks study to figure out why people are actually coming to your website, not just why you want them to come to your website, right. Digging around, finding out what other initiatives are currently in flight that have a direct impact on the website. Because oftentimes if you dig those up, you find people that have some degree of ownership in some area of the website.

Kristina: (16:41)
And that I find is what is often overlooked, is that upfront, let's step back and take stock of what we're dealing with here in the first place. Even if it's not the whole website, maybe it's just one section of the website, that we know needs to be working harder for us, that just is sucking right now. And that can be a very, very difficult thing, especially people who are in, well for both in house and agency folks, to manage. Because when you're in house, you're like, I need to step back and take a look at the bigger picture, while managing my inbox of 200 emails, and going to eight hours of meetings a day, and dealing with people whose hair is on fire because of something that they want.

Kristina: (17:21)
Agencies can oftentimes have trouble with that, because what I find is they just don't have access to the right people, or they talk to all the stakeholders that they think they should talk to, and then, after they've presented the situation analysis and strategic recommendations, and they're starting with implementation, all of a sudden, there's 30 people that are like, "Why wasn't I consulted?" So it's a really complicated thing to find the time and the resources and the patience to do, which I think is why it gets overlooked so often.

Corey: (17:51)
Working as an agency, I mean, I feel this. Like Blend is an agency, we do this type of stuff. And I think if there's anything that I would always ask a client who's going into this, it's like, "It's okay to over plan the number of people who want to talk about something because ..."

Corey: (18:10)
And a lot of times it's like, they just need to be heard at the start, for some reason. As long as they feel like they've had some sort of input at the start and you can capture whatever issue it is that they have with content, which oftentimes it's like, the menu doesn't update correctly and it's got this weird break in it and it doesn't show me when the casserole is at its hottest or something. Right. Okay. Thank you for that information. That will be phase two. That will be phase three. But we have a ...

Kristina: (18:37)
But I hear you. That's right. Yeah, actually for our Content Strategy 101 workshop, we actually start with, the very first thing that we do is, I mean, the purpose is twofold, but to talk to people about how to interview a stakeholder. And that is the number one thing that I say is that a lot of times these interviews are about building trust and not necessarily just about gathering information, because people want to feel heard and they oftentimes don't get to be quiet in a room with somebody or on a Zoom call and just say exactly what it is that they think. The other reason is so that people, people are all like, "Oh, we all share the same pain, I love being here." So yeah, I that's the other reason.

Deane: (19:18)
I just, I never cease to be amazed how often these podcast episodes turn into discussions of the human condition.

Kristina: (19:24)
Group therapy?

Deane: (19:25)
Yes. My God, every single episode gets back to the fact that people suck and we're deeply flawed as human beings, and a great deal of us doing our jobs well is having empathy with other people and making them feel heard. I feel we just all need to go to like counseling school and just become counselors.

Kristina: (19:44)
Oh dear God. Well, that's always a joke is that we should, we should all have a title of content therapist and not just content strategist. And every time I make that joke with a client, they're always like, "Oh yeah, it's so true." But again, what is that? It's just feeling heard. It's feeling seen. And within any larger organization, that's hard to do, especially now that we're remote, right.

Deane: (20:17)
And what sucks is at some point, as a leader of these projects, you have to decide whose opinions matter.

Kristina: (20:23)
Oh, for sure.

Deane: (20:24)
There are people who have opinions and they want to be heard, and you just have to decide that, "I'm sorry, you don't get to be heard in this process." And that's kind of ...

Kristina: (20:33)
And yeah, what's hilarious though, is this role called leadership, where they have opinions that shouldn't matter, and yet here we are. We have a client right now, just the culture of the organization is that executives tend to sort of like ignore a project, ignore a project, and then when the project is finally to a stage where we can begin to share information, they hone in and they get super in the weeds in this one thing, and then they're like, "Well, that needs to be addressed." And then they leave, and they completely forget about the project. But they're like, I contributed and I wielded my power and I gave them something to think about, and because they don't have any context about anything, it just completely derails the entire wherever we're at. I see some people tearing up on video.

Deane: (21:29)
I'm just kind of noticing, this is hilarious, because we have video, and so we see this like peanut gallery of people laughing every time Kristina says something and nodding and I see people on there ...

Kristina: (21:39)
Yeah. Well but, I mean, that's the reality of it though, right, is that comes back around to content is never just one thing. It's not just words on a page. It's not just ... I mean, that's why we actually called our second conference Button. It's kind of tongue in cheek, because people think content designers and UX writers, "Oh you write the words that go on the button." When in fact it's so much more than that, and leadership doesn't have time for it. They don't when hear it. Most of the time. The leadership that does get it, a lot of the time though, are the organizations that were born on the web. Because that guard of leadership understands that the web is fueled by content. People come to the web for content, the end. The end. Or they come to the web to do things that they can't do without the content, without the words. But, at the same time, words and content are completely commoditized because everybody can create them. So there in lies the rub, my friends, and I don't have a solution. We're all doomed. That's not true.

Corey: (22:46)
Oh, cool. Well that's ...

Kristina: (22:47)
Yeah. It's fine. It's going to be fine.

Corey: (22:49)
I have a question in here from Dennis Augustine from the chat from the live group. Most of the enterprises that I deal with don't have a role or department that owns content strategy. Since content is such a broad crosscutting concern across so many areas and departments of the business, how does content strategy get operationalized in an organization? And then there's lots of other questions. What are the roles? What are their lanes? How do they interact with marketing and others? Things like that.

Kristina: (23:14)
Yep. So, shortly, they don't. They don't. Without content operations, nothing is going to get operationalized. And that, again ... The first time I ever saw a content maturity model was from Rahel Bailey, and frankly, it's still the best one I've seen to this day, and I think she put it together in like 2009. In every organization, no matter the size, goes through phases of content maturity. And what you're talking about in terms of content strategy, those principles, guidelines, rules, models, everything that make up, whatever is going to make content consistent and maintain integrity over time, that has to be operationalized by content operations. And content operations might exist, but Deane back me up on this, it's largely within content management, the realm of content management, where we're not dealing with content purpose or content audience per se, right. And so without a functional enterprise content operations, it's not going to happen. It's not, especially the bigger the website.

Kristina: (24:21)
And so I think that if we start to talk about roles, I mean, I think that I would love to see ... I think it sits under either a chief customer officer or a chief digital officer, that's where I've seen it most effective. Those two roles don't exist in very many enterprises still, to date. And if they do, the chief digital officer is largely concerned with tools and technologies and platforms, and the chief customer officer is largely concerned with marketing still, and not necessarily true blue customer experience. But I think that without that sort of oversight and insight across the different business functions, I just don't think it can be. Were we to see any kind of centralized content operations teams, it would ... I'm not even sure I would be able to get into what the different roles are because I haven't seen it in action.

Kristina: (25:24)
Rachel McConnell, I think just wrote a book about content operations, but it's not called that, it's Content Design something, something, right. I can't remember. It's by A Book Apart. I am a professional. But in that instance, I think that you've got to have sort of ... I've seen it kind of tried in content centers of excellence, but that never works, because those people are always like consultants that nobody listens to and they never have any teeth to enforce policies. If anybody has anything different, let me know. But I feel like there's got to be some kind of central oversight where people are constantly going and rolling out training and helping empower managers with tools and playbooks and metrics to sort of help oversee content in a similar way across an organization. That, I feel, is an extraordinarily unhelpful answer.

Corey: (26:19)
Well, I mean, the topic itself is so difficult because it depends just even from organization to organization. I mean I've ... So, sorry. Number one, Rachel McConnell's book is called Leading Content Design. Like literally, I think just came out, I think I got a copy of it two weeks ago or three weeks ago or something.

Kristina: (26:38)
Yeah, it came out about two months ago. Mm-hmm.

Corey: (26:39)
Yeah. But what I was going to say is Lisa Welchman's book, which, and now I can't remember the name of ...

Deane: (26:46)
Managing Chaos.

Corey: (26:46)
Managing Chaos.

Kristina: (26:47)
Managing Chaos.

Corey: (26:49)
I've read through that book, both in writing Web Project Guide and also just on my own, so much of it is still like, well, this is what you could do, but there is no answer, because the answer is very specifically about the types of people that you have clustered around you to do the actual work. Listen, you got a new website, you're going from a small website to a large website, for whatever reason. You now get to like hire people to bring in house, to work on that company.

Kristina: (27:21)
Head count. Yay.

Corey: (27:24)
That's awesome, but who do you hire? Like what disciplines or what skills do you look for first?

Kristina: (27:28)
You know, interestingly, we are dealing with this at Brain Traffic right now. We have, just like any other organization, a case of cobbler's children where we are going out and making shoes for everybody else and forget to make shoes for ourselves. And we have had such a challenge finding appropriate marketing on appropriate marketing resource, because we need somebody who's like a Jack of all trades, somebody that can do email marketing and social media marketing and can help me figure out what to post on LinkedIn and blah, blah, blah, all this different stuff. And what I finally realized is that what we really need is a marketing manager, somebody who can be finding, hiring, and managing the different kinds of marketing resources that we need in order to make that machine go.

Kristina: (28:20)
And what I would suggest is that might actually be, but again, it kind of depends on the size of organization, but really finding somebody who can oversee content writers and can make sure that those writers, or content designers, or whatever, are connected to the appropriate individuals, stakeholders, subject matter experts, et cetera, and empowered and have kind of the tools and the insights to be able to go to those folks and work with them, whether it's on just sourcing material or pair writing or sitting with them and kind of learning what it is that they do and where their expertise is so they can start writing for them, whatever the case may be. I kind of think that kind of coordinator can be really useful and help scale pretty quickly. Because I think what happens is that people are like, "Yay headcount," and they hire two writers and then those writers become order takers.

Deane: (29:15)
Yep. Kristina, you talked before about how the explosion in content design is happening now. For years, like the title, we've been talking about it as content strategist, and then content marketer, content designer. Going forward, looking over the next five years, what do you think is the, I want to say titled du jour, but that sounds super pejorative and I don't mean it to, but do you think we're going to see a shift from people identifying as content strategist to content designers?

Kristina: (29:39)
Oh, we already have. I mean huge product teams across Facebook and Shopify and Airbnb and Spotify and Netflix, and I mean, I could go on, and Twitter. Like a lot of these organizations are taking their product content teams, who were previously called content strategists, as frontline independent practitioners or who are doing content on the front lines or managing people who are doing content and changing them to content designers. Which frankly, Megan Casey and I have been talking about as long as I can remember. My concern was that if we started talking about content design, people would be like, oh fonts. But of course we have matured as a field beyond that.

Kristina: (30:26)
My hope is that what we will begin to see is content strategy sitting under the title of director or senior director or vice president or senior vice president, because, and we probably have a whole other podcast episode to talk about strategy and what it is and the function within a project and within an organization and the different levels of it and so on. But yeah, that's what I hope. Although having said that, I do think that the role of website content strategist as a frontline role does definitely still exist.

Corey: (31:07)
Kristina, do you want to talk about Button for a little bit?

Kristina: (31:09)
I do. Button is our semi-new conference. We were supposed to launch it in Seattle in 2020. That didn't happen.

Corey: (31:18)
That's weird.

Kristina: (31:19)
So we launched it online and we still had like three or 400 people show up and it was fantastic. And it was specifically programming that focuses on content for digital products and services. So we don't talk about website content audits there. We don't really talk about content modeling beyond like terminology. And we talk about editorial style guides in terms of how it can and should exist and being implemented across product families.

Kristina: (31:53)
People are really excited about Button and now we're going to host it in person in Seattle, but in a hybrid format, which is an adventure, let me tell you. And turns out COVID, not going away. Booster? COVID don't care. So we're working on updating our COVID policies. At first, we were like, "Man, it's going to be optional," and now we don't think that's going to be the case. So anyway, we're really excited though, to gather folks in Seattle. We already have tons of registrations, both for virtual and in person. And you can find out more about that at ButtonConf, C-O-N-F, .com. Sign up for our email list, it's great.

Corey: (32:39)
I will speak to both Button, which I've attended only as a volunteer when it was the virtual year, and then also for Confab in general. It is, and it continues to be, one of the most like inclusive and nice and welcoming and very, very informative communities I've ever been a part of, and it's always fun to get to go back every year.

Deane: (33:01)
Yeah. There's a question in the chat, but I have to ask also. There's still cake right?

Kristina: (33:07)
At Confab. But I'll tell you what, and this is beyond my control, the official food of Button has been voted as tacos. So you're going to get, I mean, we'll still offer something sweet at Button, but largely the focus is on tacos. There's a tacos channel, there's like a tacos of Button map that's been crowdsourced. It's a ...

Corey: (33:32)
Kristina, it's going to be in classic taco capital, Seattle, so ...

Kristina: (33:35)
There will be no cake tacos. Who said that?

Corey: (33:39)
Mary Cheryl said, "Cake tacos."

Kristina: (33:40)

Corey: (33:41)
No, everybody should go. The way that you had to sort of like transition, because Confab 2022, or sorry, Confab 2020, was what, a month after most places when into lockdown?

Kristina: (33:56)
We had seven weeks. We had seven weeks from what is happening to it's time for Confab. We had never produced a webinar. Like we had never done any of it. And I will say briefly, our very first thing was, "Oh no, we have to find an agency that knows how to produce virtual conferences, and we have to figure out what platform we're going to produce it in on." We wasted three, maybe four, weeks scrambling with an agency who swore up and down they had produced virtual conferences. And then we were like, "How can they keep inviting people to these events, who seemed to be listening really hard and taking notes? Oh, it's because they'd never actually done it before." And then the platform who promised us the moon was giving us none of it and were full of excuses.

Kristina: (34:45)
And so what we ended up doing was taking several steps back and saying, "What does our audience need when they show up?" And we kind of came down to, they need the information and they need relief and they need connection. And so we set it out to craft that experience and what we ended up with ... I'm sorry, was this a question you were asking? Because this is a thing I love to talk about. What we ended up with was a live broadcast, like TV, and a micro site that Sean [inaudible 00:35:20], our Creative Director, built from scratch because platforms suck. Slack, which ended up being the beating heart of the conference. It was just like a genius place to be that we didn't have anything to do with, it was all community. And then we created a library of prerecorded videos. And it was fabulous. It was unbelievably great. And it was completely thanks to my small team and the extraordinary community that we have around Confab. And then we did it three more times.

Corey: (35:52)
And it's been great. Awesome. Well, thanks Kristina, for telling us all about that and thanks for joining us on the podcast.

Kristina: (36:00)
Hey, thanks for having me. And thanks for ... I was saying, I don't know how we're going to get to anything of substance in this podcast because, especially Corey and I, just like really abuse each other nonstop every time we are together in person. Like it just ... Like, anyway, so ...

Corey: (36:23)
It's starting to make me feel bad.

Kristina: (36:24)
Deane, thank you for being the grown up in the room.

Deane: (36:28)
Now kids, calm down. Stop fighting. If I have to stop this car, by God.

Kristina: (36:35)
Yeah, no, the two of you are a delight. And hopefully everybody on this podcast has purchased the book. I mean, it's not only sort of the definitive guide to website projects, it's also just a gorgeous book to have on your shelf. I don't have it here at home with me, but it does live in our new office in St Paul, so yeah. It's fabulous.

Corey: (36:55)
There it is. There it is.

Kristina: (36:55)
Thank you so much.

Corey: (36:56)
He's got a copy that no one can see on the podcast.

Kristina: (36:59)
There it is. It's So pretty. It does not come with socks, I don't think Amazon or whatever sends it to you with the socks. You'll be able to find these on eBay within the next 60 minutes. I'll post the link on Twitter, that's not true. I'm not going to sell these. Thank you so much for having me, I really appreciate it.

Corey: (37:13)
Thanks, Kristina.

Kristina: (37:14)
You're both lovely.

Deane: (37:15)
Thanks everybody.

Corey: (37:24)
Well, that's our show. Thanks to our guest, Kristina Halverson of Brain Traffic and the Content Strategy Podcast and Confab and Button. Button, you can still sign up for that at ButtonConf, C-O-N-F, .com. The Web Project Guide is a product of Blend Interactive, a web strategy design and development shop that builds websites and guides teams through complicated web and content problems, from content strategy and design to CMS implementation and support. We are dedicated to making great things for the web, and this is one of those things.

Corey: (37:54)
This episode again, is sponsored by Optimizely, who is on a mission to help people unlock their digital potential. Unlock decision making by turning consumer behaviors into actionable insights and recommendations you can use at scale, unlock invention by bringing together creativity and science to continuously optimize and take risks with certainty, unlock outcomes with flexible tools that help you, not just improve incrementally, but get tangible, significant results for your business and the people that matter most, your customers. With Optimizely, no matter your goals, no matter your industry, no matter your experience, there's no limit to what you can do. Deane, did you write any of that?

Deane: (38:29)
I did not write any of this, but you know what I found interesting after our conversation with Kristina? When you were talking about Blend, you said, not just content strategy problems, you said content strategy and design problems, which makes me think you are influenced by Kristina's feeling about the rise of content design. And I've been waiting through this entire little segment to tell you that.

Corey: (38:48)
Cool. Deane, did you know that this month marks the one year anniversary of when we put the real life physical version of the book up for presale?

Deane: (38:58)
Does it?

Corey: (38:59)
Yeah, I got a Facebook like one year reminder of like, "Hey, remember when you started, when this link went up?" Well, I think that's as good a reason as any to treat yourself to your own copy, if you don't already have one. So you can purchase it directly from us at order.webproject.guide, there's also a link to Amazon for any non-US friends, as they offer a bit more affordable shipping options for international orders. This is episode nine of the Web Project Guide, which also corresponds with chapter nine of the book, Develop a Strategy for Your Content. You can read the full text of this chapter at webproject.guide/content, where you'll find the resources we used to write the chapter. And also if this is your first time to the Web Project Guide podcast, make sure you subscribe. Next month, we'll be talking about organizing content and information architecture, so you will not want to miss that.

Corey: (39:46)
We depend on your feedback to live. No? Okay, well you can't ...

Deane: (39:52)
Too much. Too much.

Corey: (39:53)
I went too far. You can help us by giving us a five star review on whatever podcast app you use. We really appreciate it. And with that, we'll sign off. Again, thanks to Kristina for joining us on this weird, live podcast episode we tried. She's off now, we're recording this separately, so a little peak behind the scenes. But subscribe and check us out next month, when we talk about organizing content and until then, go do amazing things.

Deane: (40:17)
Good luck.