Creating Content in an International World

A mere four years ago, Confab held their first content strategy conference in May of 2011. Today, the field of content strategy has expanded across the United States and around the world, and Confab has expanded with it, now hosting three conferences a year including one this September in Barcelona. What makes Confab Barcelona particularly eventful is the collaboration between Confab and two Catalan content strategists, who have each played a major role in bringing together Spain’s community of web professionals.

Fabrizio Ferri-Benedetti and Clara Guasch are content strategists with a unique perspective on their work. Fabrizio hails from Italy, Clara is Catalan, and both have worked in the Barcelona area for the past decade. In April 2013 they came together to create Barcelona’s first content strategy meetup, effectively evangelizing content strategy and creating a community for prospective and current content strategists in the area.

At Confab Europe both Fabrizio and Clara will be speaking about their own experiences with content strategy – and though they are distinctly unique, their stories will certainly resonate with content strategists worldwide! We recently had the opportunity to interview them and hear about their upcoming talks and their outlook on how content strategy is shifting internationally.

Let’s start by talking about your upcoming presentations. What will you be speaking about at Confab Europe?
Fabrizio: When I first got interested in content strategy, I quickly noticed that Spanish content professionals were few and scattered. So one year ago, Clara and I started the Content Strategy Barcelona meetup, and it’s been a huge success thus far. We have been contacted by content strategists from Spain, Italy, even as far away as Argentina. Such a big response proves to us that content strategy is not limited to the US and the UK
With that in mind, I aim to explain why content strategy in Spain is both difficult and necessary. Given Spain’s economic and structural issues, many people think companies don’t have the resources for content strategy to flourish. But that’s precisely my point: by raising awareness on the importance of content, companies can become more competitive on a local and global scale. Because so many small and medium-sized companies have a poor digital presence (if any), Spain is a land of opportunities for content strategists, provided they are willing to educate potential customers on the advantages of caring about content.
That’s fascinating. How can content strategists take advantage of this land of opportunity?
Fabrizio: A simple LinkedIn search will show you the lack of content strategy jobs in Spain. It’s quite common to instead find the role of content strategist divided across several positions and departments, each one firmly retaining its own silo structure. In my article Content strategy challenges and opportunities in Spain, I pointed out that there are serious issues with sharing knowledge openly and doing professional networking in Spain, even in big cities like Barcelona and Madrid, which are capitals and cultural oases. As an example: the mere idea of uploading slides to a website or writing a guest post is often seen with distrust. I feel we are still far behind Northern Europe and the US in terms of fostering collaboration between professionals. We are just not there yet.

Yet this brings about two great opportunities for people in our field: company employees can choose to build a new content strategy role based out of their existing needs, and freelancers with content strategy skills can adopt the title in order to make their skillsets more cohesive. Then those freelance content strategists can sell their services to more companies, and provide them with a complete strategic package.

Interesting – and Clara, that ties very neatly into your presentation, doesn’t it?
Clara: Yes, I’ll be talking about the need for Content Strategy, particularly in small companies. Small companies need to create effective content, just like anyone else, but there seems to be little awareness that in order to create good content, these companies also need a content strategy.

The truth is that Content Strategy does not come naturally to people. Even a two-people company that just needs a website and a flyer can benefit from expert help creating a strategy for its content. The analysis part of the strategy is absolutely crucial for small companies, which too many companies miss. What’s more, content strategy as a field can also benefit enormously from being applied at a micro level.

How does the application at a micro level impact content strategy to such a degree?
Clara: It’s the market! 92% of European companies are micro, meaning they have fewer than 10 workers. These companies are often paid little attention by web professionals, but they carry a lot of weight among the public. Unfortunately, I see companies embracing content marketing actions without a content strategy for their website. This needs to change.

I enjoy working with small companies because the impact of carrying out a content strategy at a micro level is so huge. We provide small companies the opportunity to stop and think about crucial issues. That, in turn, has an impact on content, on people and on the business itself. It’s very rewarding!

As content strategy is becoming more international, how do you think the field needs to change?
Clara: I believe that the field needs to evolve and adapt on at least three fronts:

  1. Multilingualism. Creating and managing multilingual sites isn’t easy. In Europe and in most parts of the world, even small companies need multilingual sites. Many Catalan websites for instance are trilingual. We want and need to have the website in our own language. We want to reach the Spanish market. And we want to reach the international market.
  2. Tone, style and language. We’re reading books on how to write for the web in English, and we’re applying the same rules to other languages and cultures. I believe that some general principles are pretty much universal, but we need to find the best web writing rules for each language.
  3. People. I’m a big fan of Kristina Halvorson’s and Melissa Rach’s emphasis on the fact that content strategy is as much about people as it is about content. This is very true. We can all learn more about the people side, which is very culture specific.
Fabrizio: That’s a very good point. The way content strategy has been explained and promoted so far is very American; most of that discourse cannot be exported easily to other countries. Most literature on writing for the web, UX and voice & tone are written for English speaking markets, and only part of their value is transferred intact during translations.

In Europe, for obvious reasons, we have a greater sensibility toward topics such as localization management and regional differences. In the future, I expect European content strategists to play a large role in creating an enriched vision of content strategy, one that is truly global. Starting with Confab Europe 2014, the first conference of its kind in a non-English speaking country, I’ll be thrilled to witness how the field will begin to adapt to other cultures and languages.

What would you like for people to take away from your talk, and from Confab Europe as a whole?
Fabrizio: I would like people to leave with a better understanding of how content strategy can help Spanish companies get out of the recession. I also want to remind them that content strategy is the perfect excuse to get a whole range of professionals to work together and improve the way we communicate online and offline. Who knows, we might get to a second Spanish Golden Age, one that is digital!
Clara: Yes, I think we still need to spread the word that content has a direct impact on business, and that content strategy can help enormously. Since small companies play such a big role in Europe, I’d be delighted if people left my talk willing to give less importance to the size of a company and focus more on its content problem, and how to approach it and solve it.

We’re very excited to be joining Clara Guasch, Fabrizio Ferri-Benedetti and the content strategy community at Confab Europe this September 29 through October 1st. Tell us if you’ll be at Confab in the comments, or register online.

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