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Five Smart Takeaways from Confab Central


Since 2011, Confab has drawn together content strategists and marketers to talk all about what they know best: content, how to create it, how to effectively share it, and what’s coming next. This year, five VSAers attended (and Karen Semone even presented), sharing their ideas and bringing back lots of good ones, too. Their five top takeaways:

1. “Content Strategy” Continues to Defy Definition. And that’s Okay!

In her opening keynote Kristina Halvorson spoke about how the term can be used to mean a framework, a deliverable, a practice, a role and a discipline. All have different implications, audiences and use cases. Her seminal 2009 book Content Strategy for the Web argued that we should strictly define content strategy so that we can communicate its value. Today, lack of definition can be used to our advantage. It’s empowering to see this evolution.

2. Transparency Produces Great Content…

Let people tap into your thinking to scale values and true quality assurance across an organization. Don’t be afraid to iterate and show your work (props to Karen Semone for elaborating through her talk “Sprinting Toward Launch: Content Strategy in an Agile World.”) Let people see how data backs up your decisions. Put your kanban board where people can see it. Improvise publicly. Focus on outcomes rather than processes.

3. …and There’s a Difference Between Knowing and Understanding Your Audience.

GatherContent’s Rob Mills really unpacked understanding audience. With all the analytics and data at our fingertips, it’s easy to lose sight of truly understanding emotional needs and motivations — and how they can impact user behavior. You can easily know you have 21,000 newsletter subscribers, but without deeper quantitative and qualitative research on who they are, you can’t effectively position your marketing and content for them. We love GatherContent on the team, so it was great to meet and spend time with Rob.

4. Kindness, Empathy, and Trust are Having a Real Moment.

Strong vibes were flowing on the power of connecting through language and experience. From Anil Dash‘s keynote about humane tech, to Anna Pickard of Slack straight-up stating, “We hire on empathy,” we see this as a natural progression of user-centric experience that has a lot of potential. Creating authentic trust ties right in. Airbnb’s Joscelin Cooper shared great insight about how her team works alongside designers to collect information from hosts and then distills the content down to major themes. The result? An easy-to-navigate site that provides useful information, alleviates users’ anxieties and reinforces trust in the brand.

5. Prince is a Powerful Source for Content Inspiration.

Another favorite moment also came from Anil Dash‘s keynote, which, in addition to talking about empathy, was all about Prince. We have some major Prince fans in our Content Practice, so it was powerful to see one of our industry’s giants sharing his very human, real love for the icon in his hometown of Minneapolis. Anil put forth the point that Prince was a content strategy powerhouse — his impact on music, culture, and digital distribution serve as great evidence. We agree!