Thursday, September 08, 2011

Is your content strategy an a la carte, or family style menu?

What is a restaurant menu but an edible content strategy? I've watched a lot of Gordon Ramsay cooking shows, and one way he reforms errant restaurants is to suggest they move away from extensive a la carte menus and start serving family-style meals. Think converting from individual cheese souffles to, say, a big casserole full of mac-and-cheese for all at the table to share.

That's not just good business sense for a bistro or cafe, but a content strategy that might work for your blog or website online. A family-style content strategy can make your online offerings:
  • Easier to make ahead: Kitchens and content managers fail every day when the work gets too complicated. Content you can make ahead, whether it's a roast chicken or a rich data set, helps you share it in a timely, accessible way. And there's no diner or user who'll object to getting your meal on time.
  • Simpler for the chef: Fewer choices makes it easier for you to plan and execute content, just as family-style dishes make it easier for the chef to get food out to diners' tables. Narrowing and focusing your content categories may help you do the same.
  • Easy to understand: Simplifying the menu you offer makes it easier for your users to make their choices and get what you're offering. Just like that greasy spoon that offers everything from pho to ribs to burgers, you won't reach your users if they can't quickly grasp your focus. And it's tough to tell what's good when you're offering one of everything.
  • Generous and limited all at once: In a restaurant, the genius of a family-style dish is that it blurs the lines. It limits the diner's choices, but offers big portions. Can your content strategy take a disadvantage--a limit on what you offer--and make it look equally generous? Remember, the hallmark of family-style echoes the mama who urges you to have seconds...or thirds. In content, that might mean opening up a database full of facts, but not prepping extensive materials shaping people's views of it. Or perspectives only from CEOs, folks who are tough to access; your site could be the one place where they share generously. If you choose right, your site becomes the go-to restaurant for the right users.
  • Easy to share: At the end of the day, or the start of the meal, family-style means a dish that's easily shared. With social tools, your content should do the same. Family-style content should help build community as your content gets passed around the table. Put a spoon in that dish, willya?
  • Familiar favorites:  These heaping helpings ring familiar with diners. Is your content offered up in ways that make it immediately familiar to your users? 
Here's one example of how that strategy works in a restaurant, in a clip from Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares. In a communications shop, what does family style content look like to you?

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