This interview is part of our Content Visionaries series, asking content leaders across industries for their insights into findings from our 2021 State of Content Operations Study.
Before you can create a content strategy or content roadmap, you have to know what your content vision is. Content Science defines a content vision as vivid, inspirational, significant, infectious, out of the ordinary, and a north star for your content.
Despite the importance of having a strong content vision, the majority of organizations don’t have one. To get a better understanding of the value of a content vision and what some of the barriers to creating a vision are, Content Science spoke with the Director of Unified Content Services at the security technology company Genetec, Kelly Lawetz.
Lawetz oversees a team of about 30 content professionals spanning content development, operations, translation, and taxonomy.
LAWETZ: It’s hard to define a clear vision when you haven’t taken the time to outline what you do, why it matters, what you’re trying to achieve, and then communicate these values to your target audience; the business and the customers. With a clear vision, you can look at the current state of your content services and start to chart the course to that future state when things are going to be better because of the content services you are delivering.
This is an opportunity for content teams to have a material impact on the business. The pandemic pushed digital transformation, which was just plodding along. This really served as a wake-up call to businesses, and forced them to transform and connect their employees, business systems, customers digitally. All the problems that you have with disconnected content, by sidestepping the content experience, are now impacting businesses. But I see this as an opportunity for content teams to play a strategic role in the business and it is hard to step into those opportunities if you don’t have a vision about how content will make a difference.
LAWETZ: I’m fortunate to work for a company whose leadership has a strong vision for our organization. This vision isn’t about making tons of money, it’s about improving lives and “protecting the everyday.” So, there was already a strong vision of what the company wants to be. But I got inspiration from our software, which we refer to as a “unified platform,” that is able to take the data from various devices and provide the user with a unified view of what’s going on in their school, airport, city. The concepts of unification, open standards, connectivity etc. were at the center of Genetec’s value proposition. I took those concepts and vision and asked what role does content play in realizing that vision? What must content do? What must it be?
If we need to connect, then our content needs to connect. We need to have an integrated experience. So, it wasn’t really that difficult because I had something to go on. But 12 years ago, when I started at Genetec, not everyone bought into my vision. However, over time and with digital transformation, the business is buying into the value and vision of content. You have to be ready for when this happens, and you can’t be ready if you don’t have a vision and a roadmap. You can’t be ready, if you don’t have a clear sense of who you are, and what value you bring, and how that connects to the vision and the value of the company.
LAWETZ: Strategy is about how are you going to bring your vision to a reality. Your vision is aspirational—why you exist, why the world is better because you do what you do. Strategy is specific and grounded in an assessment of what’s going on in the business now, the problems, the opportunities, threats, and what actions you are going to take to address them. For example, our vision “is a world where employees, customers, partners are motivated, self-sufficient, and successful, because they have the right information they need to do their jobs.” We do this by making sure content is findable and usable, eliminating duplication and discrepancy, and increasing the quality of content across the enterprise. As our company goes through digital transformation and starts to connect systems and experiences, the lack of unified terminology and the silos of terms and meanings, have been a stick in the wheels of progress. This issue has been identified at a corporate level, so strategically we have decided to focus resources on making terminology (a type of content) findable, eliminating duplication, and increasing quality. The strategy is an example of the vision made real in the current business reality.
LAWETZ: Never miss an opportunity to tell your story. Interviewing a candidate, beginning a retrospective, ramping up a new member of the team, meeting a new colleague at the company, kicking off a new project, pitching an imitative to the C-Suite; we always start with a version of what we call our department mantra. Which is a variation of Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle—why we exist, how we achieve our vision, and the services we deliver, and of course we always tie this into the context of the organization or stakeholder we are speaking to, and what’s in it for them. Finding the right information is a problem everyone faces. When you tell people you have a vision and strategy to solve that problem, people may start to have a different perception.
LAWETZ: No barriers, per se, but like moving up the content maturity scale, you’re not going to go from lagging to optimizing in a year; it is a gradual slope. You need be tactical and look for specific opportunities to deliver on your vision. Start small and look for areas within your locus of control, and where you’ll have the highest chance of success. Then deliver those improvements consistently and continuously. Measure the value of those improvements (decreased time to market, improved customer experience, improved authoring experience), then go on the road and tell your story. Repeat.
LAWETZ: There a lot of expert advice, like from Content Science, on how to build a content vision. I read most of it. But for me, the most important step I took was changing my attitude towards content. Content is not just an output that people choose to read or not read and you think they really should read it. Content is an asset that has an impact on the business, brand, customer experience, partner relations, employee efficiency and satisfaction. When you approach content from that perspective the skies start to clear about what content needs to be and why.
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