For all you professional writers who struggle with managing mountains of information at work—whether you write technical manuals, marketing literature, training materials, service guides, online help, or what have you—the new edition of Ann Rockley’s classic book, Managing Enterprise Content: A Unified Content Strategy, coauthored with Charles Cooper, calls to you.
The illustrations alone make this second edition worth picking up (especially if your boss springs for it). For example, one glance at the beer-can-chicken recipe as it appears in a printed book, on an eReader display, on a nice big monitor, and on a smartphone—and suddenly the abstract discussions of “information modeling” make sense.
The case studies sprinkled throughout this edition also bring the realities of content management to life, most tellingly the last study: the “lesson in failure” due to “lack of ongoing oversight.” Short-term budgeters, beware! (In this case, three years is a short term.)
Rockley and Cooper, along with the many folks who contributed to this book, did an impressively thorough job covering all aspects of content management. Some sentences leave me wishing that the book had gone through another round of editing. (“Structured writing is the way elements in a component are written.” Huh?) But the book’s overall value compensates for its occasional lack of clarity. This book represents a bright light of encouragement and insight for anyone with the courage to follow its authors into content management’s daunting new world.
Updated May 11, 2012
Are you reading this on a Droid? On an iPhone? On some other diminutive device being introduced even as I write this? Knowing that you could be gives me pause. The smartphone has become a primary reading device. So, unless you write nothing but lost-cat posters destined for telephone poles, or other print pieces that no one will ever upload to the Web, you have little choice but to join me in grappling with this question: what must writers do differently to accommodate the small screen?
The answer, I believe, is … nothing.
When a piece I’m writing needs a little more … something, I call to mind these three powerful words: explore and heighten. I owe this incantation to playwright Alan Gross, who practically chanted it during a workshop that I attended one summer during my college years. Whatever I’m writing, this phrase invariably nudges the content that oh-so-helpful extra bit further.
For example, while working on a project for Nike, I find out that my desk phone is made of material from recycled NFL helmets. Too perfect. Got to tell friends about this. I draft a message:
Check it out—my Nike phone is made of old football helmets.
Then those magic words come to me as if the playwright himself is whispering them in my ear. Explore and heighten.