The term content operations has been around for about 15 years, but it’s really started to take off around 2016. But what does it mean, what skills does it require and how do you get into it? Here’s a quick introduction to help you get started.
What is ‘content ops’?
Content operations can be defined as:
… the people, processes, and technologies that allow an organisation to implement its content strategy to efficiently produce, maintain and deliver content.
What’s the difference between content strategy and content ops?
The short answer is that a content strategy (usually) guides content operations; one flows from the other.
Some definitions of content ops drop the content strategy element. Perhaps because not every organisation has a content strategy – or it has one that is gathering dust because no one then operationalised it. But it makes sense to carry out operations according to a plan. The two go hand in hand.
Why do we need content ops?
Most large organisations see their content as a business asset. For example, they may use a content strategy in the following ways, through:
- content marketing in order to sell more goods or services
- technical communication explaining how to use a product
- intranets to communicate with staff
- social media to engage with and support customers
- phone apps for ease of use on mobiles
- chatbots to automate common customer interactions
- content on third-party platforms
- personalised or time-sensitive content across different stages of the sales funnel
…and many more. An organisation may have multiple operational models for content, or one operational model with multiple submodels. Content operations is a way to deal with this complexity. It applies systems and more technical management to these operational models with the aim of creating order from chaos.
How did content operations develop?
For a grounding in how and why content ops is growing in importance, listen to Content Strategy Insights podcast interview Episode 86. In it Rahel Bailie, ‘The Content Empress’ and content operations expert, discusses how many of the content problems that marketing departments now face have already been solved by technical communication departments.
Without the budget of marketing departments, she says, techcomm learned early on how to do more with less by organising information more efficiently. Processes such as structured data and content modelling have become common in technical communication, and make the managing and publishing information easier to handle across different platforms, contexts and users. Techcomm learned how to separate the editorial side of content from the technical side of its presentation.
You can read more on content modelling and structured content in Noz Urbina’s guest posts for Firehead on adaptive content – a technique designed to support meaningful, personalised interactions across all channels.
What does a content operations team do?
To return to the definition, content operations seek to define your content offering, analyse problems and gaps, and put in place the right the people, processes and systems to help you efficiently produce, maintain and deliver content.
It usually takes a team to set the system to operationalise the content because technologists and analysts need to be involved as well. That team needs a senior-level person, likely to be a consultant experienced in content. Skills required include expertise and experience in managing both editorial and technical sides of content, as well as an understanding of the digital communications landscape and creating rich customer experiences across current and new communication channels.
A content operations manager may also be hired to run the operational side but this is often less senior level role as they don’t necessarily do the implementation.
What background do you need for a career in content ops?
This is a relatively new and evolving area. Roles often require knowledge and experience in related fields, for example, a content ops person will likely be a generalist who has learned about the editorial side, the tech side and the business analysis side as part of their job.
Content professionals with a background in the following could be well positioned to make the transition: content strategist, taxonomist, metadata specialist, content modellers, technical communicators, digital transformation specialists, management consultants, and business analysts with a digital content background and content designers.
Useful reads and explainers
- What’s the deal with structured content? – Rahel Bailie
- What Is Content Operations? – Colleen Jones
- What is ‘ContentOps’ and why should you invest in it? – Gather Content
- The role of content operations in delivering content for machine use (STC members only) – Rahel Bailie
- Content operations – the missing link between strategy and delivery
- Apples to Oranges: Content Operations vs. Project Management Tools
- Content Operations Defined
- What are content operations?
Join us at Firehead!
If you’ve been working in content operations, we’d love to talk to you! Get in touch for a chat. If you’re looking for a role, let’s talk about that too.
Image (CC): Geralt / Pixabay