LavaCon 2014 Summary: Content Matters

Ah, LavaCon. A tale of banana trees, PB&J buffets, and hundreds of smart, experienced content professionals, all gathered in central Portland. content26 got to come along for the ride this year, and we attended sessions where technical writers, salespeople, marketers, and content strategists all rallied around one central point: content matters.

As you’ll see in our Twitter roundup, it’s far from the only message. But the dominating theme was that content is important, writers are important, and words are crucial to UX, CX, and basically getting anything done online at all.

It’s easy to leave LavaCon feeling a little inflated, if you’re a wordsmith. And that is just fine.

And so, we give you: the content26 Twitter roundup of LavaCon 2014. See you in New Orleans in 2015!

In Working the Content System: Empathy in Editorial Strategy, Seattle’s own Misty Weaver looked at the many elements of creating successful content. Her talk culminated in an activity that asked participants to assume different roles of a team tasked with creating content for World Information Architecture Day 2015, where frantic brainstorming reminded us that without the right communication, timing, and planning, even well-intended plans will fail.

In The State of Mobile Publishing, Adobe’s Vikram Verma looked at the importance of content (yes) and how we’re fast approaching the mobile singularity. If you need some compelling statistics to convince higher-ups of the importance of mobile, look no further.

And thus we started day two. Continental breakfast in hand, Lavaconners were treated to that rarest of birds: a salesperson who advocates for content. Christopher Ward, director of sales at WebWorks, presented A Printer, Desktop, and Tablet Walk in to a Bar…Creating Tech Comm Nirvana, which explained how vital content is at all steps of the customer relationship.

Friend of content26 Bram Wessel used a persona to take the audience through how information architecture profoundly influences everyday experiences in Modeling in the Real World.

In Using Search Insights to Create Content Strategies that Generate Revenue, Margaret Nicoll of MAKA Digital demonstrated how she created a network of content around Ugg boots to keep people interested before, during, and after the sale.

Ahava Leibtag’s The Content Charmer’s Guide to Content Audits, explained the different kinds of content audits and why you might pick one over another. She also dropped some wonderful, actionable little soundbites throughout.

Kane Jamison of Content Harmony presented Risk Management for Content Creation (which he was kind enough to write up in full). There’s an old stereotype, very gradually being shaken off, that content’s benefits are unmeasureable and that it’s impossible to control. Kane’s tips are a great start for designing a project with minimal (or at least predictable) risk.

Day three started with Content Project Horror Show by Rhyne Armstrong of RouteMatch Software. Even if you’re pretty new to the workforce, you’ve encountered some of these lurking, hiding, bloodsucking threats to success. Rhyne breaks down each type and explains how to defeat them – or prevent them altogether.

Repurposing is key to successful content marketing (or at least successfully doing it without losing your mind), and Nick Kellet of Listly laid out a comprehensive (and Hitchhiker’s Guide-themed!) plan for how to spread your ideas far and wide for the biggest impact The Infosnacker’s Guide to the Galaxy Embracing Short Form, Ephemeral, and Realtime Content Strategies.

By this time, the themes and common lessons were becoming abundantly clear.

In Integrating Content into Customer Journeys, Kathy Wagner and Melissa Breker of Content Strategy Inc. explained how to map the content your customer (or lead) needs at the different points of the customer journey. Usually, PowerPoint slides with massive spreadsheets as graphics are a no-no, but they were just part of the smart, useful examples and tips that were part of this presentation.

In 10 Tips to Reducing Content Complexity, Bernard Aschwanden of Publishing Smarter mixed clear philosophy (meeting discipline, changing the scope of a project after kickoff) with specifics such as Word and Excel tricks to create a clear picture of how everyone – yes, even you – can make their job easier without affecting the quality of the work. By equating simplicity with laziness, he made a very effective appeal to a tired conference crowd at the tail-end of the event.

And then Lavacon was at an end, leaving us with only a trip to Voodoo Donuts and a bus to catch.