HOW Interactive Design Expert’s Corner: Margot Bloomstein

Margot Bloomstein, HOW Interactive speakerHere at HOW, we’re preparing for the best yet HOW Interactive Design Conference! That’s why we’re bringing you up-close and personal advice by this year’s interactive thought-leaders.

We’ve been lucky enough to secure a date with Margot Bloomstein, an internationally-recognized queen of content strategy. This savvy, designer-turned-content-strategy expert spends her time helping businesses understand how to distill, organize and communicate their intended messages across all media channels, from traditional to social forums.

Yes, she’s a communications superstar. A masterful rhetorician. And here’s why you should listen up: She knows a whole lot about how business, design and language intertwine to yield the results you’re looking for!

Between the release of her book, Content Strategy at Work in 2012, and a schedule full of interactive speaking engagements, Margot has made quite the splash in the world of content strategy. A prolific writer, accomplished speaker and principal of her Boston-based brand and content strategy consultancy, Appropriate, Inc., it’s safe to say Margot is at the top of her game.

Want to get a peek at Margot? Don’t miss her in Chicago this November 5-7 at the HOW Interactive Design Conference. To give our HOWies a taste of what’s around the corner, I asked Margot a few questions about how she came to know the interactive space—and what it is about content strategy that makes her tick…

Okay, Margot. First thing’s first: How did you find content strategy (or how did it find you)? As I neared college graduation during the dotcom boom, I interviewed with the information architecture team at Sapient. I was about to earn my BFA in design and I wanted to continue digging into tough problems with how organizations communicate to their audiences. (Remember, during Web 1.0 and before the rise of social media, brands communicated “to” more often than “with”!) Through the course of our interview, I asked about communication issues in style, tone, and content types, and they suggested I also meet with the agency’s content strategy team.

I wasn’t familiar with the concept of content strategy, but I think I asked the right questions, because they took a chance on me. Helmed by Kristen Connor, the team combined editorial skills and specialties in information retrieval, content management, creative direction, copywriting, and rich media production. Content strategy brought together many of my interests, and continued to challenge the problem-solving skills I developed by studying design.

What’s the best part of your job? I love helping companies come together with clearer vision for who they want to be, how they want to stand out, and what they want to communicate in the marketplace. That’s no small thing. As you read this, consider your own company. Can you articulate three to five qualities, in order of priority, that you want to own in the industry? And just as importantly, would all of your colleagues echo that response? I like facilitating the discussion and debate that helps my clients coalesce around those principles. They guide our other, more tactical work, like figuring out the right channels for investment in social media or developing the right editorial style and tone.

What’s your favorite thing about working with designers? When people interact one on one, we engage in a sort of “rhetorical arena” shaped by so many things, both verbal and visual. We choose our words, the pace at which we speak, our body language, style of dress, even the mode of communication. Is this a conversation for IM? Twitter? A quick phone call? All of those choices shape the impact of our communication. When I collaborate with a visual designer, I feel like we can control so many of those variables in more “designed spaces,” like websites, exhibits, and print collateral. Communication is a factor of the sentence structure, content types, and tone, but also the typeface, imagery, and density of information. I appreciate that a designer can address those things as well.

Very well said. Well, if you weren’t a content strategy consultant, what could you see yourself doing? I thrill at exploring intense human experiences and world-changing events through a camera lens. I’ve collaborated with my husband, Michael Lohmiller, to shoot intimate weddings in the desert, the aftermath of rugby excitement in France, and political riots in Greece. I also hate the sight of a dusty passport, so if my next life is as a photographer and war correspondent, I’d be very happy.

Take your interactive design skills to the next level at the 2013 HOW Interactive Design Conference in Chicago!

Catch Margot’s session “Making Meaning in Content and Design” at the HOW Interactive Design Conference, November 5-7! You can find her blogging infrequently at Appropriate, Inc. and tweeting prolifically at @mbloomstein.