Blog Secret Santa: Knitting lessons applied to content strategy

This is a guest post written by the person who drew my name in the Blog Secret Santa for Content Strategy.

Because, heres the thing - I got two Blog Secret Santas. Not because Im special, and not because Im greedy, but because I logged into the two different ways thereby triggering two registrations. I didnt catch it until it was too late to fix so the system generated two Secret Santas for me. I, in turn, became a Santa and wrote two articles for the recipients each of my registrations triggered for me.

I feel really embarrassed for a bunch of reasons but mostly because a) I cant even log onto a simple website these days without causing drama and now you know about it, and b) to have had two people write for while there are starving content strategists out there who would kill for content like this on their blogs. Or something.

Both "Give the gift of your art" and this post "Knitting Lessons Applied to Content Strategy" are just fantastic. I can’t even. They're so good; so thoughtful; so gosh-darn generous. Holy mackerel, darling readers, you lucked out big time because you get to read both fantastic posts right here at home on

Many thanks to my gorgeous Santas - Happy Christmas to you both and much love from Michelle.

Knitting lessons applied to
content strategy

Preface: Nice to meet you

Hello, Michelle. This is your Content Santa. Before we get to the heart of my gift post, I want to first let you know that I really enjoyed digging through your blog and other online awesomeness (especially your lovely sketchnotes).

I also observed that you’re a knitter. (That pink and orange sock yarn is beautiful, by the way!) Coincidentally, there are a few of us needle-wielders participating in the Content Strategy group for Blog Secret Santa. In fact, I know of quite a few content strategists beyond the Secret Santa collective that are knitters. With the hearty knitting representation in our ranks, I thought it fitting to gift to you lessons I've learned as a knitter that also apply to my work as a content strategist:

Practice and study improve our skills

Much like a new knitter needs to pore hours into practicing even tension and gauge before starting a lovely Fair Isle sweater, so too must a content strategist devote hours to honing their craft. Much like an experienced knitter discovers new techniques, so too do experienced content strategists uncover new solutions.

And lucky us — we live in a time where knitters and content strategists alike have amazing online and physical resources at their fingertips. I would not be the content strategist I am today without my local Meetup and these amazing conferences. But most importantly, it’s the passionate folks who share their knowledge via Twitter, blogs, and on sites like The Pastry Box and A List Apart that teach and inspire me daily. And let's not forget the wealth of books dedicated to content strategy and the UX industry. From this year alone, just few of my favorite new books include: * A Web for Everyone by Sarah Horton & Whitney Quesenbery * The Language of Content Strategy by Scott Abel & Rahel Anne Bailie * Content Audits and Inventories by Paula Ladenburg Land * The second edition of Ethan Marcotte's Responsive Web Design * How to Make Sense of Any Mess by Abby Covert

Mistakes can (almost) always be repaired

I firmly believe any wayward project can be repaired. Of course, the time and resources required depends on the impact of the mistakes and the scope of the project. If I dropped a stitch on a simple ribbed hat, then a crochet hook can come to the rescue and I'll be back to p2, k2-ing in a jiffy. But if I dropped a stitch on a lace shawl, then I might need to rip back a heartbreaking 10 hours of work just to repair that one dropped stitch.

In the same vein as fixing my hat, some repairs on a content project require minimal effort and cost. Say I neglected to ensure all PDFs or other documents were migrated into the new CMS. Perhaps the solution is as simple as dedicating some time rounding them up, moving them into the new CMS, and then maybe compiling a list of URL redirects. Sure, this is annoying, but the cost is minimal to me and my organization.

However, sometimes issues on your web project greatly impact your organization and cost much money to rectify. I still maintain any mistake can be repaired, but the decision might go beyond your skill or authority as the content strategist. And similar to knitting, sometimes we make a mistake that we just don't have the heart, time, money, or skill to fix. In which case…

Sometimes it’s best to let go and move on

This is the hardest lesson for me, both when knitting or in my professional life. I am not a person who likes to give up. One of the more extreme moments of my knitting career is how I've kept a nearly-complete Juno sweater on the floor of my closet for eight years and counting while I continue to claim that I will finish it, despite how much I hate the yarn I chose. I know I will never wear the blasted thing even if I do complete it. I know my loved one would be very happy to see that project go so he stops catching the loose yarn in our vacuum each week. And yet, I just won't finish it. Nor will I throw it out.

When I think back on my most disappointing experiences as a content strategist, I see parallels between me refusing to give up on that sweater and the organizational leaders who refuse to kill a poorly-implemented, failure of a project. For whatever reason (ego?), they just can't let you pull the life support on that carousel or FAQ page you so badly want to vanquish.

For these moments, it's important to assess the impact of resources to both maintain and drop projects. Perhaps continuing ahead with your leader's vanity project requires minimal content and development resources, and even has the bonus of building a better relationship between you and them. And if you're extremely lucky, there will be minimal impact to your site visitors. On the flip side, if fighting against that specific project requires wasting time in meetings and angering your leaders, perhaps giving in and going with their plans is the best decision.

As for that unfinished sweater? Yup, I'm going to go throw it out right now.

Endnote: Some knitting content strategists

In the spirit of giving and of community, I want to end this post with Twitter handles of some content strategists who also knit. This list is certainly not exhaustive, and I hope those missing will add their names in the comments section for you.

Find out the story behind Blog Secret Santa and then check out all the 2014 #blogsecretsanta posts - follow @blogsecretsanta so you can play next year.