Content strategy and design

This month I have mainly been grappling with content modelling, and roadmapping our project over the next 3 years.

It has at times been hugely challenging and in some ways well outside my comfort zone, and in a different area to the bulk of my experience. Some days that has been an enjoyable stretch, but some days it’s been challenging in the wrong ways!

I’m really looking forward to having new team members onboarded ahead of next month so we can work through some of the questions and blockers together. I’m also trying to keep myself really focused on the hard work which needs doing, and not re-shaping it in ways which are more comfortable.

This means really leaning in to the content modelling work. The organisation explored OOUX last summer, which while not the banner under which we’re likely to sail forward definitely gave some useful foundations. Structured content (of which OOUX is one flavour) is the way and theoretically it’s really clear how this can benefit us now while also future-proofing and opening us possibilities we would struggle with in our current set up.

However, there’s hard thinking and hard work to be done to understand what structure our content needs (our subject is neither neat, or linear in experience, and we’re definitely talking content as a service) and how we build the systems and processes to put that structure into practice. Once we’ve done that there’s the small matters of migration and other content design, visual and interaction design, and lining everything up from this phase with bits which are currently out of scope.

The content strategy, by comparison, is emerging quite easily at this stage!

Record label

Another busy month and one in which the juggle between current (imminent) releases and future planning has felt really hard at times.

The logistics of running a label and scheduling multiple releases (factoring in our capacity, artist’s commitment which need to coincide, manufacturing timelines, sector and seasonal activity, distribution timelines, press timelines and more) has felt on the edge of chaos at times, despite best efforts and intentions from all involved. It’s an invisible part of the work we do (mostly) but if we get it wrong it’s got a huge impact on the artist and potentially financially for us too, so working out how to make everything fit together and where we have control and where we don’t takes up lots of time and energy. It was somewhat reassuring to know it’s not just us – this piece about SubPop felt familiar in lots of ways!

Anyway – this month has seen us move some of our vinyl orders to a new UK plant, sign a few new artists to the roster, and begin in earnest to plan what our 2023 might look like. What we know so far is it’s unlikely to look anything like our 2022!

Personal development

I’ve been really thinking about where, when and how I thrive over the last month, and alongside that when the biggest challenges to my performance and comfort come up. It’s felt good, but scary, to write it down, and even scarier to see potential patterns or threads through what I know about myself.

I’ve tried to be objective about where I need to do more work (and prioritise those areas, and identify paths I could take to improve or find support), but also reframe some things which I’ve tended to think of as weaknesses in ways which are more useful.

So, my tendency to people please is the unhealthy side of my passion for understanding and meeting user needs in my work. I think exploring more of these strength / weakness and unhealthy / healthy behaviours, traits and skills could be important in moving forward with consistency and confidence.

Reading and writing

Things I’ve written this month

A running theme here but – virtually nothing! Aside from press releases and other bits at the label, and the stuff I’m doing in the day job writing is completely moth-balled. Not going to lie – that hurts a bit as it’s a situation forced by energy and time, rather than fully by choice.

What else?

My eldest son is in Year 10, and is being encouraged to undertake work experience by his school. I’d love him to as I think not only is it educational (in a holistic as well as academic sense) but can help with making those post-16 decisions between college and apprenticeships. He too is really keen to take the opportunity.

Except, the pandemic seems to have reduced opportunities greatly. With lots of places closing, reducing workforces, or moving to a remote model lots of work experience opportunities seem to have gone too. It’s a real kicker for kids who have already had to adapt and see their world reduced, who quite often have concerns about what future they have, and something most of us probably haven’t even considered might be a thing until we’re trying to sort it.

It’s been disheartening for me alongside him – not only to see fewer opportunities to apply for but lots of alternative routes shut off because companies aren’t willing or able to be flexible when they’re approached. I really hope we can sort something out for him of value, as his experience of work has so far been that organisations are unwelcoming to their potential future workforce.

Coming up next month…

  • continuing to work out what the next step of my personal development and work journey might look like
  • lots more releases at Reckless Yes including from new signings and our first physical release of 2022 (CD, not vinyl)
  • a real stretch to try and get the content modelling and content strategy falling into place in the move from discovery to definition.