To think about content strategy in Canada, one word comes to mind: “Pioneer”. Certainly this second largest country in landmass alone has known its fair share of pioneering, but with respect to the influence of the Internet on content work like content strategy and content marketing, many of us who are working in these disciplines are truly Canada’s pioneers of the Information Age.
Similar to our forebears who founded this country, our efforts are fueled by a belief and vision for what could be, and hampered by external influence and environment of what is. We know that content is what drives better citizen engagement online for government and an increased bottom line for business, but we also know our country lags behind in terms of Internet adoption.
You may have heard that Canada tops the globe in Internet usage, but what you may not know is that Canadian business lags far behind other countries in embracing the Internet as a cornerstone of doing business.
“Canadian businesses are investing 40% less in information and communications technologies, or about $2,400 less per worker, than American business” ~ Maclean’s
The economic impact of this relative to other G20 countries means Canada is poised to lose significant global competitive advantage in less than 5 years:
“The Internet accounted for about $49 billion or 3% of Canada’s gross domestic product in 2010. That ranks 9th in the G20 and below the group’s average of 4.1%. Moreover, the Internet’s contribution to Canada’s GDP is expected to grow to 3.6% by 2016, at which point the country will be even further behind the expected average of 5.3%, sliding to 12th.” ~ Peter Nowak
Understandably, looking at Canada’s broader economic picture may not be the best lens to use when examining content strategy adoption in Canada at an organizational level, but it does serve to provide some perspective on the appetite for seeking out and implementing content strategy practices within Canadian organizations.
A quick keyword search on Google demonstrates just how cutting edge content strategy is in Canada relative to our oft-compared-to US neighbours to the south.
While these numbers are low and certainly reflect the slow adoption of content strategy as a practice and discipline, the statistics get even more dismal when researching the number of people globally and locally who search for “Content Strategy in Canada” — zero!
With numbers this bleak, it’s a wonder that anyone in Canada labels themselves a Content Strategist. But a growing number of Canadian content strategists are embracing the pioneering spirit and staking claim in organizations that should also be commended for their foresight in recognizing the value of properly strategized content assets.
While the tools and processes we follow aren’t any different than what our peers around the world use in their content strategy work, the environments we work in might not be ready to adopt the de rigueur practices we learn about at conferences or read in books. As I often say, it’s hard to get to future-friendly when organizations are struggling just to get up to speed with present-ready.
“The Content Strategy methodology doesn’t change from country to country, nor does the basic corporate need. What differs is the business parameters. Canadian companies tend to be more risk averse than American companies, so they may not want to invest in content strategy as quickly, and movements take longer to take hold in Canada.” ~ Rahel Bailie (@rahelab), Intentional Design
Many organizational early adopters of content strategy in Canada primarily work with content that focuses on:
As such, Canadian sectors such as higher education, government, associations/non-profits and media are those that have predominantly embraced content strategy into their current approaches. In fact, we have a few shining stars in our midst for demonstrating exemplary content strategy practices to the global community —
The Government of Canada is to be commended for its ROT initiative, the City of Vancouver recently integrated content strategy into its massive web redesign project, and the Ottawa chapter of the International Association of Business Communicators recently became the first chapter globally to incorporate Content Strategy into its professional development offerings.
Unfortunately, Canada’s underwhelming e-business showing has left a gap in places where content strategy can really shine – in e-commerce and mobile design. However, many Canadian Content Strategists are finding success south of the border on projects such as these for American companies.
“I’ve worked with both Canadian and US clients. Most of my clients on both sides of the border come to content strategy indirectly, when a third party agency or consultant is hired to do UX, marketing or web redesign work and recognizes the need for content strategy.” ~ Kathy Wagner (@KathyWagner_E3), E3 Content Strategy
And so it is that many independent content strategists find themselves working in a global marketplace despite being situated in Canada. I myself have done work for clients in Canada, the US, Mexico, New Zealand and the Caribbean. This global experience only strengthens demand by Canadian clients for local content strategy talent at home.
“At a European conference a panel session was held… and it turned out that all of the panelists were Canadian (even though two of them were living in Europe). What a couple of us said during the panel discussion was that we had to make our names in the US and build our reputations there before Canadian companies would hire us.” ~ Rahel Bailie (@rahelab), Intentional Design
So, what is the forecast for content strategy in Canada?
Whether you a Content Strategist within a Canadian organization, a content strategy consultant or are new the field entirely, know that you really are on the bleeding edge of the discipline here in Canada. Just like the Yukon gold rush at the turn of the last century, the prospects for content strategy work here will only grow bigger as organizations start to recognize the need for content strategy in the next economy where economic growth will be linked to intangible assets and intangible artifacts.
“It’s only been in the last year that I’ve seen a good number of content strategy job positions being posted in Canada, where they’ve been fairly common in the US for the past three years or so.” ~ Kathy Wagner (@KathyWagner_E3), E3 Content Strategy
Organizations in Canada are presented with a unique opportunity that other countries don’t have to really leverage content strategy to its fullest especially if they are striving to create English and French content that meets the information and engagement requirements of a bilingual Canadian audience. Successful projects in this domain will certainly add to the discipline’s global dialogue in presenting cases for localized and responsive content.
As content strategy slowly takes hold in organizations across the country, there are a few grassroots movements underway where its early pioneers are already congregating to evangelize the discipline, share stories and build momentum for a discipline that is poised to grow exponentially in the next 5 years.
To find out more about content strategy in Canada, I urge you to visit:
- Information Architecture and Content Strategy Vancouver
- The Toronto Content Strategy Group
- IABC Ottawa Content Strategy
- Contenu Montréal
Are you a Canadian Content Strategist? Do you know of any Canadian content strategy events? Do you have experiences to share about content strategy in Canada? I encourage you to add your comments below!