First Steps: Structured Content Strategy Spain

Last week, we had the first Structured Content Strategy meeting in Spain (to our knowledge) organized by Urbina Consulting and Blue Stream Software in Valencia. The turnout, as expected, was small. OK – it was WAY smaller than expected. Still, it was the occasion for a few practitioners to start to make some headway towards creating a community in this country where “content” as a business asset is still unknown or misunderstood, and many content professions don’t even exist in the official repertory of professions.

We had people from Valencia, Barcelona, and Bilbao, who work with software, machine industries, tools, etc.  Spaniards were in the minority. Canadians were in the majority. This is also indicative of the state of content strategy activities in Spain – though in Barcelona, we do have a lively, active Meetup group which is mostly composed of Catalan and Spanish practitioners.

The economic crisis in Spain is such that many from the Barcelona group who wished to attend were not able to make the 3-hour train trip to Valencia – and that, also, indicates something.

What is remarkable is that despite these conditions, against all odds, the meeting took place. One of the very intense topics of discussion was just how much the local culture in Spain influenced the way that we have to present, sell, and execute content strategy. This highlights a very important aspect of our work that we sometimes forget: content is profoundly cultural. When we create web sites, almost automatically, we do it with our own cultural viewpoints, we read signs and symbols as we would in our home cultures. Even those of us who live and work outside our native countries, or have done so in many different situations, are subject to this habit. It requires an effort, a real bit of work, to get outside our cultural blinders.

Another important theme that came up, was how often we get called for a specific, fairly delimited service, only to find out that what the customer really needs is, in fact, content strategy. This doesn’t mean, however, that you get to call it that. My own contribution to this was an exposition of how I got called to do “documentation” and ended up providing a host of services. The client, even though they know and acknowledge this, still thinks of me as “the doc guy.” I called it “stealth content strategy.”
In addition to my presentation, there was one by Fabrizio Ferri-Benedetti on selling content strategy in Spain, and Pablo Eguileor presented the work his team has done in applying content strategy in a technical communications context.

All these presentations will be made available on line soon.

The result of this meeting was to strengthen our determination to beat the drum for structure and strategy, and to continue to work collaboratively to establish the discipline here in Spain.

It’s a good moment to be initiating this activity, especially with Confab Europe coming to Barcelona this autumn.

If you’re a content strategist in Spain, let us know – leave a comment here and join us!

Author: Ray

Ray Gallon is president and co-founder of The Transformation Society (, a research, training and consulting company focusing on building learning organisations that can manage complexity and the digital transformation. He has over 40 years as a communicator, first as an award-winning radio producer and journalist, then in the technical content industries. His management experience includes a stint as program manager of WNYC-FM, New York City’s public radio station. Ray is a self-described "humanist nerd," and has always been interested in the meeting point between technology and culture, and has used his broad experience to advantage with companies such as IBM, General Electric Health Care, Alcatel, 3M, and the OECD, as well as in smaller companies and startup enterprises. Ray recently helped co-found the Information 4.0 Consortium ( and serves as its current president. Ray is a university lecturer and a keynote speaker at events throughout the world. He has contributed articles and chapters to many books and periodicals and is the editor of the recently published “Language of Technical Communication” (XML Press).

3 thoughts on “First Steps: Structured Content Strategy Spain”

  1. That’s very interesting, Ray. Thanks for sharing.

    I’m curious as to why you expected a bigger turnout, and whether you think the small crowd says anything about Spain in particular or about content strategy in general.

    In any event, it’s great that you did this. I hope that we’ll see similar events in other countries. After all, the issues you discussed are universal. For example, I completely understood (and had a chuckle at) the bit about “stealth content strategy.”

  2. Larry, a number of folks indicated interest in attending, and then didn’t. This is not unusual for such an event, especially when it’s free, but given that we were working with a relatively initial group, the no-shows form a critical mass.

    I don’t think it says much about content strategy in general, but it does indicate that this is a relatively new, and unknown profession in Spain. One of our objectives was to get some companies who might actually use content strategists into this meeting, and that did not really happen. We are going to need to be much more proactive to get people to even understand why they should be curious about it.

    If you were to compare where Spain is in the digital world to the United States, I’d say it’s maybe 1992 – maybe even not that far. People have web pages because they think they ought to. They have little or not real information on them, and never get updated. Content strategy? Mostly people don’t even know what it is, let alone that they need one.

    Spain is, in my view, an extremely navel-gazing society, and though it is in the European Union, it tends to look to Latin America (hispanophone ex-colonies) more than to Europe as its natural export market. There is very little R&D here, Spain bet on being a resource of cheap industrial labour for the E.U. and now Eastern Europe and China have supplanted them. This is only part of Spain’s problems, but it should give you an idea of what I’m getting at.

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