Interview with Rob Mills from GatherContent
GatherContent is a Content Operations Platform that helps teams produce effective content - and at scale - because planning, organising and managing content across multiple systems with 100's of stakeholders can be very chaotic…
Rob Mills works as GatherContent’s Head of Content, and seeing as I’d been collaborating with him on a couple of things recently, it was pretty inevitable that I’d ask him to be an interviewee for Digital Drum!
What does a typical day at GatherContent involve?
Aside from a team stand up every morning at 10 am, there isn't a typical day - which keeps it interesting. A day might involve working with writers on our editorial content for the blog, hosting or presenting a community webinar, and planning content for the coming quarters including masterclasses, books, and other resources.
I might find myself working with the marketing team on content for nurturing sequences and buyer journey content. This could involve writing, analysing data, editing, whatever is needed. I also work with sales and customer success on their content needs, and research with our customers to identify their needs.
Finally, I may be working with the product team on onboarding content, UX copy or developing our content operations thinking with our Product Director.
Pretty varied. And busy.
Your career history is heavily steeped in 'content' - what keeps you on that path?
It was never a planned route, but it has been the consistent strand throughout my jobs.
I always loved writing. Back in school, I used to write reams and reams. I've just always enjoyed the challenge of writing and being able to tell stories.I'm a journalism graduate and I've dabbled in freelance writing. It just so happened that content was always part of my past roles in some way. When I was a Studio Manager for an agency, I used to work with clients on their content, for example. It's really since I joined GatherContent in 2015 that content has been my sole focus.
I also have professional experience in data analysis for local government and audience research at the BBC, so that has stood me in good stead as it’s helped me create content that's effective for the business and our audience.
Do you agree with the saying 'content is king'? Or is it more complex than that?
I think that's a good start. Any emphasis on content is reassuring that an individual, team or organisation are seeing content as an asset, which it should be for any business. But yes, I think it is more complex.
Just because someone thinks content is king, it doesn't mean they are delivering useful content. I've also seen 'content and context is king' referenced, and I think that's another step in the right direction. It depends (typical content persons answer!) what discussion comes from that phrase.
If it is about investing in content, whether that be in one or more of the three pillars of content operations (people, process, technology), or starting to adopt a content-first approach to projects, then that thinking that content is king is a great catalyst for delivering a content strategy successfully.
Content is complicated because it is so much more than words. How content is considered at an organisation is so closely tied to its culture and people. So turning 'content is king' into a content-focused organisation requires transformation, buy-in, difficult discussions, investment, and patience.
Work-wise, is there anything which you never seem to get around to doing?
Writing a book. I have the outline, lots of notes and have started writing it in bits via individual articles. I'll get there. I always want to learn more about certain areas such as taxonomy, accessibility, governance to name a few at the moment. I spend a lot of time editing other people's work and using GatherContent's resources as a platform for lots of other people's thinking, rarely talking about my own work.
So yeah, I think writing and talking more about my work at GatherContent, and actually using it as an example in practice of the theoretical information we share for the content community.
Lastly, what advice would you give yourself five years ago, knowing what you know today?
Don't be afraid to just try something. I'm lucky that at GatherContent I have a lot of autonomy to just try something, but it took me a while to get comfortable with that. I used to seek permission all the time. It could be a new format of content, a different topic, or something more involved. If I have a good reason for trying whatever it is, that's enough; regardless of the outcome.
I think the other piece of advice would be not to be too hard on myself. There can be so much (self-imposed) pressure and expectation to know everything, and that's not realistic in an industry that is changing all the time.
It's actually OK not to know something, or not to have an answer. I've learned that through giving talks at conferences. I can't know every example or understand every use case or industry, so I'm totally comfortable now acknowledging it's a good question, admitting I don't know the answer, but committing to trying to find out. Instead, I try to turn to my peers for help and information to fill in the gaps in my own knowledge, and hear about their experiences and insights.