The VMT Framework: Clarity Through Content Strategy

Overview

VMT is a lens for understanding the purpose behind your products and initiatives. The things we believe, the things we do, and the people we impact shape the way we see the world, the way we think, and the way we speak.

The tools and teachings of content strategy are well-suited to facilitating understanding within product teams. Clarity in each of these areas will empower designers, writers, and business leaders to do their best work.

Be intentional and specific about each of the six areas of this framework. Consider the areas where you do most of your work, as well as which areas were the most "fuzzy" on unsuccessful or frustratingv projects.

Reading the Chart

The letters VMT are simply a convenient initialism to aid recall. The top row contains elements often considered to be the domain of CEO's, product managers, and others on the product and "business" side of things. The bottom row describes elements most commonly associated with branding, marketing, and content work.

Vertically, the pairings of each column best describe the scope of each area: our organization or team, the project or product, and finally, the context of a given interaction or communication.


Vision

Visions are realized.

Clear visions are ambitious.

A vision is an idea of how the world could be different. A problem solved, a change enacted.

Voice

Voices are found.

Clear voices are unique.

Your voice is your unique worldview, your opinion about your vision and why it matters. Many individuals could share the same vision, but no two have the same voice.

"Brand building" is phony bullshit. Voice is arrived at through a discovery process, not a development process.

Mission(s)

Missions are accomplished.

Clear missions have outcomes.

Missions are the activities undertaken to further your vision. Create a website. Hire a designer. Develop a marketing campaign. This is the "stuff" that most of us work on from day to day.

Message

Messages are designed.

A clear message has structure.

Messaging is more than taglines. It's how we explain our missions, our activities, to others — ideally, relating them to our vision, and shaped by our voice.

Targets

Targets are chosen.

Clear targets are specific.

These are your channels and audiences. Whom do you serve? Where are you talking to them?

Tone

Tone is responsive.

Clear tone is appropriate.

Tone colors the final expression of an idea — the subject line of an email, the text of an error message, the content and colors of a hero image.


Background

I developed this framework as an exercise in articulating my own understanding of the discipline of content strategy, as well as my role as a content strategist on a digital user experience team assigned to multiple products and projects.

VMT was first described in a 2013 presentation at MinneWebCon, and significantly refined for the keynote presentation at HighEdWeb Michigan 2014.