Each profile in Bison Trails’ Meet the Herd series is the story of a member’s professional path: how they started their career and made their way to the world of blockchain. Interview by Mark Forscher.
As a Content Strategist at Bison Trails, I plan, produce, and edit content for the company. This content (an overused, annoying, but useful word) addresses a lot of audiences—from customers to crypto-enthusiasts to team members—using a variety of distribution methods.
My work is primarily textual, but I also work with teams across the company to ensure all of our content, no matter the medium, is clear, concise, and addresses the needs of the user. At a small, growing company, a single day can include developing infographics with designers, reformatting reports with the product team, reworking error messages for our web app, and writing a comprehensive guide to a protocol.
Ultimately, I focus on supporting the company through content by finding the words to solve specific problems and thinking broadly about how it all fits together to make the best experience for anyone who encounters our products, brand, or communications.
Personally, the biggest challenge is wrapping my head around all of the protocols that Bison Trails supports. I am new to the blockchain industry, which gives me a great perspective on creating accessible content. But really understanding the ecosystem is challenging and the learning curve is steep.
The challenge of content strategy work at Bison Trails is similar to that faced at many growing start-ups: focus and prioritization. What content do we need in the short-term? How do we create processes and templates that can serve us in the medium- and long-term? What areas were overlooked previously but are important to fill in? What newly discovered issues can content help solve? When you work in a role that can support so many areas of a company, it is important to find the balance between addressing the needs of today and pursuing the vision for tomorrow.
Before joining Bison Trails, I was a partner for eight years in a tiny company with two of my best friends, and I worked on some independent freelance projects. A variety of life circumstances helped me realize that the stability of an in-house job would be beneficial to my overall well-being. However, I wasn’t going to jump into any old situation after working for myself for so long.
I knew several people on the Design team at Bison Trails (the team of which I am now a part) and I heard such positive things about the company, both its mission and the people. I happened to notice an opening for a Content Strategist on the job board so I contacted Mark, the Head of Brand and Design, to inquire about the role. He put me in touch with Melissa, our People and Development Manager. I sent in my resume and writing samples, went in for a bunch of interviews, and yadda yadda yadda, started working at Bison Trails in January 2020.
Everything has its purpose and place and I don’t want to neglect all the foundational pieces we’ve published. But if I had to choose, I would probably highlight the piece we put out on Keep Active Participation. Creating this post and graphic was a total team effort. Designers, product managers, and protocol specialists all took part in developing a customer-friendly explanation of a complex concept.
This guide is a great example of how our company values are represented through our content. It strives for excellence in order to be useful to our customers as well as the larger Keep community. It required empathy to address the needs of readers and add value by clarifying critical ideas for a specific protocol. And it was a creative use of different storytelling tools.
This is an interesting question because the answer is so highly dependent upon the audience. Broadly speaking, blockchain as an industry, and specifically Proof of Stake networks, have a long way to go to remove the obstacles to participation.
We need better, more intuitive explanations of the purpose of blockchain, the differences between all of these protocols and why one might want to participate in one over another, and clear instructions on how to participate. The industry will benefit from an influx of clear and compelling content created for your average consumer that helps everyone understand all the jargon.
Obviously, the advent of staking as a service is a great step towards providing anyone an opportunity to participate. But the user experience for staking is not always straightforward or simple. Complicated tech and people’s money aren’t the best combination. No one wants to question if they did the right thing when it comes to moving money around in traditional systems, and the same is true with crypto and blockchain.
Don’t focus on simplicity, focus on clarity. I have probably used the word “clear” a dozen times in this short interview. For professionals of any kind, problems and confusion often arise due to poor communication. To me, clarity is ensuring that all the necessary components of an idea are represented and understandable. No extra fluff. No vagaries. Remove unneeded politenesses in favor of concise and legible sentences.
My mother, a good writer with a penchant for precision, always asked me the same question when reading my work. “What are you trying to say?” After explaining a concept to her verbally, her advice was some version of “Go write that down instead.” Inevitably I was trying too hard with my writing but when talking to her, I focused on being clear so she could understand. For most business communications, if you aren’t thinking deeply about who you are talking to and what they need, you are likely to miss the mark.
And lastly, it is not just about word choice. Clarity is also about structure, format, and presentation to signify the importance of particular information. Perhaps I am unduly influenced by all the designers I’ve worked with over the past fifteen years, but thinking like a designer when writing helps me find a balance of form and function in my work.
Honestly, with COVID and an almost 3-year old, pursuing my personal interests is hard. They require energy I don’t have, going inside shuttered public places, or a babysitter. But in a different world, I take classes. I love being an amateur and exploring a new field.
To tap into the world beyond work, I have taken cabaret, Yiddish, upholstery, philosophy, drumming lessons, and more. I was hoping to take a pottery class this year. It has been three decades since I last worked on a wheel and I yearn to get my hands messy in clay. Perhaps 2021 will be my year.
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