Building content tools with the help of content professionals

Ida Hakola and Ilona Hiila, founding partners of Vapa Media in Helsinki, will join us in September to lead a workshop that considers how content professionals can (and should) help inform the design and development of content technology. When our tools work for us, not against, we can produce better content as a result. This workshop will help you take your rightful place at the content technology table.

Who are Vapa Media?

Vapa Media logo

Vapa Media, a content agency in Finland, was founded two years ago by Ida Hakola and Ilona Hiila after they had a “bouncy” discussion over lunch about how content in most Finnish company websites is boring and out of sync. Ida, formerly working in journalism and public relations, and Ilona, a communications professional and freelance journalist, decided to take action, and came upon a pleasant surprise at the same time, as Ida explains:

We thought something should be done and so began with the preparations of starting up Vapa Media. Around the same time, Google revealed the Content Strategy movement to us, and we were thrilled to discover that other people out there felt as we did about creating content-centered strategies that would help businesses and their customers better over time.

The state of Content Strategy in Finland is the same as it is elsewhere in Europe right now — new. Last November, Ida started the Content Strategy Finland meetup, and while the group has a few members, they’ve yet to have their first actual gathering. With CS Forum just three months away, the time might be right for them to do it.

The Vapa team know they have their work cut out for them, but are optimistic about the future. When speaking about client work, Ida says the biggest problem they initially discover with clients is a complete lack of vision in their marketing efforts.

Companies make random attempts at marketing, but there’s rarely a strategy behind it all. We’re quite sure the next big bang in Finland will be on content. All I can say is that there’s a hell of a lot of work to do.

Ilona points out another frustration they often see with clients; the problems that come from putting technological solutions before content:

We’ve had several situations where the technology has been designed before the content… sometimes customers realize they have built a house that can’t hold people inside. We’ve come to realize that content professionals have a lot more to offer the industry than just catchy headers and smart copy — that’s why we’ve started a few tech projects ourselves.

Lately, Vapa Media has been thinking about how content tools can be built to the needs of people who use them, and how content professionals can bring expertise to that process. This has inspired their workshop for CS Forum, and an interesting one it should be. The ladies recently went on a planning retreat in the middle of Turkey to brainstorm workshop activities. How’s that for getting ready?

The workshop

Just like content professionals must work more collaboratively with designers (and vice versa), so to should they be collaborating more with developers by contributing in technology conversations and lending direction to how content tools should function and be designed. This could mean creating entire content management systems, designing strategic content interactions, or augmenting technologies that already exist with innovative functions and mashups.

The Vapa workshop will explore how to create tools that improve, rather than hinder, content work. Your minds will be set to finding answers with technology to the problems we face as content strategists of all kinds. This is also a wake up call for the people who work with content; they need to take part in the design process of content-focused technological innovations.


Participants will work in groups and innovate content technologies like content management systems, social media platforms, mobile applications, tablets, and so forth. Groups will then share their ideas so they can be evaluated, discussed, and tested by other groups.

Time will also be given to discuss how to bring these new ideas from the workshop into the real world. To this end, the workshop will have a special guest participant (an industry expert to be named later) who will provide feedback on the ideas brainstormed; discussing in practical terms the feasibility of bringing the ideas to market.

Participants will be invited to continue their discussions and collaboration after the workshop is over via a special online group, which Vapa Media will make known during the workshop.

What you’ll walk away with

Attendees of this workshop will learn:

  1. How to innovate new content technology ideas and how to evaluate them.
  2. How to bring a content technology innovation through the planning stages.
  3. Small innovations can produce big results; i.e., the aim isn’t always to innovate new technologies, but to innovate platforms already existing.
  4. A new way of thinking: that technology is not only a developer’s business.

Workshop participants might bring their laptops, but it’s not critical. Most important is to come with an open mind and be ready to dive-in and get hands-on.

Fred Wilson, a venture capitalist in New York City, speaking with respect to content shifting, says Innovative new competitors force the old guard to change. That’s how it should be. We think this sentiment applies to content tools as well. The time has come for content professionals to claim their rightful place as important contributors in the tech scene. This workshop will help you get there.