Content is important (understatement)…every bit of it. Even something as seemingly ordinary as the subject line in an email. I had an unfortunate illustration of this yesterday. I had signed up to go to a meetup, ironically, on Content Strategy. I was especially eager to go because Kristina Halvorson, THE Content Strategy guru, was going to be there since she was in town for An Event Apart Boston. I had even told friends of mine about it and they had signed up.

After a long day of great sessions at An Event Apart on Monday, all the while dealing with various work issues due to some new feature deployments, tons of related emails, and wifi issues, I headed out to the opening night party. I was vaguely aware that there was a meetup I wanted to go to sometime this week, thinking it was maybe Tuesday.

About 8:45 p.m. a tweet from my friend, LimeyG, broke through the noise, “Learing about Content Strategy with Kristina Halvorson”…huh? It’s tonight? Oh _____! Hey…why didn’t I get a reminder? Kicking myself, I ran over to where it was taking place only to find a few stragglers at 9:15 p.m. I checked back through my emails and, surprise, I had actually received two reminders (well…a reminder and a comment notification).

So, how did I miss them? I attribute it to two factors: 1. I was distracted, 2. The email subject-line content was not strong enough to break through the clutter.

The reminder subject-line stated: Reminder: “Talk content strategy with Kristina Halvorson is tomorrow, Monday, May 24, 2010 6:30 PM!” Hmm…better, clutter-breaking would have been: Kristina Halvorson on Content Strategy – Tomorrow, Monday, May 24, 2010 6:30 PM! It gets the keywords I’m scanning for right there in front. I’m not looking for “Reminder” or “talk” — I’m looking for “Kristina Halvorson” or “Content Strategy!” When the first two words of the message are “Reminder: Talk…” I scan right by it. Those are not indispensable words to me.

A second reminder of sorts stated: “A comment was just posted for Talk content strategy with Kristina Halvorson.” Better clutter-breaking would have been, “Comment — Kristina Halvorson on Content Strategy — new comment added.” A subject line like, “A comment was just posted for Talk…” is another one I’m likely to scan right by. I get more than a few of those every day.

For comparison, another meetup reminder I got around the same time was: “Boston Web Design Meetup Group.” ALL keywords, undeniably valuable and relevant to what’s top-of-mind for me.

OK, isn’t it really MY fault that I was not paying attention? Ultimately, yes. But it’s the job of the writer and designer to break through the noise and distractions that people are dealing with every day. A successful approach to content and design takes the distracted, fatigued, and otherwise beleaguered user into account. And a Content Strategy should consider (as Kristina says) that EVERYTHING is content.

Although I missed the meetup — somewhat compensated by the fact that I got to see Kristina’s session at An Event Apart today — this was a valuable experience. A wake-up moment. You could have the greatest content on your Web site and yet, your customer might never see it without something as simple as a good, keyword-rich, user-revant email subject line!

P.S. Check out Kristina’s book, Content Strategy for the Web. I have it — it’s great.