DITA

RSuite User Group Online Meeting

Really Strategies - Thu, 2016-07-21 14:01

We're having our bi-monthly RSuite Online User Group meeting on Tuesday, July 26. This meeting is for all key end users, IT developers, and executives who have implemented RSuite.

In this edition we'll be:

  • Discussing our upcoming RSuite User Conference.
  • Showing creative new functionality regarding XML Editing in RSuite
  • Answering questions and chatting about pertinent topics in our regular "Users Helping Users" segment.

You can request a seat by visiting https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/rt/8377680845092700674.

RSuite_User_Group_Logo_400x200.jpg

Categories: DITA

The Future of Cognitive Computing

The Content Wrangler - Mon, 2016-07-18 20:27

Dr. John Kelly of IBM explores the coming cognitive computing revolution and IBM Watson.

Learn more:

The post The Future of Cognitive Computing appeared first on The Content Wrangler.

Categories: DITA

[CEO Chat] The Future of Content With Michael Rosinski

The Content Wrangler - Thu, 2016-07-14 19:33

 Michael Rosinski, CEO, Astoria SoftwareToday we discuss the future of content with Michael Rosinski, CEO of Astoria Software, a cloud-based, component content management system (CCMS). Rosinski, a veteran of the content management space, talks with Scott Abel, The Content Wrangler, about innovation, computing, and how content—and those who produce it—will be impacted by artificial intelligence.

Scott: Michael, for someone surrounded by technology 24/7, I’d wager you see a lot of proclamations about the next big thing. Help us cut through the hype. As a technology CEO, what do you think is the most exciting innovation in the field of content?

Michael: Great question. I believe the most exciting innovation in the content world is cognitive computing. Why? Because traditional computing technology, while impressive, is also somewhat idiotic. Today’s computer software can tabulate and calculate, store, manage, and deliver files faster than human beings. And, while computers are much better at remembering details, they can’t provide many of the content capabilities needed by today’s businesses. However, that is about to change.

Cognitive computing, according to the folks at TechTarget, is “the simulation of human thought processes in a computerized model. Cognitive computing involves self-learning systems that use data mining, pattern recognition and natural language processing (NLP) to mimic the way the human brain works. The goal of cognitive computing is to create automated IT systems that are capable of solving problems without requiring human assistance.”

Cognitive computing will empower computers to learn, comprehend, adapt, and interact with content in ways we could only imagine until recently. Cognitive content solutions will provide business with amazing differentiating capabilities—digital differentiators that will allow businesses to gain insights and intelligence that are currently hidden in our content. That’s why I believe cognitive computing will play a starring role in the future of content.

 Brain

Scott: That is exciting. And, you’re right, cognitive computing presents new opportunities for cities and governments, medicine and healthcare. And, it opens the door to innovation in energy production, insurance, banking and finance, business intelligence and analytics, and marketing. And it will create new jobs in every single business sector. Companies will begin expanding their research and development efforts to include cognitive computing in hopes of identifying potential competitive differentiators. The opportunities are almost endless. Why do you think a new approach to solving problems with content and computers is needed?

Michael: Traditional computing systems like the ones we use today rely on us to know what we want them to do ahead of time. We must program them in advance to do the work we require of them. Traditional computing architectures designed in this way are troublesome. They can lead to what’s known as the von Neumann bottleneck (a processing-heavy approach in which discrete processing tasks are completed linearly, one at a time). This situation makes it difficult for us to create scalable solutions to big data—and big content—problems. And, it prevents us from uncovering hidden value in our content assets.

Cognitive computing and machine learning technologies are designed to help us overcome issues of scale. And, they can help us discover solutions to problems. By adding semantic context to the content—making content intelligent—machines can learn and process content on our behalf. They’ll even be able to help us determine risk, spot hidden potential, and make better choices. And they’ll be able to automatically assess probability, recommend courses of action, and guide us toward business decisions. Just imagine what that will mean for customer support solutions, cancer research, and education.

Scott: Thomas Malone, director of the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence, has said that one of the biggest questions associated with cognitive computing is: “How can people and computers be connected so that collectively they act more intelligently than any person, group, or computer has ever done before?” In your view, why would intelligent content (modular, structured, semantically rich, reusable, format-free content) be of value to help cognitive computing technologies make sense of the exploding availability of content coming at us from an increasing number of sources?

Michael: The need for intelligent content is paramount when thinking in terms of advanced solutions like cognitive computing. We can teach systems what they need to know about unstructured content. That’s one option. Or, we can provide systems with intelligent content equipped with semantic metadata. Metadata helps cognitive computing systems understand the content without our needing to intervene as trainers. Companies that have invested in intelligent content solutions are ahead of the curve in this area. Intelligent content and artificial intelligence systems go hand-in-hand.

 Robot

Scott: I know that many people hear words like cognitive computing and jump to the conclusion that it’s all about artificial intelligence and replacing humans with robots. I realize you’re not talking about that, although there is a grain of truth in those fears. Artificial intelligence will allow us to innovate and to create better solutions. Those innovations may indeed lead to job losses. But, there’s an entire world of new jobs that are being created at the same time. Do you see this transformation the same way as I do?

Michael: Yes, Scott. I do. First, it’s important to note that the cognitive computing revolution is not about replacing humans with machines. It’s about shifting gears and providing humans with the better results by leveraging computers to do what they do best. The volume and velocity of content being produced by organizations, shared and curated by people via social media, and collected by sensors connected to the Internet of Things, is huge. Thus cognitive computing power is required to help us make sense of the volumes of content around us. Combined with intelligent content, cognitive computing can help us solve many of the global challenges we face today.

Even with all the advancements made in cognitive computing, there will always be debate on how far technology can take us. During the 2016 Wimbledon tennis tournament, IBM Watson predicted the number of first service points and aces that would be needed in order for one player to win against his opponent. Unfortunately, Watson’s predictions weren’t always spot on. I guess Watson will have to go back to the drawing board to figure out how athletic ability, speed, and endurance relate to scoreboard pressure, nerves, and emotion. There’s still plenty of room for improvement.

Scott: Good point. Although, IBM used Watson at Wimbledon to cull through all sorts of other data that did provide some useful data points. For example, Watson used facial recognition to attempt to understand what people were cheering about (or not) during the matches. And, Watson was pointed at social media channels to decipher what Wimbledon fans were sharing and chatting about on the web.

That said, I think you’re spot on with your prediction about cognitive computing and the future of content. It will be interesting to see where these new capabilities lead us. There will be a few stumbles along the way.

Thanks for sharing your views with our audience.

Michael: I’ll leave you with this quote from IBM CEO Ginni Rometty. “This era will redefine the relationship between man and machine.” Cognitive computing, while still relatively new, holds many possibilities. I’m excited to see what we can make happen.

Thanks for the opportunity to share my thoughts with your audience, Scott. I appreciate it.

The post [CEO Chat] The Future of Content With Michael Rosinski appeared first on The Content Wrangler.

Categories: DITA

Content Quality: How Does Your Content Rate?

The Content Wrangler - Tue, 2016-07-12 10:10

Content is king, it is often said. But judging by the results of a recent report, the king’s claim to the throne is in question. If that weren’t bad enough, his would-be loyal subjects may not be as loyal as he previously believed. This article examines content quality, what it means, and asks the question: “How does your content rate?”

Last year, content platform provider Acrolinx released the initial findings of its Global Content Impact Index. In this first-of-its-kind study of global content quality Acrolinx employed its proprietary linguistic analytics engine to parse 20 million sentences (more than 160 million words) produced by 340 companies. 150,000 pages of marketing, corporate, technical, and customer support content was analyzed based on rules that fit into three general categories:

  1. spelling and grammar—the mechanics of the content
  2. style and readability—how readable the content is
  3. voice—how formal or informal the content is

 Content

Content Quality Ratings: Numbers That Give Pause

The study alarmingly discovered that 69% of the brands evaluated had inferior content. In fact, the companies examined earned overall content impact scores below Acrolinx’s benchmark of 72 points, the lowest threshold for content to be considered effective. Overall, only 19% of the organizations analyzed produced high-quality content consistently, regardless of which department the content came from. Retail businesses scored the highest in content quality at an average of 73.2 points. Telecommunications companies, on the other hand, earned an average score of 66.2 points.

There was a small silver lining. 46% of the companies scrutinized had variance scores of less than seven points (meaning they’re creating content that’s sufficiently consistent to avoid brand erosion). The key takeaway? A whopping 81% of enterprises need to either improve content quality, ensure that their content is more consistent, or both.

Adding salt to the wound, a follow-up study by Acrolinx found that less than 20% of these companies created high-quality content on a consistent basis.

Quality is the best business plan

Why Quality Content Matters

70% of marketers are creating more content than ever before, according to the Content Marketing Institute. But with greater content volume comes increased risk. Mistakes, inconsistencies, and inferior quality are often the result. Add to the mix consumer expectations. A study of British consumers found that content quality impacts consumers desire to buy. 59% of those surveyed said they would not buy from a company that has poor grammar or spelling errors on its website or in its marketing materials.

“Five years ago was when the market started exploding around content, there was a shift in digital channels. That massive shift created a gigantic burden on content to perform, which resulted in companies having to create a lot more content,” says Andrew Bredenkamp, founder and CEO of Acrolinx. “But these companies have had no way to measure how well the content is performing other than anecdotal measurements like page views and social sharing. It’s like driving a car down the road at 100 mph and trying to navigate by looking in the rearview mirror–you’re not looking forward to see how this content will perform, you’re looking at things that have happened in the past.”

Bredenkamp says global content quality is way below average and accurately measuring content is crucial today to compete effectively.

“Poor quality content has a major impact that can lead to lack of competitiveness, lost sales and decreased customer loyalty,” he says.

Additionally, inconsistent content quality confuses customers and makes them think they’re being sold and marketed to by multiple people instead of one organization–which can cripple your brand. But content with consistent quality produces favorable consumer experiences, resulting in improved credibility, trust and reputation for the company and increased satisfaction for the customer. A 2014 study by McKinsey & Company bears this out. A third study released by Acrolinx in March of this year showed that higher-quality content increased purchase intent two-fold and conversion rates three-fold.

 Two men doing acrobatic move

To Boldly Go Where No Content Quality Study Has Gone Before

Bredenkamp notes that Acrolinx chose to conduct this research for two key reasons.

“First, we wanted to elevate the conversation about content quality in the marketplace. Business leaders are investing in content to help drive their businesses. Most have no idea how to measure and improve their content,” says Bredenkamp. “Secondly, we wanted to introduce to a broader audience the idea of content scoring. We have a very unique technology engine that can score and analyze tens of thousands of pieces of content. Today, it is possible to quantify content quality.”

Ask Bredenkamp who should be paying attention to the data, and he’ll tell you that it’s in every content professional’s interest.

“The chief marketing officer needs to care because content is a reflection of the brand. Middle managers and vice presidents of marketing responsible for supervising large libraries of content need to have a way to gauge effectiveness long before the content is published. And writers especially need to be aware, as they are in a position to create content for a wide range of topics and are often responsible for memorizing the brand terms and style guides for tens of thousands of products and services—which is incredibly difficult,” he says.

The challenge is that many companies operate in silos. Imagine, says Bredenkamp, a huge company like IBM trying to get thousands of employed writers to compose copy the same way. “It’s impossible to get that many people writing content consistently based on some kind of defined style guide,” he says, “especially when you add the complexity of different languages, different products, and different brands.”

Taking Steps To Improve Content Quality

So, what’s a busy company that needs to constantly—and reliably—churn out copy to do?

“At minimum, there needs to be a voice of concern in every organization that acknowledges content quality as an important topic, just like product quality was in the 1980s,” says Bredenkamp. “Secondly, organizations must have an objective way to measure content quality. And third, new tools and technologies should be adopted that help companies create consistently high-quality content every time.”

“Companies that give priority to content quality will have an advantage in the years to come because they will have high-quality content driving sales, revenue and customer loyalty,” adds Bredenkamp.

The post Content Quality: How Does Your Content Rate? appeared first on The Content Wrangler.

Categories: DITA

Delivering Consistent Content Experiences Across Digital Touchpoints

The Content Wrangler - Mon, 2016-07-11 10:30

Whether looking to buy a new pair of running shoes or advanced industrial equipment, consumers have more choices than ever. They look for information about products and services across a variety of digital touchpoints. And they do so using a mix of devices—computers, smartphones, tablets, TVs and more. Unfortunately for consumers, most organizations fail at delivering consistent content experiences across all touchpoints.

Failing to produce consistent content experiences negatively impacts business. Research from Deloitte illustrates the problem: 90 percent of customers expect a consistently excellent experience across all touchpoints.

What Prevents Us From Delivering Consistent Content Experiences?

These factors cause content inconsistencies:

  • Lack of knowledge
    • how to produce and deliver dynamic content
    • how to optimize content for findability
  • Lack of a unified content strategy
    • touchpoints are owned by different departments, and managed in different ways
    • content has different output requirements
    • each department uses different key performance indicators (KPI)
  • Lack of feasibility
    • existing homegrown applications—or ad hoc mix of systems—don’t work together to make multi-channel content delivery scaleable or cost-effective

And the implications of inconsistency aren’t minor, either. Forty-seven percent of customers say—even if they’re satisfied with the level of service received—they will nevertheless switch to a competitor that does a better job of connecting with them through their preferred touchpoints (McKinsey & Company). Furthermore, some consumers say they will pay more for better content experiences.

 Customer loyalty

Creating Consistent Content Experiences: The Need For A Unified Content Strategy

In a perfect world, everyone involved in the creation of customer-facing content would work in a unified way—using the same approach and the same production and management tools. But in the imperfect world of business, companies are organized in silos. Each department or domain has its own methods of creating content.

Fortunately, companies can deliver a seamless and consistent content experience at each touchpoint in the customer journey. What’s needed is a unified content strategy designed to provide both prospects and customers with rapid access to the answers and information they need, when and where they need it, on the device of their choosing.

To gain support for a unified content strategy, transform management’s view of content creation, management, and delivery from a necessary expense into an investment that enables engagement and drives sales.

 Omnichannel content delivery

Delivering Consistent Content Experiences: The Road Ahead

Here are some suggestions about creating consistent content experiences:

  • Stop making customers hunt for content. Content should be available wherever customers interact with the brand, regardless of which department is responsible for its creation.
  • Stop thinking in terms of deliverables. (e.g. new manual, user guide, website, etc.). Instead, craft componentized content for reuse across multiple deliverables. Reusing content helps ensure accuracy and consistency, improves usability, reduces cost, and supports the delivery of personalized content.
  • Adopt content creation tools that guide authors, editors, and other content contributors (across various departments) toward the creation of content that is consistent in structure and terminology.
  • Classify and semantically tag all product content, regardless of which department created it, and do so in a consistent manner using a unified taxonomy. Semantically rich content can be automatically delivered to those who need it.
  • Map content to the customer journey. Create content designed to guide and serve prospects and customers alike. Leverage the power of metadata to assist in the automatic delivery of the right content to the right prospects—and customers—when and where they need it.
  • Capture the right metrics. Analyze website and call center data to gain a better understanding of how prospects and customers are interacting with content. Focus on collecting relevant metrics designed to help you make informed business decisions quickly. Meaningful metrics can uncover hidden opportunities to fine-tune and prioritize content production, spot inefficiencies, and assist in pinpointing costly and time-consuming product development challenges.

The Bottom Line

As Robert Rose and Carla Johnson say in their best-selling business book, Experiences: The 7th Era of Marketing:

We should be creating a balanced portfolio of appropriate, relevant, and high-impact experiences at ONLY the stages of the buyer’s journey where we can be most influential and deliver the most value.

Delivering consistent content experiences is challenging. There is no magic wand to wave, nor easy button to press. However, with the right strategy, planning, and tools, optimizing content production for today’s multi-touchpoint world is not only possible, but it’s also practical and profitable.

Learn More About Delivery

Attend these free, one-hour webinars (or register to watch the recordings on-demand) and learn everything you need to know about delivering consistent content experiences (brought to you by Zoomin Software):

The post Delivering Consistent Content Experiences Across Digital Touchpoints appeared first on The Content Wrangler.

Categories: DITA

Functional, Fashionable, and Fabulous Wearable Tech

The Content Wrangler - Tue, 2016-07-05 11:12

Where Wearable Tech Is Heading And Why You Need To Pay Attention

In January 1946, Dick Tracy’s futuristic two-way wrist radio captured the imagination of a public intrigued by the limitless possibilities of technology—even if it was only a silly comic strip character’s fictional gadget. As the years passed, pop culture continued its creative depictions of geek-geared gizmos. Wearable tech has a long history in entertainment circles. There was the shoe phone on “Get Smart,” the Gadget Copter from “Inspector Gadget,” the TV glasses used in “Back to the Future II,” and the countless doohickeys and concealed contraptions worn by James Bond.

Fast forward to 2016, and it’s easy to see why wearables—from the Apple Watch to the Fitbit Flex—are popular among tech-savvy consumers. But the wrist isn’t the only body zone being targeted. Manufacturers are delving into other applications and categories of wearable tech to satisfy demand and satiate our collective curiosity for innovation.

Cases in point: Barney’s New York now offers Intel MICA smart jewelryTony Burch boasts chic Fitbit braceletsAthos, Sensoria, Levi’s, and Ralph Lauren (with its PoloTech smart shirt) are developing smart clothing. Ducere manufactures smart shoes that provide GPS-guided directions—no screen required. Withings Auira Smart Sleep System monitors your slumber and helps you awake more refreshed. Filip Technologies gives concerned moms and dads the capability to track and touch base with their kids. And Voyce and FitBark are providing wearable tech for pets, too.

 Man wearing smart watch

Wearable Tech Is Entering The Mainstream

“The idea of wearable technology has been entrenched in pop culture from science fiction movies and television shows. The mood ring became a phenomenon because it was trendy, but it also gave users an insight into unseen aspects of who they are,” says Ryan Harbison, research analyst with ABI Research.

“Today, these devices are becoming more fashionable—whether it is smart watches that actually look like regular watches or smart clothing like shirts, tank tops, bras, and socks that don’t look like they’re covered in sensors. The largest wearable tech markets by far are fitness trackers and smart watches, but over the next five years there will be higher growth in the smart glasses and smart clothing categories.”

Wearables: The Numbers

“Sensor technologies, such as wearables, are now becoming consumer gadgets. This is because materials have become smaller, more flexible and more acceptable to place on the body,” says Ayliffe Brown, Business Development Manager USA at WT | Wearable Technologies.

“Technology 10 years ago was too large to place on your body; if you did you were either uncomfortable or labeled a ‘geek,’” Brown says. “Today, consumers are using wearables as a tool to enhance their lives.”

Recommended: More statistics about wearables.

Wearable Tech Is Where It’s At

According to Forrester Research 2015 data, the areas of the body on which American consumers are most interest in sporting wearable tech are:

  • the wrist (chosen by 36%)
  • clipped onto a piece of clothing (21%)
  • the upper arm (11%)
  • in headphones/earphones (11%)
  • embedded in clothing (11%)
  • on eyeglasses (10%)

What Consumers Want

The wearable application uses that most interest U.S. online adults include (according to 2014 research from Forrester):

  • accessing maps and navigating to a destination (47%)
  • taking photos and videos (45%)
  • seeing information about places when traveling/walking (40%)
  • seeing information about products while shopping (36%)

Dale Gilliam, founder and chief strategy officer at Troubadour Research & Consulting and its site WearablesResearch.com, says, so far, the primary movement in terms of devices has been the transition from a clip-on attachment wearable tech to a watch or bracelet form.

“Wearables nowadays are mainly about tracking movement or providing peripheral access to a smartphone, but the future of wearables will provide greater benefits that can’t be had from other types of technology,” says Gilliam. “New innovations are in the works that will start to show how wearables are a trend and not a fad—things like tracking more body metrics through your skin or sweat, and contact lenses that can measure your blood glucose levels through your tears or give you enhanced visual abilities—like zooming in on something in the distance.”

Gilliam says he’s most excited about Internet-connected biometric sensors, “like one a Chicago-based start-up, Anansi Labs, is working on that will detect if the wearer is in danger and automatically contact authorities.”

With rumors that Apple may eliminate the auxiliary port on its iPhone 7, “we can also expect to see quite a bit of innovation in earpiece wearables (called hearables) in the near term,” says Dave Norton, founder and principal of The Digital Collaboratives. “Imagine how hearables connected to your favorite voice-activated personal assistant will change the way we experience our world.”

 Man wearing virtual reality glasses

Hurdles To Clear

The three primary obstacles for wearables today are privacy, energy harvesting, and cheaper production processes, says Brown.

“People don’t trust wearables if hackers and other users can find out one’s personal information about their body, habits and daily activity. Energy harvesting is a must when it comes to decreasing the consumption of non-renewable energy, yet, the question remains: how can this be done while still collecting enough useful energy,” Brown adds.

“Lastly, particularly for smart clothing, the manufacturing process is outrageously complicated,” says Brown. “If one device must travel to five different countries before it reaches the consumer, than your production process is too expensive.”

Other challenges wearables will need to overcome include the fact that they don’t connect to enough things in your home or favorite stores yet, says Norton.

“Wearables are best when they connect to and support other tools, not when they stand alone,” Norton notes. “Also, few companies are doing a very good job with all of the data that is collected from their wearables. When they figure out what to do with that data, you’ll see a dramatic shift in the industry.”

Wearable Tech Adoption

Despite their initial strong sales, Andrew Cross, vice president and wearable expert at Walker Sands Communications, sees wearable technology as still largely on the fringe.

“Competition and a push toward the mass market has driven prices down for many fitness bands and accessories, so they are widely available but not necessarily widely adopted,” says Cross, who cites an Endeavors Partners study indicating that over half of consumers who own a wearable device no longer use it. “Marketers also need to be concerned about communicating the real value proposition of wearable technologies rather than hyping specific capabilities in the feature set.”

Ultimately, Cross believes the wearables concept will live on, “but in 10 years I would be surprised if we’re still referring to the category as ‘wearables.’ Today, it’s still a novel way to define a specific type of technology,” he says, “but eventually I think the location—your wrist, your body—becomes much less important than context—at work, commuting, at school.”

Learn more: Check out some of the many wearable tech projects on Indiegogo.

Related story: Unicef Wearables For Good Challenge.

 

The post Functional, Fashionable, and Fabulous Wearable Tech appeared first on The Content Wrangler.

Categories: DITA

Influencing community documentation contributions

JustWriteClick - Thu, 2016-06-30 13:08

After a week with leaders in the OpenStack community, taking leadership training, I’m inspired to write up ideas from Influencer: The New Science of Leading Change. For me, who needs to make the most out of community efforts, the idea that no one likes being told what to do was a familiar phrase. Rather, compel people to pick up your vision and add to it.

As an example, people often ask me, how do you motivate people to write documentation for open source projects? Or write for any software project?

 

Get details about the behavior you want to see

Using the framework this book offers, you first want to identify the behavior you want to see. Their examples often revolve around healthcare, such as hand washing. But you can get very specific about hand washing, such as where, when, and how. For documentation, you may say the behavior is “write” but I want to get more specific than that. Where should they write? Is the behavior “write a personal blog post?” Or is it “write in the official docs?”

Also, when should they write? Ideally as close to when the technical detail is still fresh as possible. The “when” could be at the end of a cycle when people are less distracted by feature additions. Or write documentation before the code is written and revise it often.

As for “how” do we want contributors to write, well, we may need to have templates and frameworks for the “how” — such as source formats, build jobs, and in which repo.

Looking at the behavior we want to see, getting super detailed about it, we find that we also want to encourage the behavior of code reviewers to read and review related docs.

Identify a crucial moment

Now, when a bit of code changes that makes a difference in the docs, that’s a crucial moment for influencing a particular behavior. The behavior we want to see is writing documentation while the code is fresh in your mind.CC Jonathan Cohen

Another crucial moment to engage is when a user first tries the feature; their fresh eyes may provide an update to the docs that others might not see. The “Edit on GitHub” feature of creating a pull request provides that outlet for fresh eyes to make a quick edit to the documentation.

So we have an idea of the behaviors we want to see, and a sense of when we want to see them. Now we can begin to ask what’s preventing the behavior.

Why don’t people contribute?

Let’s talk about: what’s painful about writing documentation? For example, if you speak English as a second language, it may be painful to write for others to review and the criticism might be more than you can bear. Kind, empathetic coaching, respect, and a culture of acceptance helps with this barrier.

Provide guidance and energy

Also, people associate boredom with docs. They look at a blank screen and can’t come up with words to describe their feature. They yawn and check their Twitter feed instead of writing docs. This pain point is where templates can help. People who don’t know what to write might need guidance, suggestions, or strict form-based templates.

Avoid context switches

It’s painful to have a doc tool set that’s extremely different from what you write code in — the context switch even to a web-based editor may be too big a barrier to jump over. Make the docs like code whenever you need to compel developers to write.

Get some influencers who believe in the vision

Without actual peer pressure that says “yes, we write the docs” developers may not create a culture that requires documentation. Start with the influencers in their peer group (which might not be you). For example, when a seed researcher wants to introduce a new hybrid seed corn, he goes straight to the local diner where the most experienced and influential farmer gets breakfast on Saturdays. It’s better to have the farmer in his pickup truck understand and believe in the benefit of changing to a new hybrid seed corn than for the researcher in his late-model Volvo.

Offer deliberate practice sessions

Also consider “deliberate practice” where you set aside time to get better at a skill. If the skill is writing, then have office hours or coaching sessions online, and at conferences make sure you can meet with people who want to become better writers to show them how to practice writing through drills, exercises, and with fun collaborative efforts such as doc sprints. Record a video or host an online hangout, showing all the steps for contributing deliberately and strategically.

Thanks to many coworkers who helped me discuss and think more about these ideas along the way. What are some additional ways to influence a desired outcome?

Categories: DITA

Animated Infographics: How Do They Work and What Makes Them Effective?

The Content Wrangler - Tue, 2016-06-28 10:00

Many corporate communicators use infographics to provide audiences with an easy-to-understand graphic representation of otherwise complicated data. When thoughtfully designed, infographics improve comprehension. But many infographics fail to help us understand how things actually work.  This article explores the world of animated infographics, showcases several exceptional examples, and provides tips for creating your own. 

Animated Infographics: A Few Examples

 Infographics aim to describe—or instruct—in a quick and efficient manner. As a format it limits depth and breadth. Infographics provide little space for anything other than a “factual” utterance. Because of spatial limitations, infographics often assume the reader’s acceptance of factual accuracy (even if it links to other content for more detailed information). It closes further discussion on the topic within the confines of the infographic space. The Main Point Well-designed misinformation can spread quickly or even go viral (as we have all seen in the current political “social media” arena, mostly in the form of memes). Like its “static” cousin, the animated infographic can be an effective and engaging tool for communication. As a relatively new variation of an older genre, it holds lots of potential for extended application and innovation.

 

How to Build a Human

Eleanor’s Lutz  is a content creator who takes animated infographics to impressive heights. A designer and PhD student at the University of Washington, she runs the site Tabletop Whale, which contains numerous GIF-infographics (gifographics) on science-based topics.

How to Build a Human (above) presents an index illustrating the human journey from fertilization to birth. In terms of animation, this piece demonstrates how movement can be used in a dynamic manner. The animation does what the diagram shows and what the text says.

Produced without animation, this graphic would do a fair job at communicating effectively. The images, descriptive text, enumerated coordinates, and color codes in the graphic communicate the point. But animation provides a different way of experiencing that information. Its presentation of the process makes the experience a bit more concrete and less abstract.

 

engine-01

 How A Car Engine Works

 

How a Car Engine Works

The O’Neal brothers run a graphic design site called Animagraffs (the term they use to designate their animated infographic design projects). When How a Car Engine Works was first published in 2013, it went viral, garnering over 30K views in a single day. The example above is only part of the complete infographic.

In this piece, the O’Neal brothers show us how multiple infographics combine to present a large volume of detailed information. This approach is useful when individual infographic components contain nested layers of technical information.

 

 Butterflies of North America

 

42 Butterflies of North America

Similar to previous examples, 42 Butterflies of North America by Eleanor Lutz, is an index with animated components. Yet in this piece, movement functions differently. It illustrates neither a process (there is none) nor a distinction (you can’t tell butterflies apart by wing motion). The animated movements do not play an active—or correlative—role in conveying information.

Yes, the animation makes the infographic more entertaining, but to leave it at that is to say too little. In terms of material and aesthetic, the movements establish their own terms and space of engagement. The GIF-generated movements of each butterfly are distinct and repetitive. Collectively, they present us with a mass of visual polyrhythms at a large scale.

From a distance, the rhythms add a lifelike quality—a kind of “realism”—to the digital butterfly images. Up close, the synchronized polyrhythms highlight the brilliance of their digitally automated execution. The movement draws attention to the content. The attributes change depending on how we view it, how long we view it, upon what we are focusing, and from what distance.

By adding movement to the mix, this infographic goes beyond the purely informational—toward the aesthetic, in which both design and material are the centerpiece.

Another example of this type of infographic usage is Why Your Brain Craves Infographics by NeoMam Studios.

 Why Your Brain Craves Infographics

 

Why Your Brain Craves Infographics

Click here to view complete infographic.

This is actually a great “static” infographic by NeoMam Studios. Similar to the previous example, the informational payload is delivered through almost everything but the animated components. In this case, the animations (some of which are interactive) appeal to viewer sentiment, namely fun and humor. The piece gets its point across in an easy and entertaining fashion (which is what makes it effective).

Why Use Animated Infographics?

  • Novelty: Right now, most businesses aren’t using animated infographics (and many don’t even use static infographics), which presents an opportunity for differentiation.
  • Enhanced communications: Infographics are an effective medium for helping customers absorb large amounts of information in an engaging manner. Look at the O’Neal brothers’ example above. If they can present highly technical information in an entertaining and accessible way, imagine what you can do with your own product-related content.

For practical consideration, Eleanor Lutz makes a strong point:

“There’s a trade-off between adding animation and publishing something quickly (or cheaply)… it’s important to know when it’s actually worth it to add animation, and when it’s an unnecessary cost.”

Want to learn more about the pros and cons of infographics and gifographics? The site likeablesocialmedia.org has a wonderful infographic, Gifographic Pros and Cons, which explains this in greater detail.

Creating Animated Infographics

There are a number of approaches to creating animated infographics; some more complex than others. There are also different technologies you can use. For example, Eleanor Lutz uses Photoshop, Illustrator, Chimera, and (more recently) Python.

One popular type of animated infographic that is relatively easy to create is the GIF-infographic. You can do this using Photoshop or any number of other tools. Here’s a wonderful infographic that clearly explains the process (once again by Eleanor Lutz): Tabletop’s Guide to Making GIFs.

 How to make an animated infographic

 

A Few More Takeaways

What makes a good animated infographic?

To quote Lutz, “the qualities of a good animated infographic are fundamentally the same as for any other infographic – accurate, succinct, and easy to understand.”

It’s important to note that a well-constructed infographic is able to condense information and also able to accelerate the time of information absorption.

Last but not least, content creators should always consider the element of style. A distinctive brand always has a distinctive style. And good style is neither a superficial, nor manufactured element, but a conscientious effort on the company’s part to express its organizational culture, outward disposition, and overall product perspective.

What type of content is most suitable for creating animated infographics?

Determining what type of content is most suitable for creating animated infographics really depends on the type of infographic you are trying to create, and how you want the animated components to function in terms of delivering information or shaping the viewer’s experience.

For instance, Eleanor Lutz prefers to use animation for content concerning “topics dealing with motion, particularly cyclic motion… some good examples would include car motors or joint movement.” In contrast, the interactive moving eyeball (see image below) in NeoMam Studio’s Why your Brain Craves Infographics plays less of an informational function than an experiential one.

In short, content’s suitability for animation has more to do with the purpose for its animation rather than its intrinsic attributes.

 Visually wired

 

It’s not just about setting content into motion

Animating the infographic format is not just about moving parts. It’s also about the movement of the entire informational and experiential context—everything that moves despite the animation itself. Seen from this angle, static infographics are anything but devoid of movement. In some cases, you might find that animation can even impede the flow of information or the interactive capacity of the viewer.

“Static” infographics already facilitate a multiplicity of movements

How so? The “traditional” static infographic is designed to facilitate a far greater level of movement than text or video alone. Infographics encourage the viewer to browse the content and focus in on what’s important to them. Information is presented in a highly condensed, yet open format. It relies less on narrative, syntactical, or time sequences, and instead presents information as an open map.

Communicating With Animated Infographics Is Similar To, But Different, Than Writing

Infographic design draws upon multiple communication disciplines. As a whole, the genre presents us with various ways of presenting information with both structure and aesthetics in mind. Although there are many comparisons to be made (between writing and infographic design), here are a few (not so obvious) points worth considering:

  • Design: Infographic design goes well beyond the formatting of information. Graphics, content flow, rhetoric, and tone all play a critical role in infographic design.
  • Content Flow: When designing animated infographics it helps to think in terms of multi-directional content flow rather than narrative. Think map rather than story. Remember that your aim is to present information that can be grasped immediately despite the point at which your viewer starts reading, the sequence your viewer chooses to follow, or the information your viewer chooses to focus on.
  • Closure: Unlike other forms of communication, infographics aim to describe—or instruct—in a quick and efficient manner. As a format it limits depth and breadth. Infographics provide little space for anything other than a “factual” utterance. Because of spatial limitations, infographics often assume the reader’s acceptance of factual accuracy (even if it links to other content for more detailed information). Accuracy of information is therefore critical as infographics have a tendency to “close” further discussion on topics within the confines of the infographic space.

The Main Point

Animated infographics are an effective and engaging tool for communication. As a relatively new variation of an older genre, it holds lots of potential for extended use and innovation. Animated infographics—when done well—can help you differentiate your brand, make your business communications much more engaging, and enhance the customer experience.

The post Animated Infographics: How Do They Work and What Makes Them Effective? appeared first on The Content Wrangler.

Categories: DITA

Technical Writers With DITA Experience Needed at Dolby, San Francisco and Nürnberg

The Content Wrangler - Sat, 2016-06-25 15:03

Looking for new technical writing gig?  Dolby has two openings in San Francisco—and another in Nürnberg—for senior technical writers (writing in English) with experience creating DITA XML content.

What’s it like working at Dolby?

Well, I’m the manager. That might be the bad news. I’m busy and I can’t stand micromanaging, so what you get from me are high level goals and an expectation that YOU will chase your projects, not me. Everyone else around here is really nice and supportive, but there’s a pretty high expectation that if you’re working at Dolby, you know what you’re doing, and what you don’t know, you’ll take responsibility for figuring out—fast.

Dolby is a fairly typical San Francisco Bay Area tech company, but with some different, weirdly cool perks. We don’t do the pinball-until-midnight-with-a-chef-working-around-the-clock thing, but we do get to attend private screenings of the latest motion picture releases in some of the most technologically advanced movie theaters in the world. We get to go backstage at broadcast events like the Grammy’s, and see how amazing Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 surround sound actually gets put on air. We get to play in labs full of amazing audio and video gear.

 Independence Day movie

The technical writers who are most successful at Dolby are self-organizing fans of the Darwin Information Typing Architecture (DITA) and serious über-geeks who eat API references for breakfast, think digital signal processing is fascinating, know that HDMI, SDI, and TosLink cables make good neckwear, and can probably go on for several hours about their favorite Star Wars characters. (That last one would definitely not be me.) They can follow established processes—or enroll their colleagues in improving stupid processes. They enjoy thinking strategically about how to write and manage content for reuse.

If any of this sounds like you, please apply! If you know someone awesome who might be interested in any of these positions, please encourage them to apply. Help us get the word out by sharing these announcements on your professional social networks.

Thanks in advance—
Erin Vang, PMP
??? ??????????
Sr Manager, Broadcast & Vision Technical Publications

Dolby Laboratories, Inc.
1275 Market St
San Francisco, CA 94103, USA
T +1 415 645 4170
http://www.dolby.com | erin.vang@dolby.com

 

The post Technical Writers With DITA Experience Needed at Dolby, San Francisco and Nürnberg appeared first on The Content Wrangler.

Categories: DITA

Disruptive Innovation Changes How Brands Do Business

The Content Wrangler - Thu, 2016-06-23 07:34

Disruptive innovation requires a new way of thinking. It requires the courage to do things differently, to break molds, to move in directions nobody has considered before. That’s how we create real progress, not just improvement.

But what, exactly, do we mean by disruptive innovation?

The term was defined by the American scholar, educator, author and Harvard Business School professor Clayton M. Christensen in 1995 as:

“A disruptive innovation is an innovation that creates a new market and value network and eventually disrupts an existing market and value network, displacing established market leaders and alliances.”

Other definitions include significant societal impact as an aspect of disruptive innovation.

In business, the term refers to a new offering, business model, or value proposition; one that takes on the dominant, incumbent leader in the market; one that has the potential to lead to its destruction.

 Industrial Revolution

The Fourth Industrial Revolution

According to a recently released paper titled The Fourth Industrial Revolution (from the World Economic Forum), big disruptions are heading our way.

“We stand on the brink of a technological revolution that will fundamentally alter the way we live, work, and relate to one another. In its scale, scope, and complexity, the transformation will be unlike anything humankind has experienced before. We do not yet know just how it will unfold, but one thing is clear: the response to it must be integrated and comprehensive, involving all stakeholders of the global community, from the public and private sectors to academia and civil society.”

“There are three reasons why today’s transformations represent not merely a prolongation of the Third Industrial Revolution but rather the arrival of a Fourth and distinct one: velocity, scope, and systems impact. The speed of current breakthroughs has no historical precedent. When compared with previous industrial revolutions, the Fourth is evolving at an exponential rather than a linear pace. Moreover, it is disrupting almost every industry in every country. And the breadth and depth of these changes herald the transformation of entire systems of production, management, and governance.”

Disruption has already become a driving factor in the rise of new start-ups, products and services with the potential to change the industrial landscape as we know it.

The Winning Formula: Innovative Thinking Meets Technology Meets Design

Breaking the status quo—an established pattern, a routine—is what opens new doors. When we look at the big success stories of this century, then we can see a pattern. PayPal, Tesla, Airbnb: They each have become successful by entering established markets (banking, automobiles, hospitality) from the sidelines or from the bottom up. Armed with new technology and innovative thinking, they turned the markets they disrupted upside down. They went straight to disruptive innovation—bypassing innovation and improving upon an existing product—to developing new products that created new markets.

Innovation is the skilled engineer in a German car. Disruption is the creative renegade with a Harley and bad-ass tattoos.

But it doesn’t stop there. With technology at its core, we see virtually every aspect of our lives disrupted: Digital currencies, the cloud, 3D printing, wearables, film making, ebooks, publishing, research, e-commerce, wireless broadband, social networks, augmented reality, big data analytics, natural language processing, cognitive computing, drones, robots, self-driving cars, crowd sourcing, smart cities, the Internet of Everything

Each one, by itself, is likely to have a substantial impact on the fabric of our society. In combination, they can create an environment that is dramatically different and far more volatile than the world that came before—an environment filled with novel challenges but with great opportunities also.

Navigating Disruption: The Big Shift

Disruption typically involves a challenge to the seemingly entrenched success of an incumbent. A report by the Aspen Institute, titled Navigating Continual Disruption calls it The Big Shift:

…[disruptive innovation] can play out along two different dimensions??the scale of operations or ways of connecting with others.

Disrupting the scale of operations

Two diametrically opposed forms of disruption are playing out along this dimension, one that is driving toward greater fragmentation of operations and a second that supports increased concentration.

  • Increasing fragmentation—In significant parts of the economy, smaller economic entities are becoming more viable and are taking increasing share of markets from large, established firms. Empowered by the erosion of the scale economics that have protected incumbents, start-ups and small entrants will increasingly disrupt the leadership positions of large firms.
  • Increasing concentration—At the same time that increasing fragmentation is playing out in certain parts of the economy, increasing concentration is playing out in other parts. In many cases, concentration is not being driven by incumbent leaders but by “edge” participants who understand where and how scale economics are evolving to enable greater value creation.

Disrupting ways of connecting with others

Disruption can happen not just by aggregating resources. It can also be based mobilizing and coordinating resources, including human resources, in new ways that increase value for all participants. This is a direct reversal of the trend over the past several decades by which large, established companies intentionally reduced the number of relationships they maintained with suppliers and distribution channels in order to improve their efficiency. We are now seeing innovative approaches that help participants dramatically expand the scope and substance of their relationships with others, opening up <ahref=”http: globalcompact15.org=”” report=”” findings-level-1=”” 7-new-forms-of-collaboration-between-business”=””>new forms of collaboration and putting those who continue to adhere to the narrower practices of the past at an increasing disadvantage.

Raising The Bar

We’re on the verge of a creative revolution. It’s an exciting time, a time for technical innovation, creativity and philosophy to join forces.

In our experience as a branding and design firm (Marc Posch Design), and having developed hundreds of brands, a few patterns have emerged. There are various opportunities for change, from basic improvement and innovation to full on market disruption. Improvement happens by applying a fresh look, a bold claim or a new packaging. And it goes all the way to the macro level, where design, engineering, manufacturing and marketing are growing into something more organic, and entire industries—if not societies—are being transformed: That’s what we call disruptive innovation, that’s when we raise the bar from surviving to aspiring: from demonstrating technical details, facts, ingredients, to presenting values in a context consumers can and want to identity with.

aspiral2

Rattle The Cage

Through the evolution of the global economy, traditional markets have been transformed into an everything goes mixed martial arts fighting cage. And it’s a brutal fight. For the attacker entering the cage the question is how to find new tools and strategies to win the fight.

Disruption by design is the model that creates opportunities for change and allows innovations to thrive. In saturated markets, it’s the only way for newcomers to compete with the incumbent. Innovation alone does not win the fight anymore.

This is where we are on the side of entrepreneurs who want to enter the ring. With design thinking that helps to define the process, and with design strategy which creates not just the product through product development and branding, but also the marketing process that rattles the cage.

Designing Disruptive Innovation and Creating Success

The challenge and opportunities for creative professionals today is to be at the same table with the development team. Hiring a brand designer should not be an afterthought, the element that creates the logo, or a nice shiny package.

Branding has always been defined as how a brand behaves inside—and outside—its organization. And how it is perceived not only rationally, but also, deep down on an emotional level. Brand building in the age of disruptive innovation goes further: It creates a comprehensive and holistic brand experience offering change as one of the driving factors, selling ‘think different’ as a label that turns products into premium brands people wait in line for hours.

The new paradigm is strategic branding as the brain, and marketing as the executive, driving organizational change and growth through disruptive innovation.

When done correctly, it’s a powerful, galvanizing and transformational process that defies structure and elevates the creative team to an inspiring leadership role that sets the course for measurable business gains.

What are you waiting for? Let’s create some innovative disruption.

 

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Categories: DITA

Translation versus Localization: What’s the Difference?

The Content Wrangler - Wed, 2016-06-22 09:07

To compete in today’s global economy, organizations must adapt website and digital media content to resonate with international audiences. And yet, many companies, big and small, do not understand the important differences between translation and localization. In this article, Dr. Nitish Singh tackles translation versus localization and explains why the two complementary processes are important, but in different ways.

Translation versus Localization: What’s the Difference?

The terms localization and translation are often used interchangeably. And yet, while the terms and processes share similarities and purpose, the outcome is quite different.

To understand the differences, let’s start with some simple definitions:

What is Translation?

Translation is a word-for-word conversion, or a language conversion. If you want to make sure purchasers know how to effectively use your product, it is important that the source and target-language text match up precisely. The goal of translation is to achieve meaning equivalence by ensuring idiomatic, vocabulary, and conceptual equivalence.

What is Localization?

Localization (also referred to as l10n) involves taking a product and making it linguistically and culturally appropriate to the region where it will be used and sold. These changes are visible to the purchaser of the product or service and related in culturally connotative terms.

Meaning equivalence and linguistically and culturally appropriate are the key phrases to compare here. Both seem like processes or activities that are very involved, or complicated. Yet, knowing the difference between what is equal versus what is appropriate can be very important to the success of your globalization efforts.

 

 Translation

 

The Importance of Translation and Localization

Translation constitutes a subset of activities performed during the linguistic localization of a product or service. This is important because a majority of web users prefer to read web content in their local language. They feel more at ease and inclined to stay on a site that is written in their native language.

Localization itself is also a subset of activities performed during the globalization of a product. The word “locale” is used here instead of “country” because a country may have more than one set of language and cultural requirements. For example, in Canada, companies need to localize websites and/or social media accounts for French or English-speaking end-users.

Translation versus Localization: Where the Differences Come Into Play

With translation, problems of intent and clarity can arise if the source language is left in a word-to-word equivalence, as can be the case with machine translations that aren’t followed by a professional editing cycle. Even if a source language is translated by a highly trained linguist, it may still lack the level of cultural and technical nuance required to effectively resonate within the target audience.

While simple translation may be appropriate for some content types in certain markets, localization is most often needed for adapting highly-emotive, creative marketing content so that it creates the desired impact across all locales.

Localization is also used for the content that drives customer action and interaction with your brand. Because of this, translation and localization differ on a tactical level.

We can see this best when localizing a website to a specific country or culture. Special attention needs to be paid to local conventions, time and date, currency and number formats, units of measure, addresses and phone numbers, layout and orientation, icons and symbols, language and verbal style, colors, and aesthetics. For example: Yahoo has web sites for almost 24 countries in 12 languages, and employs localization teams physically based in target countries in order to develop and maintain the country specific web sites.

 

flags of the nations of the world

Translation versus Localization: Turning Visitors into Customers

According to Forrester Research, localization leads to better usability and satisfaction of target consumers, and turns visitors into customers. In addition, a well-rounded and executed globalization process can improve efficiencies across all aspects of the business. Dell Computer Corporation which sells to businesses and consumers online in 170 countries and 34 languages, is running all e-commerce properties on the same custom-built platform with the internationalization (i18n) process, making large site upgrades, small tweaks or new functionality changes more quickly, more cheaply and in ways that don’t impact the end-user’s shopping experience.  As a result, Dell expects international sales to account for 32 percent of this quarter’s revenues.

As we view these processes as they truly are: subsets of the overall activity of globalization, we can better understand not only how they complement each other, but also identify when a company should deploy the two. The end result will help you move from strategic planning to implementation and beyond.

Learn from the Experts

If you need to learn more about global content strategy, consider attending the 2016 Brand2Global Conference, September 28-29 in Silicon Valley. Brand2Global is an annual conference jam-packed with real-world examples direct from leading global brand marketers.

The post Translation versus Localization: What’s the Difference? appeared first on The Content Wrangler.

Categories: DITA

Content-Driven Customer Experiences: The 7th Era of Marketing

The Content Wrangler - Sun, 2016-06-19 13:16

 Book coverIt’s difficult to recognize shifting trends and movements when we’re in the middle of them. Imagine a writer in the 1500s saying, “This is the Renaissance! I must create and compete in an era of cultural transformation!” Today that writer would probably turn to Twitter for such a declaration.

Although not as earth-changing as the Renaissance, a new movement in marketing has begun. That’s the argument that Robert Rose and Carla Johnson present in Experiences: The Seventh Era of Marketing. Rose and Johnson identify this new movement and offer instruction and encouragement for marketers, content creators, and strategists as they figure out how to be a part of it.

Content-Driven Customer Experiences: The New Era of Marketing

What is this new era? As Rose and Johnson explain, the seventh era of marketing is not about creating campaigns or just describing products and services. The new era is about creating content-driven customer experiences.

“In this new era,” Rose and Johnson write:

Unique, impactful, differentiating content-driven experiences will become as important as product development.” Marketers need to shift their focus to “creating delightful experiences to inform, entertain, engage, and evolve the customer.

Coca-Cola, Red Bull, and Kraft are some of the brands Rose and Johnson call out for their forward-looking content marketing efforts. Storytellers in these organizations don’t just describe products and features and benefits. They create value for their employers by using both content and the experiences in which that content lives.

A simple example of this is the Michelin Guides, which don’t overtly market Michelin tires. “In most cases,” Rose and Johnson write, “the value delivered from these experiences will actually be separate and distinct from the product or service itself.”

Rose’s and Johnson’s thought leadership adds credibility and urgency to their claims. Among other roles, Rose is the chief strategy officer for the Content Marketing Institute and a cohost of the podcast PNR’s This Old Marketing. Johnson of Type A Communications is an instructor for the Content Marketing Institute and the Online Marketing Institute. Both speak and write often about content marketing, and together the two of them have boosted the marketing efforts of numerous government and corporate clients. Drawing on their experiences, research, and reflection, they are definitely qualified to identify a new movement in marketing.

Experiences: The 7th Era Of Marketing from Robert Rose on Vimeo.

Context: A Little Marketing History

To help put the new era of experiences in perspective, Rose and Johnson remind us of the earlier phases of marketing:

  • The Trade Era (about 1850-1900) was dominated by manufacturers’ and farmers’ efforts to find the best place to sell their goods.
  • The Production Era (1900-1920) tapped into the United States’ fascination with mass production and distribution.
  • The Sales Era (1920-1940) ushered in the focus on price and salespeople.
  • The Marketing Department Era (1940-1960) found corporations establishing their own marketing teams or working with advertising agencies.
  • The Marketing Company Era (1960-1990) started marketers on the path to creating more meaningful messaging and company branding.
  • The Relationship Era (1990-2015) focused on establishing and maintaining rewarding interactions with customers.

The Experiences Era picks up (continues) where the Relationship Era leaves off.

“The Experiences Era may be as short as the Relationship Era,” Rose and Johnson write, “or it may, itself, be a transition to something completely different. The future is unknowable, of course, but by understanding where we’ve been we can better navigate where we’re going.”

 Marketing Team Meeting

The Need for Content Creation Management

How are marketers supposed to do their jobs in this new era? How are we going to create systems and processes that produce valuable experiences?

Rose and Johnson advocate for content creation management, a subset of customer experience management. They define CCM as “a conceptual framework to facilitate the organization, creation, development, and management of owned experiential content platforms for marketing purposes.” (I’m hoping the tone of this definition helps persuade management to fund such an effort.)

The goal of such a framework is to help marketers use content to create experiences that stand on their own.

Rose and Johnson outline a 12-step approach to establishing a CCM framework, and it’s a challenging list. For example, step 1 is “inspire a revolution in the organization.” If a marketing team is able to survive that step, then they’re on their way to creating, organizing, managing, measuring, and improving the CCM framework and the experiences it produces.

Other tactics and techniques—such as story mapping and internal marketing—are also important in this new marketing era. But my thoughts started to wander in the latter chapters of the book as I took in so many better practices and suggestions for transforming businesses with content. Rose and Johnson keep the ideas coming, but how can one person or even one team possibly act on them? How can we, or will we, take these new approaches to heart—and to our clients and businesses?

 Marketing strategy

 

Avoid Taking On Too Much At One Time

We can’t do it all. Earlier in the book, the authors caution us about trying to take on every communications channel and every tactic. “The marketer’s role is to find a happy medium,” Rose and Johnson write. “We should be creating a balanced portfolio of appropriate, relevant, and high-impact experiences at ONLY the stages of the buyer’s journey where we can be most influential and deliver the most value.”

Toward the end of the book, as if sensing how overwhelming all the research and recommendations are, Rose and Johnson slow down. And here they regained all my attention.

“If we’re perfectly honest,” they confide, “we care much less about the companies you work for—and much more about you.”

This book is as much a pep talk as a presentation of better content marketing practices. Rose and Johnson know the challenges marketers face. There are no easy answers, no templates to fill out. But there is great opportunity to connect with customers and each other with the stories we tell.

Has the seventh era of marketing officially begun? We’ll probably only know for sure after we look back at this time from years away. Today we can all point to companies we know—perhaps our own clients or employers—who still operate in the Marketing Company or Relationship Eras. But Rose and Johnson make a convincing argument that we SHOULD be in a new content-powered era. And these authors provide sound advice, strategies, and tactics for how marketers and other content professionals can survive and succeed in the brave new world of experiences.

Buy the book.

 

The post Content-Driven Customer Experiences: The 7th Era of Marketing appeared first on The Content Wrangler.

Categories: DITA

[JOBS] Sr. Marketing Manager for Industry Marketing

The Content Wrangler - Sun, 2016-06-19 10:35

Horton Final Logo

Sr. Marketing Manager for Industry Marketing

Location | Santa Clara, CA

The Sr. Marketing Manager for Industry Marketing partners with marketing and sales colleagues to create compelling marketing content on how Hortonworks customers in every major industry are transforming their businesses with Hortonworks Data Platform and Hortonworks DataFlow through support, consulting and training offered by the Big Data experts at Hortonworks.

The Hortonworks Industry Marketing team drives our strategy for communicating that value to several key industries, including: telecommunications, retail, healthcare, insurance, manufacturing, financial services, transportation and oil & gas.

The primary responsibility of this role will be to produce a large amount of high-quality content (case studies, blog posts, white papers, presentations and videos) for three marketing and sales objectives:

  • raise general market awareness of Hortonworks’ real-world value in target industries,
  • capture and qualify targeted leads within our digital marketing engine and
  • accelerate the sales cycle by enabling the sales team to engage with prospects in meaningful conversations.

The individual hired for this position will take both a strategic and productive role in brainstorming, creating and distributing content to generate more leads and shorten the sales pipeline.

If you’re interested in this position, or know someone who might be, go here to get more information and apply online.

The post [JOBS] Sr. Marketing Manager for Industry Marketing appeared first on The Content Wrangler.

Categories: DITA

Global Marketing Insight: Localizing Content for 70 Countries or More

The Content Wrangler - Mon, 2016-06-13 17:10

Localizing content may sound simple, but it is a very complex and intricate task. In this brief conversation, Professor Nitish Singh discusses with Devyani Bhattacharjee, Director of Marketing Localization, how SAP manages multicultural content across more than 70 locales. Localization at SAP means managing both locale-specific imagery and cultural elements in copy, images, colors selected and symbols used.

This Global Marketing Insight video is provided by Brand2Global, the conference for global marketers, September 28-29, 2016 in Silicon Valley. Brand2Global Conference is an annual event designed for professionals who drive global marketing and are responsible for international market share and revenue. If you’re a global marketing practitioner, this is the conference for you. Learn more.

The post Global Marketing Insight: Localizing Content for 70 Countries or More appeared first on The Content Wrangler.

Categories: DITA

Emoji SPARQL????!

bobdc.blog - Sun, 2016-06-12 15:46
If emojis have Unicode code points, then we can... Bob DuCharme http://www.snee.com/bobdc.blog
Categories: DITA

SAVE THE DATE - 2016 RSuite User Conference and Tech Training Day

Really Strategies - Wed, 2016-06-08 15:35

SAVE THE DATE

Banner-_-Register-Now_2.gif

 

If you have an interest in RSuite, please join us for the annual RSuite User Conference and Tech Day at The Hub CityView in Philadelphia, just a short walk from Philadelphia's 30th Street Station (view map here).

You'll find this event to be informative and useful, whether you are an RSuite user, developer, consultant, or prospective client.  If you have any questions, please contact me at dturner@rsicms.com.

Wednesday, September 21st, 2016:

Tech Training & Evening Reception

 Thursday, September 22nd, 2016:

Full Day RSuite User Conference

NOTE: Seating is limited, so register early to reserve your seat.

Register now

Special thanks to MarkLogic for being the exclusive Gold Sponsor of the RSuite User Conference and Tech Training Day (#RSuiteUC16).

MarkLogic

Categories: DITA

Balancing the Desire for Standardization with the Demand for Localization

The Content Wrangler - Mon, 2016-06-06 17:10

Can there be a global brand strategy? This question is not only context specific but also very much driven by understanding customer needs. Professor Nitish Singh discusses with Leona Frank, Manager of European Brand Strategy and Localization at VistaPrint, how research can provide valuable insights to help a company decide the best mix of global versus local in its brand strategy. The discussion further goes into implementation aspects of creating a truly localized experience for consumers worldwide.

This Global Marketing Insight video is provided by Brand2Global, the conference for global marketers, September 28-29, 2016 in Silicon Valley. Brand2Global Conference is an annual event designed for professionals who drive global marketing and are responsible for international market share and revenue. If you’re a global marketing practitioner, this is the conference for you. Learn more.

The post Balancing the Desire for Standardization with the Demand for Localization appeared first on The Content Wrangler.

Categories: DITA

Developing a Unified Content Strategy: Learning from the Masters

The Content Wrangler - Wed, 2016-06-01 22:38

Editor’s Note: The Content Wrangler is presenting a weekly series of twelve articles that provide useful insights and practical guidance for those who produce customer support websites. Columnist Robert Norris shares how to overcome operational challenges related to harvesting, publishing and maintaining online help knowledge bases. His eleventh installment examines why and how we should leverage the content expertise concentrated in the marketing team to help us develop a unified content strategy.

A Unified Content Strategy

In boardrooms across the globe, dashboard metrics and C-level briefs critically examine the performance of every marketing initiative, because marketing drives growth. Yet, even though our MBA’s will attest that knowledge drives profits, the return on investment of our efforts to capture and publish useful knowledge on behalf of staff, customers and partners is not (yet) on the executive agenda.

Today’s business leaders have inherited a lop-sided content strategy that focuses the talents of authors, editors, artists and technicians on collaboratively developing exceptional marketing materials, while the other business units—support, operations, human resources, information technology, etc.—are seldom considered or included. This situation leads to disparities in consistency. It also impacts timely delivery. It’s important to understand that differences between what we promise to our prospects and customers—and what we actually deliver to them— can damage our credibility, result in avoidable (and often expensive) problems, and undermine our commitment to knowledge sharing.

In practice, many website contributors find publishing knowledge for future use to be a mysterious, tedious, and under-appreciated burden. Our prospects and customers, on the other hand, are frustrated by the lack of useful content. They also tire of searching endlessly for content treasures buried beneath clunky navigation. As a result, they often abandon our sites to find unvetted answers elsewhere. Though our websites may serve unique target audiences, the premise upon which this series of articles is based is that developing and managing all business content via a consolidated publishing process is the most cost-effective way to optimize results.

 Team of workers thinking through a problem

The Business Case for Enterprise Content Strategy

For many who come to accept the argument for an enterprise content strategy, there is a compelling business case to support making a strategic change:

Since our multiple websites feed demand from marketing, sales, intranet, customer support, training and other audiences, by streamlining daily operations—as we do with goods and services—we can boost profits through increasing productivity, reducing costs, and optimizing technology.

During this author’s twenty years of helping businesses, governments, and universities successfully harvest and publish useful knowledge, a common shortcoming has arisen time and again:

Most organizations have the desire and capability—but lack the operational commitment?—to effectively publish via all of their digital channels.

The contention that most multi-website organizations have not yet invoked a unified content strategy to produce high-quality content for all audiences is admittedly a broad-brush characterization of a complex topic. While acknowledging that each organization faces unique challenges, a common trait among these organizations is a lop-sided content strategy where digital publishing expertise—authors, editors, artists, technicians—is concentrated in the marketing department to an extent that dramatically surpasses that of colleagues in other areas. This disparity in expertise establishes differing quality trajectories that spawn disparities between the digital channels. Most of the time, these disparities go unnoticed because content operations are siloed. Over time, marketing content rapidly becomes more sophisticated, content produced by other departments falls further behind, eventually reaching a point where the disparities appear unbridgeable. The following example is illustrative.

Suggested reading: Unified Content Strategy: Fact or Fiction

 Ikea website

Et tu, IKEA?

The award-winning global marketing team for IKEA is frequently lauded for its innovative content strategy and skilled execution.

Masters of social media and cheeky banter with potential customers, their broad spectrum of offerings includes a traditional print catalog with annual demand that doubles that of the Bible to a self-produced web series with bankable Hollywood stars. Given that IKEA is marketing to potential customers already enamored with their products and prices, the major sales obstacle the organization faces is a lack of confidence many potential customers have in their own ability to assemble a purchased item. To counter that problem, the global juggernaut has invested tremendous energy and resources to develop assembly instructions localized and geared for target audiences. Yet, despite that investment, the assembly of a piece of IKEA furniture has long been and remains a pervasive comedic staple because so many people have found the IKEA assembly experience to be incomparably frustrating:

With 2015 revenue exceeding $37B from selling customer-assembled furniture—and armed with extensive in-house digital content expertise—IKEA is both incented and equipped to produce knowledge base resources that make the process as easy as possible for its customers. In 2012, IKEA launched a much heralded YouTube-based channel focused upon providing video assembly tutorials to accompany written instructions. As of this writing, that channel is chock full of…marketing videos. Not surprisingly, the marketing mavens at IKEA were quick to spot another opportunity to reach potential customers and they jumped on it. Along with their Facebook-based marketing content, IKEA has produced hundreds of compelling videos to inspire potential customers to buy more products.

In contrast, the entire library of assembly tutorials—created to support over 10,000 products and last updated 15 months ago—contains but nine (9) videos. Worse yet, the IKEA US website presents users with non-functional links to orphaned assembly videos. It’s easy to imagine the reaction of a customer—already frustrated by the written instructions for installing a kitchen sink cabinet—who miraculously discovers a rare how-to video on IKEA’s website, only to find that it’s a dead link…The linguistic skill to cuss like a Swedish sailor would certainly come in handy!

So, here we have a global retail behemoth with the desire and capability to produce knowledge base resources that are in demand by their millions of customers, but those given the responsibility failed to execute even as the content wranglers in marketing made it look easy. Sadly, this outcome is not unusual in organizations with a silo-based approach to content operations.

Gauging Operational Commitment

Not yet sure if your organization has instituted an enterprise content strategy that drives content operations? The warning signs of a lopsided approach include:

  • Disproportionate investment of time, effort and expertise into one target audience to the detriment of others, e.g. significantly more energy invested into one-off leadership briefings about the new product than was spent preparing the customer support team for launch.
  • Large variances in quality across websites due to inconsistent production, e.g. copy for troubleshooting resources lacks much-needed graphic enhancement and/or contains errors a professional editor would spot and correct.
  • Uncoordinated publishing and gaps in coverage, e.g. announcements promising online resources are released before the content is available.

Should we find signs of a significant disparity in the quality and timeliness of the content publishing operations across our digital channels, we can dig a bit deeper by comparing the efficacy of channel-specific content operations via the mechanisms used during a resource’s lifecycle. Article six, Devising a Content Strategy for Every Audience, offers a task list from which specific operational elements can be examined:

After a resource is authored or acquired, the lifecycle includes:

  • Production: edit, enhance, format
  • Approval: review, vet, release
  • Publish: configure for discoverability and reuse by adding metadata, setting prominence and adding structure
  • Curate: couple with useful ancillary resources
  • Improve: identify and address deficiencies via feedback and telemetry
  • Re-certify: scheduled periodic review
  • Update: accommodate changes from minor updates to revision
  • Retire: archive

As discussed in article 10, Building a Robust Content Quality System, absent a professional approach to content operations, a single knowledge base will eventually become unwieldy. An organization that does not strategically address these operational requirements to invoke responsibility and capacity for multi-website content quality control will produce knowledge bases that disappoint and frustrate users, which adversely impacts productivity, brand credibility and return on investment.

 Risk ahead

Deficient Content is Both a Risk and a Burden

Organizations with multiple websites to manage do not typically apply the same rigorous oversight to intranet, extranet and customer support sites that they do to their marketing efforts on the web. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs), product instructions, topical web pages are typically created quickly in response to an emerging need. The “publishing process” often consists of a quick re-read after hitting the enter key sans editing, formatting, testing and tweaking. Never mind that the same management team overseeing this work would have a collective conniption over a typo in a PowerPoint brief delivered to a vice president. One might ask, “What’s the big deal, it’s just a FAQ?” But, when that poorly framed FAQ steers an important partner solving a time-critical problem into making a painful mistake, it’s apt to become a big deal in no time.

Inadequately prepared content lurks like a landmine in our knowledge bases waiting to be triggered by an unsuspecting user. When surfaced, it reflects poorly upon our brand and requires unscheduled corrective action that draws scarce resources from priority tasks. When we consider the burden of avoidable risks and costs, yet another compelling argument for streamlining publishing operations surfaces.

It’s understandable that a less experienced content wrangler evaluating the task of creating modest content resources would intuitively conclude that they can be readily produced by one knowledgeable person in a brief period with no muss nor fuss. Given the demands on scarce resources like professional authors and editors, why would an organization invoke a formal publishing process for a straightforward set of instructions or a few paragraphs of text? These perceptions are common, but dangerously uninformed. Managers involved in content operations need our help to recognize that an effective knowledge base resource must:

  • Balance brevity and usefulness: Uncommon artful expertise is required to craft useful and intuitive knowledge resources that serve the needs of a spectrum of users. It’s problematic that casual observers routinely misconstrue the sophistication of simple-looking content. As discussed in the third article, The Curse of Elegance, the better the team does their work, the easier it looks to their users, colleagues and supervisors.
  • Complement—not conflict with—existing resources: Publishing a useful FAQ is not a trivial accomplishment. The question must be phrased in the vernacular of the user, not the expert. The answer must also be appropriate and consistent with other published information and should alert the user to other useful resources. The metadata must make it readily discoverable and the navigation must make it prominent in proper context.
  • Be maintained: Every published resource burdens the organization with lifecycle maintenance. Informally created resources are far more likely to become buried in a knowledge base—only to surface later as problems—than are those that are produced via a formal publishing process.
  • Serve the needs of future users: An informally created resource published in rapid response to an emerging need is unlikely to serve future users as well as a resource that is reviewed and tweaked by experts, including audience advocates.

It would be a remarkable person who has the subject matter expertise; familiarity with existing resources; writing, editing, formatting and technical acumen; and in-depth knowledge of the needs of users to craft a knowledge resource that meets the above criteria. Even so, it would be even more remarkable if that unusually talented person were available to produce it.

Practically speaking, once we accept the assertion that every published item warrants attention to quality, then it makes sense to invoke a team-based process as the draft is composed, edited, tested and tweaked.

One can summarize the above by stating that many skills are needed—along with significant expertise—to produce a high-quality, professional resource.

This begets a question:

“Is it reasonable to expect that useful, timely, high-quality website content will be crafted without a professional publishing process?”

The answer is found via the same logic we apply to evaluating our goods and services: the measure of value for what we produce is signaled by the nature of demand. Put plainly, until users are pounding the desk for more resources, our knowledge bases have ample room for improvement.

Framed affirmatively, the return on investment for content operations increases when all of the various audiences for information related to the new product or service have access to timely, high quality information tailored to their needs. Factor in increased efficiency and productivity—along with enhanced risk mitigation—and we have a compelling business case for an enterprise content strategy that streamlines how the organization develops, publishes and maintains content for all audiences.

 Marketing team at work

The Pros at Multi-Channel Publishing Operations

Those striving to become skilled content wranglers have much to learn from the digital content pros in marketing. Though each organization will configure its enterprise publishing operations uniquely, it’s likely that many of those who have been carrying the load for individual knowledge bases in the past will assume formal roles that require advancing their content-related skills. When producing important content, our marketing colleagues pay keen attention to writing, editing, enhancing, formatting, branding, reviewing and distribution.

This is because they recognize that:

  • Subject matter expertise is needed to provide key information
  • Editing is a vital contribution to ensure proper tone, depth of coverage, terminology, etc.
  • Enhancing boosts understanding
  • Formatting ensures readability and consistency with similar resources
  • Reviewing confirms that the content is appropriate and vetted
  • Structuring ensures that the content being produced can be readily repurposed
  • Distribution (publication) alerts the audience and ensures that out-of-date materials are retired

Learning from the Masters

In this series of articles, we’ve laid the foundation for consolidated content operations by making the business case for a unified content strategy to leadership, engaging knowledge workers to determine feasibility and draft the plan, fostering stakeholder support from middle- and upper-management, establishing a content quality system based on explicit ownership and teaming with our colleagues in support to refine the content we produce. Via this comprehensive approach, we have substantial organizational support to engage the content wranglers in marketing and tap their expertise to streamline content operations across the enterprise.

Role of the Publishing Operations Committee

As part of the strategy we advocated, we built a framework for implementation in that the operations committee is charged with fact-finding, planning, process creation and documenting while the sponsors’ committee provides oversight, resourcing, problem-solving and support. The following principles should inform the nature of the operations committee’s engagement with those in marketing from whom we seek expertise and guidance:

  • Acknowledge the Risks & Burden Upfront: Our colleagues in marketing are busy working on priority tasks while under intense scrutiny by the C-level. As successful as their last campaigns may have been, their present value is largely determined by how quickly, creatively and effectively they deliver on the next. In the midst of this pressure-packed environment, they are being asked to help other departments—who lack their digital publishing talent, experience and resources—to join them in consolidating content operations. In short, they are being told to assume much risk while the reward seems fuzzy, at best.

    Tactic: Plan assiduously to mitigate likely concerns by recruiting marketing experts to contribute to early discussions. This approach will surface specific issues that can be addressed from the outset, e.g. timing, scope, responsibilities. Moreover, when the topic is eventually broached with the marketing team—not only will the message be pre-framed to address their concerns—they will have heard of (and likely appreciate) the effort.

  • Make it Official: Per the new content strategy, participants in the effort will have their job descriptions updated to reflect the tasks. This action elevates the importance of the project, sanctions the upcoming work and relieves some of the natural angst that accompanies unfamiliar tasking.

    Tactic: Though this key step is in the domain of Human Resources, the keyboarding of amended job descriptions is likely to fall upon very busy middle-managers. Before placing this on their plates, the operations committee has the opportunity to foster good will by developing suggested task descriptions for each role.

  • Align Expectations: Before energy is spent dealing with specific elements of workflow and process, it’s important to ensure that expectations regarding outcomes are aligned. For example, prior to examining various options to expand the capacity of scarce editorial resources, it’s vital that there be collective agreement that all published content benefits from copy editing. From that shared starting point, the brainstorming will be more productive.

    Tactic: In article 7, Your Content Strategy: Is it Feasible?, we introduced an exercise that advocates for the new content strategy used to frame the operational requirements needed to enact it. That deliverable was briefed to leadership to get the ball rolling and now serves the operations committee as a key resource from which to configure operational roles, responsibilities and processes.

  • Make it Fun: The hard work to build consensus support for the new enterprise content strategy has resulted in a sanctioned and resourced initiative. The operations committee—made up of professional and aspiring content wranglers—are on the precipice of enacting a strategic change with the potential to dramatically improve the organization’s ability to capture and share knowledge. Though the responsibility to get it right may be daunting to committee members, the foundation upon which this initiative is built was purposefully engineered to assure success. In particular, leadership and management stakeholders are oriented via compelling logic to maintain realistic expectations, e.g. the new strategy values discovery of what does—and what doesn’t—work. For experienced content wranglers, this may be the first time in memory that their efforts on a major initiative are so well supported, impactful and appreciated.

    Tactic: This is a time for creative solutions to thorny problems and that is best fostered by building enthusiasm such that all contributors are inspired to be bold. And, who better to help the operations committee generate a spirit of confidence than the marketing team? In addition to their mastery of content, they are experts at building excitement: Bring on the swag and schedule an offsite! The happier the contributors, the better the results.

Last Week: Robert’s previous article, Building a Robust Content Quality System, covered how to overcome operational challenges related to harvesting, publishing and maintaining online knowledge bases. His tenth installment examines the framework for a consolidated quality control program based on explicit content ownership.

Next Week: Robert wraps up this series with a glimpse into the future. Holding a Tiger by the Tail, examines the likely impact—and repercussions—of achieving our goal to radically improve our organization’s ability to share useful knowledge via exceptional content.

 Bengal tiger

The post Developing a Unified Content Strategy: Learning from the Masters appeared first on The Content Wrangler.

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Global Marketing Insight: Don’t Translate, Transcreate!

The Content Wrangler - Wed, 2016-06-01 17:09

When developing content for multiple locales, in multiple languages, companies struggle with the idea of translation versus transcreation. Transcreation is about recreating the content in a language and style that connects with the consumer in a meaningful and emotional way. Professor Nitish Singh and Frank Hartkopf, Head of European Content, Axonn Media, explore the importance of transcreation to create content which truly hits the sweet spot of the local consumer.

This Global Marketing Insight video is provided by Brand2Global, the conference for global marketers, September 28-29, 2016 in Silicon Valley. Brand2Global Conference is an annual event designed for professionals who drive global marketing and are responsible for international market share and revenue. If you’re a global marketing practitioner, this is the conference for you. Learn more.

 

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Delivering Personalized Content Experiences: Segmenting Content and Audience

The Content Wrangler - Wed, 2016-06-01 10:42

I’ve got a confession to make. It’s kind of embarrassing. But, here goes.

I don’t practice what I preach. That’s right. Not. At. All. And that’s got to change.

Although I have spent most of my professional life evangelizing the need for others to deliver personalized content—the right content to the right people, at the right time, in the right format—I haven’t been doing it myself.

Yes, I know how stupid that sounds. I know the steps involved in delivering personalized content experiences. I even teach others how to do it. I just don’t do it myself.

Delivering Personalized Content Experiences:
Practicing What We Preach

I’m not alone in failing to practice what I preach. Companies much larger than mine—software firms in the content space, for example—don’t practice what they preach. Ironically, they sell software designed to help you better create, manage, and deliver your content, but they seldom use their own tools to create, manage, and deliver their own content. That’s lame. It’s hypocritical. And it’s a missed opportunity to demonstrate the capabilities of the products they sell with a real-world case study. Doing so would differentiate them from the competition. And, it would provide them with a powerful tool that could help them win new business.

As a small company, The Content Wrangler doesn’t have the resources larger organizations do. We don’t have the staff, the budget, or the underlying infrastructure to adopt many of the content production tools we recommend to our clients. Lack of money and staff are fairly solid reasons why we can’t do exactly as our clients do. But, those reasons don’t excuse us from trying to accomplish the same things, perhaps using different tools and technologies.

We must be willing to try to practice what we preach.

Reasons Versus Excuses

Over the past decade, I have accumulated a long list of good reasons for not practicing what I preach. But, after an honest assessment, it turns out many of my reasons are nothing more than excuses.

Realizing the difference between a reason and an excuse is a great lesson to learn. And, it’s the focus of my efforts as an entrepreneur today.?? Reasons are causes that serve as explanations. They don’t seek to defend, condone, or justify shortcomings. Their only job is to provide a factual explanation for why something is the way it is.

Excuses, on the other hand, are designed to put the blame on someone—or something—else.

What’s the difference between a reason and an excuse? Accountability.

 Stop Making Excuses

Here’s an example of an excuse:

  • Me (to a software company marketing person): “Do you have any examples of intelligent content on your website?”
  • Software marketing manager: “No, I’m sorry. We don’t. We don’t have the time to create examples using our own content and our own technology. But we do have a slide deck that will help you envision how it might work.”

Here’s an example of a reason:

  • Me (to a software company marketing person): “Do you have any examples of intelligent content on your website?”
  • Software marketing manager: “No, I’m sorry. We don’t have examples available today because we drastically underestimated the volume of work required to get the new system to market. As a result, we’re realizing we need to adjust our content strategy, budget, and staff in order to create a real-world example using our own content and the products we sell.”

Notice how the excuse attempts to blame the absence of examples on a lack of time and how the reason makes the company accountable for their shortcomings.

Delivering Personalized Content Experiences:
Categorizing Content and Connecting Systems

There are many excuses I could offer up to explain away why I have not been able to provide more personalized content experiences. And, truth be told, I have a few good reasons. But, the fact is, my excuses aren’t going to get me closer to my goal, so I’m going to have to find ways to overcome the reasons (shortcomings).

Earlier this year, we redesigned The Content Wrangler website and launched it as an online magazine about content and the people who produce it. In order to improve our ability to deliver the right content to the right people, when, where, and how they need it, we first had to break down the silos preventing content from being automatically delivered. The first step to enabling this capability involved connecting our website publishing tool—WordPress—to our email delivery system, MailChimp.

To make that happen, we:

  • Inventoried our legacy content (to determine what content was worth keeping, and what content should be retired)
  • Archived legacy content marked for retirement
  • Developed a content categorization strategy (to allow us to add descriptive tags to each piece of content)
  • Built an email subscription form that allows subscribers to select the categories that interest them (to allow us to automatically deliver content to each email subscriber based on their personal preferences)
  • Connected WordPress to MailChimp (via APIs)

Because each piece of content in WordPress is tagged with category level metadata (e.g. content strategy, visual communication, localization, cognitive computing, intelligent content, etc.), we will soon be able to instruct our email system to deliver content automatically to subscribers based on the categories of content they prefer. That means that when we publish an article to our website about content strategy, all subscribers who expressed an interest in content about content strategy will be sent an email containing that article. Subscribers who have not indicated they are interested in content strategy, will not receive an email.

Of course, there will be challenges; reasons why we can’t do exactly what we want to the way we originally envisioned. For example, we will need to figure out how to automatically control the frequency of the emails we send, merge single emails based on categories into a single digest version, and manage time zone, delivery date, and other preferences. Each time we discover a challenge, we’ll focus on finding a systematic way to eliminate it. No more excuses.

Will we succeed? Not always. But we’ll get closer to the Holy Grail each time.

Keep an eye out for additional improvements over the next year. We’ll be working behind the scenes to create better content experiences for our subscribers.

In the interim, help us deliver only the content you desire. Join The Content Wrangler Insider’s List. Select the categories of content you’d like to follow and we’ll use your personal preferences to deliver relevant content into your email inbox. Insider’s List subscribers receive exclusive access to members-only content, free access to software tools, invitations to in-person and virtual events, discounts on conferences, and sneak peeks at new tools and emerging technologies.

Join the Insider’s List today!

 Subscribe button on computer keyboard

 

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