Did you know that audiences forget 90% of what you present? That is significant. To make matters worse, the 10% people remember differs between members of your audience.
So how can you control the 10% they remember?
In the past decade, brain imaging technology has dramatically increased our understanding of the brain. We now know more about the way our brains process information and ultimately remember it. Take a peek at this slide deck, part of a presentation by neuroscience maven Dr. Carmen Simon of RexiMedia to discover how you can begin to apply principles from cognitive neuroscience to create and deliver presentations with lasting impact. You will learn 3 brain science principles converted to guidelines you can apply to your own presentations immediately.
If you missed The Content Wrangler Virtual Summit on Advanced Technical Communication Practices, you’re in luck. You can watch the recordings on-demand, whenever you like. This session was delivered by Matthew Kaul and Greg Adams of AdamsKaul.com.
In this webinar, Matt and Greg explain what Global English is and who it benefits. The duo will also introduce you to some Global English techniques that you can implement immediately. And, they examine several case studies of companies who have implemented Global English—and have experienced dramatic results.
If you missed The Content Wrangler Virtual Summit on Advanced Technical Communication Practices, you’re in luck. You can watch the recordings on-demand, whenever you like. This session was delivered by Mark Lewis, Quark.
You CAN prove the savings possible from moving your unstructured content to intelligent content. The benefits are measurable. Intelligent content combined with a content management system can facilitate savings and improvements in content development, translation, regulations, governance, multi-channel publishing, and quality.
In this session, Mark Lewis discusses how the various processes benefit from intelligent content and discusses metrics that prove the benefit. If it hurts, then it’s time to calculate the pain — and the relief. This session draws from concepts in Mark’s book, DITA Metrics 101, The Business Case for XML and Intelligent Content.
Mark also discusses which metrics you should gather so you can align your plan with corporate strategy and become the “Executive Whisperer.”
Slide decks: The ROI of Intelligent Content
If you missed The Content Wrangler Virtual Summit on Advanced Technical Communication Practices, you’re in luck. You can watch the recordings on-demand, whenever you like. This session was delivered by Scott Abel, The Content Wrangler.
Once a prospect buys a product or service, the content they interact with is no longer familiar. The instructions provided don’t look, feel, or sound anything like the marketing and sales materials that introduced them to your brand. Neither does the service contract, the warranty, the customer support website, the product documentation, nor the training materials.
The extensive variability in customer experience — and each customer touchpoint — creates a different and inconsistent version of the brand, some that bear little or no resemblance to the brand that executives believe they are building. There are often as many brands as there are touch points.
For no good reason, the content experience changes drastically — and not in a good way. That’s why organizations that recognize the importance of a unified customer experience have started rethinking what it means to be customer-centric.
Some forward-thinking organizations are reorganizing customer-facing content creators into teams under one roof. They’re breaking down the barriers — the silos — that prevent them from collaborating; from creating a unified customer content experience.
In this presentation, Scott Abel, The Content Wrangler, discusses the challenges of content inconsistency and incongruity, and why he thinks the future of technical communication is marketing.
If you missed The Content Wrangler Virtual Summit on Advanced Technical Communication Practices, you’re in luck. You can watch the recordings on-demand, whenever you like. This session was delivered by Andrew Thomas, SDL.
Andrew Thomas delivers a fast-paced look at how to leverage content to cultivate a loyal customer base.
Andrew is Director of Product Marketing for Content Management Technologies at SDL, focusing on structured content technologies. Andrew has worked with XML for a wide variety of content, from marketing materials, to printed manuals and web applications. He’s witnessed firsthand, the diversity of structured content and how it can empower businesses and customer engagement. Before joining SDL, Andrew was a language intelligence solutions manager for Adobe Systems and oversaw the translation process for their DITA content.
If you missed The Content Wrangler Virtual Summit on Advanced Technical Communication Practices, you’re in luck. You can watch the recordings on-demand, whenever you like. This session was delivered by Joe Jenkins, Oberon Technologies.
The world is constantly moving faster and faster. People are no longer willing to wait or read significant amounts of content in order to find out how to do something or get answers to their questions. They take the shortest route to the solution – if they cannot get the information quickly they tend to ignore the information and try to figure it out on their own.
However, most technical information is still delivered in archaic book-like formats that require the user to traverse and interpret more content than they need in order to get their answers. If you want your content to serve its purpose, you have to adapt it to this fast-paced world.
Companies have significant investments in the creation and maintenance of content that is never used. Not because it is not useful or relevant but because the content is not presented in a way that is useful to the end user. Companies are so locked into the paradigm of presenting content in a book format that they adapt the technology to this paradigm rather than adapting the content to technology.
Watch this recorded webinar and discover how you can leverage your investment in structured content to deliver content that is highly targeted, personalized, dynamic and interactive. Discover how to enable your content to be delivered via more channels, including cloud-based publishing, on-demand publishing, and personalized mobile applications, to name just a few.
The Role of Content Inventory and Audit in Governance
Website governance covers a broad range of policies, standards, and structures for creating and maintaining data, content, and applications. In this book, I don’t cover all the complexities of site governance, but I would like to briefly address content governance and some ways that an inventory and audit can play a part.
Content governance is often expressed as lifecycle management – the rules and processes that underpin everything from content planning to creation to publication to ongoing optimization. The roles and tasks that accompany those steps include identifying who is responsible for creating and maintaining content, developing standards for content quality, and incorporating metrics and feedback into a process of continual improvement.
When governance policies are not in place or are not followed, website content can become disorganized, stale, and ineffective at meeting business and user needs. These problems can trigger a content strategy initiative when the business realizes that the site is failing. A time-consuming, expensive project gets kicked off, an inventory and audit are completed, and a strategy is developed. To avoid costly one-time improvement efforts like this, you need to create a “virtuous circle” – a feedback loop that enables your company to learn and improve over time. You need to update your style guides, your glossary, and your governance policies, and then feed all that back to your content creators so that new content is created to updated standards and you’re constantly improving rather than doing major overhauls.
The Rolling Inventory and Audit
How do you create that virtuous circle? Institute a rolling (ongoing, periodic) inventory and audit. A rolling inventory and audit allows you to assess content mix, quality, and effectiveness against ever-changing audience needs and business goals.
The inventory, done at regular intervals or after major content publishing initiatives, enables you to monitor the quantity and types of content on your site. The data you gather in an inventory, particularly if you are using an automated tool, can help you quickly identify trouble spots, such as missing metadata, unwieldy site structure, and problematic metrics. The inventory also gives you the structure to track information, such as the content owner and the age of the content, that helps when you audit.
Content planning, often the first step in a content lifecycle, can benefit from the inventory too, as you track what content exists, what’s effective, and what’s not, helping you plan to fill gaps or strengthen weak areas.
At the other end of the cycle, the data supports ongoing optimization of content as you analyze your metrics to see what should be pruned or revised.
The content audit can also be done on an ongoing basis. You probably don’t have the resources – nor is there a need – to audit every piece of content frequently. Instead, identify the content areas that are most likely to stray from your quality standards, either by becoming outdated or by no longer adhering to your brand guidelines.
For example, seasonal content must be reviewed at the end of each season. But there is no need to regularly revisit published press releases other than to consider archiving them after a certain number of months or years. Content that changes frequently should also be reviewed frequently – for example, content about products and services. Content that tends to be overlooked because it is considered static or not directly related to sales or other conversion metrics, such as company information and staff pages, should also be reviewed regularly.
Keeping track of your content’s age and setting a reminder to review any content older than, for example, a year is one way to trigger an audit exercise. You can also plan audits around your editorial calendar.
A rolling audit is also a great way to draw upon the larger content team. Just as you assembled a team to do the initial audit, dividing up responsibilities, you can assign team members ongoing audit duties, breaking up the audit by content area, for example. This not only distributes the workload but also helps ensure ongoing involvement with content quality and buy-in to the process across the organization.
Websites are living entities, constantly changing and adapting to new business strategies and new audiences. Organizational energy is often focused more on the creation of new content than on the governance and ongoing maintenance of existing content. The result can be sites that are overgrown and no longer effective at meeting goals. Rather than let your site get to the point where a major content repair project is required, adopt the rolling inventory and audit to keep the site in a state of constant review and improvement.
Copyright © 2014 Paula Land, used with permission.
About the Book
Successful content strategy projects start with a thorough assessment of the current state of all content assets — their quantity, type, and quality. Beginning with a data-rich content inventory and layering in a qualitative assessment, the audit process allows content owners and business stakeholders to make informed decisions. Content Audits and Inventories: A Handbook, by veteran content strategist Paula Ladenburg Land, shows you how to begin with an inventory, scope and plan an audit, evaluate content against business and user goals, and move forward with a set of useful, actionable insights. This practical, tactic-filled handbook walks you through setting up and running an inventory using an automated tool, setting the stage for a successful audit. Specific audit tactics addressed include auditing for content quality, performance, global considerations, and legal and regulatory issues. You will also learn how to do a competitive audit and incorporate personas into an audit. Tips on presenting audit results to stakeholders will help you deliver effective strategies. Buy the book!
- Articles about content audits
- Articles about content inventories
- Content inventory and audit deliverables (templates)
- The Content Analysis Tool
Free Trial of Content Analysis Tool
If you would like to try the Content Analysis Tool for free, contact Paula and request a 5000-page block free trial. Then, let us know what you think.
The term “strategy” is defined as “alternatives chosen to make happen a desired future, such as achievement of a goal or solution to a problem.” To borrow from the definition of management consulting, then, content strategy is the practice of helping organizations to improve their content performance, primarily through the analysis of existing content problems, and development of plans for improvement. A content strategy will assess an organization’s current state, understand the ideal future state, recognize where the gaps are, and recommend a roadmap.
Defining Content Strategy
A content strategy is the analysis phase of a business problem that determines how content can be improved, either on the editorial or technical sides, to become part of the success story. In practical terms, a content strategy is the analysis and planning process to develop a repeatable system that governs the management of content throughout the entire content lifecycle. A content strategy also provides context, so that the vision can be implemented in an integrated way, to meet business goals and project objectives.
To understand what content strategy is, we need to eliminate what it is not. A content strategy is not engaging in activities that lead to project deliverables, such as a content inventory or audit — those are tactical-level aspects of implementation. The strategy is the phase that comes before any of these activities and, in fact, determines what activities are needed to achieve success.
Differentiating Content from Content Marketing Strategies
By the same token, a content strategy is not the same as a content marketing strategy. The goals of a content marketing strategy, as articulated so well by Robert Rose in his Content Marketing Institute article entitled “How Content Strategy and Content Marketing Are Separate but Connected:”
“Content marketing is a marketing technique of creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience — with the objective of driving profitable customer action.”
Ultimately, it is a marketing strategy, and looks at all of the content across an organization that can be used in multiple ways to build relationships with customers. The end goal is about reaching, converting, and engaging with customers through compelling content. A content marketer will understand the marketing story’s big picture, works out which channels will be used for which content, and align those tensions with the organization’s overall marketing goals.
Robert Rose says that the content marketer addresses the “whys,” the content strategist addresses the “hows,” and together they work out the “whats” and “wheres.” This is as an appropriate distinction as any, and emphasizes the collaborative aspect, and the fact that these responsibilities are two sides to the same coin. However, content strategists responsible for a number of “whys,” although the questions they ask are different from those asked by content marketers.
The Focus of Content Strategy
A content marketing strategy should result in a solid knowledge of why content is being created — what content and focus is intended for which audiences, why each target group needs to have that content served up in a particular editorial way. Content marketers develop some sort of deliverable that demonstrates insights into customer needs and desires, expectations of the organization and their products or services, and aspirations or aversions. These will be ranked, rated, and weighted to put the insights into some sort of hierarchy of priorities and rank.
Then the content strategy will answer how this can be done; the work done by the content marketers becomes one of the inputs of a content strategy. An equally important factor is user research done by a user experience team, and the insights from that discipline about how people use various technologies to successfully complete their tasks. Another factor could be input from the technologists, who can be great sources of insight into what is possible, and conversely not possible, within the technology ecosystem of the organization.
With all of these factors as inputs, a content strategy gets developed. The content strategy becomes the roadmap, the purpose of which is to define the content lifecycle specific to an organization’s needs, so that the content can ultimately meet the business goals. Even when a project or contract addresses only a portion of the overall need, the strategy should be designed to allow future projects to become part of a unified strategy. The content strategy should address how content gets planned, created, managed, delivered, and maintained post-delivery.
Just as the content marketers ask “why?” to understand the motivations and aspirations of their customers, the content strategists will ask “why?” to understand the motivations and aspirations of their internal customers: the content marketers. Thus, the “how” question of delivering content can become a “why” question is when gaps exist in the information provided to the content strategist. Asking “why” provides the content strategist with an opportunity to understand the requirements in a deeper, more thorough way. Understanding the “why” becomes the catalyst for delivering on the “how.”
The Role of Technology in Content Strategy
The content strategy looks at both the editorial and technical sides of content. The technical side of content usually becomes a focal point for content strategists; the assumption is that the content marketers have satisfied the content questions on the editorial side. Content marketers who are good at their jobs will have done work around the content marketing mission statement, determined the target audiences, what type of content should go to each audience, what the desired outcomes are, and how to keep customers engaged throughout the customer journey.
What is often missing from this equation is thinking about the lifecycle of the content, and how to manage the content throughout its entire lifecycle. Content strategists will ask about how to make content publishing and delivery — because publishing is quickly being usurped by delivery of content to multiple channels, such as the Web, tablets, mobile, and still, yes, print — follow a recognizable, predictable, repeatable process. The processes may vary between content genres, but the overall process is consistent and stable, rather like creating a blueprint for everyone involved in the production of content to follow.
Through the Lens of the Content Lifecycle
Content strategists will ask about the fate of content throughout several stages of the content lifecycle: the acquisition of content, the management of content, and its delivery and post-delivery iterations.
- Acquisition. Typical questions could include: Who will provide the content, and on what schedule? Will all of it be created in-house, or will some content be imported from other sources? If so, what sources, and in what format? How do you see the content being made to fit within our corporate style? Will the content be localized for other language markets? If so, what are the plans and timelines for that? Do you have a process in mind for the export of the content to the translation vendor, and what will be the mechanism to re-import the translated content for production? What about metadata — who is providing it and how does that mesh with the search strategies (SEO and SEM)? Any of the questions that elicit an “I don’t know” response may fall to the content strategist to answer.
- Management. Content strategists may ask questions such as: Is the content management system set up to deliver the content the way you envision it for this campaign? Is the technical side set up so that we can push content through to all of the channels in an automated way? If we have to include manual intervention, how do we ensure that we minimize the risk of human error? How will we find the content later when the time comes to edit it or retire it? What kind of personalization is needed for the content, and how close can we get to dynamically delivering content, given the state of the technologies available within the organization? How is the content development process set up to ensure conformance with the style guide? Are we allowing time to get all the content conforming to the editorial style guide? Will we need to get a developer to make some changes, and if so, who will change the content model to reflect the new delivery needs? Chances are, the content strategist will be in charge of the technical deliverables, or for coordinating their completion.
- Delivery. The questions around delivery will include the state of the content post-delivery, as well. Questions might include: Which channels get which content? Will we be doing adaptive content — content that differs automatically, depending on the device on which it’s delivered? Will the content be archived or deleted, and when? What about corporate retention policies? Once it has been delivered, does it ever get updated, or do multiple versions need to co-exist online? How will we distinguish one version from another? What inputs, such as feedback from search queries, will affect the way the content is improved?
Before a content strategist gets to any of these questions, they should also be asking questions to do with user research, from both the marketing side and the user experience side, which will influence how the content is considered.
- What are the expectations for the ROI of the content?
- Are there other performance expectations?
- Where does this content fall within the governance model?
- What is the budget for the management of the content?
The questions may not all be put to the content marketers, but the questions do need to be considered, whether by a business unit, technologists, or marketers.
Content Production: A Joint Effort
A while back, Robert Rose made a statement to the effect that content marketers worked with brushes; content strategists with chisels – in other words, artists and sculptors. Both disciplines — content marketing and content strategy — have their roles in the making of useful, usable content that is delivered in efficient and effective ways. Therefore, content marketing and content strategy professionals should be working hand-in-hand to ensure the best content experiences for prospects and customers alike.
About the author: Rahel Anne Bailie
Rahel Anne Bailie is an integrator of content strategy, requirements analysis, information architecture, and content management to increase ROI of content that matters, and a supporter of content structure and standards. She is founder of Intentional Design, Fellow of the Society for Technical Communication, co-author of “Content Strategy: Connecting the dots between business, brand, and benefits,” co-editor of “The Language of Content Strategy,” and co-producer of Content Strategy Workshops. In 2014, she is developing a content strategy as Global Head of Content Strategy for RS Components in the UK’s East Midlands region.
The Content Wrangler Virtual Summit on Advanced Technical Communication Practices takes place December 4-5, 2014. This free online event features eight one-hour presentations from some of the best and brightest in the technical communication field.
Brought to you by BrightTALK. The Summit will be recorded. Registrants will receive a link that provides on-demand access to the recordings.
December 4 – 9:00am PT
Deep Dive: XML Structured Authoring
Presenter: George Bina
Presentation sponsor: oXygen XML Editor
December 4 – 11:00am PT
Fandom Isn’t Random: How to Cultivate a Loyal Customer Base
Presenter: Andrew Thomas
Presentation sponsor: SDL
December 4 – 1:00pm PT
Global Content Strategy and Localization
Presenter: Diana Ballard
Presentation sponsor: Logos
December 4 – 3:00pm PT
Intelligent Content Systems: Moving Beyond The Book Paradigm
Presenter: Joe Jenkins
Presentation sponsor: Oberon Technologies
December 5 – 9:00am PT
Clear and Simple: Lower Your Content Costs with Global English
Presenters: Matthew Kaul and Greg Adams
Presentation sponsor: Logos
December 5 – 11:00am PT
The Future of Technical Communication is Marketing
Presenter: Scott Abel
Presentation sponsor: Acrolinx
December 5 – 1:00pm PT
Content Strategy for Technical Communication and Beyond
Presenter: Gretyl Kinsey
Presentation sponsor: Scriptorium
December 5 – 3:00pm PT
The ROI of Intelligent Content
Presenter: Mark Lewis
Presentation sponsor: Astoria Software
See you this December…online!
Scott Abel, The Content Wrangler
Questions? Contact Trey@TheContentWrangler.com.