In this episode of “Earley On…”, Seth Earley, CEO of Earley Information Science discusses the topic of Content Strategy: the elements, the success criteria, and the best practices to ensure that your content strategy achieves your business goals.
Seth: So welcome to our podcast. I know I’m not doing this under a regular basis but let’s go ahead and jump in. So today I’m going to talk about content strategy and why it’s so important especially these days. When you think about all the tools and all the technologies and all the things that we are using in our marketing world they’re all driven by content. We have to feed the content machine. Feed the content beast and I usually put up the Martech landscape which has thousands of companies, thousands of technologies, thousands of vendors and again each of these is trying to do something with content, right.
We are trying to engage with customers or trying to support them in some way. We’re trying to do inbound marketing and outbound marketing and all of these things whether it’s an email promotion, whether it’s a campaign of various types where we’re doing something to engage with customers that’s driven by content. So if you think about these technologies as a finely tuned machine or very capable machines. The analogy that I use is a high performance car or super car. A Ferrari if you will but then you look at the content processes that are supporting the technology and the analogy I use is a rutted dirt road.
And so you can’t get the most out of your content technologies if your content supporting processes are not aligned. So what do you do with this? Well we need to have a content strategy and a content strategy really has to be overarching. It really has to look at the enterprise objectives. We have to be aligned with a go to market strategy. We have to be aligned with our engagement process. How are we engaging with customers at each step of their journey? We have to think about differentiators. We have to think about that engagement approach and all of this has to support the business. What’s important to the business? What are the business unit imperatives or the department imperatives?
What kinds of promotion programs are going on around specific product launches? All of this has to leverage technical capabilities. People talk about personalization a lot but if you’re personalizing if you have technology that will personalize an interaction or personalize content well what’s the content that’s specific to that personalized constraint or offer or condition? So if I say I’m segmenting my market into these different demographics. Okay, great. Well what am I sending them that’s going to be different? How am I differentiating those offers? What is it that’s personalized? Is it the time of the day of the campaign? Is it the language that I’m using?
Is it the specific offer? Is it a technical argument versus an emotional argument? What is different about those capabilities and again how is my content being used in a way that takes advantage of those technical capabilities? And really when we have a good strategy it’s going to also kick off or catalyze the right processes, right? How is it that I’m going to create that content? Who is creating it? How am I engaging with subject matter experts? What’s my review process and approval process and finally when we consider all of these details around our content strategy we have to look at the measures. We have to look at KPI’s.
We have to look at metric driven governance and campaign attribution and remediation triggers? What are metrics used for? I have to do something, right? A metric tells me that my readership is up or my readership is down. Well what do I do with that? Or people are dropping off at this point or people aren’t responding to this campaign. What do I do with that, right? So we have to trigger some kind of remediation. So again, the things that we are doing with our content strategy is lining with the objectives. It’s supporting what’s important to the business. It’s leveraging capabilities and it’s catalyzing the design of processes to support all of that and again measuring it.
So that’s a strategy. Now of course, each of those areas can actually kick off a type of strategy. So we could say well I need a content strategy that speaks to the business, has executive sponsorship, has a business justification, I need to have an editorial strategy and this editorial strategy needs to be able to design content to achieve specific goals. What is the content that is going to engage with those user types? Do I have style guides? Do I have training materials from my content creators? Am I mapping the content to specific feeds? Do I have those approval processes? Do I have consistent voice for my content?
Going back to the technical details we need to have a technology strategy and so the content strategy can relate to the technology strategy. Functional requirements, technical specifications, used cases, reused scenarios. If I’m reusing content and I better be reusing content of course cross channels and devices on content architecture, taxonomy, metadata and again if I have gaps in the process then I have to have a vendor selection process. Or
if I have gaps in my functionality I need to fill those gaps with particular types of tools. When we have all those other pieces together we have to have a deployment strategy so we have to populate content. We have to remediate content. We have to tag it and perhaps we go through a cleanup process, perhaps we go through retrospective tagging, we’re using auto-categorization tool.
We have to be able to operationalize all these things. We have to have ongoing ownership and funding. So there’s a point piece of this and finally long term maintenance and long term governance requires things like a center of excellence or a center of competency requires change management programs the communication strategy and program and long term application of those metrics for compliance. Now this does not have to be complexed, right. There are a lot of pieces to it but we can really get this done in 3 steps.
The first is understanding users, understanding their challenges, understanding their perspectives. This can be on the content creation side or the content consumption side.
The second is to synthesize those findings and iterate. It’s really important to iterate our design to test, and to deploy, to measure, get feedback and then shampoo, rinse and repeat and then finally we have to create a playbook that can allow us to monitor and measure and be extensible across different departments and then it can roll that out, right? Think of this as multiple content strategies or content strategies that are going to fit the needs of different departments and different audiences or different channels or different groups, different owners of aspects of the customer life cycle so each of those organizations or each of those departments needs to apply a playbook that will be extensible.
So again, understanding the user requires us to think about collaborative design. Perhaps they’re doing surveys. We’re interviewing people. We’re building personas. We’re building out used cases. We’re understanding the needs of those different users. When we synthesize those findings that goes into the design process and remember part of design is designing the content architecture, taxonomy and metadata and the tagging processes, content life cycles, building out that content model. Building out that user experience architecture, the wire frames, the user testing and when you think about this from an overarching perspective again we need to have a common architecture that’s going to support multiple departments but when it comes to implementing the very specific content processes that’s something that will be repeated over and over again. And the content architecture needs to be extended to a particular type of technology, right?
We can have overarching taxonomy and metadata standards but then one type of system may leverage a different content model than another type of system but they need to be harmonized. Then finally we need to have that playbook that can be extensible that
has the governance strategy includes change management processes. Looks at the metrics for change, builds out the governance structures. We have to have a decision making body and decision making procedures again that can be brought to other parts of the organization. So you know the objective is to really rapidly prototype this. You have that overarching plan but the rapidly prototype.
We need to be able to drive the content through different channels and different platforms and speed up that velocity of information flow. Remember what happens is when you don’t have these things in place people can’t find their stuff and it slows everything down, right. When you’re not organizing things upstream for your upstream users and they can’t find things then it slows your time to market and it impacts your customer experience and the other piece of this is that we’re tapping into enterprise expertise. Think about what you’re doing with content you’re exposing the knowledge and expertise of the organization to your customers and as I say you have to continually measure this and refine and realign it and so on.
Now part of this is solving problems today but it’s also future proofing the content strategy because anything that you’re looking at that’s emerging artificial intelligence, cognitive computing, chat box, conversational commerce all of these things all of these intelligent virtual systems all of these are driven by content. People don’t realize this. There’s no new magic here, right? All of those types of things. All of those emerging technologies are driven by content. So whether we’re talking about process based merchandising or talking about you know content in commerce, knowledge harvesting these all foundationally rest on the same principles, right. And it’s about engaging those different communities. All of these things are content processes.
At any rate, I wanted to cover out content strategy at a high level and certainly if you have any questions you can reach out to me Seth@earley.com and of course go to www.earley.com for lots of different types of assets that will help you in your content programs. Thanks for listening.