• Top Takeaways from the 2016 Intelligent Content Conference

    I just spent three days at the Intelligent Content Conference, hosted by the Content Marketing Intitute. I’d like to say I’m all fired up from being surrounded by fellow content geeks. More accurately, I’m wiped out from intensive brain-work. The firing up will come after integration.

    As part of integrating what I experienced while I was there, I’m going to share my top takeaways from the conference, including my big takeway:

    Strategy and upfront planning always, always pay dividends.

    Whether you’re thinking about how content fits your business strategy or you’re creating complex taxonomies (naming systems) or content models, when you start with a plan, the process becomes more manageable and the outcome is more valuable.

    Robert Rose, the Content Marketing Institute’s Chief Strategic Officer, summed it up in his keynote: “Look up—find your road, and pave it consciously.” If you’ve got your head down focused on the task at hand, you may only be creating content for the sake of content—simply adding to the noise. Be strategic in your effort, and you’ll be adding value instead.

    Pardon me as I geek out and share some of the deep dives that I’ll be thinking and reading more about in the days to come. If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, please send a comment and ask a question!

    1. Semantic content types are way more useful than structured content types.

    What does your content description tell you? When you build a website or some other kind of digital product, you have to name the types of content you’re using. Do you use ‘body’ and ‘list’? ‘Title’ and ‘subtitle’? Or do you use descriptions like ‘product name’, ‘action step’, or ‘case study’?

    In a full-day workshop on Monday, Adaptive Content for Multichannel Use, Noz Urbina of Urbina Consulting encouraged participants to plan ahead and align our content specifications to the design and technical specifications of any project. That way, the whole team will know what to expect, and will (hopefully) agree ahead of time.

    You will also end up with discrete pieces of information that are easily read by machines and reusable in other formats (like transferring from white paper to blog post, or online catalogue to product sheet).

    2. An organization should only have one content strategy.

    I have said this before to my clients. When you produce all kinds of content, from hard copies to white papers, to social media to websites, you need a strategy that considers all of them. Not a ‘digital content strategy’ that is separate from your overall communications strategy that creates mountains of other kinds of content.

    You need a content strategy that serves your business needs, not specific tactics or projects. Matthew Grocki of Grass Fed Content walked us through how to document and refine that single content strategy.

    3. Don’t treat all content the same.

    How do you protect business messaging and corporate culture in an age of trending tweets? Robert Rose encourages us to think of content in layers, with varying lifecycles and dependability requirements.

    Divide content into Experience Management (tweets), Engagement Management (website), and Core Data Management (business critical data) and design governance models that are appropriate for each. That way your social media people can do their jobs in a timely manner while proprietary information is kept safe.

    4. Don’t try to adapt content to every device. Make content responsive.

    Karen McGrane, author of Going Responsive, once sang the praises of adaptive content. But she has changed her tune and supports responsive content that relies on the web browser to reflow content to the screen size, rather than relying on servers to snap content to screen sizes. Adaptive tools can be used judiciously in the few cases where responsive content doesn’t work with the user experience.

    5. Work smarter, not harder, by modeling experiences and content.

    Andrea Ames, Enterprise Content Experience Strategist at IBM has worked out ways to model content to allow different departments to efficiently create consistent experiences.

    These processes will improve the experience of everyone involved, not just the content creators or the end users. The whole production process, including technical people, decision makers—everyone—will be happier.

    The challenge is to bring them along gently, giving them appropriate levels of information, and know enough about their processes—what they’re up against, how these changes might be resisted—so you can explain the benefits and get them on board. No biggie!

    6. I need to work on understanding MetaData and Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

    Luckily, Josepf Haslam, otherwise known as the Godfather of SEO, was speaking at the conference. I’ll be checking out his site as well as a list of resources provided by Colleen Jones, CEO of Content Science, for more information. Some examples:

    7. Words and names are political.

    Naming, either in Information Architecture, or background taxonomies needs a process that is both structured and flexible, allowing for actively managed creativity and evolutions within those structures. Wendy Stengel offered an entertaining talk on the ‘Bloody Work’ of constructing meaning, based on work she was done for the National Association of Realtors.

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