As a content operations advisory firm, we occasionally find ourselves in the embarrassing position of the “cobbler’s children.”
This syndrome reared its ugly head when we realized that our spreadsheet based content inventory wasn’t really working as a good way to discover and access the right content for specific sales, marketing or content requirements.
The spreadsheet was the right tool for the initial content inventory job we conducted a few years ago. But the hassle factor for daily use was too high. This showed up as assets not recorded in the document, and pleas for content recommendations going out across email and IM.
Before we set out in search of the perfect content management solution, we convened to discuss our use case requirements. We began by analyzing the primary content and content types we used, along with where they were stored.
Content in 18 Repositories
That’s when it hit us. And this is what it looked like.
We have content stored in 18 repositories. Mostly for good reasons. And we decided we wanted to keep it this way.
We do have a legacy Sharepoint system, and have dabbled in storing content within Salesforce. We really didn’t want to spend much time moving that around.
It made sense to store and share our primary slide decks in Slideshare. We weren’t going to move our blog posts, or content rich web pages. In fact, some of the important content that initiated this project are on landing pages in our Hubspot marketing automation system.
Years ago we adopted Box as our external file management and sharing system. This serves us well as our primary file repository. Wistia hosts and serves our finished video assets. We have a smaller library on YouTube. Yes, we still had too much content stored on individual hard drives and being shared through email.
We also recognized that the fastest growing “type” of content is links to third party articles curated on Pocket or Scoop.it!, and our content on social sites such as LinkedIn, Google+ and third party blogs.
Aggregate Content Don’t Upload
It’s become a mantra for us: Aggregate, Don’t Upload.
Rather than upload all assets into a single repository, we link to assets where they are logically stored.
Here are the possibilities we now realize:
- A single point of access to all customer facing content, regardless of storage location.
- Logical organization of content assets using two important mechanisms:
- topical folder organization, and
- search through keyword tagging.
- Group and organize content assets for different purposes, audiences, or sharing situations (partners).
- Metadata and content abstracts simplify understanding the nature and best use of content when it is discovered.
- Content with associated metadata and abstracts are ready to share, little to no preparation required. It’s “packaged” once so anyone can “deliver” quickly and easily.
- Comments instruct other users and provide a simple feedback mechanism for content that needs review or removal.
We use two important content storage and access methods which apply in our client’s worlds as well:
- People know the content they are looking for— an important but not high volume use case;
- People don’t know exactly what they are looking for, and need to peruse a set of good possible assets.
The folder structure approach favors the peruse use case. But, we’ve learned to be conservative with folders, and the importance of simplicity. People can actually scan 100 documents in one folder faster and easier than opening and perusing 5 or more with fewer assets per folder.
The tagging works both for direct search, but also as a “filter” mechanism.
Making It Work
We had done a light version of this for years in Microsoft OneNote. It’s a great application and works well. But it doesn’t scale. It isn’t a solution we can recommend or deploy to clients.
We’ve been using an application for two years now called WittyParrot. It’s developed into a robust platform. We’re now recommending it not just for this general use, but because of its expansive and strong capabilities.
As Lance Armstrong famously reminded us, “it’s not about the bike.” We recommend the following process and steps:
- Content audit and assessment. This is a good time to evaluate your current state. But don’t even bother if you haven’t defined your content use case requirements and turned them into content specifications. This is the best way to know what you really need.
- Map content to primary content constituents, audiences and use case requirements. This would include your buyer’s journey — hopefully by customer problems or issues, topics or themes, buyer roles and industry verticals if appropriate.
- Identify content groups or third party groups with which you might want to share content.
- Extract metadata and abstracts. We recommend you develop a standard Content Header similar to one we use. This will vary with different assets, but a baseline standard is important.
- Develop a folder and keyword taxonomy. This won’t be perfect or complete to start, but start with as robust a list as you can. You should maintain, enhance and review this periodically as well.
- Set up each content asset in the appropriate folder, with the link to the content source, content header and abstract information, as well as keyword tags.
Our desire to maintain a complete and useful content repository helped us understand the problem many organizations have with their Sharepoint repositories.
This activity is best accomplished with a responsible attendant, a content curator.
This is someone who “QCs” content that others input. They ensure content metadata and keyword tags are done correctly so content will actually be found. A little work on the front end will minimize frustration and the “dump site” syndrome that plague so many current repositories.
We are finding this a great way to make our single point of access to content more useful to all our content constituents.
Content Communication and Collaboration Ecosystem
The result we refer to as a Content Communication and Collaboration (C3) Ecosystem.
All stakeholders pull from and contribute to the same environment. Yet specialized repositories for video, media DAM, and even legacy content are leveraged. This short video explains.