We have identified a solvable challenge that immediately improves productivity, efficiency, and, most of all, business outcomes.
Almost every day I have conversations with people in organizations who complain how difficult it is to find, access, deliver, and reuse content that is critical to job or task performance. This is a basic and solvable challenge.
Your Content Constituents
When this ability is missing, business outcomes suffer. But people’s motivation to quickly and effectively respond to the requirements of each situation is also curtailed. Audiences today expect near instant response or support. This often means delivering relevant, useful content.
Think about the customer-facing, content-using groups across your organization: in marketing and sales of course, but also customer service, training and HR (talent acquisition).
Your external constituents in your sales channel also require content to support their marketing, training and selling on your behalf.
We refer to these groups as content constituents. You can add your groups and subgroups to this list.
Your Content Repositories
Consider the repositories that house the content needed by your constituencies.
In our small company we have identified 18 content repositories. These include the usual areas of traditional document management, such as Sharepoint and shared drives, but also CRM and email systems. We also curate content.
Externally, we have our website and blog. Content also resides in our marketing automation system, on our external sharing drives, and numerous social sites such as Slideshare, Linkedin, Youtube and others.
What does it take for your content constituents to find, access, use and re-use content in your world?
Four Content Types
Let’s look a little deeper at these words “content” and “access” as well as what it means to “use and re-use” content.
Consider four different types of content people require:
- Traditional documents.
These are what most people think of when they think content, and content management.
- Linked content.
With the evolution of the web, linked content is rapidly becoming some of your most important content. These could be links to content on a company’s website or blog, as well as third party content on other sites.
- Source media assets.
These are images, graphics, audio and video elements. Traditionally raw digital assets were important mostly for professional content producers. Today, everyone is a producer — or journalist if you will. If you’ve ever written a blog and then spent time trying to find images to provide the right supporting visual metaphors, you’ve longed for access to a good digital asset management system, or DAMs.
- Source text elements.
We recommend a fourth category, plain text content, which we call Content Source. This is raw text, similar to raw media assets. It contains inputs to new content creation. A robust library of Content Source makes creating new content better, faster and easier. See the Avitage blog for more on Content Source.
For decades we’ve watched vendors try to offer the ultimate content management system. Typically this required uploading the organization’s content into this new repository. Often vendors focused on one content constituency group, for example, sales enablement, marketing, the internal enterprise, training and channel portals. This was expensive, put the same content into many different places, and was difficult to maintain. Ultimately most were sustainable only with considerable cost, effort and management focus.
Through simple observation of what is occurring anyway, we realized it’s important to keep content assets in their natural locations, in the repositories designed to handle each asset type.
Unresolved Content Problems
So this has introduced a new set of problems that most organizations haven’t clearly identified or resolved:
- Now, more than ever, organizations need a master content inventory that is constantly updated and maintained.
- Since not all content is suitable for all constituents and their use case requirements, specialized repositories must be “curated” from the master inventory into versions that meet each group’s specific requirements.
- To get the most out of content and content investments, and to meet a whole host of new content requirements we discuss extensively elsewhere, organizations must optimize the ability to use and re-use of content assets.
Optimizing the use of content means making it easy for people to find existing, finished content products. And once found, content must be ready to deliver. Today there are many ways to deliver, or “use”, finished content assets. Most repositories don’t do a good job supporting this delivery requirement.
Optimizing re-use however, requires something different.
Re-use is sometimes referred to as re-purposing. This means re-creating source content into entirely new work products, for different purposes. This requires the ability to edit, re-configure and re-package content.
But if the original content lacks the “contentS” suitable for a different purpose there is nothing really to re-use. This is why we encourage the development of a robust plain text content repository, or Content Source.
This capability is required by both internal and external production groups. But every individual who creates any content — from emails or landing pages, to blogs or presentations, to more robust whitepapers or proposals — desperately needs this input.
Most organizations don’t support the content re-use requirement except by recycling original content pieces back through the formal production process. This is inappropriate for many new content requirements, and too time consuming for most.
Deploy a Content, Communication and Collaboration Ecosystem
In this post we’re describing what the end state looks like. This approach has significant implications for all aspects of your content program, especially how you design and execute your content strategy. In this post we’re simply presenting the vision, and discussing some of the content management practices required to realize it.
To address these issues we recommend organizations maintain and deploy a content, communication and collaboration ecosystem more than content repositories. Key elements of this are:
- Maintain a master inventory of finished, customer facing content assets, including linked content. This inventory must be ready for all users. It cannot be the spreadsheet method of traditional content inventory work done for a different purpose.
- Maintain and make accessible a digital asset library, or DAMs.
- Maintain a plain text content repository, or Content Source.
- Provide a single access point to curated customer facing content, digital assets and plain text content that is suitable for each content constituent group.
- This curated repository must simplify the process to find, select and appropriately use the right content for each situation.It must facilitate instant delivery through all primary delivery mechanisms such as email and social media channels. Delivery must be tracked, consumption notifications returned to sender, and metrics captured. Collaboration with colleagues has become an important capability that helps people know better practices using content and communicating with audiences, and must be part of this system.
A content, communication and collaboration ecosystem provides an efficient, closed loop enablement system for continuous improvement, through shared insights, feedback and aggregated metrics.