Who’s going to stock the (content) pond?

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I love to look for paradox in life. Take content, for example. Content creation is undergoing a major shift from a few, centrally managed professionals, to many people, through out the organization, with varying skills, process understanding and techniques, who aren’t often managed in this process at all.

And yet, we wonder why this content “sucks.” (I’ve come to appreciate this is a technical content term when used in this context, not vulgar slang use of the term.)

It’s one thing to ask domain experts or writers to write short form blogs, and maybe try to find a relevant supporting image for a post. And a poor blog that takes someone a couple of hours to write, and few people read, has a relatively minimal impact on the business.

 

Think “Stock the Pond”


In New England, if you want a good fishing experience, you look for lakes and streams that are stocked.

We think this is an apt metaphor for a series of content production changes that are required if organizations are to produce high-performing content, and to realize the performance and business impact expected from content investments.

 

Webinars and Video

To put this challenge in a vivid and somewhat extreme example, consider video content.

Video content is a huge and exploding part of this shift. There is a lot at stake for organizations — especially larger organizations — in terms of productivity impact on individual’s day jobs, customer experience and brand.

Consider webinars, enthusiastically rated high by marketers as content and lead generation tools. Webinars are rapidly morphing into on demand webinars, or a library of videos. A video is really a sound track with visuals. There is no difference technically between a webinar archive and a video.

I have recently encountered several webinars, but especially organizations, where webinars were a terrible experience: poor production quality, poor audience experience, and a terrible process for presenters and producers alike. So much so, they are trying to fix the archive so it can become the long life asset it should be. I know this is more common than the exception.

Organizations see this trend coming must consider strategies to manage, enable and support this shift to video created by business people. A better diagnosis of the problem is required for the best strategy and results.

This analogy holds for other content types. Sales and channel partners are spending too much time creating content because they aren’t being sourced with content that serves key use case purposes.

 

Content  Competencies

Without changes to how and where content is created, organizations risk expansion of the current state: the wrong people creating content at the wrong time, without consideration of broader requirements to make content investments worthwhile.

Consider what activities and skills are required to produce business videos — or a webinar for that matter:

  • Domain knowledge
  • Deep understanding of customers
  • Clear effective messaging
  • Skill for planning and structuring video content & telling stories
  • Ability to interview to acquire new insights from third parties as source for video
  • Script writing for video form
  • Storyboarding
  • Video and audio acquisition and recording
  • Narration
  • Production skills: creating & editing images, graphics, audio, video, and assembly of final production

Clearly, this is not an individual sport. Clearly this is about more than defining a tool set.

 

Operational Considerations

Organizations must base this strategy on answers to some basic questions:

  • How much production work do we want front line business people to do (marketing, services, training, sales, HR, executives — the channel)?
  • What is the real, but hidden cost, of lost productivity to day jobs if these people do production?
  • How do we insure basic messaging and legal quality standards?  (Do you really own those images, have releases for the video that you use …?)
  • Given the PowerPoint experience of duplication of slide and presentation creation due to an inability to find existing content, how can we anticipate this impacting video as use becomes more regular?

Like the webinar example above, the underlying cause of problems is often the process and techniques that are in use. We try to apply new webinar tools to the way we have always presented. Organizations that shift their process to adapt to both tools and the new nature of online meetings and presentations, realize better results.

And so it will be with business videos. Digital video and associated tools and infrastructure offer huge new opportunities and video use cases. But it will require a shift in both thinking and process to fully realize these opportunities. Many mistakes will be made along the way. The question is, how will organizations capture and share those learnings so ten years later they will not have poor video experiences the way many organizations do with webinars today.

 

Universal Application

While the methodology was originally created for video creation, management and tailored assembly, it applies equally well to text and compound documents as well. Technology to manage key elements have come a long way to support modular, or component content creation.

In fact, we discovered writing for modular, configurable content elements is tricky. It requires good initial content design, and new writing techniques. Like so many areas of change, the technology is the easy part. It’s process change, techniques and disciplines that require constant attention. We’ve developed a number of support structures that make an initially daunting task, very manageable.

What if organizations could stock the video content pond with source assets: images, graphics, video segments and subject expert or professionally narrated audio segments?

What if assets created by internal and external content production professionals for projects for marketing, training, etc. could recycle and share both the source assets and modules of finished programs? Business people need a simple image, audio and video asset management system.

What if 50%, 75%, 95% of video “production” by business “new producers” became an assembly process, rather than an original creation effort?

In a simple representation, the idea look like this.

 

Central database of shared content assets: images, graphics, audio & video

 

This 2 minute video explains this idea, how we recommend you address this requirement.