The Vision Gap: our content strategy webinar notes and video

Image credit: spinster Image credit: Mike Slone

This week we hosted our latest brilliant webinar. Antony Mayfield, Jason Ryan and Lauren Pope discussed the importance of content strategy for brands in the digital age.

In this post you’ll find slides and notes, and a video of the whole webinar.

[slideshare id=35830242&doc=ambrilliantwebinarno2-thevisiongapv1-140613044025-phpapp01]

Vision vs. reality in content strategy – Antony Mayfield

Looking at vision vs. reality in content strategy Antony explained that almost all the organisations we speak to at Brilliant Noise have some kind of digital strategy in place.

However, as we heard from Forrester in our last webinar on digital transformation, there’s a real gap between companies who say they’ve got a digital strategy and companies that are confident they’ve got the right digital strategy and that it’s being utilised effectively.

Many brands have content strategies, but they’re falling into the trap of emphasising campaigns over programmes, interruption over engagement, ads over content, utility over reach and acquisition over retention.

The real question is what’s stopping them or slowing them down in creating and acting on the right content strategy?

The main issues are:

  • Leadership — leadership at all levels of the organisation and a sense of how it develops digital leaders who can change the organisation and be dynamic enough to invest in new content and systems.
  • Operations — the operational side of content (how to put content strategies in place and scale them) is undervalued in many organisations.
  • Content systems — data from Forrester shows that CMOs are still prioritising acquisitions over everything else, with only 20% prioritising retention. We’re still stuck with campaign mindsets and budgets, which aren’t enough to invest in the kind of system changes or organisational restructuring that is needed.

Another issue is that organisations are still not close enough to the customer. The customer is considered at a high level, but when you look at the content that’s been created or how it’s being distributed, the customer’s needs have clearly not been considered.

There are lessons that content can learn from search engine marketing about short-termism. Just as SEO suffered with each Google algorithm update and eventually lost the race to outsmart the Google engineers, the same thing is happing in content and social media with cheap, short-term content that chases attention alone, without regard for customer needs.

An effective content strategy emphasises the near-term, while also building a platform for long-term change.

Scaling content: brand taxonomy – Jason Ryan

Next Jason Ryan discussed the importance of taxonomy in scaling content.

All brands can learn a lot from others whose core business is content. News organisations and publishers must create content that their customers actively want to engage with.

In the example of a BBC news article, it will link to related content from its own content ecosystem as well as content from third party sources. Applying this manually would be an impossible task; the use of structured metadata, content types and tagging means this can happen automatically.

Tagging and structuring of data is the unglamorous but essential side of content strategy. It allows the BBC to provide the right content to the right customer at the right time. And it is this approach that enables organisations to create ‘content at scale’ and avoid duplication of effort. This is not only more efficient, but also supports innovation and new ways of working.

Looking at the actual systems that publishers and news organisations use there has been a shift from the established model of ‘produce and archive’ to one of ‘produce, curate, aggregate and link’.

In terms of marketing this corresponds to the shift from timed campaigns to the ‘always-on’ mind-set. This new systems model means that content never expires and instead provides incremental value.

Taxonomy and ontology are two key concepts in understanding how this works:

  • Taxonomy — taxonomy is a classification of things or concepts.
  • Ontology — how things or concepts relate to one another and can be grouped or divided.

The BBC has built its ontologies extensively by collecting structured and related concepts and tags, then applying them to its content. While the BBC has been doing this for years its work is never done; it is an ongoing process that continually evolves over time.

Although the BBC had various ontologies for programmes, education, sport etc., it didn’t have an ontology for elections until recently. The BBC wanted to create an ontology that could be used to cover Vote 2014 and any future elections. However with a deadline of six-to-eight weeks until the May elections to create it, the team had to find a balance between meeting that deadline and making something comprehensive.

Its approach was to create a ‘Minimum Viable Ontology’ that could be completed quickly, and iterated for future elections. The ontology isn’t academic, it’s user-focused, based on use cases and user stories, to help them find what they’re looking for.

Taxonomies need to be seen as a strategic brand asset that delivers business and customer value. It’s a foundation for all digital initiatives and development. It allows sites to provide relevant and connected content. This aids consumers in content discovery and improves visibility both onsite and in search engine results and social media.

Content trends – Lauren Pope

Lauren Pope then went on to discuss eight content trends.

1. Expanding content toolkits
There has been a huge increase in new software developed to help content teams.

As people realise that programs like Word and Pages aren’t the optimal tools for content creation, new tools like Beegit, Draft, Penflip, StackEdit and Write Monkey have emerged. They help to make content writing easier, with uncluttered interfaces, support for Markdown, collaboration and exports in a variety of formats.

Software to manage content workflow to also booming. Larger editorial teams and more complex processes require support and there are tools springing up specifically to support this need, like GatherContent, Spredfast, Divvy, and NewsCred.

2. Analysing and streaming
As content matures, organisations are looking not just at the impact of their output, but also the effectiveness of their processes. This includes calculating the real cost of creating content, by looking at each step in the end-to-end process.

Just knowing the breakdown isn’t enough, you also need to look at how you can streamline processes to make them run better and focus on what delivers the best return.

3. Measuring attention
Content measurement is often focused on pageviews, likes, shares and comments, which are only half the story. With an increasing amount of content and competition, attention is becoming the measure that really matters.

People will like some content, share it, and comment on it, without even having read it fully. But other kinds of content will be read in-depth, but never shared. That content potentially has far greater value, but if your measurement framework doesn’t track things like scrolls, time on page, clicks, conversions/leads, then you won’t get a clear picture of that.

This kind of measurement can be translated into action too – if you notice that people are liking and sharing certain kinds of content in large volumes without reading it, you can save your budget and write shorter stories. If other content is holding people’s attention for long periods of time, you know that it’s worth the extra investment.

4. Content shock
Content shock is where content meets the economics of supply and demand: brands may soon find it becomes harder to get the same positive effect from content, as more and more content competes for the same finite pool of attention.

This might be a pivotal moment for content, in the same way the Penguin and Panda Google updates were for search. Brands with low-quality, poorly thought out content will suffer. But if your content is strategic and customer-focused, it will cut through.

5. Content for customer experience
This is about content that really helps to enhance the experience your customers have of your brand, moving from the basic ‘meets needs’ to the optimum of making an experience ‘enjoyable’. Remember what your brand is for, what your customers want from you, and deliver it.

6. The CCO
Chief Content Officers (CCOs) have recently been hired at Time Inc, the Telegraph, Petco, Netflix, Bloomberg, Coca-Cola.

A CCO would typically report to the Chief Marketing Officer/VP of Marketing. The role would oversee all content activities, in all parts of an organisation, and across all platforms. It’s a role that fulfils a need to put content front and centre of the business agenda, and to break down content silos.

7. COPE
People have been talking about Create Once Publish Everywhere (COPE) since 2009, but mobile has given it a new lease of life. COPE advocates:

  • content management systems over web publishing tools
  • separating content from display
  • content modularity
  • content portability

This approach is especially important with the rise of mobile.

8. The Internet of Things

According to Cisco (not Gartner as we said in the webinar) 100 ‘things’ are coming online every second, and Gartner figures show that by 2020, there will be 30bn connected devices, and most of them won’t be PCs, smartphones or tablets – it’ll be things like wearables, Google Glass, and elements in connected homes.

This shift has implications for content that people are only just beginning to consider in earnest. It will pose challenges around personalisation, automation and publishing. It’s also a huge opportunity – these devices could provide lots of data, which in turn could drive better content strategies.

We’d love to hear your thoughts and questions about content strategy — so either leave a comment, or get in touch.