8 Tips and Tricks for Future-Proofing Your Digital Content Strategy

Are you familiar with terms like ?content model? and ‘semantic tagging?? Your brand won’t survive the omnichannel world without them. Cruce Saunders, Founder and Principle of Simple [A], a content intelligence service, is here to fill you in on those concepts and marketing cheat codes, so you can orchestrate solid customer experiences ? and future-proof your digital content strategy. Cue the Beethoven.

11:44 – Cheat Code #1 – Create a content model 

Create a content model by mapping out all of your integrations ? from PIM to DAM ? in order to standardize how content works across your platforms and systems.

Standardization is a cheat code. It’s like if we were all running a city, how crazy would it be if every part of the city just did its own electricity, and none of the plugs from one part of the city to the other would work together because everybody’s doing their own thing.

But that’s how we treat content today. There’s no standardization between different content technologies. Everybody’s building their own thing in their own little silo. And so, the cheat code is: I need to be able to get electricity working across the city. We’re going to set up a standard for how electricity works, and we’re going to set a standard for what plugs look like and how they interoperate.

Then we’re going to set up some kind of regulation so that we don’t blow up houses and burn down playgrounds. We need to make sure we’re interoperating and it’s safe, so there’s some kind of standard process for it. 

Content models are the rules of the road for how content is going to work between our CMS, PIM, e-commerce system, and chat bot. We can get those mapped so they can function together and we can provide a bit of orchestration. That way, it’s not just the individual departments making it up, but they have the ability to do their own thing out of the parts that we all agree to share. We want to empower the creators, but we also want to make sure the parts they’re creating work together across technologies. 

14:53 – Cheat Code #2 – Start with one part

Does creating a content model sound daunting? Cruce says to start with one part, like a single department or system of record, and build out from commonalities.

The thing we look to do is start in one part and create coherence within one department or one system of record. We create a content model for the DXP or the DAM. After that, we look at how this content model can start to live a life that’s shared with its friends. 

Since the DXP and DAM have to work together, they need to share field structures. Content needs to be able to live in both places; there needs to be logical architectures that will support that. So, we get those two teams together and start to build a conversation, and the coherence starts to grow. 

15:38 – Cheat Code #3 – Find a change sponsor 

If you want to get the greenlight on a new digital content strategy, you need to find someone at the C-level or senior-level who can affect portfolio-level change.

It helps to have somebody at the C-level or senior level within a portfolio of content say, ?We need to look at content as a portfolio and start to orchestrate it. We need it to not be broken in all these places and for everybody to not be doing their own ad-hoc thing, because then it becomes an ad-hocracy. We need to find those sponsors who can actually affect portfolio-level change.?

Somebody needs to say, ‘Look, I want my portfolio to give me a return on my content assets; a return on all the investments I’m making in customer experience, so that it can happen in more places, and be more personalized, while driving more business outcomes. In order to do that, I’m going to invest in content at a portfolio level.?

That looks like developing a content services organization of some kind. It’s headed up by someone responsible for looking at the whole thing and having a team that is able to affect change, empower the content producing groups, and get them working together against a common content orchestration model, content supply chain, content model, and semantic model.

19:11 – Cheat Code #4 – Study the data folks

Cruce says to take a tip from the data analysts? playbook to standardize content. Our Chief Marketing Officer, Ed Breault, adds: Apply the 4 V’s of data to content: Volume, Variety, Velocity, and Veracity.

We need someone to define what we’re going to call things, how we’re going to organize stuff, the kind of systems we’re going to use and how we’re going to agree that content gets placed from place to place, and make it a service-oriented architecture. This is already happening in data. That’s the other cheat code ? look at what they’re doing in data.

How do I look five, even ten years into the future? A lot of times it’s just what the data folks are doing. They’re already building data lakes. They’re already making federated data, standardized data calls across an enterprise. Why aren’t we doing this with content? 

Ed Breault: And then that term Big Data came out, which was super hypey for a while. It was all about the four V’s of Data. Apply that same concept to content, so it’s like Big Content: Volume, Variety, Velocity, and Veracity of content.

25:17 – Cheat Code #5 – Take inventory of your content

Unsure how to take your clients from monolithic to modular content? It starts with taking inventory of all your omnichannel outputs and business needs. 

In order to get clients from monolithic content or page-based content to structured components, we need to start looking at all the different omnichannel outputs that are needed in order to work with that same content. 

For example, let’s say I have a recipe, and I’m working with a big grocery chain. They want recipes on the website, the mobile app, and ultimately; they want to be able to talk to the recipe through Alexa, so a customer can say, ?Order that.? That’s a huge top-line revenue driver. Now I’m using content to drive incremental purchases in my stores and delivery system. 

Next, I need to get my content into the kind of shape that allows it to live in all of those channels. It starts with that compelling business need. Then we take a look at the page-based content and break it down by asking, ?What does it need to look like in Alexa, on the website and in email??

We look at those example content pieces and analyze the structure. Then we create a component structure and figure out how to get authors into that structure without making their lives painful. Finally, we connect the content model to the authoring systems. 

29:14 – Cheat Code #6 – Lean on schema.org

You don’t have to start from scratch with your content model. Visit schema.org to explore various standards and content structures created by others. 

There are some really good shared best practices that help to smooth content in our operation, not just within companies but between companies and their partners. It’s a cheat code kind of thing ? check out schema.org for content models to pick from that people have already thought through. 

Back to the recipe example we talked about; whenever we build a recipe content model, we don’t do it from the ground up. We look at schema.org as a starting point. It’s easy to take a look at some of the standards that people already have out there for content structures. 

32:27 – Cheat Code #7 – Use semantic tagging

Create a semantic model (tagging data based on meaning) to inform your content structure. This will open up a world of possibility for content experiences today and tomorrow. 

Things get smart on the semantic side, where we tag our content with different words that we agree represent a particular topic or intention our client or customer might be interested in. When we put a semantic set of tags on there, we have a common structure across the whole content supply chain, which opens up a whole world of possibilities. 

Possibilities include ways we can use that content in not only multiple experiences today, but many of the experiences coming tomorrow. For many of our clients, that starts with the Internet of Things, where content experiences are happening in things that don’t look like computers or mobile phones. Think: Smart refrigerators that order items from the grocery store; or AR/VR simulated environments. 

On the other hand, some of our clients are just focusing on digging themselves out of the bookshelves, where the content source is literally a library in a basement. So, somebody doesn’t have to be leaning way into the future to employ content intelligence. But it does help to think in the way of N number of outputs, which is N number of customer experiences to innovate out of our content sets.

34:50 – Cheat Code #8 – Stay future-flexible

If you want your enterprise to succeed in the future, Cruce says, take a tip from Amazon and develop a flexible market strategy. That way, you can execute no matter what. 

We need to prepare our enterprise for a flexible future because the most flexible, adaptable enterprises win every time. Just look at Amazon. They have the ability to query any of their product lines in any of their content sets semantically from any place. This allows them to cross-sell no matter who spins up a new business line, and deepens the business line into a different geography. They’re able to pull the whole thing together with microservices.

That was an architectural decision made early on, which allowed them to dominate the future with a flexible market strategy. No matter what their brand managers and country managers come up with, they can execute. That’s what we have to do with our content, because the world is changing even faster than the last decade. Being able to embrace the unknown is one of the biggest future-forward capacities we have.
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