What is intelligent content?
As the name implies, it’s got to be smart, right? But beyond that, things may not be as clear.
Today, we’ll be sharing some of our learnings and philosophies revolving around intelligent content strategies and their relevance to the modern marketer. In addition to good, clear information, we’ll also give you opportunities to clarify your organization’s strategy with a little bit of homework, which in the long run will make your content marketing process easier, more efficient — and more successful.
What kind of marketer are you?
Marketing teams come in all shapes and sizes — from a team of one, to a team of many. Within each team, you may have full-time or part-time team members, small business owners, web designers, developers and agency folks.
Regardless of the size of your team, or what your official role in the organization is, if you’re involved with content marketing or content strategy, you’re probably looking for better ways to organize and share content and streamline your processes. We’re here to help with exactly that!
And since we practice what we preach, we’d like to share some of Widen’s basic, powerful concepts with you.
We’re building bridges
When we talk with marketers, their feelings about content marketing vary from excited, to confident, confused, exhausted and overwhelmed.
Today’s blog post is all about building bridges between you, your content and the audience that yearns for it.
If you’re a marketer today (for at least part of your job), there’s a very good chance you create content to (1) build audiences, (2) create demand, and (3) create and communicate value for your business. Let’s take a look at some intelligent content approaches that will help you accomplish one or all of these goals.
So, what is intelligent content?
The true definition of intelligent content — courtesy of Scott Abel, Ann Rockley and Charles Cooper, the founders and leading influencers of the movement — is as follows:
It’s content that's structurally rich and semantically categorized and therefore automatically discoverable, reusable, reconfigurable and adaptable.
Here’s another way of looking at it.
Intelligent content is the bridge between “dumb (or underperforming) content,” or “lame content processes,” and smarter ways to streamline and scale your content strategy.
It’s also a type of marketing that allows us to do more with less — while building more bridges.
According to Seth Godin, “content marketing is the only marketing left.” We couldn’t agree more.
According to the Content Marketing Institute, 88% of B2B marketers use content marketing, and since you’re reading this article we’d bet you’re probably one of them.
We’re all creating more content. But, it doesn’t come easy, does it?
We all deal with content challenges of scale
No matter who we talk to, everyone agrees: “we can never get enough.”
- We never have enough people to act on ideas
- We lack a defined and documented strategy, OR have not followed through with our strategy
- We have too many things, too much going on, and we’re too busy
These are just a few of the major issues that marketers we talk to mention over and over.
Can you relate to one or more of these statements? If so, don’t dismay, because there’s a solution …
Use programmatic and strategic thinking!
Or, more specifically, use programmatic, yet pragmatic, strategic thinking.
Intelligent content is about the technology and the approaches that allow us to deliver the right piece of information, to the right person, at the right time, in the right language, format, and on the devices of that person’s choosing.
To be an effective marketer, you need to be in front of your audiences effectively. It’s like you need to be everywhere at all times, which sounds pretty daunting, right?
Let’s dive deeper into how to accomplish this — whether you’re a team of 1 or 100.
Your intelligent content marketing strategy
True programmatic and strategic thinking can realistically be accomplished by applying concepts that have been around for a while, but are just now growing in popularity among digital marketing and content strategy folks today.
- Component content
- Modular content
Along with examining each of these strategies, we’ll spend some time on three non-technical exercises to help you start mapping out new approaches to content development and optimization. Our goal here is to help you start thinking end-to-end with your content. OR, “thinking like a marketer,” as I like to say.
Again, we’re just covering the basics here, leaving the technical side out of it for now. So if you’re not a tech geek, that’s OK!
Short for Create Once, Publish Everywhere, COPE is one of the most popular approaches and acronyms in intelligent content strategy.
This was actually made popular with a 2009 Programmable Web article by Daniel Jacobson, the Director of Application Development at NPR. Daniel leads NPR’s content management solution. I learned of this approach from one of our customers, Sub-Zero and Wolf, when they launched a new website last year.
There’s a serious technical side to COPE, including these philosophies:
- Build content management systems (CMS), not web publishing tools
- Separate content from display
- Ensure content modularity
- Ensure content portability
But the thinking behind COPE is quite simple. And, that’s what we’ll focus on here.
Essentially, we want it to be second nature for you to think about managing content centrally, publishing it everywhere, and making it portable from one use to the next.
The concept of repurposing is central to the concept of COPE. At Widen, we created “The Repurposing Rule of 15,” to set a benchmark of 15 ways to repurpose and share our “Big Rock Content” to get more value from every piece as part of a program.
Big Rock Content is the high-investment, time-intensive, OR most comprehensive content you can build entire programs around.
Here’s an example with our DAM Decision Guide and the ways we’ve repurposed it with a COPE strategy…
We took one, 1-page document and used it for:
- Our tradeshow booth drop, which went over well for great utility
- A multi-page toolkit
- A series of 16 emails
- Postings on two Twitter accounts
- Google Adwords offers and remarking ads
- 2 infographics
- 4 webinars
- 9 blog posts
- 2 Blog call-to-action (CTA) ads to generate even more leads
- Sales presentations
As you can see, we certainly hit the “15 Benchmark” with this one document appearing at least 39 times across various channels.
EXERCISE #1 — COPE
It’s time for our first exercise. You can do this individually or in a small group with your colleagues, if you prefer.
- Think about 1 piece of Big Rock Content or memorable content you’ve invested time, money or creativity into
- Think about all the places you can repurpose, repackage, share and publish content assets from ONE source and make a list of all the new forms, channels and places where you can take it (whether you’ve completed a piece of Big Rock Content yet, or not)
- Like 1 of the 4 basic Ps to marketing, this intelligent content approach is about PLACEment
You can use the following chart to journey map your content touches.
Helpful Hint: Think about your customer’s journey.
Two things to consider after mapping your content:
- What’s the highest number documented?
- How do you (or will you) measure impact? Reach (quantity of touchpoints), web traffic, leads, customers, sales?
Chunking is closely tied to COPE, but focuses on breaking down information into bite-sized pieces so the brain can more easily digest new information.
Chunking is a concept that originates from the field of cognitive psychology. We break text and multimedia content into smaller chunks to help viewers process, understand and remember it better.
Intelligent content is fluid, independent of format (or format free), and cumulative. So marketers need to toss aside the thinking that content is just copy and image on a single page. It’s about creating modularized pieces of content (or chunks) that can be reused and repurposed interchangeably.
Chunks are the building blocks to various content deliverables, and can be tracked as they are reused.
EXERCISE #2 — Chunking
Think again about your Big Rock Content piece, influential stories OR common contents to your business that you want people to remember.
Make a list of all the ways you can slice and dice it into smaller, reusable chunks across all places and pieces to make it memorable.
Fill out this grid and you should be able to identify your common “chunks.”
Helpful Hint: Remember to chunk places vs. pieces.
Once you’re done with the grid:
- What is your big rock concept?
- What are the core messages?
- What are the chunks you can pull out for repurposing across channels?
- Your chunks will help you identify future content products and promotions
- What chunks did you identify, and how will you track and measure them?
Your sales and service teams will appreciate having these chunks to use in their communications.
Let’s look at a story, a common component in news, entertainment and marketing.
A story could consist of several modular elements. For example, a title, a teaser, a “pull quote,” and both a short version and a long version of the story being told.
Here are a few other examples of modular content components:
- Value propositions
- Corporate descriptions
- Product descriptions
- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
As you can see, modular content extends the usefulness and agility of your content.
Component content is content at the granular level that you can use to assemble content products.
We’ve talked a little about placement of your content. We’ve talked about chunking big content into smaller bits, and modular components. Now, let’s look at assembling new content based on components.
Since component content is about content at a granular level rather than published document level, each component represents only a single topic, concept or asset (for example, an image, table, product description or procedure).
Let’s perform an exercise to get our minds wrapped around the component content model.
EXERCISE #3 — Component Content
In the following chart, we’d like you to identify the components you can use to assemble a new big rock or influential piece such as a long-form blog post, byline, infographic or video.
Pick a topic your audience, customers or buyers are struggling with and think of (or research) at least 5 disparate pieces of content you have that speak to this topic.
For us, an example topic may be “skills of a digital librarian,” or “metadata development.” If you need to, you may look at your existing web pages, blog posts, brochures, FAQs and other sources on one focused topic.
Helpful Hint: Use Google Analytics to identify popular topics, and talk to your sales and service teams to ask them what topics keep coming up.
- What is your topic?
- What assets do you have?
- What are the chunks you can reuse?
- What can you assemble as a new content product?
- You can fully define your content product, by identifying the following:
- Topic: Who/what are your subject matter experts?
- Concept: What is your concept made of?
- Tasks: Who/how will you create it?
- References: What facts support it?
- How will you measure the impact of individual components? Your finished content product?
This strategy was adapted from the IBM-developed OASIS standard called DITA (Darwin Information Typing Architecture).
Keys to a marketing content audit
As we wrap up, we’d like to share one more helpful strategy.
One of the essential strategic content processes and tasks of building bridges between what you have — and what you can create as a result of these intelligent content approaches — is to conduct a content audit.
Start by examining all the pieces you have created and evaluate them by the following criteria:
- What pieces do you have? Where? Who has access to it?
- Do they present a consistent brand (look and feel)?
- Do the messages speak the language of your different personas?
- Where does each piece fall in the funnel (top, middle, bottom) or customer journey?
- What content gaps do you have at each stage, by persona?
- How often are your content assets viewed and shared?
- What actions have come as a result?
For less successful pieces of content, identify what’s missing, lacking or off-message, and see if you can easily fix them for better results. On the flip side, once you track which content has been the most successful, it will be easier to create more content like it.
Be sure to set a timeframe to audit and measure every year, so you’re constantly honing your content pool and delivering a mix of pieces that your audiences WANT from you!
Keep the momentum going with this bonus exercise.
Identify your top 3-5 webpages (beyond your home page) and then identify 3-4 related pieces of content you can modularize to build bridges and carry the experience beyond your website.
Once you come up with your list of 3-5 things, group them and link to them from other common touchpoints.
We’ve done this with the “related resources” on the ‘thank-you’ pages of our website.
As you work on what we’ve covered today, I encourage you to use content development as a pillar to support all areas of your business — not just marketing.
With that, we’ll end with a short story …
There were once three guys building a bridge.
A young girl walked up to the three guys and asked, “what are you making?”
The first guy answered, “I’m making $25/hour.”
The second guy answered. “I’m making a structure of steel and stone.”
The third guy answered, “I’m making a connection for people,” … like you are doing everyday with intelligent content.
Thank you, and go build a bridge today!