By Marcia Riefer Johnston published February 18, 2016

Take Your Content From Albatross to Asset: 18 Experts Tell How

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We’ve all felt the dead weight of it: ROT (redundant, outdated, or trivial content) hanging around our necks. We’ve been bogged down by far-from-perfect processes, unsystematic systems, and not-quite-right technology. Content – planning it, producing it, and managing it – can feel like more of a burden than a business asset.

Here to lighten your load are 18 experts who are presenting at the Intelligent Content Conference. They answered this question: Marketers need to handle increasingly complex and abundant content. What are your top tips for managing all that content as a business asset?

Set realistic goals

Many brands produce a content experience that isn’t valuable. Start small and produce quality over quantity. Measure your success against realistic goals.

Greg Yates, chief marketing officer, InvestingChannel | @gregyates

Practice good governance

Make sure you have effective governance mechanisms in place. Content teams need to understand what they are trying to achieve on two levels – big picture (strategically) and content asset (tactically).

Be specific about roles and responsibilities. That clarity allows for maximum creativity for authors.

Lisa Welchman, president, Digital Governance Solutions, ActiveStandards | @lwelchman

Achieve more by creating less

Most content goes unused by its intended audience. This is a multibillion dollar problem. A clear, documented content strategy often helps marketers realize that their library of content assets – all the stuff they made in their tactical dash for quantity – doesn’t need to be nearly as abundant as they thought. A great content strategy can reduce complexity and strip content down to its business essentials.

Greg Verdino, managing partner, VERDINO & CO | @gregverdino

Align content teams across the org chart

Your audience doesn’t care about your org chart. Yet many companies produce content according to the org chart – and suffer the consequences:

  • Teams work in deeply “siloed” isolation, which prevents them from scaling production because they can’t coordinate with their colleagues.
  • Teams create channel-specific content, maybe even with multiple teams working on a given channel without collaborating (silos within silos).

Instead, drive toward making adaptive content properly modeled to be different things to different people at different times. Facilitate this by creating and empowering a cross-functional body – with a clear leader – to align content teams.

Noz Urbina, founder, Urbina Consulting@nozurbina


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Follow a classic editorial workflow

Work with experienced content managers. I came out of publishing where we spent a lot of time managing content assets through an editorial workflow. If you are creating and managing marketing content assets, you may want to consult someone familiar with classic editorial workflow.

For example, try working with someone who worked in a newsroom or in a publishing house. That person may help you identify the checks and balances you need to produce high-quality content.

Buddy Scalera, a content strategist focused on healthcare and pharmaceutical communications | @buddyscalera

Plan for reuse

We need to shift the way we think about content in the first place. Traditionally, marketers think about content as a piece of information or collateral: A newsletter, web article, social media post, etc.

Instead, we need to think about the information and actions that the content contains and how we can label and separate those information bits or modules so that we can reassemble them for any purpose or platform. Content models are an essential tool for labeling, identifying, and managing content for reuse.

Cruce Saunders, principal founder, Simple [A] | @mrcruce

Use a governance framework

Use a governance framework that clearly articulates content strategy, team members’ roles and responsibilities, policies, and operational processes. Have a core team oversee this framework to help marketers focus on creating engaging experiences instead of on low-value activities resulting in minimal ROI or detracting from your brand’s marketing efforts.

Scott Rosenberg, director of digital governance & operations, Intel Corporation | @kscottr

Manage content as rigorously as data

Content has to be managed the same way you manage data; it is just as valuable a resource. That means you need to keep track of what it is, what it is called, where it is stored, what its purpose is, and its relationship to other content.

When you are pressed to get something done quickly, rigor related to content management can fall by the wayside. Create a process, make it easy for people to follow, and give people the tools to make it happen, and you benefit from the increasingly valuable trove of content in your organization, including content that can be repurposed.

Ann Rockley, CEO, The Rockley Group, @arockley

Create a detailed editorial calendar

Create a master editorial calendar, and keep it up to date. You can use Excel or whatever tool works for you. Identify:

  • content owners
  • secondary distribution channels
  • campaign placement and goals
  • personas
  • key publishing dates
  • status options for the content life cycle

There are many great templates out on the web; use them as a starting point and modify to fit your needs.

Kat Robinson, director, strategic planning, Vertical Measures | @katrobinson1

Prepare to automate

Marketing automation is the future of content curation and the strategic implementation of inbound and outbound campaigns. Account-based marketing techniques will also become increasingly important for B2B organizations.

Alp Mimaroglu, marketing consultant, Fortune 500s | @alpmimar

Declutter

Look around your home. How many of your possessions would qualify as assets? You may own a car, some jewelry, perhaps some valuable collectibles. But most of it is just … stuff. Maybe it serves its purpose for the time being, or maybe it’s just garbage. The same is true for your content.

Marie Kondo, author of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, advises a radical approach to paring down your possessions. She suggests that it’s easier to appreciate our most important belongings when they’re not cluttered up by things we don’t value.

Perhaps we need a similar treatise for our content. To manage our content as a business asset, we first need to take out the trash. By removing wasteful or unnecessary content first, we allow the truly valuable content to “spark joy.”

Karen McGrane, author, managing partner, Bond Art + Science | @karenmcgrane

Create templates

Build a sensible, manageable, flexible taxonomy for your published content. If possible, align your taxonomy to your business units or persona sets. Within each category of your taxonomy, search for similarities in structure from one piece of content to another. Based on those similarities, create templates for each category to ensure consistency.

Vishal Khanna, director of digital marketing, Wake Forest Innovations@bediscontent

Take an Agile approach

For years I have taken an Agile approach to content marketing efforts. This approach enables me to create valuable, customer-focused content while maintaining an understanding of what I can accomplish without becoming exhausted.

Jeff Julian, chief marketing officer, AJi Software | @jjulian

Manage your content as a product

Talk with other companies – broadcasters, newspapers, publishers – that have established value streams in content. Learn how these companies manage their content as a product, and then add those practices to your own.

Cleve Gibbon, chief marketing technology officer, Cognifide | @cleveg

Produce content systematically

Take a systematic approach to producing content. Content creators shouldn’t have to worry about the logistics of getting stuff done; they need to focus their energy on establishing meaningful connections with the audience.

I’m a firm believer in Agile methods for building this systematic approach because they’re flexible; they can grow and adapt as your content marketing matures. They also partner nicely with whatever tools you use to keep track of individual pieces of content before, during, and after publication.

Andrea Fryrear, content marketer and Agile evangelist, MarketerGizmo | @andreafryrear

Make friends with technology

Recognize that technology is your friend. If tech isn’t your cup of tea, enlist the help of someone who lives for the pleasure of cracking the code of the technical side of content. Otherwise, you’ll drown in the mechanics. The greatest wordsmithing and messaging won’t get you far if your content isn’t semantically structured and tagged to take advantage of automated processing.

Rahel Anne Bailie, chief knowledge officer, Scroll | @rahelab

Use a digital asset management system

Use – and maintain – a digital-asset management system. A DAM is a combination of software, hardware, and professional services that provides a central location for managing, organizing, and sharing rich content and brand assets. It helps marketers reduce content creation costs, increase efficiency, and build brand consistency.

Jake Athey, marketing director, Widen | @jakeathey

Track your content on a balance sheet

If we’re going to manage content as a business asset, we’re going to need to control it – and those who create, manage, and deliver it. Content should be tracked on a balance sheet. It should be inventoried and fully understood. And its production costs should be documented and controlled. Only then do we stand a chance of proving return on investment in meaningful ways.

Scott Abel, president, The Content Wrangler| @scottabel

Conclusion

Here’s the theme running through these answers: Pick your head up. It’s hard to do with that albatross hanging there, but as long as you have your head down – producing, producing, producing – the weight only increases. Pick your head up! Put your head together with other heads on your team. Get all those heads nodding in agreement about where you’re going and why you’re going there. Then head out.

What works for you? What helps you treat your organization’s content as an asset? Please tell us in a comment.

Missed the Intelligent Content Conference? Don’t fret. You can purchase the Post-Show Video pass and catch these content strategy pros talks by signing up. Access is good for one full year and contains video, audio, and slide capture for the Main Conference sessions.

 

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

Author: Marcia Riefer Johnston

Marcia Riefer Johnston is the author of Word Up! How to Write Powerful Sentences and Paragraphs (And Everything You Build from Them) and You Can Say That Again: 750 Redundant Phrases to Think Twice About. As a member of the CMI team, she serves as Managing Editor of Content Strategy. She has run a technical-writing business for … a long time. She taught technical writing in the Engineering School at Cornell University and studied literature and creative writing in the Syracuse University Masters program under Raymond Carver and Tobias Wolff. She lives in Portland, Oregon. Follow her on Twitter @MarciaRJohnston. For more, see Writing.Rocks.

Other posts by Marcia Riefer Johnston

  • http://www.vinishgarg.com/ Vinish Garg

    Two points standout for me:
    – Practice content governance
    – Manage your content as a product

    Both the points encourage giving due respect to “content”! :)

  • http://www.freelancewriterinchicago.com/ Dan Stelter

    I connected most with the point on most content going unused. It is exceedingly difficult to coordinate all the different channels you use, in my experience. That could be 100s of blog posts, 1000s of social media updates, a couple dozen white papers, a handful of case studies, some webinars, and an e-mail newsletter.

    And that’s a fairly simple strategy. It’s been hugely beneficial for me to centralize all this and delete every last thing I don’t absolutely need. Otherwise, it quickly flies out of control.