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.

By marcia-johnston published May 14, 2015

Personalize? Or Persona-ize? Yes!


At its most sophisticated, intelligent content adapts according to what it “knows” (hence the term intelligent) about the person on the receiving end.

Or should we say the persona?

That’s the question Scott Abel and Robert Rose tackled in a recent video-recorded conversation initiated by Sean Schroeder, a principal of Blue River Interactive Group. Sean set up this conversation because Scott and Robert, in the keynote talks they gave at the Intelligent Content Conference in March, had taken apparently contradictory stances on the topic of personas.Continue Reading

By marcia-johnston published May 11, 2015

An Intel Team Takes On Intelligent Content – and Customers Love Them for It


Good product documentation has always served as a sales tool. Back in the days of face-to-face sales calls, well-designed user manuals sometimes rode along in the salesperson’s briefcase to be pulled out at an opportune moment, helping to clinch the deal. These days, I hear a lot about product documentation as a marketing asset. The difference is that the documentation now resides in that big briefcase in the sky, and customers rarely need the salesperson any more.

How can documentation serve an organization’s marketing goals by making customers happier and potentially winning new customers? A team at Intel recently figured out a way to accomplish this by using intelligent content strategies.Continue Reading

By marcia-johnston published April 30, 2015

Agile Content Development: Five Companies Tell How They Do It


Every software-development team I know of that’s using an Agile approach does it differently. People like Agile for the pain it alleviates and dislike it for the pain it creates – especially for other departments outside software development.Continue Reading

By marcia-johnston published April 20, 2015

Is Your Metadata Sending Love Notes to the Future?


Have you ever thrown something away that you would give anything to have back? I did just that when I moved to Portland a few years ago. I threw away a newspaper article shellacked onto a thin piece of wood. For most of my life, it had hung on a wall in my grandparents’ home in Canton, Ohio. It had become mine. I let it get away.Continue Reading

By marcia-johnston published April 9, 2015

Intelligent Content — What Does ‘Structurally Rich’ Mean?


Unless you’re new to intelligent content, you’ve probably run across this definition, crafted by Ann Rockley, author of Managing Enterprise Content and founder of the annual Intelligent Content Conference:

Intelligent content is content that’s structurally rich and semantically categorized and therefore automatically discoverable, reusable, reconfigurable and adaptable.

This article looks at the definition’s first element: structurally rich. Continue Reading

By marcia-johnston published February 26, 2015

Restructuring the Modern Content Marketer


If you create corporate content today and you’re not having an identity crisis, maybe you missed the memo, or maybe you’ve had your headphones on. Take off the headphones, and you’ll hear Change knocking. Scott Abel, that is. Don’t be afraid. Open the door. He’s smiling. At you.Continue Reading

By marcia-johnston published February 19, 2015

The Power of Consistent Content Structure: A Health Care Story


In a white paper entitled Developing Community-Based, Standardized Hospital-Discharge Summaries, Intel Corporation and a number of health care organizations in Portland, Oregon, describe a community-wide collaboration that reduced hospital readmission rates and emergency room visits by aligning hospital-discharge processes across a number of area hospitals. Although the white paper doesn’t use the terms structured content or content modeling, these are central concepts. An important part of this initiative involved addressing inconsistencies in the structure of a common form, a document that every hospital uses: the hospital-discharge summary.Continue Reading

By marcia-johnston published January 26, 2015

IBM’s James Mathewson on Making Marketing Content Intelligent


Many content marketers find the promise of intelligent content intriguing, but they have a hard time finding examples that showcase the value of this approach in marketing. To help address this need, Scott Abel and I recently interviewed James Mathewson, the Global Program Director for Search and Structured Content Strategy at IBM, about the role of intelligent content in marketing.

In this interview, summarized below, James describes the way a team of content creators and technology experts have created a structured intelligent-content strategy to make IBM’s marketing content findable, usable, reusable, responsive, and personalized.

Read on to learn what has worked at IBM and how adopting intelligent content has opened new opportunities for creating, delivering, and measuring quality content.Continue Reading

By marcia-johnston published January 7, 2015

A Case Study in Intelligent Content: The Language of Content Strategy


Bite-sized. Organized. Consistent.

Guy Kawasaki uses those terms to describe The Language of Content Strategy by Scott Abel and Rahel Anne Bailie. (I was privileged to write the foreword.) This is a minidictionary of a book. I take that back. It’s not a book. Well, it is a book. It’s just that calling it a book misses the point. It’s a print book, an eBook, a card deck, and an interactive website. The Language of Content Strategy is a multi-deliverable product.Continue Reading

By marcia-johnston published December 17, 2014

Intelligent Content: The Elephant and Its Parts


Coming to terms with the robust definition of intelligent content reminds me of the blind men describing an elephant:

“It’s like a rope.”

“It’s like a tree.”

“It’s like a wall.”

We need to get a sense of each part of intelligent content before we can step back and see the whole critter.Continue Reading