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 June 29, 2015

Intelligent Content: What Does ‘Automatically Discoverable’ Mean?


“The reason people hire content strategists is that people can’t find anything,” says long-time content strategist Rahel Anne Bailie. If you don’t happen to have a content strategist – or a magic wand – handy, and you want to make your organization’s content more findable, start with a basic understanding of what automatically discoverable means.

That basic understanding is what I explore here. This is not an article on search-engine optimization. I’m not talking about gimmicks for beguiling Google. What I’m after here is a general sense of automatic discoverability as a key part of helping people – whether they’re within or outside your organization – find what they’re looking for once they arrive at your website, intranet, content management system, app, etc.Continue Reading

By marcia-johnston published June 22, 2015

How Do You Connect Content Silos? Crosswalks!


Marketing silos, tech comm silos, customer service silos, and so on – they must come down, say content professionals everywhere. Bust them! Bash them! Break down the walls!

The impetus to bust silos makes sense. As Ann Rockley says in Managing Enterprise Content: A Unified Content Strategy” (2nd edition, Page 6), “Content silos result in increased costs, decreased productivity, reduced quality, ineffective content, and unhappy customers.”Continue Reading

By marcia-johnston published June 11, 2015

7 Tips for Using Semantic Categories With Your Blog

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If your organization isn’t categorizing its blog posts, consider the possibility. Categorizing can help your audiences, and your content teams, get more out of your content.

Semantic tags can even boost your search-engine traffic. One person reports that around 5% of visitors to one large blog are referred by tag pages (yes, a tag is a kind of semantic category) listed in search engines. Also, “If you have a very popular post on your blog that a lot of authority websites link to, using categories and tags will link that post to other related posts on your blog, boosting your website’s ranking as a whole.”Continue Reading

By marcia-johnston published June 8, 2015

Intelligent Content: What Does ‘Semantically Categorized’ Mean?


When people come to your content – the content on your website, for example – can they find what they need? One of the best ways to help visitors find the information they consider most useful is to organize it into behind-the-scenes categories.

By categories, I mean more than the kind of categories you might use to organize a blog – say, the boxes you can check in WordPress that enable you to associate your articles with categories you’ve created. Yes, those categories are an example of what I’m talking about (and I will talk more about blog categories before I’m finished here), but, for starters, you need to understand in general what content strategists call semantic categories.Continue Reading

By marcia-johnston published June 1, 2015

Intelligent Content in the Enterprise: An Interview With IBM’s Andrea Ames


For an updated write-up of this interview, see 6 Content Ideas Every Marketer Should Steal From IBM.

Scott Abel and I recently interviewed Andrea Ames about the business value of intelligent content in the enterprise as well as the value that IBM places on intelligent content. With over 30 years in technical communication to her credit, Andrea — a familiar presence on stage at many content-related conferences — is IBM’s Enterprise Content Experience Strategist, Architect, and Designer.

Continue Reading

By marcia-johnston published May 25, 2015

Intelligent Content: What Does ‘Reusable’ Mean?


Content reuse. It’s one of the main themes in any conversation about intelligent content.  It’s a key part of 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 fourth element: reusability.

Even if you don’t plan to implement intelligent content immediately, you can benefit from exploring the meaning of reusable content. Content reuse is “the practice of using existing components of content in multiple ways,” as Ann describes it. Well-structured, semantically rich content can be easily retrieved – manually or automatically – for reuse.

When the reuse is automated, this kind of strategy is called COPE: create once, publish everywhere.Continue Reading

By marcia-johnston published May 18, 2015

Content Types: What Can They Do for You? Examples From Noz Urbina


Have you ever wondered, What are these “content types” that I keep hearing about, and why should I care? A content type is a kind of content used repeatedly that has a standardized (agreed-on) structure. Content types have several advantages over unstructured (inconsistently structured) content:Continue Reading

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