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 former member of the CMI team, she served 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 December 10, 2015

How to Stop Worrying and Love Content Inventories and Audits


Content inventories. Content audits. The terms alone can strike fear into the heart of any marketer. Many of us aren’t sure what these inventories and audits look like or why, exactly, they exist.

We sense vaguely that they’re big and messy, like monsters lurking in the closet. We avoid thinking about them, figuring that if they’re important, someday someone will do something about them. Meanwhile, we keep our heads down and make more content.Continue Reading

By marcia-johnston published November 12, 2015

The Basics of Digital Governance: What Content Marketers Need to Know


Do you ever feel confused about which members of your digital content team should make what decisions and when? Do you even know who all the team members are and what they do?

Do you sometimes smell ROT (information that’s redundant, outdated, or trivial) and wish that your organization had a better process for maintaining its old content so that customers were more likely to discover only content that’s relevant, up-to-date, and useful?Continue Reading

By marcia-johnston published November 5, 2015

Wonder What Content to Create? Try a Customer-Journey Map [Template]


Editor’s note: Because our readers continue to find this topic valuable, we’ve updated this post.

I recently attended a workshop in which we created a customer-journey map for content planning. Before doing this exercise, I had only a fuzzy notion of what a customer-journey content map might look like, how to make one, and why anyone would bother.

It turns out, this map looks like a spreadsheet. You make one by filling the cells. You bother because doing so helps you answer the perennial question, What content shall we create?Continue Reading

By marcia-johnston published September 17, 2015

Content Strategy for Marketers: Insights From Kristina Halvorson


Quick. When I say Kristina Halvorson, what term do you think of?

“Content strategy”? Probably. How about “content marketing”? Probably not, although she did deliver the opening keynote presentation at Content Marketing World (prompting one veteran conference-goer to tell me that it was the best talk she had ever heard there). But while Kristina is not a content marketer, much of what she says about strategy applies to the work we do.Continue Reading

By marcia-johnston published July 13, 2015

Intelligent Content: What Does ‘Adaptive’ Mean?


For an updated write-up of this article, see Adaptive Content: The Way to Your Customer’s Heart.

Hey, there. I know you. I understand where you are. I get what you’re going through. I just might have what you need right now.

If adaptive content could speak to its recipients, that’s what it would sound like.Continue Reading

By marcia-johnston published July 6, 2015

Intelligent Content: What Does ‘Reconfigurable’ Mean?


I’ll never forget the first time – some 25 years ago – I used a computer to balance my bank account. I had been happily using the paper registers that came with my checkbooks, and that method was working fine for me. I had no sense of missing out. I used my PC clone (we still called them clones) mostly as a fancy typewriter, and doing that seemed miraculous. Then my dad upgraded his Quicken software and gave me the floppies for his old version. What I’ll never forget is the thrill I felt when I clicked a column heading in my new electronic register, and all my checkbook entries jumped into a new sort order. In an instant, I could make the data line up – reconfigure itself – by payment amount, deposit amount, date, or payee name.Continue Reading

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

Photo Jun 05, 3 27 34 AM

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