Bwahahaha!…..Go ahead. If you dare, look over your shoulder. You will likely find the content apocalypse is fast catching up to you. It will require agility, creativity and careful planning to avoid joining the hordes of content zombies littering today’s content landscape. To take a bite out of this impending apocalypse you’ll need to focus on a content strategy that is mouthwateringly contagious.
Like zombies, too many brands and content creators are mindlessly marching their way through today’s multi-channel content landscape hypnotically shoveling out tweets, posts, videos, infographics and more. These content zombies are ill-prepared to face the apocalypse that’s exploding all around them.
Let’s face it. As we cope with an onslaught of new channels, devices, screen sizes and platforms, we’re simply outmatched. Yet, surviving this content zombie apocalypse is possible. It will require the ability for content creators, designers and developers alike to adapt and adopt a new mental model.
As American author Max Brooks once said, “That’s the thing about zombies. They don’t adapt and they don’t think. Literally, you could have a zombie on one side of a chain link fence and you could be on the other side and they could be trying to get to you and six feet down could be an open door and they will not go through that door in the fence. That’s why they’re so scary.”
If you’re feeling like a content zombie these days, it’s time to wake up and look alive. Here are 8 steps to get you started.
Does your current organizational structure facilitate content collaboration with a focus on the customer? If not, change it! Content can no longer be segregated into one company silo. It takes a village to build and maintain a strong content strategy. Doing so will likely require changes in your organization’s culture. It’s hard work but critical to the success of any content strategy.
With reams of data about customers and consumers at our disposal, there’s simply no excuse not to dig into the data. Be smart about defining those metrics that will provide the most useful insights in developing and distributing content. Then, make sure those analytic reports don’t just sit on a shelf collecting dust. Use the insights to develop personalized and customized content.
Create a structure that will allow you to take advantage of real-time content opportunities. Be fearless about crafting creative content based on what’s happening around you. Get curious and behave like any news hound; seek out engaging stories that will resonate with your audiences. Be smart about which stories are right for your brand and which are not. Don’t forget to cover the stories behind the story for added differentiation for your brand.Think in Terms of Context and Channels
We’re living in a multi-channel and multi-device world. That means content creation must take into account how end users are consuming content on specific devices and within specific platforms. From a website standpoint, this means making decisions about development strategies. Should you develop a separate mobile site? Develop a single site using responsive design allowing content to be consumed in any device? Or, do you adapt content experiences based on the device and platform it’s served up on? Consider that 90% of people start a task on one device and then complete it on another, according to Google and Multi-Screen World. Pew Internet research found that 31% of mobile internet users identify mobile as the primary way they navigate online. Defining how content should be structured and its associated publishing process is critical to any content strategy.
Whether it’s social media or video, infographics or complete campaigns, content needs to become more personal and customized in order to engage today’s audiences. Drill down into data to craft content that will map to end user’s interests and preferences. Map content to specific content personas and pay close attention to what your audiences care about. Then, make sure the content itself is communicated in a creative, innovative way. The best way to keep ‘em coming back for more (and telling all their fans and friends in the process) is to create content experiences that resonate with consumers on a personal level.
Accept the hard truth that content creators must give up control over the presentation and layout of the Web. That control is long gone and won’t be coming back. Instead, content professionals must think in terms of creating clean, format-free content in chunks, rather than styling and presenting rich content, as was done in the days of print. This requires adopting a new way of talking about the workflow and process behind content creation. Content strategists will need to continue to look at ways of managing all content objects to support all content platforms and creating content packages that supports the new workflow process.
The notion of the container of a page simply doesn’t exist anymore. That’s a huge shift in thinking for both writers and designers. Content management tools and interfaces must adapt to varying channels and contexts if we’re to be ready for the content strategy of the future. Italics, for example, may matter in audio but not in digital. Creators will need to remove traditional styling out of content in order for it to render appropriately in an audio interface. As information technology pioneer Ted Nelson once noted, “Imitating paper on a computer screen is like tearing the wings off a 747 and using it as a bus on the highway.”
Just keeping up with today’s changes isn’t enough. Content creators need to plan for tomorrow and all the new ways content will be consumed in the future. For example, the time when a single page can be sent simultaneously to a smartphone and smart TV may not be far off. In-car speech-based audio interfaces may also be right around the corner as will Internet refrigerators where our biggest problem will be taking the 30 seconds to pause from Twitter in order to grab our favorite snack from the fridge. Let’s not forget the emergence of toaster printers. How can you adapt your content to all of these new formats? Solving for these future-friendly formats today can help set you up for success tomorrow.
It will be the job of content professionals to facilitate and champion the many changes occurring in the industry. Don’t join the ranks of the content undead. Stay alert, be agile and structure your resources to get ahead of the apocalypse.
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