Content Structure: The Story for your Information Story


In the digital world, more than 95% of interactions between digital consumers and digital enterprises are "humanless" i.e. Automated with no human interaction.

They find the page through a search engine or through another site link, they interact with the portal, possibly order something (if it is an online shop) and then receive an email confirming their purchase and further ones on the status of their purchase until it is delivered to their door (already some deliveries are delivered using drones).

However, across all the interaction points, the digital consumers are consistently interacting with content in various forms and through various channels. In addition, as we are all dealing with information fatigue, digital consumers will want to engage with content rather than feeling being sold to.

Therefore, on reflection, content is one of most important building block for an enterprise's brand, success and future as a digital enterprise.

Having this in mind, for any enterprise that wants to succeed in the digital world, content should be:

  1. treated as a product/asset with its own end-to-end strategy, technology and operations

  2. represented with the senior management in the enterprise, even c-level on the board level (e.g. Chief Content Officer) depending on digital enterprise market (e.g. News corporations, Magazines, Blogs, Review sites, etc...)

In this blog, I will share with you the key structures, roles & responsibilities required in your content strategy, technology and operations to support your digital transformation journey.

Lets start first in defining content:

What is content?

Content is any form of data that the digital enterprise creates and shares to engage with their digital consumers and tell them the story of their brand, products and services. Content comes in various forms and types and the simplest and best way I have seen it described is by Marketo, where they compared the content types to food groups and stated that a healthy rounded mix of content types is as good as a healthy diet. A quick overview of those types are:

  1. Roasts: Biggest content pieces that might require a lot of time and research but can be divided into smaller assets.

  2. Raisin Bran: Content that you could eat every day: simple, consistent and easy to consume.

  3. Spinach: Content full of nutrients: packed with valuable, educational information.

  4. Chocolate Cake: Content for indulging: fun, light-hearted and entertaining content.

  5. Tabasco: Little spice for your content: challenging conversations, hard questions and big responses.

Strategy: What shall the end to end strategy for content entail?

As with any strategic development, the strategy needs to define the "why", "who", "what", "how" and "when". In the content world,

  • Why: should cover the reasoning for your motion to get digital consumers to interact with your brand, the business case for the content and what you are trying to achieve. In my perspective, a lot of market research refers to this step as "Content Marketing Strategy".

  • Who: needs to capture, first and foremost, which digital consumer segments are you targeting and with which content types. In addition, you need to identify internal and external stakeholders that you want to involve to achieve your ultimate outcome with your digital consumers. They are the content creators, curators, editors, designers, approvers, publishers and distributors.

  • What: must define the content types you want to have and the content that goes into them (coined as content map) including the different channels you would like to use. As all strategies, it need to capture the tone/culture required as well as being future friendly; i.e. be prepared for the future.

  • How: defines which steps you will take to achieve what you want short, medium and long term. You should define the programs you want to run, the delivery and how you will measure success.

  • When: This is your editorial calendar for your content including which channels, which target groups and which pieces of content fit with which channel.

Who should do it?

This should be of course overseen by your content C-Level person if you have one or by your most senior content responsible; supported where required by content strategist(s). I would not recommend to have editors having the "content strategist" role as well as an operational editor role as from my experience, strategic development and operations require different skills and mindset. In addition, in an outsourced operations environment, important to have content strategists aligned with the business markets or product units rather than being part of the outsourced unit itself.

Technology: Platforms that allow strategies become a reality

In here, I don't mean to take the technology implementation from the digital or IT department. In the contrary, these are the best departments to run the technology tools and digital transformation. Instead, technology should be the area where you translate content strategy into:

A- Content structure to be able to store, retrieve and manage content effectively and dynamically. Here it is important to ensure content and presentation layers are separated to ensure content can really be used dynamically across multiple interfaces and in different mediums (e.g. Videos, guides, blogs, etc...)

B- Content description to allow content to be easily re-written, re-organized and retired. It is important to ensure you have up-to-date content, that you are able to slice and dice as well as retire, if it is not required or relevant any more.

C- Content tagging to enhance search engine optimisation to allow quick and efficient identification upon consumer request across multiple channels.

Who should do it?

This should be done by the role I would like to coin with "Content Technologists". These are persons that love structure, scalability and technology, but always with an eye on content. They work closely with the content strategists on the overall governance of content.

Operations: The "last mile" delivery and management of content to the digital consumer

Here the content creation, curation and vetting is taking place. Here is where strategy meets technology and plans become reality. Here, is where you want to manage the content creation, writing, designing, editing, publishing and distributing according to the content strategies defined taking advantage of the technology structure in place. In content operation, as any other operational areas, lean operation is very important and therefore you should leverage all the resources you have to continuously deliver quality content in a leaner way. Where possible, co-location for operations should be recommended as this is a continuous real-time activities happening and therefore it is simpler to run agile teams when they are co-located (virtual collaboration will also be inevitable however co-location will give efficiency a big boost).

Who should do it?

Operations is a multi-role collaboration house. You need to ensure authors, designers, subject matter experts, and any other person interacting with you with content (e.g. Digital consumers crowdsourcing content, reviewing and feeding back, thought leaders, etc..) who could be in-house or outsourced are collaborating and delivering according to your content calendar and conforming to your brand and objectives. Operational management fits quite nicely with editors or managing editors.

As a digital enterprise, your content strategy, technology and operation has to have the ultimate mission to provide exciting consumer content that is scalable, leanly created and based on technologies that can support real-time consumer demands dynamically and in an ingenious and simple way.

In the next 100 days, run a content "audit" to identify:

  1. your content inventory of all the content being used, the elements (e.g. Images, videos, PDFs,)

  2. the qualitative maturity of your content

  3. your technology inventory

  4. current operations model you have in place including the involved roles.

In parallel, define your content strategy for the short, medium and long term.

Based on the audit and strategy outcomes, you can define your transformation plan, operational model and technology investments to allow you to transform your content from today's world to the ultimate target.

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