Developing Your Content Ecosystem

Each element has a critical role to play in the overall success

Originally published at http://www.hilarymarsh.com/2016/10/31/developing-content-ecosystem/

People + Content + Tech = Success

Content is the lifeblood of every organization’s work. It includes all programs, products, services, resources, and tools. Content is also everything that supports that work: media, sales, support, etc.

At many organizations, content is created in silos, powered by politics, and not driven by success metrics. Content might be outdated or contradictory, have different voices, or be disconnected from audience needs. In those instances, content is a drain and an expense, rather than an asset.

Instead, organizations can succeed when they see their content for the interconnected ecosystem that it is, and purposefully tie content to organizational success and member satisfaction.

Here is a typical scenario of a professional association with disconnected content:

  • The advocacy department shares information about their work by referring to bills by their legislative number, using a separate standalone newsletter
  • The education department offers courses on that same topic, on a standalone platform
  • The organization has specific initiatives on that topic, driven by a member committee and executed by a corresponding department
  • The magazine publishes articles about the latest trends on that topic as a “digital flipbook”
  • The annual meeting offers sessions on that topic
  • Marketing creates blog posts or white papers on the topic, requiring current or prospective members to provide their email address to access the information
  • The journal publishes scientific articles on the topic on a different platform, accessible by both members and non-member subscribers
  • Some of this content gives the topic the same name, some links to some other content (usually, content created by the same division), and some draws on information the organization has already created.
  • Or none of this happens. Each content area lives in an isolated “island of information” with little to no connection to other content areas.

What are the consequences of these practices?

  • The audience might find one piece of content and think that’s all there is. They then search for related information on Google or on a competitor’s site
  • Users who do find related information on the organization’s site have a very disconnected experience, with no single view on the topic
  • Some information might duplicate, differ from, or contradict other information

Good news! It is possible to repair this situation. It’s most important to realize that there is already a solid foundation, which is that all of the content itself is smart and has a kernel of value in there.

To fix this problem, organizations need to understand that their content is an interconnected ecosystem. Creating it with the understanding of the interconnectedness takes three things:

1. Connected content

Our organizations’ work is connected. We serve a set of audiences with a suite of programs, products, services, or other offerings. The organization hires subject-matter experts to create each offering, and those SMEs use their expertise to ensure that each offering is as strong as it can be. It’s critical that those experts remain connected to the reason the organization invests in the complement of offerings.

Why? Organizations know that it’s more profitable to deliver a suite of services than a single one. People have more engagement, more loyalty, more satisfaction, and higher confidence in organizations they work with more often.

Connected content

  • uses shared terminology
  • shows its context, relating to the other things the organization offers that are likely to be relevant to that audience in that moment
  • is unique, not re-creating content developed by another internal group — because content owners know about that other content and because they’re not measured on volume of output

2. Connected people

As stated above, subject-matter experts need to see that the organization benefits from more context-sensitive content. Their depth will get more visibility if it surfaces where people can discover it.

This takes a significant amount of internal change — among content creators, departments, management, and Human Resources:

  • The organization needs to create central content calendars where each group shares information about the content they plan to create
  • Content owners meet as a group on a regular basis, either in person, or virtually, to share information about their initiatives
  • Content creators need to be rewarded for collaborative as well as individual content, and new content responsibilities may need to be included in their job descriptions
  • Programs may need to be budgeted differently, keeping the greater context in mind
  • Subject-matter experts may need to be trained in how to collaborate
  • Content needs to be measured — and those analytics need to be shared with the entire organization, so everyone can understand what’s effective and what is not. And measurement data needs to drive future decisions about what content to create, and where, when, and how to promote it

3. Connected systems

When systems are connected, the organization benefits:

  • Eliminate the need to re-create content
  • Enable cross-linking — ideally, dynamically created based on a single taxonomy
  • Enable the ability to deliver personalized content

Getting there requires using of technology and people effectively

  • Ensuring that the organization uses as few platforms as necessary
  • Making sure every platform presents content in a format that can be cross-linked to other related content
  • Using the taxonomy for all topical content
  • Gathering, reporting, and using data
  • Tying multiple systems together seamlessly for both the audience and the content creators.

When your content, people, and systems are connected, your organization can deliver a holistic, effective experience for your customers. Getting there requires a new way of thinking and working, with organizational support every step of the way.

To learn more, join me at one of two upcoming conferences:

DX Summit in Chicago, November 16th

ASAE Technology Conference in Washington, DC, December 13th

Or contact me directly to learn how to create a content ecosystem for your organization’s content