There’s been a lot of talk about “storytelling” in the past couple of years. Suddenly, everyone’s a storyteller. It’s become the buzzword du jour. Great storytelling is the currency of attention in the digital age. It is a cornerstone of a great customer experience: if you want my attention as a customer, you’d better provide me with the content worth my time, all the time.
Yikes. All the time! Given our daily addiction to devices, that’s a lot of time to fill with good content. And as Adobe’s latest report, “The Blueprint Redefined,” shows, the reality is that great content is made up of more than just good stories. The most beautifully crafted stories in the world cannot consistently connect with customers without a rock-solid content infrastructure around them. (Adobe is CMO.com’s parent company.)
The Adobe report focuses on creating a shared technology infrastructure to enable this to happen. It is based on layers of asset storage, content production, distribution, and tracking and reporting. This top-down approach to infrastructure is informed by the need for effective storytelling—rather than considering each channel or campaign as little islands in an archipelago in a sea of information, marketers are now moving towards a more consolidated approach that considers story management as much as storytelling.
This approach recognises that, when you reach a certain volume, there comes a point where channel-centric, artisan-wrought content begins to unravel. It becomes impossible to make sufficient content quickly enough to keep up, and the quality of what does get created starts declining. When every minute is dedicated to the production treadmill, organisations find they simply don’t have time to develop a proper content storytelling strategy, measure success, and learn what does (and doesn’t) work.
Most organisations quite rightly turn to technology to solve the problem and, as the report shows, technology is rising to the challenge. However, technology is not the only part of the total content infrastructure.
A Total Content Infrastructure
To get to consistent, quality storytelling, your infrastructure starts with the development of a multi-channel strategy that’s aligned with your business goals and ends with an effective system of measurement so that you can assess the impact of what you publish.
In between, you need to improve content production so it’s at maximum efficiency. To that end, you need to break down the barriers between channels and take a cross-silo approach to content creation. You need to establish a content architecture that allows you to make content just the once, which is then free to flow within the company, and can be adapted to each channel as required. And just like any other business asset, the content you create must be regularly reviewed and maintained to deliver full ROI.
A Framework For Great Storytelling
We’ve wrapped all of this up in five points that help you look for areas of strength and vulnerability.
1. Content Strategy: The “Why”
Without a content strategy, your content can’t be a real business asset. Start by asking yourself some basic questions: What’s important in your business? What do you want to achieve? And how will the stories you tell help you get there? It is important to align the types of content you invest in with the value you’re expecting to see in return.
2. Content Operations: The “What”
A content strategy is important but isn’t enough on its own to help you make and create content swiftly and at scale. You’ll need to think about changing how you work, to make content creation more efficient.
Developing a content operating model will help you work out where to place your resources, what you’ll need, and how to manage the transition.
3. Content Governance: The “Who”
Yes, governance sounds like a dull word—but without governance, content has no manager to ensure its effectiveness.
Set up a responsibility matrix for your content types to free up your sign-off process for publishing. You’ll see two immediate benefits: a brand universe full of your most valuable and up-to-date content, and no zombie content clogging the airwaves and preventing access to the best stuff.
4. Content Architecture: The “Where”
Without an effective content architecture, it’s a challenge to stay relevant on multiple platforms and channels, even using a content management system. You need to develop structured—or intelligent—content, which can be read by machines as easily as by people.
To make your content management technology work for you, you need to tag your content and create relationships between pieces of content using taxonomies and ontologies. With these tags, links, and rules in place, your brand stories will be truly free to move to where your customers are.
5. Content Measurement: The “How”
Producing a piece of content may feel like the end point, but it’s not: you still need to understand its impact—otherwise you’ll have no idea of how well it did its job. Did it communicate the right message? Did it raise your brand or business profile? Did it drive the desired reaction or behaviour from customers? Measuring the impact of each piece of content will help you understand what’s working, and where you need to make changes.
The five areas are closely linked, so the trick is to try and bring all of them up to the same level so that your storytelling can get out the customers who will value it.
If you recognise that your organisation is weaker in one particular area, you can start to fix it. Perhaps, you’ve implemented a content management system but are yet to see the full benefits; or you want to understand which areas you need to work on to help make a future technology programme a success.
Whatever stage you’re at, know that investing in your content infrastructure—the people and processes, as well as the technology—is the differentiator that leads to consistently compelling storytelling.