“Intelligent content” might seem like a buzzword thrown around when discussing content marketing, MarTech enablement, website development, or content strategy more broadly. Individually, the words “intelligent” and “content” are easy to understand, but what exactly is meant when the two are paired together?
Intelligent Content in Practice
To illustrate the concept of intelligent content, indulge us by imagining a scenario where your organization is about to roll out a groundbreaking new product in a very public way. Your CEO is about to hit the media circuit to talk about it, company watchers and employees are on pins and needles, and product bloggers are salivating.
Inside the company, the legwork and preparation has been herculean. Endless amounts of time, money, and energy have been spent on product development, change management, organizational alignment, and message discipline. The company’s stock is hanging on the successful rollout of this product. You get the picture.
The entire company—your group included—has been carefully and diligently getting all its ducks in a row:
Your website includes hundreds of pages of references that are teed up and ready to be published on the word “Go!”
You’ve got a dozen press releases going to too many organizations to count.
You’ve got two weeks’ worth of tweets lined up.
You’ve created new videos for your YouTube and TikTok channels.
You’ve got paid campaigns set to blitz the airwaves.
You’ve got email messages and ads ready for existing customers.
You’ve put bowties on organic Facebook and Pinterest posts.
You’ve got a brand podcast episode that’s set to detail the revolutionary nature of this product.
Your product catalogs and documentation have all been updated and prepped for release.
You’ve got a launch party carefully choreographed to go off without a hitch.
Your strategy, product, operations, marketing, sales, loyalty, legal, and leadership teams have all agonized endlessly about every… single... detail.
All these communications—all this content—was prepped just for the launch. But then what happens in the weeks, months, and years that follow? Hundreds, if not thousands, of employees will need to continue discussing this product with prospective customers or third parties for the foreseeable future.
And, importantly, more content—new webpages, new social messaging, new email communications, etc.—will undoubtedly need to be created as time goes on.
From the customer’s perspective, will all this old and new content and messaging be consistent, so as not to cause confusion? What are the chances outdated and inaccurate content will live on and can, for example, still be found in Google searches? Will obsolete messaging persist in, say, trigger emails or automated SMS messaging they receive?
Internally, the challenges are daunting: Will employees efficiently and effectively update email messaging, or will the approach be more of a whack-a-mole nature? Will the web content be managed and updated globally—or will the approach be scattershot?
This is an extreme example, but you can imagine how even a scaled-back version of this scenario poses organizational challenges and risks (e.g., wasted time, blown budgets, confused customers) that only compound over time.
So how can an entire organization be expected to keep a shared understanding and vocabulary about the product—to remain disciplined and to efficiently and effectively keep its content consistent and high performing?
The solution is not simple. As you’d guess, it is not simply a matter of tooling, technology, or budget. It requires organizational dedication to the creation and maintenance of intelligent content.
What Is the Definition of Intelligent Content?
The widely accepted definition of intelligent content comes from the book Intelligent Content: A Primer by Ann Rockley, Charles Cooper, and Scott Abel. Rockley is recognized as the mother of content strategy, and together, these three are considered some of the most influential leaders in content marketing.
They defined intelligent content as “content that’s structurally rich and semantically categorized and therefore automatically discoverable, reusable, reconfigurable, and adaptable.”
They also note there are five characteristics of intelligent content:
Modular: Content that is broken down into components—or modular pieces—is content designed for efficiency and reuse.
Structured: Content structured for consistency and usability is content humans can more easily produce and understand and machines can more easily parse.
Reusable: Your content and its components are designed to be used in recombinant ways and in various instances.
Format-free: Content devoid of formatting allows humans to more easily understand it and technologies to leverage and render it as needed.
Semantically rich: Automated processing and retrieval is possible with content that has metadata attached to it.
When defining intelligent content, the Content Marketing Institute says “intelligent content moves away from humans needing to touch every piece of content at every instance of use. Instead, intelligent content moves toward an advanced publishing process that leans on data and metadata, that coordinates content efforts across departmental silos, and that makes smart use of technology.”
Intelligent content is a framework for creating content you can reuse throughout a singular experience, as well as across multiple experiences and channels. It is content that gets ruthlessly repurposed, for the benefit of both customers (who are on the receiving end of more consistent content and messaging) and employees (who get to spend less time recreating the same content over and over again). In this sense, it’s as much a mindset as it is a methodology.
What Is Credera’s Definition of Intelligent Content?
At Credera, when we think about the meaning of intelligent content, we view it from the broader picture as we consider how effective content management serves as a foundation for the full customer experience and is enabled by the MarTech landscape.
The impact of intelligent content can (and should) be felt across nearly every facet of the organization that a customer interacts with and more, including:
Marketing and acquisitions content and communications (e.g., organic and paid marketing).
Post-sales customer communications and experiences (e.g., resource and support-center materials, loyalty programs).
Brand architecture and brand-management materials (e.g., brand centers/guidelines and design systems).
We consider all the various aspects that relate to an intelligent content strategy—tools, technology, processes, change management, etc.
We define intelligent content as the process of enabling content to be easily created, seamlessly delivered, and dynamically personalized to enable quick delivery across all marketing and communication channels. Intelligent content fulfills four purposes: unification, adaptiveness, efficiency, and accuracy.
Traditionally, organizational siloes make content separately without communication or reuse. There is no single source of truth for data because of fragmented data sources. This disparate content leads to inconsistent messaging and voice to the customer.
With an intelligent content strategy, content is organized and stored in a central repository. It is tagged with metadata so departments can easily find and use the content they need. Because of this, duplicative effort is reduced by allowing departments to reuse content. Additionally, intelligent content bridges these organizational siloes to deliver a consistent brand voice and identity.
Without intelligent content enabled, content on a company’s website, mobile app, promotional emails, print ads, etc., are produced separately. Intelligent content creates modular content that transforms to be delivered across any channel.
Traditional content creation requires a lot of copying and pasting. The content is manually transformed across channels and departments. Any changes require effort from design, development, and marketing teams.
Intelligent content makes your content work for you by reducing duplication and enabling reuse. Marketers save time creating content so they can spend more time marketing.
Traditionally, companies follow a “spray and pray” mass communication content strategy. Content is not personalized to their customer. Additionally, there are limited analytics in place, so the effectiveness of content is unknown.
Customers today expect exceptional experiences and seek personable, curated content. To achieve this, intelligent content helps deliver the right content to the right person at the right time using processes and systems. A reimagined digital content approach utilizing intelligent content can become the connective tissue between where companies are today and where they want to be. We recommend implementing intelligent content practices as a first step to clients looking for a personalization strategy.
How to Create Intelligent Content
If the general concept of intelligent content seems vague, then the process for creating it might come across as a secret of the highest order. That’s probably for a few reasons, including (but not limited to):
Far more ink has been spilled on explaining what intelligent content is and why your organization should pursue it than on how it gets developed (as we’ve done here).
Creating intelligent content requires considerable effort and ongoing discipline by cross-functional teams.
The process can vary from organization to organization (i.e., there’s no one-size-fits-all approach).
Start With Content Modeling
As we’ve discussed before, creating intelligent content requires a painstaking process called content modeling—which, according to Cleve Gibbon, chief technology officer at Wunderman Thompson North America, is “a formal representation of structured content as a collection of content types and their interrelationships,” (as quoted in The Language of Content Strategy, Scott Abel and Rahel Anne Bailie, 2014).
In Managing Enterprise Content: A Unified Content Strategy, Anne Rockley and Charles Cooper define content modeling as “the process of determining the structure and granularity of your content.”
What this means is that your organization needs to create an inventory of—and give structure to—its products, services, and other offerings, regardless of whether they’re of a physical or informational nature.
Only then will you be able to find commonalities between these offerings. Doing so will help you eliminate redundancies in your content and communications about them. And it will allow you to leverage technology to effectively, efficiently, and consistently produce and share content pertaining to your products, services, and offerings.
How Credera Can Help
Credera has experience helping a variety of clients on the road to creating and maintaining intelligent content. If you want to know more about Credera’s perspective on intelligent content or how we can help in this area, please feel free to reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.