An Interview with Ann Rockley by Heather Meza
The recent acquisition of the Intelligent Content Conference (ICC) by Content Marketing Institute (CMI) has many folks wondering what intelligent content and content marketing are doing in the same sentence. As a marketer, you may not even know what intelligent content is and why you should care. Well, my friends, you’re about to find out!
As the Chief Content Alchemist for CMI, I have the great pleasure of working with Ann Rockley on the transition and evolution of ICC to CMI. And I could think of no one better to kick-off our inaugural blog with than — ICC founder and the “Mother of Content Strategy” herself — Ann Rockley.
Heather: Let’s dive right in Ann, what exactly is intelligent content and how is it different from other approaches?
Ann: Intelligent content is structurally rich and semantically categorized and therefore automatically discoverable, reusable, reconfigurable, and adaptable.
Heather: That sounds awesome, but complex. Can you please break that down into bite-size chunks? (pun intended)
Ann: Intelligent content is not about the words or the images, intelligent content is about how you create, manage, and deliver your content. You can have the best content in the world, but if you can’t get it out to your customers or prospects at the right time, in the right format, and on the device of their choosing; it doesn’t matter how good your content is. Communicators spend too much time hand-crafting content for a channel, then hand-crafting that content over and over again for each additional channel. This isn’t sustainable. We don’t have the resources or the time and we can’t afford the cost of this error prone process.
Heather: Sing it sister! I couldn’t agree more. Content sustainability is an issue that plagues all communicators across the enterprise. You talked about intelligent content being “structurally rich,” can you explain exactly what that is, and the benefits of taking the time to incorporate it into your content strategy?
Ann: To make your content intelligent (and make it possible for systems to process it automatically) you need to remove formatting (look and feel) from source files and add structure: predetermined organizational patterns supported by metadata tags. Without structured content, it is almost impossible to automate content assembly and delivery processes. Content in one format cannot be automatically converted to another. Structure, ironically, makes content flexible and modular. Benefits include reuse, speed, predictability, and reduced costs.
Heather: Thank you for that Ann. Let’s tackle the “semantically rich and automatically discoverable” aspects of intelligent content next.
Ann: Semantic means meaning. Instead of saying that this paragraph is simply a paragraph (format) we can say that it is a teaser (context). When the author knows it is a teaser they write it effectively as a teaser and the system knows that that teaser can be used in a tweet, on a Facebook page, or as the result of a search. You can’t do that with just a paragraph, a paragraph is just a blob, it has no meaning. When content (text, images, video, audio, etc.) is tagged with semantic metadata, that content can be discovered—”understood”—by machines, making automation possible. It’s all about the SEO!
Heather: Oh no, you SEO-didn’t! hee… hee… Ok Ann, let’s get to the juicy, exciting bits. Reusable, reconfigurable, adaptable? Explain what that really means and the benefits that result.
Ann: Multi-channel delivery of the same content to multiple channels is a form of reuse, but reuse can be so much more; reuse is about using common content in multiple places. Take a value proposition for example, you can use it on product pages, on an ecommerce site, in a brochure, in sales materials, in an elevator pitch, and numerous other locations. Reuse is all about writing once and using many.
Heather: Don’t just reuse your content, up-cycle it by combining it with new things. Such an important point and leads us right into reconfigurable and adaptable. Talk a bit about those terms please.
Ann: Intelligent content is modular. Modular content can be easily reordered, mixed and matched with other content, and can automatically include or exclude content based on metadata. This means content can be automatically adapted to multiple devices with little or nohuman intervention, reducing costs and increasing speed to delivery. When a new device comes along, it’s a simple matter of creating another set of rules that adapts the source content to the new device. Gone are the days of handcrafting deliverables and reworking content.
Heather: Why should content marketers care about intelligent content, and why should intelligent content practitioners care about content marketing?
Ann: Customers want content everywhere and they want content that is going to add value to their tasks or knowledge. If content marketing is supported by intelligent content best practices, it can reach a broader audience and have a longer shelf-life. Intelligent content practitioners should care about content marketing because valuable content is best served by intelligent content. Content marketing is a huge portion of content consumed today, intelligent content best practices can add value and longevity to this content.
Heather: I’m going to sneak in a little zinger to close with. The term “content strategy” is certainly undergoing some growing pains. How would you define the relationship between intelligent content and content strategy?
Ann: Intelligent content is content strategy taken to the next step. An intelligent content strategy involves all aspects of content strategy plus the additional tasks of structured content modeling, reuse strategy, and metadata for system/device content retrieval. Creating an intelligent content strategy is a cross between traditional content strategy and information architecture.
Heather: Ann, as always, it has been a pleasure. THANK YOU!
In the coming months, you’ll be hearing from many of these industry experts on the ICC blog, and, of course, you’ll see many of the people at ICC. Subscribe to our weekly newsletter to get all of these insights or register for the event.