Content resolutions for 2017

What early resolutions can we set for overcoming content challenges that hold us back from being our most competitive?

Organisations around the globe are already preparing business-critical content for January 2017. This content could be new product documentation, updated policies and procedures, refined disclosures and legal statements, or even updated branding and marketing material.

The New Year always brings opportunities to refresh these type of assets for driving revenue and ensuring operations continue to run effectively. The challenge is that for many, business-critical content must be prepared now – almost a quarter in advance – in order to traverse the switch seamlessly from end-of-year product offers and updates to new compliance mandates and beyond.

Content for many organisations at peak times of year has to address a variety of audiences, geographies and purposes. The planning, creation and maintenance can be costly, leading some businesses to neglect it or leave things as is and hope for the best. This can be a grave mistake, costing more in the future than it would do address the challenge now. 

So what early resolutions can we set for overcoming content challenges that hold us back from being our most competitive?

Resolution 1: Understand which content exists and why

The first thing any business looking to improve the creation and management of business-critical content should do is conduct a content audit. By taking an in-depth inventory of what exists a business can define objectives for the content that is produced and identify areas where new content needs to be developed. 

In an audit, it’s best to review content types and formats as well as the tools your team uses to create and manage the content. A detailed content inventory can also uncover areas where automation can be used to remove time-consuming manual tasks. By removing unnecessary rework and allowing easier access to updated information, teams are more effective, businesses are more competitive, and customer satisfaction increases.

Resolution 2: Set content rules

Once a content audit or inventory is complete, design rules need to be set for different content types. Many times these rules come in the form of templates that help guide content creators when they are developing print, Web, and mobile content so that branding is consistent across every channel. The templates, created by designers, are accessed by authors so they can focus on writing compelling content and not worry about what the end product will look like.

Content rules also come in the form of taxonomies and metadata that an author can apply during the creation of the content. Once applied, the content can be stored, accessed, tracked and updated as content rules change.

Resolution 3: Streamline content review and approval

Another valuable outcome from our resolution #1 (conducting a content audit) is a deeper understanding of the roles and systems involved in completing, approving, publishing and delivering content. When you know who is involved in the content lifecycle, it’s easier to establish processes for review and approval. But even more importantly, you will uncover how these teams are managing the process. In many cases, reviewers and approvers will admit that content is shared in the form of static documents (such as Word or PDF) through email! Imagine the version control issues and errors accumulated as teams pass redlined documents back and forth between each other and then off to a designer for more back and forth over email. 

When you consider the volume of content global businesses are under pressure to produce, the lack of modern content management solutions is costing valuable time and affecting content quality. Again, automation can come into play to ensure review processes across departments are streamlined, with the right people controlling the right documents through a centralised system

Resolution 4: Make content reusable

As mentioned in resolution #3, many organisations rely on static document types for capturing content. Once created in a Word or PDF file, for example, the content is stuck there and is very hard to access, track and update. If you need to update one paragraph from a product datasheet, for example, you will have to guess which version has the content you need, open the entire document, copy and paste the portion you need into your new document and hope the team knows where to find the new version.

This is a workflow that plagues most content teams. There is a solution however, and that is to move from creating static documents to creating reusable content components, which is a key aspect of content automation. Instead of creating one-off documents where content is locked into a specific document and format, authors create content components that can be assembled and delivered to multiple channels. By eliminating copying, pasting and re-keying of product information, organisations can be sure there are no conflicts between documentation, datasheets and other collateral that is delivered to multiple channels.

Resolution 5: Let’s not go through this again!

Realistically, there isn’t a quick fix to solving the magnitude of challenges that organisations face on an annual (or quarterly) basis in regards to maintaining and updating content. Changing the way people have traditionally created, managed and published content takes time, vision, commitment and leadership. 

So perhaps the best resolution you could make is to start looking now at how you can modernise your content lifecycle for today’s omni-channel world. The big payoff will come next year when you can look back and see that you moved the bar, improved your business, and engaged your customers with content that’s delivered with agility.

One Resolution at a Time

The challenge of creating multi-channel content for varied audiences applies to every organisation. When automation is appropriate, the results and the return on investment are extremely valuable.

Productivity goes up, time to market is reduced, a company can support more information products without adding resources, and subsequently improve the quality of published content for better customer and employee engagement.

Gavin Drake, VP of Marketing at Quark Enterprise Solutions

Image source: Shutterstock/Bakhtiar Zein