Cleve Gibbon on Content Modeling
By Juliet Stott | March 24, 2016
Chief marketing technology officer from Cognifide, Cleve Gibbon, is passionate about using innovative ways to help his clients get the most from content and technology. He’s an advocate of content modeling, which, he says, facilitates great customer journeys and experience.
Here he talks about what content modeling is, how it can increase content’s return on investment and the future of the digital workforce.
What is “content modeling”?
There’s a lot of confusion around the idea of content modeling; most people think of it as a technical activity, but it’s not.
Content modeling helps organize content, making it easy for people and machines to understand what you have. Content modeling arranges all your information assets into a single content view.
Content modeling is a way to get a shared vision of what content exists within the business, and all the people and processes that use it. The output from content modeling is a content model, which is a formal representation of structured content as a collection of content types and their inter-relationships.
What does a content model look like?
A content model takes many forms; a spreadsheet, a Wiki page, a Word document. But the most visually engaging format of a content model is a boxes and arrows diagram.
Each box is a content type that has a bunch of attributes that capture its essential characteristics, the lines between content types are used to express content relationships. Content models are actually quite easy to read.
The hard part of content modeling is understanding what content you have, agreeing who is responsible for it, and going back into the organization to align it across the various areas of the business and ultimately back into the content management system (CMS).
Who decides on the content model structure?
Typically, content models have been left to developers to design, build and deliver within the CMS. But this is like buying a plot of land and asking your builders to design, build and deliver your dream home. Who does that?
As a content modeller, I try to involve everybody who touches content in the decision-making process. This is because we are working with the critical information assets that drive business value. Content is communication, it’s important.
So I like to get everyone around the table – content strategists, user experience people, content production teams, subject matter experts, agencies – to state what their content needs are and remain actively involved and informed throughout the content modeling process.
Can you give an example of what a company’s website looked like before and after you created and implemented a content model?
We’ve recently worked with a large British insurance company. Before we began working with them they had two distinct site experiences – a brochureware journey and a quote-and-buy journey. But the two site journeys presented the consumer completely different experiences. They were disconnected. We created a content platform that connected the two journeys into a single, seamless, digital experience.
We developed a new content authoring system that enabled the content authors to combine marketing content (e.g., calls to action, offers, promotions) and transactional content (e.g., quotes, forms, driver registration details) into a single superior digital experience. The business benefited from time-saving efficiencies for delivering meaningful content and the customer had a more seamless interaction with the brand.
The content model surfaced and showed the connection between key insurance information assets (or content types) that informed how best to design the CMS to produce, manage and deliver responsive experiences across the desktop and mobile web.
How does content modeling help large organizations digitally transform their content?
Digital transformations never happen all at once anymore. Instead, transformations happen gradually in small stages.
This reduces time to market and upfront investments for businesses, and a way for them to listen and learn what their consumers are asking for. That also means that we can design, test and learn with smaller content models, that we can inspect and adapt accordingly.
The more agile content and platforms are, the more businesses can respond at speed and at scale to customer needs and test assumptions. This practice has a dual benefit–internally it helps to ready businesses that are not digitally minded.
Externally, it means that businesses can be more reactive in responding to the constantly changing needs of its consumer. If you do it in smaller pieces you can change, adapt and work with the consumer and change the content to follow their trends and patterns.
You recently gave a talk at the 8th annual Intelligent Content Conference in Las Vegas on Content Modeling and Personalisation. What did you talk about?
Personalizing content is about giving the end user the best customer experience you can; to deepen that customer relationship within a channel. We demonstrated through examples how content modeling helps businesses regain control of their content and better plan for its use across the enterprise.
It’s about businesses understanding what they already know about their users (the data), and marrying this with their content, to create superior personalized customer experiences.
As industries embrace digital are there new job roles emerging? What does the future digital workforce look like?
There are several job roles emerging that don’t have a name or description at the moment. The effective management of connected customer journeys requires journey owners to take on a horizontal responsibility across the business.
Their job cross-cuts silos, departments and channels. For them, it’s all about ensuring the journey a customer makes across every touch point is relevant and meaningful.
Perhaps it begins with an email that links them to the website, then to a landing page with a call to action on it that they pick up on a mobile app, and so on. That journey has to be mapped out, and someone needs to own it. Another role is the person responsible for making every consumer touch point a superior customer experience to ensure a smooth path to purchase.
Then there is a need for a content person to understand how content will contribute the customer experience and a data person to provide the context for a right time experience. So there are four roles that are critical within the future digital workforce that need to work in cross-functional teams to successfully deliver connected customer journeys.
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