Talking Content Marketing – With Scott Abel

Scott_Abel_talking_contentTalking Content Marketing welcomes, The Content Wrangler, Scott Abel. Content strategist and co-producer of the Intelligent Content Conference.

Scott is a firm believer that content is a business asset worthy of being managed efficiently and effectively. His mantra is your content should differentiate your brand from the competition, not from the content being created by others in your firm for the exact same customers.

I wanted to look at six questions related to businesses raising the content marketing stakes.

Are companies in danger of applying the same principals they have been using for years (interrupt, disrupt, self promote) and try to shoe-horn them in an approach they think they should commit to (a content driven mindset)?

Actually, companies are in danger of applying EXACTLY the same thinking instead of actually disrupting — think re-engineering — how they create, manage, and deliver information to those how need it.

For example, we continue to think about content in the context of the page; a huge mistake. Instead, we need to think about the content we create independent of its formatting and the container (a web page, a PDF, an app, an infographic, a regulatory compliance report) in which it will be presented. Disruption is about breaking the mold, not doing things the same old way, yet faster.

As co-producer of the Intelligent Content Conference, how has the event evolved over the years?

The Intelligent Content Conference is aimed at helping organizations understand the intelligent content method, something forward-thinking, technology companies have been working to adopt over the past decade or so, usually to help them deliver the right customer-facing content at the right time, in the right format and language, more recently, on the device of the consumer’s choosing.

Technical content creators – folks that make customer support, product maintenance and repair, and training content were the first to adopt the intelligent content approach. They did so because they could not keep up with the sheer amount of content they were required to produce. They leveraged intelligent content to help them repurpose components of content automatically across multiple deliverables, and to provide them with the ability to create new content products more quickly than the competition.

Today, the Intelligent Content Conference still serves this original audience, but it also is attracting new types of content professionals to the annual event. For example, content marketers: knowledge workers responsible for leveraging content to attract prospects. Content marketers are experiencing many of the same challenges that technical writers, product managers, and eLearning developers do — the inability to produce the volume of content needed, in the number of channels required. As such, content marketers are starting to see the need for intelligent content methods and practices. Once they better understand the possibilities, content marketing will never be the same.

Can you explain the ethos behind intelligent content as a practice within a company?

The content production methods most widely in use are based on a paper-based publishing paradigm that doesn’t serve us as well today as it did in the past.

Although we’ve made incremental changes over the last several decades (like moving from the typewriter to personal computers, adopting desktop publishing, and subsequently, publishing to the web), those improvements weren’t optimized to address the rapid growth in the number of customer touchpoints, distribution channels, devices, platforms, and constantly changing customer expectations. Neither were they optimized to ensure our content provides maximum business value. In fact, most content improvement projects are squarely aimed at solving one isolated problem (fixing the website, making the app responsive, publishing to multiple channels), without much concern for whether the long-term implications of the approach adopted will create additional challenges — and expense — for the organization in the future.

Most C-level executives aren’t clued into the severity of the problem. They have a clouded perception — at best — of what needs to change in order for their organizations to meet the content needs of today, never mind the content needs of the future. That’s partially because knowledge work isn’t as straightforward as product manufacturing, where tasks are relatively clear-cut and predictable, making the entire process easier to streamline and automate. It’s hard to spot opportunities for improvement if you aren’t able to see the broken things that need fixing.

Almost all content production processes are riddled with inefficiencies that are difficult to see. Only when we take an honest, critical look at the entire process, can we spot the problem areas. That’s because much of the work performed creating content isn’t optimized for productivity. Far too many tasks are being performed by knowledge workers; tasks better performed by computers. Computers are faster, more consistent, and they can be made to remember things — like where content is located — that humans easily forget.

Intelligent content is designed to help us optimize our content production methods so we can focus on innovation. When we have intelligent content we have content with superpowers. Content that is fluid and easily adaptable. Content that can be assembled, published, and delivered automatically. Content that can be adapted to the individual needs of the person consuming it.

You have said that ‘good-enough content sucks!’ What is the first thing that a business should do to raise their game?

The most important thing content marketers can do is to acknowledge that mediocre or good enough content is not exceptional content.

If you want your prospects and customers to think of your brand as exceptional, you have to deliver exceptional experiences with content. Every time. At every touch point. Period.

How should content marketers develop their thinking if a content mindset is a continual process?

They should go back to the drawing board and take an honest look at how they do things today with an eye for improvement.

Content production is a never-ending task. Content marketers have to begin thinking like factories. Factories look for every way to optimize production, to strip away the waste, to reduce errors, to empower machines to do the work humans are ill-equipped to handle.

How do you you learn? What inspires you?

I learn by being a sponge. I seek a-ha moments. I read, listen to podcasts, attend webinars, go to local meetup groups, participate in debates and discussions, conferences, etc. I use every opportunity I can to make connections between what I know and understand and what others know and understand that I do not.

When you do this on a regular basis, and you allow your brain to think about the possibilities — to relax and really ponder – you can develop a lot of useful a-ha moments.


Huge thanks to Scott for being part of the Talking Content Marketing journey. For more from Scott:

Scott on Twitter: click here

The Content Wrangler: click here

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