SapientNitro Content Strategy 2013 Positioning


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Over the past few years, content strategy has risen to become a very hot topic. And yet there remains much misunderstanding about what it is and what it entails.

POV by Kevin P. Nichols, Director and Global Practice Lead for Content Strategy & Anne Casson, Director Content Strategy.

Published in: Business, Technology

SapientNitro Content Strategy 2013 Positioning

  1. 1. © Sapient Corporation, 2013POINT OF viewIn the digital and agency world content strategy is a topic discussed frequently. Over the past few years,content strategy has risen to become a very hot topic. And yet there remains much misunderstandingabout what it is and what it entails. SapientNitro previously adopted Kevin Nichols’ definition of‘getting the right content to the right user at the right time’ as its definitive positioning statement andapproach; however, in the past two years, several other disciplines in the industry, including thosewhich specialize in personalization, have co-opted this definition, rendering it less cogent as a specificdefinition for content strategy. Moreover, content strategy has evolved as a practice.As content strategy has gained much more industry recognition, sundry understandings of what it isor what it means have also emerged. And while more brands are recognizing content strategy as animperative part of their digital and publishing solutions, there are varying understandings of why itis necessary, how it actually benefits organizations, and how and when to engage it effectively. Thismultiplicity exists in part because there is not one single tactic or strategy to a content strategy, butsimilarly to the practice of information architecture, there are several. We would never say today thatwe are delivering “Information Architecture” as a single deliverable, but yet, we hear from clients andothers in the industry that they want ‘a content strategy.’Because content strategy is complicated and because it is so important for our and our clients’success, we have written this paper and updated our positioning on this practice, in the hopes ofclarifying how we believe it needs to be defined, why it is important, and the true benefits contentstrategy offers to businesses.So let’s start with a simplified definition of the practice. Let’s begin with two definitions that expedientlyconvey content and content strategy:Content communicates an idea that is recorded. A DVD, package for a product, video on YouTube,product positioning on a Website page, product user guide, television commercial, magazinearticle, news report, etc., are all mediums that record content and the information these thingsrecord is content.POINT OF viewSapientNitro Content Strategy2013 PositioningBy Kevin P. Nichols, Director and Global Practice Lead for Content Strategy &Anne Casson, Director Content Strategy
  2. 2. © Sapient Corporation, 2013POINT OF viewContent Strategy is the systematic, thoughtful approach to surfacing the most relevant, effective, andappropriate content at the most opportune time, to the appropriate user, for the purpose of achieving acompany’s strategic business objectives and its customers’ goals. It is an overarching strategy thatis realized fully only through many deliverables and tactics that touch many different people,processes, systems and customer targets.At SapientNitro we break down this definition into three pillars:The ‘strategy’ in content strategySo where is the strategy in all this? Given the lack of understanding around content strategy, we alsowant to be clear about what we mean about the ‘strategy’ piece of content strategy. We have found thatpeople get caught up in semantics when they assume that content strategy is only about strategy. Inour universe, strategy is important and answers the ‘why?’ with a statement of intent, the stratagems,objectives and goals that must be achieved, and the roadmap or vision to get there.But we also feel strongly that the strategy within content strategy cannot be divorced from its tacticalimplementation, and as such, we see content strategy as a discipline that provides strategic andtactical solutions to content needs. As we will demonstrate, content strategy is not a single strategy,but a series of stratagems, processes and tactics that involve and impact content within a business.The benefits of content strategy or ‘Why should you do it?’The unique benefits of content strategy are predicated upon an understanding of the relationshipcontent has with a business, its brand, and its customers. Content is the life-force of a brand. It’s howbusinesses engage their customers and how customers interact with the brand. Along with productand service, content frames the customer perception of brand—it can force the brand to be more viablefrom a customer perspective. It can also competitively differentiate one brand from another. When weconsider these points, we can also draw the conclusion that a lack in quality content can damage orharm a brand and customer perception of it.CustomerContentProductOr ServiceTrust withBrand!Content ExperienceWhat is the content experiencefor the end-user? What goesinto a digital solution? To whichuser(s) is it targeted?What model is necessary toacquire, create, maintain andoptimize content?What are the operationalprocesses and mechanismsrequired to ensure the continuedsuccess of content?Content Delivery Content Governance
  3. 3. © Sapient Corporation, 2013POINT OF view‘Content is king’…so now what?Today, the concept that ‘content is king’ is fairly ubiquitous in the digital and publishing realms. You mayhave heard it again and again. But more often than not, the logical conclusion to that sentiment is leftunrealized. The entirety of the ‘content is king’ statement is only relevant if we draw the conclusion thatgood content needs a successful content strategy, since both will:• Enforce content quality, ensuring that it is meaningful and relevant to the end user;• Tie the content and the stories it tells to customer needs, in a consistent and relevant manner;• Keep content on-brand regardless of the customer touch-points;• Result in measurable organizational benefits such as streamlining the efforts aroundcontent processes and workflows;• Define success metrics and criteria to sustain optimal performance;• Allow for sustainable, repeatable maintenance through governance strategy;• Better the content in the organization, making the content that an organization produceswork more effectively and achieve the desired results; and,• Ensure that the optimal content design and internal business processes for the front-end mapsuccessfully to the technologies on the back-end.Within this framework, content should, along with user needs and business objectives, drive the digitaland publishing solutions businesses put forth. If content is a brand and business asset, then contentcan make or break a brand, and drive customer satisfaction. Thus, a lack of attention to content cancreate numerous issues and costly problems for a business. Without a unified, holistic and enterpriseapproach to content, a business faces several challenges, which can cause complex and expensivecontent problems:
  4. 4. © Sapient Corporation, 2013POINT OF viewWhere a content strategy really benefits a business.So if we can appreciate that what we stated previously iscritical for a brand’s success, then let’s add an additionalthought: all aspects of content strategy are measurable. Youshould and can measure all aspects you put into place withinan overarching content strategy including:• Effects on the customer and content consumption patterns,including the effectiveness, relevance and timeliness ofcontent measured by: time spent with content in each digitalproperty (e.g., duration on page), on-site and organic searchterms used, conversion rates (customer signed up for service,purchased a product and/or filled out a profile), clickstreamand navigation paths, areas where the customer leaves priorto conversion, and fewer complaints through self-servicesupport and accurate content.• Effects on brand, sales and customer retention such asthe number of repeat existing customers, new customers,and customer attrition, conversion rates and volume, andthe number of cross-sells and up-sells, improved andcompetitively differentiated brand performance.Customers rate your brandby your content.The customer does not silo contentthe same way many businesses do.The customer does not care whethera product detail page on a websiteoriginates with product positioningwithin a company or that technicalmarketing may create a user guide toa product, or that a customer callcenter may get their talking pointsfrom customer support or thatpackaging of content may comefrom a combination of sources.They do care if any of their experiencewith these various touch-points failsdue to poor or inconsistent content,and ultimately they will hold thebrand itself accountable for theirexperience. They will reward a goodexperience with loyalty and punisha bad experience with abandonment.• Effects on the business internally: such as cost to produce and translate content, time to produce andtranslate content, errors or issues with published content, time to make changes in existing content,inconsistent and off-brand content, and redundant content (that could be a candidate for sharingor reuse).Ultimately, rich, relevant, and quality content translates to great success for an organization and itsbusiness objectives, when its power is properly harnessed.[1]SapientNitro’s content strategy pillars analyzedSo let’s return to visit the three pillars of content strategy mentioned above to understand more fullywhat content strategy is and how we at SapientNitro recommend doing it.Content Experience‘Content Experience’ defines the overall and singular experience a customer has when engaging withany content a brand has to offer. Included here is the content a user interacts with, when and how theydo it, and most importantly, how and which content can meet their needs. As part of a content strategy,the content experience must define the strategic intent for the content solution:• Why are we building the new Website, mobile experience, channel or a page or template within it?• Which objectives do we need to meet?• What goals should we achieve?• Which content experiences and specific content must be served up to achieve all of the above?1. For a detailed analysis on articulating business benefits of content strategy, see also: Bailie, Rahel Anne and Urbina,Noz. Content Strategy: Connecting the dots between business, brand, and benefits (XML Press, 2013).
  5. 5. © Sapient Corporation, 2013POINT OF viewIn addition to the strategic intent, content experience draws from the following questions to createrelevant, timely, contextual and meaningful content:• Who are our users?• When and how will they consume this content experience?• How will they consume it (or how will it meet their needs)?• With what will they consume it?Content experience frames the overall narrative or story that must be told, as well as the individualstories that help the customer meet his or her needs. For example, for some customers, theexperience may answer why they should buy a product or service. For others, it might answer how theysupport a product they have already purchased. And for even others, it might answer why they wouldwant to work or invest in a particular company. In framing the content experience, we look at whichcontent to personalize and to whom, which multi- and omni-channel opportunities exist, and what isthe customer journey throughout his or her experience with a brand.Content lifecycleThe end-to-end content lifecycle is just as important as the content itself, and if it is broken, thenchances are the content experience will have serious flaws as well. To address this reality, SapientNitrohas pioneered a proven approach to a closed-loop content delivery process that provides a flexibleframework for achieving content success internally within an organization. Building from thisapproach, which incorporates industry best practices, we have tailored a process to fit the uniqueneeds, goals, and focus areas for any type of project involving content.By ‘closed-loop,’ we mean an approach that creates a repeatable and sustainable content lifecycle,future-proofed for changing customer trends, emerging technology and business needs. Once anorganization launches content with this approach, metrics—which we define at the onset of theproject—measure the content’s performance to determine future priorities and actions. We also putmeasurements in place to evaluate the internal content lifecycle to ensure that content efficiencies andgains in an improved content process can be demonstrated.This overall method positions content to be successful in the future, regardless of changes intechnology, customers or the business. Adopting a closed-loop content lifecycle, a business is able torespond to customer needs and feedback, technology innovation and evolution of business objectives.  
  6. 6. © Sapient Corporation, 2013POINT OF viewContent GovernanceGovernance provides the key to ensuring that content standards are in place, maintenance of contentsuccess is enforced, and future-state decisions are realized through a controlled environment.Governance also helps manage content across channels and across business units includingguidelines for managing editorial workflows, approval workflows, a content style guide, as well as astaffing plan and organizational structure to support the model.An effective, content governance model will:• Create a formal decision-making process that is rational, balanced, and consistent• Provide the enterprise with a framework to identify, prioritize, and manage content modificationsand enhancements• Establish a vehicle for communication up, down, and across the organization• Enable the enterprise to share information and resources across the organization• Create an organizational body that can oversee “shared-cost” investments and avoid duplicative work• Define enterprise-wide and business unit/brand/country-specific guidelines• Identify content-specific success measures for the enterprise (e.g., speed-to-market,accuracy of data)• Allow flexibility for local needs to be served while providing structure for enterprise-widegrowth needsHow we do it within our work.As with any project, at SapientNitro, we divide our work up into phases. The diagram belowdemonstrates these phases and calls out which deliverables go with which phase. And although weillustrate a comprehensive set of deliverables, not every project requires each of these. We do wantto point out, however, that the discovery phase is the most important phase to frame the future-statesolution. A content inventory and audit is not just a spreadsheet that contains a listing of content, andwhich just anyone can do. Rather, it is a process that creates a deep understanding of the currentcontent ecosystem and helps frame the content requirements, issues and gaps, necessary to frame asuccessful future-state solution. The person(s) who completes the content inventory and audit, makesmany of the decisions that impact the overall solution. In many ways, this person(s) holds the cards tohow successful the end-state of a digital solution will be.Content Strategy Work per Phase
  7. 7. © Sapient Corporation, 2013POINT OF viewHow do I know whether a content strategist is necessary?We often ask our clients one question to determine whether a content strategist is necessary ona project: “Does your project have or include content that reflects your brand in any way, shape orform?” If the answer is yes, then we recommend a content strategist. In general, any of the followingnecessitate content strategy:• Any type of customer-facing content• A new Website or mobile site• A CMS solution• The need to sell a product or service with customer facing content• Content that serves customer needs in X waysBut let’s translate these basics into the top ten things we hear our clients say— indicating a solutioninvolving content strategy is most likely appropriate:1. We don’t know how much content we have2. We don’t know every place it’s stored3. Any sentence involving the phrase “all over the place”4. Any sentence involving the word “homegrown”5. We have not assigned owners to our content6. A link to a fee schedule from 1997 was returned in a Google search7. We never delete anything, we just unlink it8. We have multiple copies of various things in our CMS9. It takes 2 weeks to make an editorial change to our web site10. We know personalization is important but aren’t sure where to startWhy SapientNitro Content Strategy?SapientNitro has and continues to approach content strategy holistically, focusing on every editorial,delivery, and governance aspect of it. We can help you tell the most compelling story, through yourmyriad channels, deliver it seamlessly and create an organizational model to ensure its continuedsuccess. Our approach is enterprise and unified in nature. We roll out a closed-loop approach wherebycontent is continually optimized via the measurement of its efficacy. We can deliver on all of thesecapabilities and over the past few years, we have hired and grown one of the most talented contentstrategy practices in the industry.  Kevin P. Nichols is Director and Global Practice Lead for ContentStrategy at SapientNitro. He has over eighteen years of experience.A Harvard graduate, he executed his capabilities in the Sabre Foundationbefore traveling to Bosnia and Herzegovina, where he was Webmaster forPhysicians for Human Rights. He went on to Sapient Corporation as a UXLead for global brands on Web and CMS projects. Kevin played a key rolein launching MIT’s OpenCourseWare project, and as a Senior Consultantat Molecular, he led UX teams for global brands. He went on to becomean independent consultant at Kevin P Nichols’ consulting, before return-ing to Sapient as a Director of Content Strategy.Anne Casson is the Director of Content Strategy for SapientNitro Bos-ton. She has nearly 20 years of experience planning, designing, creating,and structuring digital content for front-end web, content managementsystems, and product information management systems. Her workenables definition and implementation of efficient workflows, personal-ization and governance strategies, migration planning, and measurablecontent ROI.