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Trends in content strategy

The Content Strategy Applied 2017 conference (9-10 Feb 2017) ended with a trend-spotting presentation from organisers Rahel Anne Bailie and Lucie Hyde. They brought their collective experience, along with the insights from conference presenters, to the podium.

One of the points Rahel made in this presentation was that content professionals today need to constantly work on keeping their skills and knowledge up-to-date.

Content professionals – get skilled up!

Rahel says, “The divide between content professionals who are upgrading their skills and those who are hanging onto the status quo – writing in word processing programs and emailing documents for ‘someone else’ to deal with things like metadata – will become more apparent.” 

Rahel heads Scroll’s content strategy arm. Scroll actively sifts content professionals to see who has the kind of skills and experience that content projects today require. We need to be confident we have the people with the best skills available on our books.

Rahel says, “Already, digital agencies who use content strategists vet CVs in ways that weed out the writers from those with advanced skills. The content professionals who decide to upgrade their skills will find that more opportunities open up for them.”

Content trends you need to learn about

We asked Rahel what she’d picked up on at the CSApplied 2017 conference that indicated future trends. Here’s what she has to say. If you want to be a content pro that really knows their stuff, these are the trends to watch.

And for lots of content professionals, I’d guess that all of these things represent both a need and a chance to start getting skilled up.

Building bridges across silos

One of the trends showed itself in the shadow of an announcement from one of the conference sponsors, Adobe. First, a little background.

Content strategists who do cross-silo strategies for omnichannel projects know that marketing content tends to be a layer of content over a huge amount of enabling or technical content. For example, a single product may have a bit of marketing content associated with it. But it will probably have hundreds of pieces of content that enables customers to use the product: warranty info, help content, user guides, admin guides, training material, microcopy for the interfaces, knowledge base articles, and so on.

When there is no way of integrating the content, it gets developed in multiple silos, with the usual discrepancies, inaccuracies, and duplication of effort that comes with a fragmented territory.

Adobe confirmed that the trend is for organisations who handle lots of content to want their CMS to be the repository for the content that gets delivered through the multiple channels. Until now, content developers creating large-scale enabling content do so in an external editing environment, and then get the content transferred into the web CMS. It seemed to Adobe that it was time to develop a technical solution to enable the integration of all customer content into a single place, while allowing authors to use their power editing tools. So,  Adobe’s created new XML Documentation Add-on for AEM. This makes AEM DITA-aware, extends its capabilities and transforms it into a full-edged enterprise-class component content management system.

Structured content tools are game-changers

Rahel sees this changing the content landscape in a big way (read her white paper: Expanding content scope to drive customer information needs).

She has seen a lot of resistance by technology departments to support content developers, often because they don’t understand the commercial value of content. But with one of the largest CMS on the market, AEM (Adobe Experience Manager), supporting a robust experience for content professionals who want to use the DITA standard for power-editing, it will be a huge game-changer.

This is a big deal for corporations, who increasingly accept that this kind of investment in content is vital for their bottom line. It’s also a big deal for content professionals, as relatively few know how to use a structured content tool or understand best practices in a collaborative writing environment. The content pros who upgrade their skills and knowledge to develop content that works for omnichannel delivery will be able to keep pace with these kinds of publishing environments.

Cognitive computing

For content people focusing on semantic content, cognitive computing came out of left field as the next big technology trend. Cognitive computing uses artificial intelligence to create self-learning programmes. And where there’s technology, there’s content, which means there will be a need for content meant for cognitive computing environments.

The technology side of the industry is moving much faster than the business side, which is creating an environment where technologists are looking to automate content. Sometimes that tactic works, but when it doesn’t, it can cause significant brand damage.

Increased automation of content delivery

There is a strong move to chatbots, Internet of Things, voice search, and related technologies. Some of these are to deliver service at scale, but a lot of it is in response to customer desire for ease of interaction. Examples include bots such as Siri, Alexa, and Cortana, where verbal search diverges from keyword search. This puts a higher demand on content, which has to sound conversational while being informative, and flow in particular patterns to make sense to humans while also making sense to the systems that deliver it up.

Shared, semantic content

For content to work within automated, cognitive computing environments, it needs to have enough structure and semantics that computing systems know when to pull specific content. Adaptive content, which allows content authors to tag content for specific contexts, is quickly becoming a core skill for content professionals in any environment where content gets delivered into shared spaces.