Content Engineering - The bridge between IT and marketing

Content marketing gets more sophisticated and targeted every year

Today, content marketers and content strategists spend increasing effort creating more intimate, personal experiences for customers across multiple channels. Many marketers are still grappling with the essentials of content production and distribution.

The call to deliver personalized, relevant content, has evolved into the recognized imperative we know today as content marketing and customer experience management. Market leaders now realize the value of crafting their competitive edge in the hands of content strategists, developers and content technologists. Leaders build expert teams that engineer a cohesive solution addressing the structure of content, personalizing it for unique users, designing it for multiple screen sizes, and delivering it across multiple channels and devices.

This call is answered further by the many marketing and IT teams merging creatively. Cross-functional teams are engineering content strategies, systems and technologies that deliver real time, reactive, personalized intelligent content experiences. Budgets spanning the chasm between IT, Marketing, and project operations are often mediated by a cross-functional project management office that aligns strategy across multiple initiatives.

Not long ago, CMOs were slower to invest in the promise of "smarter" content. That is changing, but slower than we might wish. Most content teams have yet to show how disparate systems and technologies could be effectively integrated to realize the promise of real-time intelligent content.

Most C-level executives don't understand the business value of intelligent content yet. Well-engineered content and data assets unleash content to work across the enterprise, to be mobile, interchangeable, and flexible; based on the who, what, when, where, and how of every customer interaction. 

However, the realized value of content is a few steps removed from the spend, which makes CEOs, CIOs and CMOs often unable to come to a common conversation about investing in enriched content assets.

Staff who can influence the C-Suite have caught on and are talking the language of ROI. "The power of today’s digital tools and the scientific approaches they make possible are not only enabling a more substantial role for marketing but also giving it opportunities for real-time impact," says McKinsey & Company in their report The Dawn of Marketing's New Golden Age. "More scientific marketing means that CMOs and other senior leaders need enhanced analytical skills to exploit data possibilities more fully and stay ahead of the whirl of developments."

McKinsey suggests that the new role of the marketing technology officer (MTO) could be a near-term reality. However this anointing of a new C-level czar overlooks the need for a more holistic set of content engineering skills and processes throughout the organization.

CMOs and CIOs don't need another general on the battlefield, but rather skilled content engineers and a content engineering process that makes complex multichannel content marketing possible.

It is good to see marketplace leaders recognize the need for collaboration among marketing and IT. However, the awareness of marketing and technology collisions is spawning the need for specialized talent able to synthesize marketing goals, technology solutions, and data analysis into a methodology capable of producing intelligent content and ideal customer experiences.

Speaker, consultant and content strategist Noz Urbina described the advantages of engineering intelligent content, "Content is 'intelligent' when the human-consumable bits of content exist intermingled with significant amounts of descriptive information (metadata) about that content. This extra information embeds our human understanding into the content itself so that machines can operate on it more effectively. Metadata explains to the computer the difference between a general paragraph and an expert’s hot tip, or the difference between a part number and a phone number. This extra layer of information helps machines determine where, when, and how to present content to the users who will find it most interesting," he told the Content Marketing Institute in the article What Puts the Intelligent in Intelligent Content.

CMOs are beginning to understand that content technology unlocks the user experience. It’s the dawn of the smart content era and aligned technology and marketing teams. Intelligent content is enriched with structure, metadata, schema, taxonomies, and other markup — ready to change in real time based on rules and user context. Content engineering plays a role for marketing teams keen on delivering the right content to the right person on the right device at the right moment.

As explained in the McKinsey report, "In a digital economy, marketing is no longer a ‘batch’ process but a continuous one. Consumer preferences change with stunning velocity, as do the dynamics of markets and product life cycles. This culture of urgency means that marketers need a new agility, plus the management skills and organizational clout to bring other functions together at a higher clock speed ... Complexity is the enemy of speed, which is a big reason why a number of leading marketers are reforming their organizations. Too often, expanding geographic footprints, product proliferation, and new arrays of channels and digital specialties have led to complex hierarchies, silos, communication gaps, and redundancies. But these can be tamed."

Content engineering tames the complexity between content strategy, content management systems, and customer experience management. To truly understand content engineering, one must understand how it ultimately makes content intelligent and enables personalized customer experiences. Content engineering is the discipline of organizing and shaping the structure and application of content, especially digital media, within technical environments. Content engineering impacts every industry, business unit, and technical environment that works with content.

Every interaction with content shapes experiences, grows knowledge, and ultimately moves our economy and society forward. Digital marketers depend on content to inform and influence behavior. And digital marketing platforms increasingly require intelligent content that can relate to other content, reshape itself, and syndicate outside the content management system. Marketing effectiveness increasingly hinges on delivering compelling content, in various forms, personalized to customer preferences and devices.

The content engineering mindset understands both the technical implementation of the content, and the imperatives of marketers or other business stakeholders.

Creating Intelligent Content Alliances

We predict that we will also see CMOs, CIOs, CTOs, and CEOs working together much more strategically to align and integrate strategy with technical operations. Executive teams will begin to realize that the company's positioning strategy is the means to convey the organization's story and promise to customers across all channels, and to engage customers as stakeholders in the organization's story. 

New devices and channels are around every corner, making the landscape more complex every quarter. To reach diverse channels that content consumers use, every content asset must adapt. Whether text, video, images, tabular data, or audio, content and metadata must satisfy consumers on their own terms. This is where content engineering delivers the goods, where you can leverage the right team members to implement a solution that connects content to strategy, strategy to creative, and all with platform technology.

Authors and publishers must create content made up of specific components with precise functions, defined by independent attributes. The takeaway is that structured content, when combined with responsive interfaces, becomes flexible at multiple resolutions, functional across multiple browsers, reusable in native mobile apps, and compatible with all the new ways of consuming relevant information that appear every year. 

A Look at the Functions Within Content Engineering:

  • Analyzing information requirements and content sources
  • Modeling content structures, schemas, and semantics
  • Correlating content using taxonomies and other metadata
  • Determining validation criteria, and designing information delivery
  • Customer Experience Management platform technology selection and configuration, CEM lifecycle planning, CEM implementation specifications, marketing automation workflow planning
  • Structuring and modeling metadata
  • Implementing content and validation processes
  • Designing information interactions
  • Designing content management regimes, workflows, reporting, and user support services
  • Performing content reuse planning, adaptive content strategy, and content personalization architecture
  • Developing audience and session-based analytics personalization rules and scoring, validating content targeting against user task success
  • Planning faceted search, and onsite search experience design
  • Authoring experience (AX) design, standards definitions, content migration planning, validation, localization

What Makes a Great Content Engineer for CEM

Put the CE in CEM

It is easy to see how content engineers make customer experience management work. Soon agencies, in-house departments and marketing leaders will further recognize the necessity of content engineering within their teams, and add content engineering into standard process workflow.

The reason we do not see more successful stories of customer experience management in the wild is because of the missing function of content engineering. Content modeling, metadata, structure, reuse, and personalization mapping do not happen magically on their own. They are born of hard work, insight and experience. Yet so many of us are either ignorant of the need for content engineering process, or assume content engineering essentials will emerge from the integrator or software development team. When organizations put together content strategy, CEM platform capabilities, and the know-how to engineer content to enable personalized customer experiences, they start to see the promise of CEM begin to manifest.

The reality is that we cannot keep shoving customer experience management projects into the 2005 web development process shoes. The shoes don’t fit. It’s not 2005 anymore. Content strategists and developers can’t do it all. The landscape is complex, and gets more complex by the day. Put content engineering into customer experience management. It is highly likely that soon we will see key individuals rise to perform the content engineering function from within content and web teams.

These are the individuals capable of addressing dual sides of the customer experience management equation. Content engineering involves blending the perspectives of groups involved in the production of marketing strategy and content (Publishing and Editorial staff, Marketing, Sales, HR), with more technical departments (such as Software Development, or IT). The content engineering function serves as both a facilitator and mediator.

Content engineering functions, once fulfilled by other specialists such as content strategists, authors, or technical staff, will soon merge into a defined and integral role securing intelligent content in an elevated place where it belongs.

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