I think it’s safe to say we all strive to achieve, in some form or another. In some particular walk of life. In a way it’s that perennial search for meaning. We all have that search in us, to varying degrees, and throughout our lives. Only, the search evolves and adapts according to your environment, your generation, your moods, your habits.…
So it goes with content. Content is like life. It bends and flows, can get stuck, or worse, can become uncared for. But well catered for content attracts many, and can be an inspiration for others. Good content is remembered and passes the test of time over and over. The meaning of content…. this may well be why some content strategists stay up late at night.
Find meaning for businesses with content
How do you find that meaning in business content, day after day, where explanations and presentations lose the reader’s attention, perhaps leading to a sort of emptiness. Often, the content can be just plain boring. How can you create content that engages the user, a stranger in essence, to share, comment, and ultimately use for business purposes?
Are we glorifying content ? Maybe a little. Yet, as Sara Wachter-Boettcher says in her ebook Content Everywhere : « Content everywhere is all about learning how to prepare one set of content to go wherever it’s needed – now and in the future. » And just like with our lives, content will have different needs at different times.
As creators of experiences on the web, it’s our job to structure the content according to the meaning we want to achieve. How do we do this ? Content modeling. And this is just one of the many forces with Sara’s book. Here’s how she puts it:
It’s the process of first understanding the concept of a specific type of content—how your users perceive and understand the various pieces and parts it comprises—and then creating a structure that supports those components and relationships.
In other words, we must define « which core elements make our content types come to life. »
AirBusiness Academy recently had their website redone, and it was the moment to evolve their content. A major task started with structuring and prioritizing their content. We accompanied them and undertook the project from a content modeling approach, especially for their open courses. The open courses are not the priority for ABA, but they are more often than not the front door by which potential customers enter. ABA also offers customized courses which is their core activity, and so this is ABA’s value proposition: offering high-end and personalized aeronautic training across multiple domains.
To help structure each program, a content template helped prioritize the flow of information. As Sara mentions, our goal therefore was not only to have well organized content, but also to generate meaning for the user, and bring the open courses to life. This meant putting up top the objectives relative to the training program. Who should take this class and why? What are the benefits of this class? Then the in-depth program description to reinforce the goals outlined. In each case, SEO issues are also aligned, but first and foremost we want to make sense to the user.
What does a content model look like? Taking ABA’s example, here is the initial model of the structure for their open courses, with comments for each criteria.
Type of content
Title of the course, which is a direct relation in general to a job function : fleet manager, financial manager, etc.
First sentence that must clearly address the user : why take this course. Should connect with and focus on the user’s primary needs. Often, this text should be short, and keyword heavy (but appropriate).
Who should attend?
Specifics on the job functions related to the course
How will I benefit?
What competencies will you acquire
What does the course cover?
The program details.
Dates and Venues
Details on available dates and places
Beyond the content model each course was within a specific domain or theme and there is a call to action for registration via form (which is rather long). Not enough courses exist to identify « related courses », but this is something that can (should) easily evolve.
What can we do better
The question is when considering Content Everywhere, have we achieved content meaning (have we brought content to life) and if not, what can we do better? In some ways, we can perhaps use the second person more, with on-the-job know-how intertwined. This can be done by simply tweaking the overall objectives. Instead of a simple overview, we can imagine the following minor adjustments to the current text (www.airbusiness-academy.com/courses/20/1277/airline-fleet- planning) : « You manage a fleet of internationally based jets with a team of diverse coordinators from different countries. The Airline Fleet Management course will offer you insights on fleet planning management, from traffic forecasting to network planning and fleet definition. Learn how to structure the fleet planning process and how to analyse alternative fleet solutions. »
It may not always be easy to target a specific audience, but the connection is more powerful for those you do address.
Meaning is achieved when the user clearly understands what is being offered and why this positively affects them. The goal in every case is to get the user to act. Sometimes, the act can be a subtle emotional reaction to your content that will help remember your site, or better can generate a qualified contact or customer.
Once your content model is fully defined, you can start writing for each article. A content model should be done for each type of content you are working on, whether it is a dynamic database of products, or a series of static presentation pages.
Why content everywhere
Content Everywhere is exhaustive in the treatment of generating meaning through all the ways content can be explored. This includes the technical aspects of a CMS, or APIs, but also the bigger picture of content publication across multiple supports (and multiple publishers, not just yourself). It’s about content that comes to life across multiple channels, and content that lives on beyond our own world. Content that has life and finds meaning in that life.
Title of ebook: Content Everywhere: Strategy and Structure for Future-Ready Content
Author: Sara Wachter-Boettcher
Date of initial publication: December 2012
Publisher: Rosenfeld Media
Where you can buy it: rosenfeldmedia.com/books/content-everywhere/