At Kentico, we work with content editors from a wide spectrum of digital experience maturity. These editors have very different needs and approaches to how they author content – and I’m not even talking about their use of generative-AI!
Some are transitioning to Kentico from open-source WYSIWYG CMSes and others are managing combinations of numerous digital marketing channels (multiple websites, webapps, social, chatbots, etc.,) and are looking to consolidate and maximize their investments in content.
The MarTech industry either intentionally or inadvertently tends to group these editors into two main authoring approaches: linear or WYSIWYG authoring, and modular authoring.
Linear WYSIWYG editors want to see their content ‘in-context’. They want to edit assets like pages, emails, and social posts in a narrative, chronological way to ensure not only the clarity and cohesion of their content, but also its visual cohesion as well. They want to be able to add and edit content in one place, include media assets like images and videos, and move sections of the asset around to ensure the flow of the asset delivers the message they want to convey. And then they want to visually inspect it before it is published out to the world.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, we have larger marketing teams delivering smaller components or pieces of content across many and varied marketing channels – for example, headlessly to microsites or mobile apps, or even an AR-enabled digital kiosk display. These modular authoring teams are focused on being able to scale their content and maximize the reuse of content components across many channels. This approach enables content creators to mix and match reusable content items together to make a fresh new asset for the public, as well as surfacing older, but still valuable pieces of content, and enabling their continuous use without their ‘dated’ contexts.
No single approach fits all content use cases
While both approaches have benefits, they can also have their disadvantages as well. The linear authoring approach often results in content duplication, where editors copy and paste content from one asset to another. Not only can HTML code be copied across as well, causing lots of issues for the visual presentation of your content, but it’s often very hard to track back to the original piece of content (aka a governance nightmare). Content reuse remains low and so too does the return on your investment in that content. And this is not insignificant either – even if you are using AI, imagine your editor spends at least an hour to generate, review, edit and get an article approved for publishing. Even if it’s a high performing article, it’s only being delivered via a single content distribution channel to your audience. If you have email, social, and other distribution channels, you are now in a position where you need to recreate a copy of that performant article for delivery via other channels and indeed other integrated tools. The same content gets stored in multiple locations as a result. None of this additional effort or resources would be needed if the original article was made up of reusable, channel-agnostic content.
On the other hand, working purely with a structured content approach means editors need to go through the process of creating and saving single purpose content as modular building blocks that just don’t make sense to be used elsewhere out of its context. In addition, modular-only content solutions don’t immediately show you what your edits will look like when you’re finished, making it a time-consuming process of switching between the frontend and your edits. How can you manage something you cannot see?!? For editors who are used to working with a WYSIWYG editor, this can present a real adoption challenge.
Focus on the needs of your business
Above all, you need to remember that your content strategy is designed to support your marketing strategy – and not the other way around. Don't force all content to be linear just because your team has more experience with this approach, and at the same time, you shouldn’t force all content to be modular just because it feels like "everyone is doing it".
A flexible approach to content authoring can be used to meet marketing needs
It’s clear that there are scenarios where both approaches make sense, and you don’t really need nor want to sacrifice one benefit for the other. Having to choose one of these approaches isn’t particularly helpful for editors when it comes to delivering on all needs and maximizing content reuse across multiple different types of content distribution channels. They will almost always have the need or desire to:
- Use the platform in a way that is familiar to them
- Create single-use content efficiently
- Create content experiences for any audience within context, adding, editing and moving content around to ensure the right message is achieved
- Create modular, reusable content once and deliver it via API to an app or add it to a webpage or email newsletter at any time (maximizing the re-use of that content across any channel in their digital marketing ecosystem), and
- Efficiently manage all their content from a single platform using a single edit
But wait, why not do it all? Can’t you combine single use and reusable content WITH an in-context editing approach? Of course, you can. You don’t need to be locked into one way of doing things. There are digital experience platforms on the market, like Xperience by Kentico, that enable you to create the kind of approach that makes sense for your business and your team.
To get started, you need to understand your needs and, importantly, how your team works now as well as how you want them to work in the future. Ask yourself whether they would be more familiar with a web page-centric approach to authoring content, and whether it aligns with your business strategy. Or are you focused on managing and growing multiple types of digital marketing channels?
A web-centric authoring approach is where you work primarily with pages and most of the page content is not going to be re-used. However, despite the preference for a drag and drop, WYSIWIG visual editing interface, you also just want to reuse media assets, such as logo images and videos, between pages of all websites within your ecosystem. But you’re not locked in. If you initially choose the web-centric approach, and your needs start to change, then you can adjust quickly by taking a content growth approach where single use content items are gradually converted to structured reusable items and more reusable, channel-agnostic content such as product, event, or speaker information and article summaries are produced. By converting assets over time, you gradually increase the return on your content’s investment. But importantly, YOU choose how you want to begin your content authoring journey – staying in control of how much content needs to be reused, and how much your team wants to rely on single-purpose content.
A modular, channel-agnostic content model is for structuring reusable content items for delivery through multiple channels to a range of diverse end points including websites, email newsletters, social campaigns, apps, and integrated business applications such as commerce or customer relationship management platforms. Choose the right platform and you can even combine this modular approach with single-use content where it makes sense. By taking a more modular approach to authoring and working with content, you can scale your content quickly and maximize content reuse and governance as much as possible across your digital marketing ecosystem. But it’s best to do some upfront work to ensure you have planned a content model that is going to best suit you. Go too granular and your content model will become a nightmare to work with. After all, not everyone is going to reuse headlines!
How to approach content reuse for the way you work?
Regardless of which strategic approach you wish to take to authoring, there are some basic steps that everyone should undertake when setting up their new DXP or CMS if they plan on reusing content.
Understand what you have.
Firstly, it’s always good to do a bit of a content audit. OH NO, I hear you groaning...! I know content audits are not a lot of fun, but they will set you up for the future and save you time and money down the road. It’s also a good time to re-evaluate the quality of archived or low usage content as well. Could it be repurposed or removed?
Divide your content assets into reusable and single-use ‘buckets’.
Start with rich media like images, videos, audio files, or PDFs. These are the low-hanging reusable fruits because an image is going to see a lot of reuse over time and is likely to date less quickly. Plus, you’re probably already reusing them from a media library or similar media repository, so they are easy to identify from the beginning.
Not sure what to make reusable next? Anything that appears, or could appear, repeatedly across your channels is a candidate for reuse. As a rule of thumb, my colleague Sean Wright would suggest you ask yourself a simple question when looking at your content: “Does this have the potential to be reused across different channels? If the answer is yes, then make it reusable”. This thinking can lead to identifying types like testimonials, reviews, and social media posts.
In addition, you can also think about how frequently you need to update something across multiple channels. To use an example, values or numbers that are changing in time and are mentioned on multiple pages across one or more websites, such as "number of happy customers", "years on the market", "projects delivered", or “percentage rates” and prices, can be very painful to manually update. However, if they are managed as reusable content, it will ensure all your corporate communication channels are delivering the same consistent messaging and statistics.
Another tip would be to look for assets that are expensive to produce or particularly dense and lengthy, such as infographics, visual product walkthroughs, interactive objects, content stored in sections like topic hubs, or even product manuals. And don’t just consider them as a whole asset, in some of the denser, lengthier assets, you might find a wealth of things that could be reused. In a product manual, for example, you could identify which elements could be created and used independently to deliver even more value to your business – diagrams, use cases, quotes, etc. Transitioning content from channel-specific to channel-agnostic usually means separating the core content from any presentational/digital experience concerns.
Make sure you take note of the dialects and the languages you support too!
You’ll be surprised by how much content is reusable, and how much reusability can maximize your content investment!
And of course, there are things that just shouldn’t be reused, so you should take note of these as well. The more channel agnostic content is, the more reusable it is. Content designed for a specific channel, like a website for example, might not necessarily be reusable for emails or social posts. You might decide, for example, that your historical articles are never going to be reused and are only ever going to appear on one particular website, so it makes more sense to keep them channel-specific and take a web-centric authoring approach for them.
Define a schema for each reusable content type.
Reusable content items and ‘content containers’ like webpages and email newsletters can all be defined in terms of their data structure – containing things in common such as an image banner, a heading, an introductory paragraph, etc. Depending on which authoring approach you’ve decided to take, you can make each data element either reusable or single use. The more modular you wish to be, the more your ‘content containers’ will be populated with reusable content items (i.e., a structured content model).
Reusable content items can be approached in the same way. Each content item should be consistent, so you can create a content type schema to define what content they contain and what the order of that content should be. You can even make certain data entry fields mandatory if you wish.
Determine what your taxonomy needs to be.
How do you want to categorize your content? Grouping your content items into classifications or topics can help authors find relevant reusable content more easily, enables systems to serve up relevant recommendations, and can be used on your external touch points for helping your customers filter through large amounts of content (for example on a blog or B2B product catalogue and find exactly what they were looking for.
Consider any review/approval workflows and associated roles.
Who contributes reusable content to your content repository? In addition to your marketing team members, other people may be contributing to your content, such as Subject Matter Experts and external translators. As a result, you might want to add some governance around who can publish content as well as whether content contributions should be checked for quality. Defining workflows for publishing pages and emails or reviewing content that has been uploaded to your content repository, are important for guaranteeing you have the best quality content to work with. You’ll need to ensure you have more than just one approver if you want to avoid the dreaded ‘they’re on vacation’ task blocker!
If you are reusing content across multiple channels, then you will need to think about how to manage these items during workflows. Many people want to lock content during workflows to avoid someone accidently changing something that is under review, but in most cases, you will also want that content to be used on other channels as is, and for it to benefit from being automatically updated from the source. Rules around who has permissions to update source content and the implications of those updates should be clear and known to your team members.
Look out for areas to optimize.
As time marches on, keep an eye on how your team is creating and managing content. Some ‘reg flag behaviors’ that could sink all your effort into reusability could be:
Editors duplicating content between marketing channels. Duplicate content in separate channels could be a symptom of creating content without first defining marketing goals. If goals are defined first, it will be easier to plan the reusable multichannel content. But if duplicate content has already snuck into your content repository, plan the creation of, or conversion to, reusable channel-agnostic content and remove the duplicates to keep your repository ‘clean’.
Editors creating long pages of content using a WYSIWYG or rich text editor. Set up a workshop or devote some time with your team to siphon out any rich media or descriptive text that could be used more than once and see if the page content can be structured more using a content type schema.
Time to get started…
Equipped with these basics, you can start to strategize how you will organize and set up your content in your new CMS or DXP. If you need help, reach out to a digital agency that specializes in this type of marketing technology and they should be able to walk you through the process of auditing content and setting up a content model with your specific goals and business needs in mind.
Oh, and then you can start quietly crunching the numbers to see how much more content you can actually work with now, and how much more value you have just managed to get out of your existing content!
Learn more about creating the best content for your customers in our whitepaper Content respect or content madness?