30 May 2017
Barbara Werdmuller
Barbara Werdmuller

Structured content: Conditional for the success of your desired chatbot

Information Energy is the annual gathering of information professionals taking place in Utrecht, the Netherlands. In the recent 2017 edition the core question was: what will the organization and use of information look like in the context of Industry 4.0? In this piece I reflect on my learnings in this inspirational event. Read about personas that are no longer valid than half an hour and the business value of a matching approach: applying structured content (which is, to quote expert Rahel Anne Baillie, way more than working with headers). And last but not least: how to sell this approach to your colleagues.

Personas 4.0: Not longer valid than
half an hour

Entering the age of high contextualization

Now we enter the fourth industrial revolution of automation and data exchange (Industry 4.0) we also enter the age of high contextualization. As Ray Gallon points out: one of the most important products of Industry 4.0 will be information. Key is context-sensing technology. Your smartphone already has transmuted from a phone to an internet terminal and right now is mutating to a context sensor. Your smartphone already knows where you are, whether you’re moving or not and which communication channels you prefer. It detects objects, conditions (like lighting or pressure) and elements in your proximity. And soon, it will know your current time (local, season, day, date), demographics (like age, family situation), physical condition (like heart rate, perspiration, respiration) and mental condition (like stress level or anxiety) as well. User-centered designers be aware: personas 4.0 are not longer valid than half an hour, but change every minute!

When you don’t know what metadata is, you’re a copywriter, not a content strategist

Structured content: More than working with headers

How can we produce personalized information that is geared towards the user’s needs, on a minute-by-minute basis? And, in this age of instant messaging and social media, how do we create content that is suitable for conversational interfaces like chatbots? How do we get the right answer to the right person at the right time?

Ray Gallon and Rahel Anne Bailie stress the same fundamental idea: by applying molecular or modular content. Think of autonomous blocks of information that can be used, re-used and auto-generated by reference.

Vehicle to gear content to the user’s needs and context are metadata: information on the information in the molecules. These metadata indicate semantic categories and enable machines to ‘know’ things about content and potentially act on it. In case of recipes think of semantic categories like:

  • dish type (like soup, side dish, desert)
  • complexity (like starter, experienced or professional level)
  • occasion (like time of year, holidays)
  • or suitability (like appropriateness for children, vegetarians or diabetics)

Content should be continuously updated and (potentially) ‘omnipresent’: accessible, searchable and findable on all kinds of platforms and devices. To fulfill this purpose the content should be delivered rather than published: no COPE (‘Create Once Publish Everywhere’), but CODE (‘Create Once Delivered Everywhere’).

Structured content: a small investment
for big gains

The hidden potential of structured content

Structured content enables distribution of content and access to content on the right platform, for the right audience, at the right moment, through the right channel, in the right format, version and language. And it’s not only the user in a specific context that profits from this approach. As Rahel Anne Bailie summarizes: more semantics, more ROI. (Semantic) metadata helps your organization:

  • increasing the potential of content
  • securing consistency
  • and enforcing brand experience.

But it also attributes to:

  • reducing administrative overhead
  • facilitating operations like re-usage and translation
  • and saving on maintenance, in terms of time and money

Though the benefits of structured content seem quite clear, in reality many organizations cope with a lack of knowledge and expertise on the structuring of content and semantics. So, for information professionals it can be quite hard to persuade the business to embrace a different approach.

Don’t talk about content 4.0 or 5.0 but reframe it to business value!

I get it. But how do I convince my colleagues?

Rahel Anne Bailie and Erik Hartman provide some useful tips for ‘selling’ structured content in your organzation:

  1. Avoid talking about persona 4.0 or content 4.0. Instead focus on the main business problem and business value. In the financial industry, for example, ruling and auditing by supervisors can be a convincing argument to embrace structuring of content and working from one content source.
  2. Proof inconsistencies in the existing distributed content. Collect examples and give insight in the scale of the problem by using statistics (like the presence of duplicate or inconsistent content on different channels, or the amount of complaints or questions from customers related to specific content).
  3. Point out the relevancy of content in selling core products or providing core services by the organization. Apply a content journey for gaining insight in context variables, content needs and applicable content types.
  4. Get an executive sponsor that’s on your side and willing to help evangelizing in the organization.
  5. Make your first efforts for improvement small, tangible and relevant. Start with (a selection of) high value content that is suitable for re-usage on several devices and/or in several channels.

Digital transformation is a business change, not just a process or tool change

Final words

In many organizations the importance of content is (still) underrated. In these circumstances it requires much effort and persuasiveness from an information specialist to gain acceptance for a different content approach. But in the long term (probably faster than we think) growing demands of customers for personalized information and efficient communication through instant messaging will enforce organizations to order their content.

Right now, conversational interfaces like chatbots are creating a lot of buzz. These bots could be an excellent opportunity to create momentum in your organization for (re)structuring of content.

The experience of attendants of Information Energy 2017 learns that such a digital transformation is not only about tools or processes. It’s above all about people!
To create understanding and support it is important that we, information specialists, share our knowledge outside our niche. When and how are you going to share your expertise with you colleagues?

Let’s shape the future of information!

Interesting reading material

Information Energy 2017

Presentations of speakers on Information Energy 2017 (tcworld GmbH)
Control | An #ien2017 Recap (Bas Evers)
In Dutch – Bereid je voor: Van toekomstbestendige content naar echte chatbots (Daphne Shinn)

Content journeys

Consistent content in the complete customer journey (Informaat)

Context and contextuality

Context sensing and Information 4.0 (Ray Gallon and Andy Mc Donald)

Conversational UI

Conversational UI needs AI (Henk Westerhof)

About the author

Barbara Werdmuller (/barbarawerdmuller) joined Informaat in 2008. Since then she has worked as a content designer with large private-sector companies (banking, insurance) and public-sector organizations (ministries and government agencies). Her expertise ranges from content design, content management, content migrations to content strategy. In the past few years, Barbara explored the technique of customer journey mapping.

Content strategy (20), Events (26)