Next week I’m attending (and speaking at) the first Content Strategy Forum in Paris. I’m intrigued by the discipline of content strategy because I believe that now, more than ever before, content strategy is critical for designing a holistic customer experience. No longer will content be thought of as a necessary evil (technical how to information) or blatantly promotional (I’m so great, buy me).
Before listing my 10 reasons, I’ll share some definitions for the terms I’m using:
Customer: The person who’s needs you want to satisfy and whom you want to delight. In other words, the person you’re designing for, whether you’re a:
- Organization designing product or service experiences for customers or clients
- Government agency designing programs or services for citizens
- Hospital or health unit designing health experiences for patients
- Educational institution designing learning experiences for students
- IT, HR, Finance, or Legal department within an organization designing application or service experiences for internal customers
Customer experience: “Perception that customers have of their interactions with an organization.” I like this definition by Bruce Temkin for two reasons. First, by using the word perception, he hits on the emotional aspect of what a customer experiences and the memories these perceptions create. Second, it focuses on interactions. Interactions imply a dialog, extend across time, and occur across a wide variety of moments and touchpoints. All these moments of interaction and the perception that forms combine to shape and form overall holistic experience.
Holistic customer experience: Hmmm, could just reuse Bruce’s definition and scrap the holistic part. But every organization tells a story, either by design or as an afterthought. So I like holistic customer experience as a phrase to express how we can influence the total experience through interactions that are crafted and coordinated by design. Magic occurs when we hide our back end systems, processes, and silos and craft engaging, memorable, and meaningful interactions that work together in harmony across touchpoints throughout the customer lifecycle. As Rahul Sen so concisely states, it’s “perfecting the craft of thinking and doing as a whole.”
Exposing inner workings results in a fragmented customer experience. Designing an overall story across interactions and time, adding a layer of magic on top of internal systems and processes, leads to a more holistic customer experience. (Diagram from Brandon Schauer’s The (Near) Future of Designing Experiences.)
Content strategy: The design of content experiences. “Content strategy is an emerging field of practice encompassing every aspect of content, including its design, development, analysis, presentation, measurement, evaluation, production, management, and governance.” – Jeffrey MacIntyre
10 reasons content strategy is essential when designing a holistic customer experience
- A holistic experience requires an overarching frame or story to shape choices. Content strategy can serve as the story’s blueprint for an increasingly diverse set of content creators.
- Customers are looking for meaning. By telling a story, great content conveys meaning.
- To tell a story, you need a voice. A voice requires a personality that emerges through each interaction. Content needs to express that personality.
- Content is a social object. Social objects stimulate conversations and as a result form social networks. Social networks help build relationships.
- Because of the increasing complexity of the conversations happening across social networks, we need to design content for emergence: “CS is about mastering the tiny—the power of data, contained and defined in those XML containers to bubble up via SEO and SEM—in the realm of the massive. As destination websites and traditional brand marketing give way to the artful arrangement and deployment of billions of nuggets of containerized info that can be reused, recycled, retweeted, reblogged, and otherwise recirculated in the vast data anarchy of the Googleplex, content strategy is the only measured response marketers and media companies have to get their stuff out there.” Craig Brombery
- Designers shape behaviour. Content is one of the critical elements for shaping behaviour. Great content nudges and influences.
- Traditional forms of push marketing and advertising are dying. A purchase is just the beginning of an experience journey that can start well before a purchase and extend into a relationship that lasts for many years. Content marketing turns organizations into publishers.
- Content has its own journey. Birth, childhood, rebellious teenage years (leading to raging debates), retirement, and finally death. Without a plan for this lifecycle, a mess disrupts the experience.
- There’s a mountain of content behind the scenes. This supporting content and backstage crew are essential in delivering the front end experience.
- <ok, I ran out of steam before I got to a 10th reason… any takers?>