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What’s the deal with intelligent content?

It isn’t intrinsically “intelligent” nor is it content. So what is it?

In the history of content marketing, intelligent content is one of the more confusing terms. It isn’t intrinsically “intelligent” nor is it content. It’s more descriptive of a methodology or approach, writes Amanda Woodard.

Combining the two words, the term has been coined to mean the way content is organised and managed so that is has the potential to be used intelligently (Presumably, when content isn’t marshalled in this way, it becomes “dumb content” or at most, “pretty average content”) – to meet the differing needs of the audience and maximise the reach and impact of the content in question.

Where to start?

The intelligent content approach begins by thinking about who your audience is and what they want from your content. Do they want to be entertained or educated? Is it to arouse their interest or to prove a point? The purpose and intention of your content will determine the format, the tone, the writing style, the length and design elements, not necessarily in that order. For example, if you’re trying to argue and convince an audience of a particular point of view, but instead you sound like you’re trying to educate them, that content will be undermined and probably miss the mark.

But first things first. So much discussion about content marketing begins with the premise that you “start with a great piece of content” as if this is the easy bit. It isn’t. Great content is rare. Mundane content is the norm and we at Mahlab hate the norm (recognise the shift in tone from explaining to selling?).

But back to the process. Once we have our elegantly-crafted, mesmerising piece of content, we must learn how to handle it to get the most out of it, to reuse it so that everyone can enjoy and benefit from it. What that means is producing modular content that can stand alone or be incorporated easily with other modules with minimal editing.

The Ikea of content

I prefer to think of intelligent content as like looking at an abstract sculpture from all angles. Where the front is depends on your point of view. Different perspectives offer different light and shadow, the shape changes as you move around it, and standing back and seeing it in relation to the environment in which the sculpture is set, gives the content other meanings altogether.

Or, to give a more prosaic example. Say, I’m interviewing a well-known figure in the world of business for a long-form feature in a print magazine. I can skillfully convey this person’s past experience, his world view, his ideas and ambitions and I can capture my impressions of who he is through our interaction and his behaviour as well as interviewing other people who know him well or who have done business with him.

Other audiences are more visual. They want the same kind of quality content provided by my probing questions but they like to see the guy answer the questions directly on video. They want to see what tie he’s wearing, what his office looks like and the animation (or evasiveness) in his face when he’s talking about his latest pet project.

Then there are my audience members in a hurry who want the headlines from what our interviewee has told me. They want the highlights or perhaps they need a key points summary of useful content that they can refer to, learn from and access in their own time. Ideally, my highlights will be enticing enough for them to go back and read or view online the longer interview at a later date.

Get your money’s worth

It’s not just a case of having quality content, it is content that reaches the audience on the optimum platform for them at the optimum time. Therefore one piece of content can be repurposed across many different platforms so you can squeeze every bit of value out of it.

This was a concept discussed by Geraint Holliman, then Director of Strategy and Head of Content Marketing at DIRECTIONGROUP, at Content Marketing World in Sydney in March. Holliman, who is based in the UK, is known for writing the first paper on the concept of content marketing – so he is a good person to listen to when it comes to content theory.

“This isn’t just about creating content,” he says. “This is about an all encompassing approach to managing out content marketing efforts. We don’t need a factory; we need a Content Marketing Engine.”

In his session, titled ‘Building a Content Marketing Engine’, he discussed the concept of a ‘Content Wheel of Luuuurrve’. In principle this is the idea whereby from one piece of content, you can produce up to 20 pieces of content.

In practice

The concept of using content multiple ways is an appealing one, especially as we are all increasingly pressed for time. Some of the more successful content marketing strategies in recent years have been conducted by charities, who we know often have to run campaigns on a limited budget.

Take UK mental health charity Time to Change which aims to lift the stigma and discrimination around mental health issues. Its website is well designed with stacks of information for those seeking more information about mental health: from tackling myths around particular illnesses, to direct contact information for support services, it provides real value to its visitors.

Refocusing their content to attract a wider audience, the organisation initiated a Time To Talk Day to bring mental health issues out into the open by encouraging people to share their personal stories. In 2014, 1,066,506 conversations took place with more than 88,000 of those online. Using the #TimeToTalk hashtag, more than 51,000 messages were posted over Facebook and Twitter and publicised in a well-coordinated multi-media Storystream. To complement this social media presence, Time to Change established a live blog to broadcast the day’s highlights and launched Take 5 To Blog, an initiative for which website visitors were invited to share their experiences with mental health issues in five short sentences.

Central to the campaign’s success was its ability to bring together content from different platforms, repackage it and amplify it so the audience has many different opportunities to access it.

Content does not have to be reused 20 times to make it intelligent, thought just has to be given to how it can be best curated across the platforms available to you. Intelligent content, ultimately, is about using your own time intelligently.

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