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Category Archives: Content strategy

Adaptive content modelling for omnichannel UX (Congility 2014 workshop)

This is the second time I have attended Noz Urbina’s adaptive content modelling workshop. And while it is a subject I know very well myself, he still managed to spring some surprises on me – thoughts, concepts that had not previously formed in my mind; background research information of no insignificant value. Read more of this post


The biological imperative (ICC2014)

The highlight of Intelligent Content Conference – at least for me – was Noz Urbina’s presentation that caps over two years of research into how the mind works, and the consequences of this on how we communicate… on how we need to design our communications so they are most effective.

To influence behaviour, we must understand behaviour. And behaviour begins and ends in the mind.

So, to the mind. As humans, we are born with our brains unformed. The new-born’s brain is a single large mass: not yet divided into hemispheres, the cortex lacking the crinkles we expect to see. That definition of the brain’s structure comes from learning. And learning is the construction of semantic models. Indeed, we have a natural need to create models. (Infants who are aware there are models they could be creating, but denied access to the experimentation to build them – e.g. they can only watch others play, not participate themselves – will express their frustration loudly.)

But… Read more of this post

… in “static” and “mobile” contexts (ICC2014)

Though Christiaan Lustig’s session was actually titled “Dealing with top tasks in ‘static’ and ‘mobile’ contexts,” the most important point was not about the top tasks per se, but a better understanding of what the term “mobile context” should really mean.

We hear repeatedly (from the likes of Karen McGrane) that mobile is massive – that a huge portion of the population only have mobile devices, and that for many it is their only means of accessing the web. Consequently, they say, the mobile context is really important.

Christiaan’s take is different. Starting with an example of checking train times in a Dutch site, he explained how the night before, his need was to find the right route, and understand how long the journey would be. But on the day of travel, while stuck on a train that was delayed by 10 minutes, his use of the same site related to understanding the impact of that delay on a journey he was in the middle of – how the missed connection would impact the remainder of his trip. Read more of this post

Breaking down barriers (ICC2014)

As part of the general events at Intelligent Content Conference, Ann Rockley (AR) moderated a panel discussion on the wider aspects of content, breaking down the barriers between content strategy, content marketing and the technology that supports them. The panellists were: Kristina Halvorson (KH), Joe Pulizzi (JP), Buddy Scalera (BS), and Cleve Gibbon (CG).

Starting from the strategy perspective, Kristina reminded us that the deluge of useless stuff we are experiencing on the internet is largely a result of the “get content, get customers” mind set. Which we all know does not work. Instead, she suggests, we need to focus on strategy, and the mechanism whereby it focuses us by removing inappropriate options.

Buddy raised the interesting, and germane, point that analytics is a skewed approach to understanding what our customer base wants, and how we can best serve them. If we focus solely on those who come to us, and predominantly on those who interact, we are missing the voices of the majority who do not. The experiences and opinions gathered are distorted by the interactions we have made available; the messages we have used to communicate.

Also, he pointed out that the general metaphor of a “marketing funnel” used so freely by those in marketing is inherently flawed. If you tried to fill up the car using a “funnel” that only got 10% of your fuel into the tank… Read more of this post

Using co-creation to make design solutions that work (Euro IA 2013)

With a title that includes a potentially ambiguous word, Koen Perters‘ talk started with intrigue. It went on to deliver meaningful value, inspiration, and ideas on ways of… letting go.


Co-creation is an approach to consultancy that builds not on being the genius-expert with all the answers to every question, but a facilitator who can tease the meaningful answers out of the client. On the one hand, it delivers results that the client feels more attached to, because they participated in defining them. On the other, it can leave them feeling they actually did all the work.

In order to work, it is a mindset that needs to be maintained throughout a project’s lifespan; if it is abandoned after the initial sessions, it is no more than a kick-off workshop. This requires far more commitment of key client stakeholders, team members and users than other approaches based on handing off the work and receiving back a set of deliverables. It helps cross-pollinate, exposing different parties to each others’ ideas and challenges. Read more of this post

CS Forum 2013 Closing panel

CS Forum 2013’s closing panel was a strange affair. Moderated by Cleve Gibbon, it saw six of the event’s speakers sharing the stage in various degrees of repose – though not quite all at the same time. The panellists were: Kristina Halvorson (KH), Katrina Craigwell (KC), Daniel Eizans (DE), Jarkko Kurvinen (JK), Jeff Eaton (JE) and Margot Bloomstein (MB).


The starting subject was a simple one: how does one go about selling content strategy in to clients? As can be expected, the answers quickly drifted off track, but there was entertainment to be had therein.

Fundamentally, the answers provided were basic business: demonstrate return on investment, be honest and trustworthy; then people will want to do business with you. Don’t try blinding clients with science: they really don’t care how you are going to achieve the strategy; they want the results. Also, show some restraint – you may need to be on every new social trend, but most of your clients probably don’t. Let’s face it, if you are resorting to the channel as the message, you probably have a content problem. (The same goes for gimmick content.) Read more of this post

Content Strategy for Slow Experiences

After a manic couple of days, it’s only fair that the closing note – pre panel – of CS Forum should be Margot Bloomstein discussing the need to slow down a little – to consider that not all things need to happen at a breakneck pace.


There is an industry trend towards efficiency; usually read as getting them in and out the door as quickly as possible. But is this really the best thing to be doing? There are many aspects of our lives where we want to move more slowly – where we want to stop and smell the roses. If we want to do that, doesn’t it make sense that others might not be in such a rush either?

Alongside the idea that speed might not be all-important, there are other scenarios where we need to consider slowing things down a little. If there is some external factor that limits speed – that imposes a wait – what can we do to make it a more engaging, interesting and enriching pause? Read more of this post

Content Strategy for B2B

While most people were off at Hawk Thompson’s talk on native advertising (which everyone seemed to agree was fabulous), I opted instead for the one subject session from which I was not aiming to learn in order to apply to client scenarios, but for the development of my own business – using content strategy in a business to business situation: how to sell my own endeavours.


In their talk, Kati Keronen (KK) and Katri Tanni (KT) tackled content paradigms from the perspective of communications between companies. While this is a different situation to the sales and marketing that many companies deal with when selling directly to end-consumers, there are parallels. And many of the learnings that seem more intuitive when considering the effectively peer-to-peer world of B2B can actually yield great benefits when applied to B2C.

There is a huge disparity between (honest) sales and marketing. The marketing world live for their slogans, their hyperboles; but an honest sale is about a conversation, and identifying if what you have to offer fills a real need. Understanding this distinction between pushing and serving explains why in a B2B conversation, the buyer wants to talk to a person – someone who can adapt to their needs and answer their specific questions. A site can’t do that. Read more of this post

The Content Strategy of Thought Leadership (CS Forum 2013)

It’s not surprising that Stacey Gordon mentioned that the first rule of Thought Leadership is “Don’t mention Thought Leadership.” In her CS Forum talk, she went on to explain how it is the result of an attitude and behaviour, not a manipulatable marketing tool. It just happens to have great results when it is a natural result of expertise.


Fundamentally, thought leadership is the consequence of being an expert and a pioneer within your field. It is about expanding a discipline; giving to the community.  As such, while there are huge rewards to be garnered in the form of professional reputation, and consequently marketing value, it is not a “game” that can be cheated. It is not a marketing strategy. (This notwithstanding, the term has such strong connotations, almost two thirds of business-to-business companies think they are involved in it.) Read more of this post