So, I was speaking at a technology event this week, and the audience was full of technical content specialists. In a talk that preceded mine, one of the speakers got up and said something that made me laugh out loud. (I told him I was going to steal it.) This is what he said:
“Marketing is unstructured.”
His point, and it was a good one, was that enterprise content strategy practitioners focusing on the tagging/metadata side of things have to be proactive and work with their marketing counterparts – because marketers aren’t very good at (nor do they desire to be) structuring content in a way that makes it easily scalable or re-usable. But of course, if asked, they want the result of that work produces.
That got me to thinking even more about his statement. And, really, it’s even more true than the topic to which the speaker alluded. There’s lots of talk these days about how “content is just data.” Of course it’s not. It’s much more than that. But hold that thought a moment.
Second, while I was at that event I received a link to a press release from an enterprise content technology company that sells to marketers. I won’t quote the press release here; I don’t intend to throw them under the bus (although if you Google those phrases together you may find the bus stop). Within the first three sentences (I’m not even kidding here) they said that their “optimization platform” enables business content to become “engines for revenue generation.” And they said that their “unique machine learning algorithms,” in turn, would provide the organization with not only “agility” but also “scalability” and a newfound power to create “deeper, more relevant experiences for site visitors.”
And the sad fact is, that some marketers will actually believe this is true.
Okay, then just one more. You might remember this recent story about a Comcast customer service representative who changed a customer’s first name to “A—hole.” There were apparently a number of these kinds of incidents. The company apologized and then said they were “looking into technology solutions to prevent future problems of this nature.”
Maybe they should look to the technology mentioned above. Perhaps the “machine learning algorithms” would have transformed that “a—hole” message into an “engine for revenue”.
There are two equal truths here. One: Marketing is unstructured – and becoming more so. Two: Neither technology nor structure, itself, prevents our content from becoming broken (both literally and figuratively).
If large enterprises are going to get their arms around scalable, content-driven experiences, marketers are going to have to become more adept – mostly through partnership with their content strategist counterparts – at structuring communications so that they can be reused, repurposed, and used intelligently. In short: businesses just have to start recognizing that this approach is an important function in the business.
At the same time, we need to realize that, in the end, content technology doesn’t enable anything by itself. Ultimately, you can spend years, trying to break down your content strategy into ever smaller fields, structuring those fields so that even “unstructured marketers” understand the limits of what they can put in there. But no structural strategy in the world can stop a person from replacing the content in the FirstName field with “A—hole.”
In other words, it’s not the fields that create the experience. It’s what goes in them.
This post originally appears on LinkedIn.