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Improve your Omnichannel Delivery with a Microcontent Strategy

By Kathryn Torriano, Associate Information Architect at Precision Content

Improve omnichannel delivery with a microcontent strategyFrom print, to voice, to chatbots, and back again: users are rapidly moving across channels to find the information they need, when and where they need it.

As users rove across your company’s content, you have to ask yourself whether your content delivery is effective across all of these channels. At CIDM’s ConVEx 2021 virtual conference, I joined Precision Content’s Joyce Lam to discuss microcontent strategies and how they can prepare your content for supporting effective reuse throughout an organization.

In this post, I want to expand on the content preparation aspect of our presentation and refocus on the three ways you can ensure your content can be implemented for any publication channel. (Precision Content also teaches how you can do this for your organization).

Writing for user intent

Omnichannel publishing is about delivering the right content, on the right set of channels, at the right moment to provide the most value to the user.

This means you need to have a single source of content–most likely within a Component Content Management System (CCMS)–and the means to output that content to different publication media, including PDF, responsive HTML, and whatever other media your users want. To determine which content is the “right” content for the user, you need to determine its intent and identify how and where this information will best serve a user.

Precision Content categorizes information by intent using five information types predicated on OASIS DITA’s original three. We’ve added process and principle to the pre-existing task, concept, and reference as we believe they further address additional user informational needs. Each of these information types can be mapped to a question:

  • Concept – What is this?
  • Task – How do I do this?
  • Reference – What are the specifications?
  • Process – How does this work?
  • Principle – What are the rules?

Each of these information types can work with a channel that can serve a user seeking a specific type of information. For example, task information can be effectively used in a chatbot when a user is seeking instructions. Concept information can be repurposed for a Twitter post defining what a product is. Process information is effective when employed as print on the back of a receipt or online conveying the stages to fulfill a product return or exchange on a product-specific webpage. The right content for the right channel can be matched by writing to intent.

But how can this content be structured to be used in the most effective way?

Developing a microcontent strategy

Originally coined by Dr. Jakob Nielson in the early 1990s, “microcontent” refers to content that is about one primary idea written to be easily scannable, clearly labeled, and appropriately formatted for any context.

An effective microcontent strategy establishes a set of guidelines to aid in the production of content that is structured into single-subject focused blocks that can be isolated from its primary topic and remain understandable. Some of these guidelines that you can put in place include limiting your blocks to four to six sentences written in the active voice, writing to a single subject instead of a whole topic, and titling each block with a label that clearly explains the subject of the block. These blocks can be organized and reorganized to comprise websites, documents, APIs, snippets, and more. When you have effectively applied microcontent strategies in building your content, the product of your labour can be reused in a variety of channels.

This quality of content ensured by following microcontent strategies are effective in delivering content that can be reused in a variety of mediums to support omnichannel delivery strategies.

The same block of content used in a printed brochure can be used on a webpage, and again in an answer from a chatbot.

However, how does this content get to all these platforms? How does a system know what to do with these blocks of content? This is one more step to making your content omnichannel-ready.

Importance of using rich metadata

Incorporate rich metadata into your microcontent blocks to enable greater reusability. Through the use of tags, metadata provides information on content. Metadata also relates information that not only describes content, but also its lifecycle, mode of delivery, and its relationships to other content blocks. Metadata semantically organizes blocks of content so that it is findable and relevant, not just for users directly, but for search engines spidering the content on your website, chatbots seeking relevant answers, and other ways to disseminate your content when and where it is needed.

To build out your microcontent strategy at scale, we need to look at how we extract metadata from the authoring environment at the time of publishing. This allows us to wrap each microcontent block with contextual, administrative, and subject-based metadata to allow it to be used in an omnichannel delivery capacity.

Metadata further enables data tracking, so information can be gathered on user clicks when navigating from one page to another. Gathering these metrics is essential when building omnichannel delivery as the information collected provides new insights as to what type of information users are seeking. Omnichannel delivery relies heavily on the user journey and the activities they perform at each touchpoint. With these metrics, content can be designed to better suit the intent of the user.

It’s worth keeping in mind that the user journey through an omnichannel system is not linear, as things change over time. It is iterative, and the metrics gained through the use of metadata aids in defining user needs and matching them to the business requirements of content delivery.

Writing for intent, employing microcontent strategies, and using metadata are three ways that can advance your omnichannel delivery. To learn more on how to employ these strategies, Precision Content is offering Precision Content Writer Training to teach writers information design strategies to improve your organization’s overall content delivery. It is designed to teach content creators modern information design strategies proven to make content easier to use for the people that need it and the systems that manage it.

About the Author

Kathryn Torriano is an Associate Information Architect for Precision Content Authoring Solutions, a member of the Society for Technical Communication (STC), and an active member of the McMaster University Alumni Association. Kathryn is continuously inspired by her colleagues and the words of her favourite authors. With years of experience in research, technical writing, DITA, and content strategy, Kathryn works to expand and contribute to the field of Information Architecture.

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