May 20, 2019
Content Matters Podcast: Active Content Governance with Chris Willis, CMO Acrolinx

Content marketing has greatly changed the way companies talk to and engage with audiences. Customer self-service and support have changed the way they support and communicate with customers. There has been an explosion of content that has helped many organizations drive success, but it hasn't happened without many challenges. Because it's not just about content creation, it's about creating impactful content.

Chris Willis, CMO of Acrolinx, an AI-powered content governance solution joined us on the Content Matters podcast to talk about active content governance and how his company empowers their clients to create content that aligns with their strategy and brand.

Chaos in the Engine

All this content development may be great, but it's causing inefficiencies and expense. There are a lot of hands involved in getting content written and approved for publishing. It's even worse for global companies because they don't simply hire great writers who can immediately create great content. Instead, they look to their subject matter experts (SME) to supply the base content that then needs to go through editorial review, then context review and more.

And it's not just traditional marketing content we're talking about. It's very often highly technical content that requires an editor to do more than review for grammar. Will said there is often so much back and forth review before it ever goes to an approval process. It can be an endless cycle to the point where the content is no longer useful.

Willis said that in their research, 50% of content created through this crazy editorial review, then approval review process is never used; it's no longer timely, important, or relevant. Tie this to the digital shift, Willis said, where the focus on customer experience is driving activities related to strengthening and differentiating the brand, and you know there's a big problem.

Here are a couple more stats that Willis offered: 87% believe content drives their brand and 97% of those think the requirement for content continues to grow.

Strategy-Aligned Content

To resolve the chaos that exists with content creation, you must implement governance over the way words are created, according to Willis. Your company should speak with one clear voice – whether that’s within a business unit (you must start somewhere) or organization-wide. That’s what Acrolinx brings to the table: an AI-powered solution that supports a delivery strategy aligned to creating content at scale.

He explained that a CMO, like himself, would whiteboard out the brand strategy: the message, the voice, the tone, the brand, and he would communicate it to the team. But then writers would go out and write content and all the effort to define the brand goes out the window – it's not followed. To avoid that you digitize the whiteboard and make it actionable.

Acrolinx captures the whiteboard and then runs it against content. It “finds the delta between what you think you are creating and what you are actually creating.” Your content is scored against many factors, including its alignment to the expected tone of voice, to terminology, clarity, multiple voices, and so on. You get an actual score that represents how well your content is aligned and when companies do this, Willis said, very often they find it's not aligned with the company brand.

Built-in automation also enables Acrolinx to connect directly to a repository and analyze the content. It scores it and provides feedback to the writers for fixes. The writers can then fix the content, it’s analyzed again, and when it’s ready, it’s submitted for review and approval. This process, according to Willis, enables a company to keep up with the speed of business. And in cases where technical content is involved – and it’s becoming more prevalent all the time – it's critical to have that speed.

Individual, But One

All this effort to write to brand is not about removing the individual voices of thought leaders within a company. What's required is a hierarchical set of rules, in which there are some things that must be said a certain way in all cases. And then there are things you say a certain way depending on the author, and - maybe more importantly - the audience consuming the content.

An example Willis provided: A pharmaceutical company would write a piece of content that is worded one way for a fifty-five-year-old male and another way for the nursing mother. Same information worded to speak to the content consumer.

Active Content Governance

Everyone has a concept of governance, Willis said, but active governance is different. It's creating a deliberate approach to rules and processes to create content.

He likened it to content strategy - understanding what content is for and making sure it meets those goals. Active content governance is a set of tools and guidelines designed to eliminate issues early in the content creation process. Willis said it allows anyone who writes content to deliver it ready for review right out of the gate, allowing that review process to focus on what the words say and mean rather than errors in the writing.

Good vs. Done

What does good mean? "When I say so." Good is subjective, and every person who reviews a piece of content has a different idea of what is "good." And that's not great. It makes getting a piece of content "done" that much harder.

When you implement active content governance, you are taking that process of determining "good" out of the hands of people and helping ensure it aligns with the objectives you set out at the beginning. When you drive a writer to use the tools that will make the content better, you will get consistency in style, tone of voice, and brand. And it's not about a robot reading your work and judging you, often like what an editor might do (and think about the editor that's having a bad day!).

Active content governance can make your writers better and faster out of the gate - something that is not only good for them but your company.

Listen to the full podcast linked here. Willis provides tons of great examples of how active content governance improves your content and helps your brand succeed.