A Call For Contextual Content Strategy

I have a confession to make. I’m starting to care less, and less about creating content strategies for marketing campaigns and Web sites and starting to care more and more about how the content we produce is computed by the brain.

Today, I’d rather eschew my marketing hat entirely and focus on something I’d ultimately like to take on through research – the creation of an entirely different form of content strategy that shapes content planning, creation plans and governance models based on data that comes from how the brain processes, learns, stores and utilizes information that publishers present to it.

I’d loosely definine this practice as “Contextual Content Strategy.” This goes so far beyond the idea of creating useable content that I wonder if its something that can be taken on with sincerity. To be honest, without extensive neuropsychological study or neuroscientific discovery, I doubt that the level of detail I’d want to achieve could be obtained, but I have always contended that true “contnet strategy” must look beyond the web and focus on how people learn and put information into context. I contend that that context should be brought down to the most specific of levels and appeal to individual brain functions.

I was first inspired to start looking at content in this different fashion after listening to a Tom Wujec talk about “three different ways the brain creates meaning.” Wujec gave this talk in February 2009 at the annual Ted Conference. He highlights a variety of brain functions throughout his discussion but nets out on the point that while we can comprehend and take in data through seeing or through discussion, we make meaning by seeing. Meaning, for most people as he puts it, is derived from an action of “visual interrogation.”

Three key takeaways:

1. Images (I’ll interpret these as being either static or motion assets) should be used to clarify meaning
2. Create Interaction with images to create relevance
3. Augment memory with persistance

This certainly isn’t a new concept, but it does call to attention a different reason for carefully selecting a graphic, illustration or animatic in that the visuals, coupled with copy can create deeper meaning and create a higher level of contextual relevance. More often than not, I’m finding that most content strategists become bored down with a metric rather than trying to determine if something is actually effective in its purpose. This is perhaps the most troubling thing for me to overcome when it comes to content strategy.

To me, it doesn’t seem ridiculous to believe that we’ll soon begin focusing on creating content based on how we know that it will be processed by individual clusters of firing neurons and the brain based on where it is consumed, the time of day, the type of device it’s delivered upon, the consumer’s physical location, cognitive state, etc. For the most part, all of these things are readily available to be indexed in databases. We can store that information, parse and compute it and create a custom set of delivery options that will resonnate directly with the way a particular individual learns, stores and connects with content. At this level, we’ll be able to be relevant to a consumer by understanding individual needs.

At the very least, we need to start thinking more proactively about versioning our web content based on devices beyond laptop/desktop/mobile/tablet technology and taking the various states of the user into mind when we’re creating contextual support for the content we’re producing.

  • Is the information visual as well as written in a way that most people can understand?
  • Do we need to provide additional background into a subject?
  • Are our assets supporting the key takeaways? How can they be modified, put into motion or augmented to create a more meaningful contextual connection?
  • These are the questions that good contextual content strategists will need to be answering in the future. The marketing persona and SEO can only do so much. Eventually we need to start thinking much deeper, into the way people consume information on the micro level in order to be truly useful, and in my opinion, the time for planning and worrying about those things starts now.

    Brain Image used under GNU Public License. Source : http://www.loria.fr/~rougier

    Join the discussion 2 Comments

    Leave a Reply

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.