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Published on October 11th, 2011 | by Rahel Bailie

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Turning Copy into Content

If copy is the message, then what, then, makes copy into content?  In a day when virtually all organizational content gets processed by some sort of technology I would say that that union of editorial structure and semantic structure is the complement that creates content.

Let’s start with the lowly Word document. How many of you use stylesheets to write your copy? That is, use it properly. Be honest;  nobody is watching you. What I’m talking about is about applying the right tags to the appropriate headings and subheadings, applying appropriate tags for the various list types,  and so on. Why is this important? Once you save this document as a PDF, this is what allows your generated Table of Contents – you did know that you can auto-generate all of your tables of authority and references, right? – to be hot-linked to the appropriate heading. It’s part of what makes your document meet accessiblility standards. Oh, and those same qualities make documents mobile-friendly, as well.  And do you add the metadata to the properties screen, and keywords that would help with internal search? If you do, you’re in the miniscule minority that does, because you understand how using the technical side of Word can be of benefit down the road.

Moving ahead to the example we used in the persuasive genre of copy. News releases are a type of content that organizations want to share. For more years than necessary, communications coordinators have cut-and-pasted news releases into various partner and distribution service sites. However, if the copy is created in a semantically structured format – that is,  with systemic attention to detail so that  other systems can understand and programmatically process the content – then it’s possible to leverage the content exponentially to get better value from it. For this example, I’m not debating whether the news release genre is dead, or what should go into a news release. This is about how to get the best use whatever content you do create. You do this with technology, which will be discussed in the next post.

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Next post: Defining content in the age of technology


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About the Author

Rahel Anne Bailie is a synthesizer of content strategy, requirements analysis, information architecture, and content management to increase the ROI of content. She has consulted for clients in a range of industries, and on several continents, whose aim is to better leverage their content as business assets. Founder of Intentional Design, she is now the Chief Knowledge Officer of London-based Scroll. She is a Fellow of the Society for Technical Communication, she has worked in the content business for over two decades. She is co-author of Content Strategy: Connecting the dots between business, brand, and benefits, and co-editor of The Language of Content Strategy, and is working on her third content strategy book,



One Response to Turning Copy into Content

  1. Chanda says:

    Rahel,

    This article of yours reminded me of my initial copyediting days. With so much patience and fear of my boss :), I used to refer stylesheet for taging headlines, quotes, equations, references. It was really fun and so much disciplined and organized. Thanks!

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