How to Improve Your Place on the Digital Content Spectrum

We're in a time of transition. From "traditional" ways of doing things to "digital" or otherwise "new" ways of doing things. The customer is in control. Where do you find yourself?

As Jared Spool said,

While I agree, I see more of a continuum, a digital content spectrum.

The digital content spectrum  ranges from putting stuff up on the web and blasting emails  to following modern design trends with org-centric IA and content to having a user-centered approach to digital communications to using structured content to publish across channels in a web publishing system to having a fully integrated digital marketing & communications and a headless CMS  

The digital content spectrum ranges from putting stuff up on the web and blasting emails  to following modern design trends with org-centric IA and content to having a user-centered approach to digital communications to using structured content to publish across channels in a web publishing system to having a fully integrated digital marketing & communications and a headless CMS

Here's the problem with times of transition: We're all over the place. But no matter where you are, there is something you can do to improve. Awareness is the first step toward change.


I'd argue that organizations on the left are in the "we don't know what we don't know" stage. A priority has not been placed on investment in digital communications. The reasons could range from low budget to having an audience that just doesn't engage online. What they don't know is that they don't have to invest much to catch up. They don't know that they could invest wisely and position themselves for success in the next decade.

How to shift right: Recognize the value of understanding the digital world. Take time to understand your audience today and who they will be in the next few of years. Leaders should learn what is needed to stay relevant and invest in the high value, low cost opportunities. Hire a reputable, independent consultant that will review your business strategy, audience, competition, and digital capabilities and make a roadmap for changes you can make over time. A good consultant will be focused on outcomes and value, not on selling a product or more services.

Pseudo-digital org

Meanwhile, most organizations know they need to put money into the web, but generally go for the low bidder and don't put a web professional in charge of the website. They "just want it done." Traditional marketers are in charge of email, which is disconnected from the website. The emails and website do not use responsive design and aren't usable on mobile phones. They have accounts on all the social media platforms but no one is really responsible or accountable for maintaining on them. Their audiences have a hard time engaging digitally, even though they likely want to. The website is seen as a cost center and just something that needs to be done because it's 2017.

How to shift right: Understand your position and hire a digital professional to take charge of your digital assets. This does not mean assign it to the Chief Technology or Information Officer. A proper digital lead will be someone who understands content, user experience, technology tools, and governance processes. Do not look at those shiny objects vendors wave at you. You don't need tools, you need processes. Whatever you have now will work until you have a roadmap for the future. Give content creators training to understand how to write for the user, not the organization. (PS - If you're in DC, here's a Digital Writing Workshop to send your people to!)

Digital teenagers

Many organizations are in the middle. They are at least trying to be user-centric. They have web, user experience, and digital marketing teams. Their websites and emails are responsive because they know that a high percentage of their audience use their phones to interact and engage with them. A social media manager runs their platforms with a strategic plan to increase engagement and awareness. Some executives and stakeholders are still dragging their feet and don't necessarily understand the opportunities of the digital, customer-in-charge world. Therefore, they may be reluctant to take risks and give the digital professionals authority to affect real change.

How to shift right: Think about how your organization needs to change to meet your audience's needs. The mindset shift is necessary to move forward. Think less, not more, content. Encourage collaboration between departments to create content that can be reused across channels. The web is everyone's job now. Include responsibility and accountability for achieving goals via digital channels part of job descriptions. Provide opportunities for professional development to learn new skills or enhance existing skills. (Consider bringing training to you to save money and develop your team, not just individuals.) By now you know to avoid the shiny objects. Develop good requirements before issuing an RFP or looking for a new tool.


Moving to the right, we have organizations that have fully embraced digital transformation and are on the road to achieving it. They've made organizational changes and committed to transforming by investing smartly in professional development, tools, and consultants to bridge the gap. One of the outcomes of this change is a content management tool that allows them to create and manage content intelligently. This means it is structured to optimize performance with technology. Instead of publishing from the silos, they are finding ways to collaborate on content publishing and reuse it as much as possible. A governance plan is in place or emerging.

How to shift right: Encourage training, sharing, and networking among the people most involved in the transformation. Staying up on trends, best practices, and generally what others are doing will benefit the organization and its employees. Executives should be involved with culture change networks and communities. You're at the forefront of business, and likely a leader in your industry. Share what you're doing so others can follow your example and you can recruit the best people for your evolving teams.

Digitally mature

On the right we have the pinnacle of integrated digital marketing. Not many organizations are here. These organizations got serious about this digital thing early, invested wisely in bringing in visionaries, took risks, and developed a strategy that has been implemented. They are organized around the customer. They have mature digital capabilities, hire and train digital experts, and demonstrate the impact of their marketing. Everything isn't perfect, but they are nimble and, therefore, positioned to beat their competition in an ever-changing world.

How to stay here: Congratulations! I'm sure it wasn't easy, and you aren't without challenges, but you made it. Take a breath and keep going. Continue sharing your story, stretch current limits, set best practices, and continue growing. Make sure to encourage professional development for junior, mid-level, and new employees. Let your senior staff take risks and try new things. Stay flexible and bring in help when you need it. Most of all, keep governing! It doesn't get easier, it just changes. And you know change is the only constant in the 21st century.

What's next for you?

Sometimes you can't see the forest for the trees. It takes a lot of courage to self-assess and take the first step toward change. That's where Tanzen comes in. If you are ready to do things differently, we are your guide to navigating digital transformation. We believe that content is at the heart of that transformation. It is something you have control over and that can create big changes for a relatively low investment. Let us take a look under the hood with a website evaluation or a content roadmapping session. You'd be amazed at what we can tell about your organization from this quick peek!