A quick interview with IBM’s Michael Priestley on omnichannel content strategy for marketing

For years, Michael Priestley has been a vocal advocate for omnichannel content strategy for marketing and provided the wider community with omnichannel examples and lessons learned from the toughest content challenges in the world. He has been developing methodologies and leading innovative communities inside and beyond IBM for around two decades.

Michael brings savvy and pragmatism to the world of content. Although blessed with somewhat intimidating titles such as leader of the IBM Marketing Taxonomy Guild and previously, Lead DITA Architect, he’s far more than a technologist and makes good on the “strategy” part of his Content Technology Strategist role. He works with stakeholders of all kinds to bring to market usable, practical solutions that deliver an ROI and scale from local teams to the wider enterprise.

This short interview looks at:

  • the most important skillsets of an omnichannel marketing strategy
  • the motivators for IBM to go omnichannel, and
  • omnichannel defined, according to Michael

What is omnichannel? Your personal definition…

Content that can be coordinated and delivered across not only multiple channels but across any number of channels simultaneously. Omnichannel is multichannel that scales.

What skill-set or skill-sets do you recommend those trying to drive omnichannel strategies should develop?

First is content strategy: know how to model content, measure success, and develop a strategy. Second priority is speaking the language of business. Be able to tie strategies to revenue and cost savings.

Revenue is the most important, but cost savings may be easier to measure.

In your experience, where in the organisation does an omnichannel content strategy usually start?

I think it starts with 3 key roles/communities communicating and agreeing on a direction: content strategists who can articulate a problem and approach, executives who can sponsor work, and content developers who can validate and evangelize. Until all three roles are on board, the initiative can’t start – it can only spin its wheels and wait.

What do you think motivates an organisation to develop an omnichannel content strategy for marketing?

It depends on the organization – could be cost savings, content agility, consistency in messaging – in my current role the main, initial motivator is analytics; being able to understand and correlate success factors for content across channels and formats.

What do you feel is the biggest challenge holding us back from delivering users an effective omnichannel experience?

Consistency in strategy and executive leadership. It’s very difficult to sustain a multi-year effort that shifts corporate culture, technology, and processes if leadership changes or priorities shift.

Its often difficult to fund omnichannel marketing strategy because it is inherently cross-silo. How have you seen this challenge resolved?

I haven’t seen it resolved. The pendulum keeps swinging. At the grassroots level, however, you can get buy-in across teams by focusing on what teams can learn from each other, and how coordination across silos benefits the customer. That can sometimes be enough for each team to then sell their own leadership on converging processes and technologies – and sometimes it’s not enough.

Top down or bottom up? How do you feel it’s best to move forward an omnichannel project?

Has to be both. You need grassroots enthusiasm, and executive sponsorship. It might start with one or the other, but it won’t move forward without both.

Is it best to move to forward with a big bang or incremental change?

Incremental. Look for small wins you can use to establish credibility, and keep testing and investing to move towards the big vision over time, while also revising the big vision based on interim results.

Who are the industry thought-leaders you recommend people follow to learn more about omnichannel strategy?

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About Michael Priestley, IBM

Michael Priestley is a product owner and content technology strategist, currently leading the IBM Marketing Taxonomy Guild to revise and align taxonomy initiatives across the marketing ecosystem. He has experience working with and across documentation, support, training, and marketing content as an enterprise content technology strategist.

In January 2019, Michael will be delivering Updating content types for marketing and omnichannel: an IBM case study in agile content strategy.