Content Resonance – A New Approach to Content Management


Is it all about Relevance?

Over the last ten years, I’ve noticed how the notion of “relevance” has come to dominate both content management and “search” into the field of intranets and the internet. Content is deemed as often better when it is more relevant. Search becomes all about targeting search results based on relevance to the original query.

Relevance is an element in a communications inquiry process. I would suggest that relevance is only one part of the picture, and is often overplayed, not because of real user need but because relevance is the most straightforward metric to attempt to manage and control from a technical viewpoint.

Relevance sits on a construct of “high” and “low”. We the attempt to achieve high relevance, either in the way we target written or other-media produced content, or through results to a search inquiry. Content is tagged in order to match keywords in what is required and what is offered. I search for “teamwork” and receive the most relevant content based on that tag. I search for “Paul Levy” internally in my organisation and receive the profile page for “Paul Levy”. Of course, underlying algorithms have become more sophisticated than that, and content is also influenced by, and even created through, context and semantic patterning. I am an academic (this is known to the search system or content provider, so when I search for “teamwork” I receive content suggestions pointing towards academic research papers and people.

From Content Relevance to Content Resonance

As relevance becomes multi-dimensional, it moves closer to the concept of “resonance”. Resonance is a very complex notion. It includes relevance as one potential variable. When something is relevant to me, I might resonate with it because there is a match between question and answer, between inquiry and offered resource. However, that is not always the case, which is where context becomes vital. I search for Paul Levy. not to be offered his profile, contact details, or his academic references, but instead to find out his latest views on the issue of teamwork, or for an update on his current reactions to a new piece of research by another writer/researcher.

When resonance over-focuses on relevance, a user can find that content hits the wrong target, right in that target’s bullseye. Resonance is often more subtle, nuanced and emerging. Resonance is usually deeply contextual and able to adapt to emerging narratives. I may search for something in the morning, do some work on what I have searched for, changed my priorities and even value set, and then, in the evening, resonant search results will reflect that day’s developments. Resonance is based, not only along timelines, but also in the development and evolution of personalised narratives. Resonant content attempts to respond to nuanced changes in a user’s behaviour and even cognitive journey.

Content relevance is about the matching of created content to a specifically stated or implied user need or inquiry. Content resistance goes beyond that (and sometimes past that) and meets a context usefully. Resonance is experienced by the user as helpful, satisfying and valuable, not only to the task at hand, but also to the ongoing workflow, and possibly even the local or organisational performance, reputation and value set.

Context and Nuance, Not just Relevance

Resonant content is context-responsive. It is also value-sensitive. I hold beliefs that leaders need to be emotionally intelligent and that this often fails. I’m cynical about leadership. I search for “emotional intelligence” and find results which are both relevant and that resonate with my beliefs and values. I find “just the content I’m looking for”, not a bunch of the latest books on emotional intelligence. I an offered search content called “A guide for cynics” or “a deeper look at emotionally intelligent leadership” as well as a link to my favourite author who has critiqued this field, alongside a new author I wasn’t aware of.

Resonant content is “in tune” with my narrative and it is able to respond to changes in that narrative. It is content-relevant, context-sensitive, and also narrative-adaptive.

Resonant content addresses itself to what is making us restless, and this is very connected to motivation – what gets us out of bed in the morning. Intranet content that aims to create resonance with users, is in a more flexible, adaptive mode. Content and tags to do not sit still for very long. The underlying model is evolutionary based on emergent. News stories are very personalised – in fact, there is no “one news story”. We do  not target content – content responds to emerging interest and restlessness.

The Skill of the Subtle

Resonant content is often emotionally intelligent in the way it has been chosen, created and delivered. It is one of the greatest fallacies on the content management field to assume that relevant content is all that is needed to delivered decent content. It is one of the reasons that metrics are still fairly basic, struggled with. We can score very highly in terms of relevant content delivery and still not meet the real needs of users. The reason is so simple it often is right under the noses of internal communications leaders and staff who tend to avoid the nuances of emotion and motivation because they are hard to control, measure and govern. When I am looking for an expert in a field, or seeking some research about a particular problem, it is often more likely that this activity is a displacement activity. I am looking because I am feeling lost, or even disengaged. People may seek out experts, not to specifically discover their relevant expertise, but because they are suffering from low confidence or even feeling isolated i a particular work flow. I want to suggest this happens far more than is realised or admitted. Relevance then becomes a collusion of mediocrity, a smokescreen for more difficult emotional states and qualities of engagement with work.

If it is even partly true, content deliver needs to change its game radically. Content becomes more about creating useful and usable resonance with the real-time states of users. This can be gleaned in a number of ways:

– by observing unfolding personal narratives (what’s happening to me right now), seeking patterns and targeting more adaptive content responses that are not only relevant, but also resonant

– by creating more intuitive interfaces between content providers and users (not only seeking feedback on relevance but also on usefulness  – collecting stories in a database can allow for more inductive reasoning to drive content delivery (we respond to the stories that are coming in, tap into the mood of individuals and groups, tape into the “zeitgeist” of the organisation)

– by empowering users to drive their own content creation and responses that are self-defined in terms of motivation and resonance

– through the development of the semantic web, especially where content is more determined by narratives, developing dialogues, and the meaning that underlies workflows)

Resonant content meets the needs of relevance, getting work done, and also the motivational and energetic states of users. I then receive content that tunes into my confusion, my need for connection, my need to explore more widely, my need to receive less content at that particular time. Resonant content behaves like an automatic climate control – intelligent, sensitive and adaptive in real-time. Then I won’t just receive relevant content responses, but also timely ones, motivational ones, inspiring ones, ones which connect me laterally, and integrative ones which link different types of content together to create synergy.

Resonant content management is going to be the next step for internal communications, but we’ll have to put relevance in its place as just one variable, but not the dominant factor.

About Paul Levy

Paul is a writer, thinker, facilitator, theatre-maker, and conversifier. He is the author of the book, Digital Inferno.

Posted on November 24, 2013, in Content Resonance - A New Approach to Content Management. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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