The case for XML marketing content

Bill Swallow / Content strategy, XML1 Comment

What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when I say “XML and content”? If large technical documents and back-end databases pop into your mind, you’re in good company. But many content-heavy groups can benefit from adopting XML. Marketing is one of these groups.

If you’ve ever worked in or with a marketing department, you are painfully aware of the vast amount of content that’s produced. From web and social media to brochures, catalogs, and product sheets, marketing content comes in all shapes and sizes.

To be effective, marketing content needs to echo similar information yet cater to varying audiences or suit different purposes (product sheets, web content, and other promotional material, for example). The design of the finished content may widely vary, but the information needs to be current and accurate.

This can be quite a lot to manage—regardless of how large or small the team—and takes time and diligence to ensure that the correct information is used at all times. Even with centralized project folders and shared information sources, the chance of human error is high. One change, such as a version number or a small product update, may need to be made in dozens of places. Chasing all of these uses down is time consuming and inefficient.

One benefit of XML marketing content is the separation of form and content. This allows you to focus on the message and not the look and feel of one particular final product. Through meaningful tagging, you can mark up your content in a meaningful manner (“product tag line” vs. “14pt italic”) and then render it in a variety of ways. The focus is on the content itself, leaving the look and feel to templates and transforms. Once you flow the content into the template, you can still modify the formatting while reaping the benefit of managed, centralized content.

Batman slapping Robin; XML marketing content can help you break the copy/paste habitAnother benefit is content reuse and the conditional inclusion and exclusion of content. Not all content is created equal; sometimes you need to omit some information in favor of other content. You could certainly manage this with cut and paste and a bit of editing, but then you’d be managing multiple sets of content. With all content in one place and tagged for specific uses, you can assemble what you need through content references and conditionally exclude portions that you don’t need.

If you localize your content, you’ll benefit from significant cost savings. Content reuse not only reduces the number of words requiring translation; it can reduce the chance of fuzzy matches against translation memory that are usually introduced by formatting inconsistencies and manual line breaks. And, since XML is raw text, there are no DTP-associated costs or delays accompanying your translation.

An XML workflow can benefit any group with many content deliverables, hefty translation requirements, and the need to reuse information in multiple places. If you’re feeling overwhelmed with your existing workflow, contact us to see if XML might be a good fit for you.

About the Author

Bill Swallow

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Bill Swallow, Director of Operations, partners with enterprise content owners to design and build content systems that solve complex information management and localization problems.

One Comment on “The case for XML marketing content”

  1. Amen. The nut — and I’m sure you know this, Bill — is selling XML and reuse to the Marketing execs. Perhaps they fear that imposing structure and centrailization will kill creativity. (Spoiler: it won’t.)

    We’ve gotten better at making the business case for XML and reuse in Tech Comm. We need to the same for Marketing.

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