Last week, Scott Abel and I hosted the inauguration of Information Development World, held in San Jose, California. The event brought together thought-leaders and industry experts from technical communication, marketing, and product information. The theme of the conference was Creating Exceptional Customer Experiences Using Content. In other words, it was all about breaking down the silos that exist between and among content creation groups at companies of all sizes. In this post, I will summarize a few of the things that stood out for me from the show.

Customers are Confused and Frustrated

When our content doesn’t match, we confuse and frustrate our customers. In her keynote, Sarah O’Keefe provided several real-world examples of mismatched content snafus. Some ranged from the plain old, “Gosh these people really need to talk to each other,” to “If I had an opportunity, I would never work with this internet service provider again. Ever.”

What came across to me loud and clear from Sarah’s presentation was this: Companies tend to focus on the customer experience prior to the sale. After the sale is made, not so much. I see two distinct problems with the pre- and post-sales content experience:

  1. More and more, people are referring to product instructions and other post-sales content before they make their purchases.
  2. In order to retain the customers you fought so hard to win over, you need to treat them with the same amount of love after they buy as when they were contemplating the purchase.

Silos are Caused by Org Charts

Everyone agrees that we have content silos. Different groups all over the company are creating different content – with extremely different customer experiences – all the time. And the groups do not talk to each other.

It’s not anyone’s fault that silos keep happening. They are constructed as a result of different reporting structures and, ultimately, different business goals for the various content creation groups. However, our customers doesn’t care about our different corporate needs or our personal MBOs. They want consistent, well-written, well-produced content that is seamless. Oh, and they want an awesome experience with it, too.

Time and time again, I heard about breaking down silos. Not just that it is a need – we all know that. But, how to actually break the silos down to overcome our communication and bad customer experience problem. As Robert Rose told us, “Silos suck, but content can unify.”

Managing Up is on Everyone’s Mind

At the beginning of day 2, I had the opportunity to run around with a video team from Busivid and capture the “Aha!” moments from day 1. By far, the session that had the biggest impact on the people I spoke with was Kathleen Pierce and her topic, “Coming In Through the Doc Door — An Unusual Route to Power and Influence.”

Being able to grab and maintain the attention of upper management, particularly as it relates to getting money and resources, is a problem faced by all of us. Kathleen’s ideas, based on her own experience, were eye-opening for many folks.

We are Doing Great Things Out There

Techwhirl magazine sponsored the first CustomerExperience Recognition Awards (CERA) and announced the award winners at lunch during the first day. The overall Best In Show winner was Content Science & Footsmart for “FootSmart Health Resource Cnetre Foot and Lower Body Ailment and Wellness” content.

Additional award winners included:

  • Accessibility – Schoolwires “Hosting with Confidence & Demolishing Downtime”
  • Customer Support – Technical Communications – Cisco Systems “Meeting Customer Demand for New Knowledge”
  • Employee Engagement – Information Mapping Canada & Vancity Credit Union “Vancity Policy and Procedure Transformation” project
  • Information Discovery – Content Science & Footsmart “FootSmart Health Resource Cnetre Foot and Lower Body Ailment and Wellness”
  • Translation/Localization – Ccaps & LinkedIn “The Brazilian Link”
  • User Community/Social Media – FootWasher Media “Cultivate the Call” initiative

Here are all of the winners of CERA awards and some of the judges.

Photo by Tim Steele

Talent Abounds Among Us

Who knew that so many of us are accomplished pianists?


We Know How to Have Fun

We had over 350 people at Information Development World and rarely did I see someone sitting alone in a corner. Old friends, new connections, in-person meetings with social media friends – there was a lot of networking, communication, and fun at the conference. Here are a few of my favorite photos. You can view all of the candids we took by clicking here.



Thank You

Thanks so much to Scott, all of our staffers, volunteers, exhibitors, sponsors, presenters, and attendees! Now to get some sleep.


Val Swisher
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