We finally made it to 2021. And your content approach likely looks a lot different than what you had on the books at the start of last year. 

As COVID-19 ravaged the world, it upended how we do business along the way. Digital disruption accelerated at an unprecedented pace. For example, more digital disruption happened in retail in eight weeks last spring than in the past 10 years combined.

With the content industry evolving to meet new challenges, we asked content thought leaders to weigh in on their content predictions and plans for the year ahead.

Read on to get content predictions and insights from content strategists, user experience architects, journalists, and other experts. 

Content Trust

Michael Haggerty-Villa, Intuit: “In the design systems community, there are plenty of reminders that design systems are for people. I like to think that a human focus has always been a part of the content community. As we step out of the shadows of a dark year, I’m hoping content designers and strategists continue to lean into this strength. What does that look like? It means things like standing up for and creating good content and design that help people. It also means calling out harmful, misleading, or biased content. We can do better, and I look forward to seeing more systemic approaches to getting us there.”

Gary Schwitzer, HealthNewsReview.org: “Prediction: Donald Trump will continue to spew misinformation in 2021. Priority: Journalists should learn from the past four years and stop providing a megaphone (MAGAphone?) to lies, distortions, and claims of ‘fake news.’”

Read more from Gary Schwitzer: Health and Science Communication in the COVID Era: A Q&A With the Publisher of Health News Review

Content Design

Justin Clemens, Meredith Deaver, Jonelle Wilkinson-Seitz, AT&T: “For 2021, our priority is defining a central source of truth for customer-centric digital content. To bring that vision to life, we’ll align with internal teams across brands, disciplines, and channels to help create consistent, relevant, tested, and ‘write-once, use-many’ content. As part of this effort, we’re exploring ways to operationalize inclusive, ethical, and accessible content design. The game plan: standardize frameworks and playbooks for a multitude of content creators, integrate automation tools for speed, and set up a democratic system of governance for quality control.” 

Jacy Garraway, Vanguard: “We’ll broaden our practice of designing for accessibility and inclusion by partnering closely with the research team to gain  greater awareness of the different ways people use and experience our products and services. Codifying our findings in the content portion of the design system will also be a priority to best enable our team to meet the needs of our clients and create consistent and accessible content across the experience.”

Content Voice and Tone 

Christoher Willis, Acrolinx: “For almost the last decade, vendors have been telling customers to ‘get ready for the Digital Shift.’ Back in March, though, the Digital Shift slid from the future to the present, as the vast majority of consumers started interacting entirely online. As a result, the content touch points that deliver the digital customer experience have risen to become a top priority in the global enterprise. As a result, we expect that 2021 will bring with it a new customer experience leader on the executive team. This leader will be responsible for the voice of the company across all channels. The most successful companies will be the ones that can communicate with their consumers in a single voice across all channels.”

Joseph Dickerson, ZoomInfo: “A key priority for the content that the experiences my team produces is a variation of the Hippocratic Oath: ‘First, do no harm.’ People have been stressed in multiple ways the last year, and I do not want any off-putting content or information that is presented in the wrong tone of voice to increase that anxiety. So I’m particularly focused on making sure information is helpful and directly aligned to what people need to do. I’ve often said that if we produce an effective application or system, it will mean that someone somewhere will go home with a little less frustration than they would have felt otherwise. They won’t yell at their partner, or kick their dog. It may be a Pollyanna view, but that’s how I feel.”

Read more from Joseph Dickerson: The Future of Content Experience: UX Trends to Look For in 2020 

Content Predictions for Strategy

Lance Yoder, Cerner: “I’m answering it in the context of the applications our team manages that are focused on internal/employee content. My content predictions for 2021 include that AI will continue to become reality for content. Beyond just chat bot improvements, things like modeling content in such a way that it can be analyzed and can train a system so that actions can be automated on that content. My priority for 2021 is content portability. Enabling employees to collaborate and find information from anywhere, and in the manner of their preference (whether on mobile, desktop, or specific applications.”

Paula Ludmann, American Academy of Dermatology: “2020 shifted our content strategy greatly and for the better. To meet the content needs of our member dermatologists and the public, our organization put aside its annual editorial calendars to develop content that our target audiences sought. I anticipate that this flexibility is here to stay. Because content needs will likely (and hopefully) be less obvious than the demand for scientific news about COVID-19, we will use advanced data analytics to monitor what content resonates with our audiences. We’re also planning a full-scale content audit to gauge the diversity and inclusiveness of our public content. To reduce health disparities, it’s imperative that medical content be inclusive of diverse populations.”

Read more from Paula Ludmann: 6 Steps for When You Suddenly Need To Shift Content Gears

Stacey Martin, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina: “This year I predict that the hard work we are doing inside the organization will have a positive impact on our member’s experience. We know the health landscape is changing rapidly, and we know our members are looking to us to help them understand what they are covered for. We spent 2020 building the foundation for a content strategy focused on helping members. This year we are socializing that strategy full of content opportunities that will be easy to adopt. Hooray 2021 is here!”

Read more from Stacey Martin: Leading Content Change In a Huge, Regulated Organization

The Author

Content Science is a growing content strategy and intelligence company and the publisher of Content Science Review. We empower digital enterprises for the content era by taking their content approach to the next level. Customers of our professional services and one-of-a-kind products (such as ContentWRX and Content Science Academy) include the Fortune 50, the world’s largest nonprofits, and the most trusted government agencies.

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