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When two content methods can work in tandem, why not both?

 

Our industry suffers from no shortage of nebulous concepts wrapped in hazy terminology. Today, I’ll spare you a food analogy and dive directly into the hard start. Let’s translate jargon and have some definitions. 

 

Omnichannel: 

Omnichannel is all about unified experience. 

It is a cross-channel content strategy. Omnichannel creates a reader-centric environment where all content channels work parallel to enhance and personalize the user experience. 

 

Multi-channel: 

Multi-channel is a direct-to-reader content strategy. 

Organizations take a single chunk of content and publish it to multiple channels at the same time. They do this without tweaking any formatting for each individual channel. Write once, publish everywhere.

 

What’s All the Fuss About? 

There’s a lot of confusion about the difference between omnichannel and multi-channel publishing. Sometimes it feels like splitting hairs and other times it feels like jargon conjured from marketing departments across the industry. 

Much of the ongoing confusion is due to some inherent similarities. 

We’re here to talk about the differences, but we’ll also consider what principles we can take from each approach to create bespoke content strategies that use the best of both worlds. 

First, let’s flesh out the two approaches a little more. 

Omnichannel is typically associated with marketing or business-to-consumer (B2C) content like customer retail experiences, though it isn’t limited to this. The idea is that the progress that a reader makes in one channel will continue with them as they explore the same topic or product in another channel.

Multi-channel, on the other hand, is often linked to content focused efforts. This is more common in a business-to-business (B2B) context like product specifications for more complex products. The idea with multi-channel is that one piece of content is published to multiple outputs automatically, so any content updates, regardless of what channel, are immediate.  

Something notable about omnichannel and multi-channel is that they aren’t mutually exclusive. 

Multi-channel publishing is all about getting the biggest publishing bang for your content strategy buck. A content creator takes one great idea, and creates it in the form of a component or a structured content block. This block is then blasted through your publishing system. The end result is one idea put into the optimal formats for multiple audiences. Multi-channel is an efficient, but intensely active method of publishing. 

Omnichannel is not entirely separate, but it focuses differently on the way that content is laid out. Omnichannel content is more about establishing content channels that can build upon one another through content filtering or personalization where the reader chooses their own adventure and the content reacts to their decision. 

It still requires involved set-up, but once it’s established, publishing is more passive. 

The next step is learning how we can take the best of both and weave them together into a cohesive content strategy. 

 

The Limit of Typical Multi-Channel Publishing

Your multi-channel strategy is all about leveraging your best, concise, content for the broadest number of deliverables. 

Product Manual? Check.

Static website? Check. 

Newsletter? Check. 

Sales Brochure? Check.

Chatbot? Check…? 🧐

Sort of…

Now we’re getting to something a little different. 

Chatbot is a great example of the more passive, omnichannel methodology. When someone asks a chatbot a question, you don’t actually push a button to publish the response like you would for a PDF. 

Instead, the chatbot pulls answers from a content repository that you’ve already established. Likewise, if your site is fed by a headless content management system, you aren’t really publishing in the typical sense anymore. 

Sure, you still write content, but publishing is less about active button pushing and more about preparing the content so that the reader can access it when they need it. 

So, how can we take advantage of the benefits of multi-channel and omnichannel? 

It’s all about structure. 

Structured content is key, but not just any structure. It has to be content that follows the appropriate standard that enables two key concepts: 

 

 Without these two concepts, the Omni-Multi hybrid is impossible. 

 

We Know It’s Possible Because We Did It

easyDITA was founded on the Omni-Multi hybrid model and we’re continuing to sharpen it.

Content structured into smaller blocks that are modular and rich with metadata enables it to successfully run. 

With multi-channel publishing, that block of content is assembled and published through your various channels. 

With omnichannel publishing, that block of content is ready to go in a repository waiting to respond to a customer’s need. 

Knowing the right name for your publishing strategy is far less important than actually executing it. 

Multi-channel or omnichannel, with a system like easyDITA, you can create a single block of knowledge, manage and deploy it from your single source of truth to wherever it needs to be.  

Your content is only as valuable as its accessibility. Don’t let semantics hamper your content strategy, instead take what works best for your organization and build your own adventure. 

If you want to learn more about easyDITA, let us know. We’d love to provide a demo or answer any questions you might have.

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John Baker
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