Pieces of the (Content) Puzzle

With a background in computer science and engineering, Richard Plotka is an architect of solutions. The CEO of Appatura tells us about a witty approach to creating and managing content.

Tell us a little bit about your background.

I was formally educated in Computer Science and Electrical Engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI). I started working in the Aerospace Industry as a RADAR Design Engineer and have worked as a consultant for more than 30 years in various industries, including financial services, food distribution, global electronics, mortgage banking, legal, publishing, retail, and real estate.

My career moved from strictly technical to more of a mix with business as a consultant over the years as the field of information technology evolved. As a result, I have also held various C-level technical, operational and executive positions in both financial services and mortgage servicing. In 1993, I designed a component content database system, which ultimately evolved into Appatura’s primary solution. Appatura is a Havas subsidiary for which I now serve as the CEO.

And give us some insight into your responsibilities as the CEO of Appatura.

In addition to handling the normal responsibilities of a CEO, I serve as the chief architect of our solutions.

When I assumed the responsibilities of CEO, I handed off the IT management, product management and development responsibilities to our CIO, Faisal Fareed and CPO, Harsh Choudhary, but I retained the CTO responsibilities. I oversee the technical aspects of our company to ensure that we stay at the forefront of technology. Keeping up with the current technologies and making sure we bring them into our solutions in a way that is effective for our clients remains a primary responsibility. Working with Faisal and Harsh over the years has allowed us to interface seamlessly in harnessing new technologies and implementing them in a robust, usable way to create the maximum value for our clients.

For the last six years, I have also been a lecturer in the ITWS program at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in Troy, New York. In this role, I am able to stay current with trends in technology; and with my research projects, can vet out new ideas and technologies for practical application.

I also regularly travel around the country, meeting with clients and prospects in order to maintain an understanding of the real needs of users in the industry. In order to develop usable solutions, we must not only understand technology but understand how our clients work. Making these concerns meet in the middle is what allows us to differentiate our solutions from the competition.

How important is content in a marketing strategy?

I believe it is essential. If I hear or see really neat stuff, but the message is wrong or doesn’t resonate, then it’s a dud. When I hear or see something that I can relate to, then I get engaged. The is the same for all of us. When we see something that is relevant to us, we engage. If not, we tune out. Smart content, used in the correct context gets people to engage.

Why might advertisers want to manage their content differently now than in the past?

Content is being pushed out to more and more destinations. At one time, the focus was print, then print and radio, then television and online, to eventually social and even VR or AR experiences. Now we have all of those—web and social media, contributory news, op-eds, paid advertising, etcetera. Add to that that it all gets tied back to legal disclaimers, and contracts, and so on, and you have a more pressing need to control content.

A solution like ours allows you to create and manage content from a central hub. This allows you to assemble and deliver consistent, targeted messaging to a variety of consuming end-points while being able to track how and where each piece of content is used. By maintaining the content as data in granular form, we are able to track its use and verify its provenance.

What should be the focus as marketers manage and present content to consumers?

How you market today is vastly different from how you marketed yesterday. How you market tomorrow will make today look like the Stone Age. If you have control of your content and can track and repurpose it in any way you choose, you will be ready for tomorrow’s marketing demands. Our position is that we will allow you to manage your content similar to the way that accountants manage numbers. This granularization of content allows you to repurpose the content in dynamic ways.

How would you explain a granular-level CMS to an eight-year-old?

You have blocks with letters on them. When you put blocks together, you can spell your name; we put words, paragraphs, and numbers together to tell a story in the same fashion.

For example; If you decide to change the spelling of your name from Tracy to Traci, you change out a block. If you decide to change a part of a marketing message from, say, “the best in the industry” to “the only one of its kind in the industry,” you change the blocks once but all future versions of all of your marketing messages across all distributions are updated.

Looked at another way—lots of kids are playing Minecraft. They go in and access a central library of blocks of various shapes and sizes and create entire worlds out of these components: a Granular-level CMS allows you to do the same thing with words and numbers to tell a story, or more succinctly, deliver messages out of various granular pieces giving you more control of your creation and curation process.

To an adult?

We reduce content into its basic form, like letter blocks for kids. As accountants work with numbers in a spreadsheet, we work with words and numbers in a database. This allows you to create very dynamic messages, and also allows you to track the content in very granular ways so we can repurpose it for maximum effect.

When you change a word or a phrase, its context is known so that change will be effected wherever the original was used. No more having to remember to change numerous documents every time. Likewise, when a piece of content changes say, a Morningstar rating on a mutual fund, a tweet can be written and posted during the night and received before anyone wakes up.

Tell us about the major benefits—and the biggest challenges—of granular content?

The hub needs to be the place where the content is created, stored, tracked, and consumed. The biggest challenge is making sure this happens. This is the only way it can be managed and repurposed to generate its greatest value.

What’s your best prediction about the future of content?

Content is going to continue to be consumed in greater and more diverse ways than in the past. Just look at the rise of Snapchat for messaging. Only by controlling their content will companies be able to react quickly enough to meet these increasing demands and remain competitive in these areas.

What advice do you have for those at the beginning of their careers—say, in their 20s and 30s?

See how technology has affected your business area in the last ten years or more. Then read about technology trends generally, and then more specifically, in areas related to your business.

Start to do some thought exercises, asking yourself: “What if?” How could that be adapted to what I am doing today? How could you change the way people work today to make tomorrow better? Doing those things will prepare you for starting to see the future.