Creating Content Strategies in Education that Captivate, Convert and Control
I’m just heading home after a crazy and – as always – uplifting week at the CASE Europe Annual Conference. One of the sessions I led this year set out how to approach the development of a proper content strategy in an education institution. In this blog post I share my slides (see bottom of this post, I’ll also be recording a video version of this soon – especially as people were turned away from attending the session as the room was full!), and summarise a few of the key points.
1. A proper content strategy isn’t just about coming up with ideas for posts, articles and pages. Instead it starts with the organisational strategy, defines content that is useful and usable to priority audiences, and puts in place the structures, workflow and governance processes to plan, create, distribute and maintain that content in a way that serves audience needs and is understandable and adaptable to machines and intelligent systems.
2. Taking the time to align your content strategy to your organisational strategy at the outset is imperative if you are to get colleague and leadership buy-in to your approach.
3. Invest in solid audience research that uncovers not just information about user needs in relation to your organisation and their channel preferences, but really digs into motivations, values and triggers.
4. Develop personas as a matrix, and don’t focus only on demographic-based personas (more on this here).
5. Start to imagine your content connections by seeing your organisation as an information ecosystem, not as a system of departments, structures and silos. Conduct content modelling work to show how everything connects in that ecosystem, and from there prioritise which connections should manifest themselves (and how) through your content across multiple platforms.
6. Treat your content less like pages and more like mosaics or building blocks. If you treat and construct your content as a series of fields (“elements”) you can make your content work so much harder for you, reduce risks associated with managing and updating the same content in different locations, and enable your content to travel further. With this approach you’ll increase the impact and utility of your content, as well as becoming more efficient and effective in keeping it updated and relevant.
7. By thinking of your content as individual building blocks, you’re also paving the way for personalisation. To achieve personalised content you also need to understand which triggers you will use to be able to identify different audience segments, and thus plan how you want your content to respond to those triggers.
8. Designing and implementing a content strategy must involve a range of stakeholders and for that reason it doesn’t have to start with the web team (and certainly not with the IT team). Don’t let technologies drive your content strategy. Use the process to imagine what you want to achieve, and then find technologies to match your vision (not the vendor’s vision). If their technology can’t do what you want it to, find another or use the procurement process to influence their roadmap of developments for their product. This is why you should develop your strategy before you even go out for any kind of design and build service, or technology purchase. (Read Pamela’s post on six things to do before a website redesign project).
9. Pay attention to developing great substance and the vision for that aligned to organisational goals. Qualities that often make compelling content are that it is useful, usable, educational, entertaining, empathetic and experiential (embracing the full audience experience no matter where that takes place). See our blog post here on creating useful, usable, relevant and relatable content.
10. Invest quality time and effort in developing workflow and governance processes, procedures and policies. This should always be done in tandem with the rest of your content strategy development, and not seen as an add on afterwards.
Need more help?
– Our blog is full of free advice and guidance to help you evolve your content strategy
– Attend one (or both!) of our ContentEd Content Strategy workshops (next is 21 September 2017)
– Attend the ContentEd two-day content strategy for the education sector conference (14-15 June 2018)
– Commission us to come and help facilitate or lead your content strategy work. This can be as little as a workshop or some training, or we can help with your audience research or a review of your position, content development, full strategy development and digital project planning efforts.
CEAC17 Session Slides
For now, I hope that the slides from my talk at CEAC are helpful to you and your colleagues.