Ten Pillars for Getting the Most of Your Content: How is Your University Doing?

By Posted in - Content Strategy & Measurement and Evaluation & Pickle Jar Communications' Projects on September 29th, 2017 0 Comments

In higher education we recognise the ever growing need to make the content that we invest time and care in creating work harder for us. I spend my life speaking with universities, and all agree that they want to:

– Make it more effective
– Make it more efficient
– Make it travel further, across different platforms in different ways
– Make it (and its creators!) more joined-up
– Make it more robust, and stand the test of legal challenges or other risks that it may cause
– Make it more consistent
– Make it better managed and keep it up to date

Does this sound like you and your university?

In order to achieve these, we need to examine all influences that affect how we manage content and content strategy within our universities. Barriers to developing a mature and effective approach to content management and content effectiveness come from many sources, rarely from just the words, images or sounds on the page. Likewise, opportunities also come from many places.

To help universities understand their current position, maximise their existing opportunities and strengths, and plan effective improvements, we have developed our ten pillars of content strategy maturity model. And – importantly – we can tell you how you are doing and where (and how!) you need to improve.

How to use them?

1. Use them by yourselves as a self-reflection tool within your university or organisation. But try to take a big step back as you do so as it’s not always easy to be objective from the inside.

2. Have us conduct a content strategy maturity review for you. We’ll be able to view it objectively, give you solid recommendations and over time also (for free as an added extra to your report) offer you insights into how you compare to the rest of the sector. Note: we’re offering a heavily discounted rate for the first institutions to sign up to this study by the middle of October 2017.  Find out more here and contact us to sign your university up. 

What are the ten pillars of content strategy maturity?

These are the ten pillars that we think an effective, efficient and impactful approach to content strategy and management hinges upon.

1. Strategy and vision

How clearly defined, documented and disseminated is your university’s content strategy? How is it being used? How aware are others of it? Do they understand it? Do they buy-in to it? Are they referring back to it, or is it sitting on a shelf? Is it just a content marketing or editorial strategy, or does it address content strategy in its fullest sense, including systems, structures, processes, people, performance and maintenance.

2. Leadership

How is content strategy led and managed within your university? Does it have a clear owner? Does it have the understanding and buy-in of senior leaders throughout the institution? Do they understand the importance of content strategy and are they able to communicate that importance to others? Can they see how it connects with other business-critical strategies and activities, and are they facilitating those connections?

3. Audience insights

How well are your content strategy and content management processes aligned to a depth understanding of your audiences? Is audience research and testing a constant process, or something that you do occasionally? We have four layers of audience understanding that we’ll measure your audience insights against to check what you might be missing. Contact us to find out more about those four layers.

4. Outputs, structures and efficiencies

This is a big one. How do you distribute your content? How are your systems configured? Are you using a DAM? Is your CMS (and other information management systems) configured for properly structured content that allows it to travel and be manipulated and repurposed? Are you replicating content manually, or using modules to mirror content in different locations, thus creating efficiencies? Are you recreating content multiple times in different formats? How are you managing content mark-up to make it effective and useable by other intelligent systems like search engines, social media, bots and assistant devices?

5. Assessment and evaluation

How are you measuring and evaluating the effectiveness of your content? This isn’t about measuring channels, platforms and community sizes, but actually evaluating content itself. Are you just measuring the big pieces like headlines or images, or are you diving deeper into microcopy and metadata? Is this a continuous process, or something that you do at defined moments in time? (Note: you might be interested in our Head of Research’s one-day workshop on measuring content on 26th October 2017)

6. Collaboration and interdisciplinary working

To what extent do individuals and teams work together across the department and university in order to create more effective, efficient and impactful content? What processes are in place to encourage collaboration? What barriers prevent it? How collaborative is the culture of your university?

7. Risk-tolerance and creativity

How creative is your university at exploring and experimenting with new approaches to content and content management. Do you just do “more of the same” or are you empowered and enabled to test new approaches? This doesn’t just apply to the content that you create, but also how you create it. What sign-off processes are in place? Are they empowering or hindering?

8. Resource

How well resourced are the disciplines of content strategy and management within your university? Do you have dedicated roles assigned to content professions such as content strategists, UX researchers, testers, systems developers, taxonomists, copywriters? Do you have resource for implementing your governance processes? What systems do you have in place to support your content effectiveness and efficiencies?

9. Skills and know-how

How well do individuals working in and on content on behalf of your university understand best practice and principles of content strategy, content design, and content management? Do they understand how to test audiences and interpret data for content purposes and reporting? Do they understand what makes effective content for different channels and platforms? Do they plan (even in a small way) or simply “create”?

10. Training and professional development

What systems and support is in place to train and develop staff in emerging trends and best practice relating to content strategy and management. Is budget or resource ring-fenced for this? Is there a culture of sharing best practice amongst teams and between teams? Does mentoring exist? What third party resources – from conferences to free webinars – are used to advance staff development?

Determining your score

When you evaluate each of the ten pillars, you can score your university and thus identify areas for improvement.

Content strategy maturity evaluation scoring

If we do this for you, we’ll also make recommendations for improvements according to three categories:

1. Quick and immediate wins
2. Medium-term gains
3. Longer-term investments

That means that even if the findings reveal a lot of detail, improvements and opportunities, you have a way of prioritising those next steps into manageable and achievable work packages for your university. We’ll work with you to understand what “manageable and achievable” looks like for you.

Can you do this for us?

Yes. We’ve developed a model for evaluating each institution. The same model will be used for every institution that we work with, thereby giving us sector-averages too so that over time we can tell you how you compare to others.

We’re offering the first institutions to sign up to this before the middle of October a heavily discounted rate. You can find out more about signing up to Pickle Jar’s content strategy and management maturity study here. Give me a shout (tracy@picklejarcommunications.com) if you’re interested in being one of the first cohort of universities to really understand your current position and what you can do to improve your content strategy and management.

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