How to support content creators in your institution
“Content” is a word that means everything and nothing, and it’s something that many people within our institutions and organisations are responsible for – whether they have a marketing and communications background or not.
As large and often devolved communities, we usually find varied levels of skills and enthusiasm when it comes to creating and managing web content across institutions. From highly skilled content designers, to administrators updating a school’s website as a bolt-on to their day job, how do we ensure they have the skills, motivation and resources to do the best work?
At ContentEd 2019, I delivered a session on this topic, sharing a range of ideas and tactics to help create a thriving community of top-notch content creators within our institutions. The session was titled: “I’ve got 99 problems but my team of well-trained and motivated content creators isn’t one”. (I think I should have won a prize for best session title!).
Here are three key areas that I suggest need to be addressed to ensure your content creators are well motivated and operating at the skill level needed to do the best job they can.
1. Ensuring they have the right skills
Are your content creators appropriately skilled to allow them to plan, create and promote content, to the right audiences, on the right platforms? Perhaps you need to look at the training that is provided to support content creators, rather than inadvertently supporting the fallacy that everyone is a content creator by not providing any training at all. And even better, why not tailor this training to the needs of your community?
We recently worked with the University of Bath to conduct a digital skills audit and assessment to do just that. We designed and developed a self-assessment process for almost 100 practitioners with responsibility for digital marketing, to better understand their own skills and development needs.
We analysed the responses to identify the skills gaps, and developed training resources and activities to ensure those training needs were met. This included a combination of on-site workshops, bespoke webinars, reading materials and existing online learning opportunities.
Richard Prowse, then Head of Digital (now Deputy Director of Service Design) at the University said:
“The Skills audit was essential to developing a programme of training that would help to enhance the existing skills and knowledge of colleagues at Bath. Understanding the strengths of colleagues was a critical first step in helping to focus the project teams efforts so that the programme of training they developed was tailored to the University’s needs.”
2. Providing resources and guidance
Now that you have the workshops, webinars and reading lists in place to support the training needs of your team, you should consider creating an online space where they can access them at any time, and share with their colleagues.
Here, you can also develop the breadth of resources by highlighting other information they should be aware of (brand guidelines or style guides), and providing advice on emerging areas or legislation such as advice on GDPR, accessibility guidelines, or CMA guidance.
Here are a few great examples:
– The University of Dundee content style guide gets a lot of praise from Rob Mills at Gather Content who has written this blog post about the anatomy of a content style guide.
– The University of St Andrews have a great digital standards service manual that includes information about digital best practice along with digital policies, procedures, rules and regulations.
– The University of Michigan have a great central hub for their social media activity. Here they share their strategy, platform best practices, tools and templates, advice on measurement and reporting, social media imagery, and advice on social integrity and being a good digital citizen.
And the resources and guidance don’t just have to exist online. I love the “Clearly DVSA supporter pack” that the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (part of GOV.uk) have put together for their “clear writing supporters”.
We’re recruiting and training clear writing supporters around our organisation.
This is the lovely pack they get to welcome them to the role. #GovContent is important. And giving more people the skills to write clearly saves a lot of time, money and stress. pic.twitter.com/YmuC3NRvCi
— John Ploughman (@johnploughman) June 24, 2019
3. Developing a community of experts
A third key way to support content creators in your institution is by helping them support each other.
Can you create opportunities and mechanisms to facilitate the sharing of information and best practice to help content creators to support and empower each other to make better content?
Perhaps you might host regular meet-ups for content creators – invite guest speakers, organise activities to support content planning around institution wide events/priorities, and encourage information sharing. Or maybe you could advertise regular “office hours” for colleagues to drop in to your office, or a cafe to discuss their challenges and plans. Both of these activities will encourage your colleagues to share their ideas and plans, and may help you to shape and support them to be more effective.
Another way to develop your community of experts is through organising your own university conference (like the University of Maryland do with #UMDSocial). You can tailor the programme to suit your needs, focusing on content strategy, social media, content design, digital marketing or other key areas that are important to your institution. And maybe even consider celebrating the successes of your content creators with your own awards to recognise their efforts and achievements, and share best practice.
We’d love to hear what training, resources and tactics you use in your institution to support your content creators. Tweet us at @picklejar.
Or if you want help developing a training programme for your staff, or creating resources to help them do their job better – get in touch.