Kristina Halvorson on #highered Content Challenges: How to convince people to drop the copy-and-paste-from-print mentality

April 20th, 2011 Karine Joly 2 Comments

Last February Kristina Halvorson, author of Content Strategy for the Web, presented a master class on content strategy for higher education for Higher Ed Experts. After her presentation, she answered a few questions from an audience composed of many universities and colleges.

I’ve decided to share a few excerpts of the transcript from this Q&A with the larger higher ed web community as Kristina gave some solid and useful advice.
So, let’s start with the first installment of this series I’ve titled Kristina Halvorson on #highered Content Challenges!

Question: How do you let content owners realize that it’s not just about taking printed content and pasting it on the website?

Kristina Halvorson

Kristina’s Answer: Well, I think that there are probably a couple of ways.

It’s hard to know how much attention a Web team or a person running the Web ever gets outside of emergencies or requests for updates. If you’re able to actually hold meetings and request certain people to attend, if you can walk them through examples of content that has been dumped in places that they might like or need to go – if you can do it, set them up in a scenario where they need to take a flight for example and they have a question about security policy or they have to cancel their flight.

Walk them through really bad content that has clearly been copied and pasted from somewhere else to demonstrate how frustrated our core audiences get when we don’t consider how people are reading online or on their mobile phones and what a different context that is than sitting down to thumb through a catalogue.

I think that if you can provide them with a first-person experience of what the audiences are going through, that can be very powerful.

Sometimes people will say: “Well, that’s different. You know, this is not higher education.” But, I think that a frustrating Web experience is a frustrating Web experience no matter where you have it. And, how you felt in that moment is how your students feel. They don’t have patience for us. They don’t think that we’re a special case just because we’re higher ed. It’s the Web. It’s all the Web to them.

Then offer [to your content contributors] 15 minutes of some really basic Web writing principles:

  • Try to keep your paragraphs under 60 words.
  • When you have a list, think about using bullets instead of just listing it all off in a couple of sentences.
  • If something is important, think about doing a pull quote or setting it off with bold.
  • Don’t publish 8,000 words on one page. Talk to somebody about how you can better structure that and maybe provide for page to page browsing or multipage publishing.

Once you set up the problem for them and the challenge, offer them a really simple set of tools. THAT will help you.

If you want to get a chance to hear Kristina’s take on higher ed content strategy challenges, you should know that she will give the keynote at the PSU Web Conference in June.

Web Writing Boot CampWant to learn how to write to be read on the Web or social media?

Register for Web Writing Boot Camp (Dec 6-8, 2011): $350 for 3 webinars including writing challenges.