Have you heard about Colleen Jones yet? Hopefully you have as she might have the key to web, mobile and social media content woes in higher ed.
Colleen Jones wrote the best book I’ve read so far this year: “Clout, The Art and Science of Influential Web Content.”
I read and reviewed her book back in February as I was looking for a good textbook for the graduate course on social media marketing I designed and authored for Southern New Hampshire University. I ended up selecting “Clout” along with Jim Sterne’s book: “Social Media Metrics”. Since then, I’ve recommended Colleen’s book to many, many higher ed professionals. Last June I asked Colleen if she would consider presenting a master class on influential web content for universities and colleges (it looked like the perfect follow-up to the class Kristina Halvorson gave for Higher Ed Experts last February) and she accepted!
The class is scheduled on October 5, 2011 and you can still register, but don’t delay too much as space is limited for this exclusive event.
Colleen was kind enough to take the time to answer a few questions about content strategy and higher ed despite her busy schedule (she was presenting in London at an international content strategy conference just last week).
Ah, that’s easy. The number one content challenge that universities and colleges face is their view of their content problem and, consequently, their investment in a solution. Colleges and universities tend to look to technology as a magic pill to cure their content ills. A couple of months ago, I talked with the website administrator at a college that had spent $100,000 on a CMS (content management system) and not one dollar on content strategy. So, this poor website administrator (yes, ONE administrator) was saddled with everything from migrating content into the CMS to wrangling content from stakeholders to managing the content once the new website was launched. And, how is he thanked? With executives complaining about the lackluster content. Well, what did they expect? They were lucky just to get the website launched with no disasters.
Now, I tell this story not to rag on a CMS. I tell this story to emphasize that a CMS alone cannot and will not ever solve your content problems. A hospital never buys an expensive X-ray machine and then forgets to establish the right processes or hire the right clinicians to use the machine. Why? That would be stupid, risky, and, frankly, malpractice. Yet, malpractice is exactly what colleges and universities do when they buy a CMS without investing in content strategy.
So, to overcome this challenge, colleges and universities need to understand the true source of their content problems is not technology. It’s a lack of content strategy. The solution? Invest in the right people and processes that, together WITH your CMS, will make your content get results.
2) Many institutions are now struggling to keep up with the increasing demand on quality content for their websites, social media channels and mobile websites. How can they do it without a magic wand? Is there really a proven methodology for better content?
You’re right that the pressure is “on” as students, parents, alumni, and other users expect colleges and institutions to be available 24/7 on the web…including mobile and social. Businesses are facing the same challenge. If it’s any consolation, businesses are struggling to adapt, too. But, the good news is you don’t need a magic wand to adapt. You DO need good methodology. I’d venture to say that there are a few different methodologies out there. For a nice overview, check out the Content Strategy knol, which I co-curate. The core elements to the methodologies that work are analyze, plan, execute, and evaluate. If you think about it, that’s a methodology for doing just about anything well.
3) In your master class next month you will explain what schools can do to create better content, but can you give us now a couple of quick tips to get on the right track?
Certainly. My master class will focus on making content influential. So, my first tip is to answer this question: What results do you want to influence through your content? Results can be attitudes or actions. For example, you might want to raise awareness of a new academic program (attitude). Or, you might want more of the right prospective students to complete their application (action). The better you understand the results you want, the easier you can form a content strategy that gets those results. We’ll dig into that during the masterclass.
In the meantime, here are two more tips:
- Cut one piece of content that does NOT support a result. Delete that old page. Snip that program description. Delete the out-of-focus photos. It will feel good.
- Try one new content technique that DOES support a result. Content strategy is not all about cutting and analyzing, I’m happy to say. It’s about creativity, too. For example, NC State University used the techniques of curation and storytelling to create a memorable Homecoming experience on its website. Take a look at a page they archived:
Not coincidentally, the Homecoming content obtained such good results, it’s become their internal case study for content strategy.
Want to make your content work harder for your web and mobile websites?
Register for the Master Class by Colleen Jones: Influential Web Content for Higher Ed Websites (October 5, 2011) to learn the principles of compelling content for higher ed.