Higher Ed Content Voices: 13 great tips to create better content from #highered pros

April 8th, 2014 Karine Joly No Comments

Got content headaches?

Content issues in higher education can be messy: many audiences, many content contributors, many channels and lots of headaches ;-)

If you are in charge of defining or implementing content strategy at your university or college, don’t you wish you could pick the brain of other content strategists working in higher ed?

I bet you do!

That’s why I asked the 13 presenters of the 2014 Higher Ed Content Conference to share the secret weapon they use to create better higher ed content.

Higher Ed Content Conference Line-Up

Donna Talarico

1) Show & Ask – Donna Talarico, Director of Integrated Communications at Elizabethtown College

Sometimes, I rewrite content or a headline, without permission, and email the link to the edited page; this shows the campus client what they were missing. To wow them, if you will. Second, specifically related to the web, our team now requests a content calendar and several-months-worth of content, or at least solid outline, before we’ll set up a page/site or give someone access to the CMS. In short, we’re challenging our web users to think deeper and educate them that the web is not just a place to put stuff.

Liz Babiak2) Use your calendar – Liz Babiak, Social Media Community Officer at Algonquin College

Higher Ed has the benefit of knowing many of our academic and administrative deadlines months in advance. Students often have a lot of questions about these deadlines, so we can anticipate the information they need to know and schedule it to publish at the times they’ll need the answers most.

amanda_wimmer3) Ask for help – Mandy Potts, Marketing and Communications Manager at UW Oshkosh

Using the people who know the content or stories best—our UW Oshkosh Story Champions—is what helps our team create dynamic, distinctive content. In short, gathering the community of people who are eager and anxious to help tell UW Oshkosh’s story is my secret weapon.

4) Share good examples – Cameron Pegg, Executive Officer at Griffith University in Brisbane (Australia)cameron_pegg

A sure fire way to produce better content is to regularly share successes and ideas with your colleagues, and to encourage their input into the brainstorming process. When people see that others have tried something new that has worked, they feel empowered to give it a go themselves and build upon that success (infographics are a great example). You can facilitate this discussion via regular team meetings, a platform like Yammer, a listserv or even a shared document or spreadsheet on Google Drive.

tabitha_green5) Test all the time – Tabita Green, Director of Web Content at Luther College

We’ve incorporated a simple user testing process to identify areas for improvement on our website and also to test our changes to make sure that they are actually improvements.

6) Talk to your students – Marcy Gineris, Web Content Manager and Strategist at Eastern Mennonite UniversityMarcy Gineris

Any opportunity to sit and chat informally with students usually turns into a gold mine of creativity for those of us in my very collaborative office. Whether they’re grad schoolers or first-year freshmen, students who share ideas and experiences help us course-correct and travel new paths. And chatting with certain students is wonderfully energizing. It reminds us why we do what we do.

7) Use guidelines & templates – Klinita Burke, Campus Webmaster at The University of the West Indies, Cave Hill CampusKlinita Burke

We always share our Web Writing Guidelines document and create a content plan for the department before the assigned web editors begin to gather content for a new website.
For some websites, creating content templates (a form that specifies exactly the details needed and the format) is a structured easier way to get content providers to compile content.

8) Meet face-to-face – Mike Petroff, Digital Content Strategist at Harvard Universitymike_petroff

My secret weapon is getting out from behind the desk and meeting with people in person.

There are so many great storytellers around a school, and opportunities to connect and facilitate discussions are essential.

9) Use professionals – David Anderson, at UB School of Medicine and Biomedical SciencesDavid Anderson

Professional writers. We have two full-time writers and one part-time writer in our office. They write all the content for our transformed site and all the articles that appear on their sites.

There’s a pretty common misconception that staff in departments, who might spend 4-5 hours a year writing, can be transformed in to experts in writing for the web. It’s simply not possible: writing is both an art and a practice. One (or even a few) training sessions in how to write for the web cannot make up for years of inattention. Writing requires daily practice to develop the skill and remain sharp.

10) Use campus resources – Rob Pasquinucci, Director of Communications at UC College of Arts and SciencesRob Pasquinucci

Faculty – they are often doing the research that can be turned into great social media content. I’m a big believer in developing an editorial calendar or some sort of status document to keep track of the many articles we have in the works. If you have a journalism or PR program, you have a great opportunity to hire a student worker or intern to help develop content.

Donna Lehmann11) Make your content scannable – Donna Lehmann, Director of Online Communications at Fordham University

I find people really grasp this concept. It’s one thing to say write for the web or be concise or use bullet points and subheadings but it’s the act of scanning a web page that they can relate to because it’s such universal behavior. It’s also something that content creators can be rather objective about; you know it when you see it.

12) Talk and Educate – David May, Director of Web and Interactive Marketing at Chapman UniversityDavid May

Providing context and training for anyone who will listen.

13) Use the right tools – Chris Symechris_syme

Google Calendar and audience research (monitoring/listening).

What about YOU? What’s your secret weapon for better higher ed content?

Please, don’t be shy and share yours by posting a comment below!

And, if you want to learn more from these great higher ed social media professionals, make sure you sign up your team for the 2014 Higher Ed Content Conference (Apr 30, 2014).