Content strategy: 12 useful tips for #highered content professionals

March 23rd, 2015 Karine Joly 27 Comments

It’s easy to create content, right?

Get a topic, start typing, add a visual and tada!

It’s easy to create some content, but, as you know, creating good, useful content isn’t.

It’s part art and part science, because great content requires the right topic, the right audience, the right author, the right format and the right timing — often with a dash of luck.

As a content professional working in higher education, you can use all the help you can get to win the big content challenge at your institution. We all do.

That’s why I decided to ask the 12 higher ed content professionals who presented at the 2015 Higher Ed Content Conference (now available on-demand) to share the best piece of advice they got or the most useful lesson they learned in their job as higher ed content professionals.

Higher Ed Content Conference 2015

Hopefully, these tips from your peers will allow you to get some discussions started at your school – so, make sure to share them with other content professionals on your campus.

1) Brainstorm with the team – Mary Jo Stockton (Longwood University)

If it’s possible in your work environment, bring your team together and collaborate on ideas.

Our team members often have great ideas but once we bring them to the table and brainstorm around that idea we end up with something even better. It’s more than just our work skills, we all bring different interests and views to the table and can represent different audience segments. Short brainstorming sessions have lead to better and more engaging content.

2) Become more collaborative – Rebecca McSwiney (University of Southern Queensland – Australia)

The best piece of advice I can share is become more collaborative.

Regularly meet with your support staff, analyse search results and actively listen in social media, these places provided invaluable knowledge and can challenge and strengthen your content.

3) Know your audience – David Anderson (UB)

You have to know your audience and address their needs. Find and interview the people you want to attract. Learn what their needs are. Document that and use it as your guide for all content.

If you can afford it, hire professional writers. Relying on department staff to write marketing content is an exercise in futility.

4) Make it for your audience – Kelly Bennett (Miami University)

Keep it relevant to your audience.

If you can make a piece of content light and humorous, you should. For inspiration, google Memes and Gifs.

5) Make it easy for people to share stories – Joshua Dodson (Eastern Kentucky University)

One lesson is that people do want to share their stories, but on their terms.

We as the hunters and gatherers of content need to make it easy for people to share their stories with us.

When we make it easy, they will share stories about their experiences. They will inform us, direct us, and delight us. We will still have to do something with it, though. If we make it easy for people to share their stories and then follow up, we will never lack valuable content.

6) Take time to think and plan – Tony Dobies (West Virginia University)

Make sure to take time for idea creation and brainstorming at the beginning of the process. Sometimes, we get stuck in the day-to-day processes of our jobs and don’t spend enough time finding inspiration and experimenting with our options.

When developing ideas for bigger projects, get a dynamic, yet small group together and just sit and talk. Write down every idea you can come up with based upon those goals you’ve already set. Check out what others are doing.

And, once you’ve developed an idea, test it. That concept development phase is so important to the success of a project. Smart collaboration, especially from the get go, is the key to any big project.

7) Set an editorial mission statement – Kevin Anselmo (Experiential Communications)

Think about formulating a content mission statement for every content initiative. Your editorial mission statement should be directly related to your overarching strategy. The editorial mission statement should answer the following:

Who is your core audience?
What will you deliver to them?
What is the outcome for this audience from the content?

This will help you tremendously in being strategic and focused. It will reduce the likelihood of investing your time and energy in disconnected content journeys.

8) Fact check your content – Rob Pasquinucci (University of Cincinnati)

This is some advice I just recently heard: if you are going to create content that is useful, i.e., provides information, you should make sure you’re providing well-vetted, accurate information.

Think about the things you tear out of magazines – what if they turned out to be incorrect recipes or wrong information? Would you trust those sources again?

9) Try new things – Lindsay Nyquist (Fort Lewis College)

Don’t be afraid to try new things!

In a world where our technology is constantly evolving, experiment with new platforms and tactics instead of just doing what you’ve always done.

10) Don’t complain, take the challenge – Donna Lehmann (Fordham University)

Stop lamenting the fact the most people won’t read your carefully-crafted content. Don’t take it personal. Take it as a challenge. How can you keep their eyes moving down the page? How do you get them to pay attention to the call to action? How do you strike a balance between giving them what they need and putting what you need them to see under their noses?

11) Focus on what you can change – Richard Prowse (University of Bath – UK)

My advice is to focus on the things you can change and don’t worry about the things you can’t – otherwise it will drive you crazy.

Personally I’ve found working in an agile way has been a big help. Rather than trying to fix all the things I now focus on meeting users’ needs, and iterating over time as I learn more.

12) Kiss perfection goodbye – Valerie Fox (Bentley University)

Don’t let perfection be the enemy of good – just get started and measure and iterate along the way!

So, what’s YOUR piece of advice?

Tell us by posting a comment below!

And, if you want to learn more from these higher ed content professionals, get a 12-month on-demand pass for your team for the 2015 Higher Ed Content Conference.

27 Responses

  1. Dominic McGinley says:

    When it comes to critical analysis of your work by others, try this
    4 Point Plan:
    1. Listen to what is said
    2. Decide if it is valid or not.
    3. If it is valid, then take it on advisement.
    4. If it is not valid, then state why you believe this is so – and thank them for their input!

  2. Keep it simple, don’t try to change too much at once.

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