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Three pillars of a successful higher education content strategy (webinar takeaways)

Three pillars of a successful higher education content strategy (webinar takeaways)

4 minute read

Three pillars of a successful higher education content strategy (webinar takeaways)

4 minute read

Three pillars of a successful higher education content strategy (webinar takeaways)

Robert Mills

Head of Content, GatherContent

This is a summary of our higher education webinar presented by Georgy Cohen, director of digital strategy at OHO Interactive, and expert at wrangling digital content for universities.

Developing and implementing a content strategy in higher ed can feel overwhelming for a wide range of reasons, and these could be  things like:

  • Lack of budget 
  • Lack of time 
  • Lack of resources
  • Insufficient staffing
  • Shifting priorities 
  • Lack of executive buy-in
  • Campus politics 
  • Lack of knowledge 
  • Unclear ownership/process
  • Decentralised environment

When you’re in the day-to-day firefighting, urgent phone calls, and last minute requests, the idea of pausing long enough to reflect and recalibrate seems like an impossible luxury. So how can you start to make content strategy feel more accessible, break it down, and build it into your day-to-day and long-term approach?

In the webinar, Georgy shares the three pillars of a successful higher education content strategy plus lots of tools and frameworks to put into practice. Here are some key takeaways:

The three pillars of content strategy 

The 3 pillars that any content strategy approach within higher ed needs to account for are:

  • Strategy and synthesis. This means clarifying your communications intent and taking holistic stock of your present state. Starting from a place of intent and purpose; knowing where you’re at before you decide where you’re going.

  • Structure and systems. This is the ‘where you're going’ part. Examining the mechanisms that power your communications, considering people, process, and technology. How do we know we are aligned with our strategy?

  • Sustainability and support. Defining a realistic governance approach (and by doing so, iterating your strategy and giving context to your synthesis).
Image shows venn diagram with strategy and synthesis, sustainability and support, and structure and systems


1. Strategy & synthesis

"Every strategy needs a purpose. If you’re intentional, you’ll be successful, because you are giving actions informed direction."

Purpose manifests itself in three key factors, or building blocks, of content strategy. These are: 

  • Goals. Of course, this is about what you are hoping to achieve in your institution. What does success look like? Who are you trying to reach? Who are you trying to convert? You need to think about how organisational goals translate and align to content goals.

  • Messaging. To who are you communicating, and why? When you know who you’re talking to, what are you saying to them? What information are people seeking from you?

  • Audience. It’s important to focus your efforts. You can’t be everything to everybody. If we do that our content is going to be for nobody. Our audience is coming with tasks, with needs. So we need to align content to that.

2. Structure & systems

“When we’re thinking about structure, we’re thinking about people and processes, and how to best leverage connectivity.”

The more consistent, high-quality and structured your content is, the more confident your users will be. They’ll feel like they can trust you and get the right information, and that can have a lot of benefits and can help support conversions down the line. 

Here are just a few examples of structure and systems:

Taxonomy 

How are you organising content, in terms of different categories of content types across your site that are going to be relevant, and how is this being used? You need to make sure you are giving content the right directions and building that into the structure of the site in a way that supports your communications goals. So that on a program page for instance, you’re showing content that is relevant and not showing content that isn’t relevant to users, or supporting overall objectives. You can make your content work harder for you and get more out of it, by planning out informational relationships, and then equipping your publishing mechanism to fulfil that.

Editorial calendar

How is content being planned? How are you creating it? Who is creating it? How are you managing it? What type of content do you need to be creating? Having a way you can plan, schedule and organise digital content publishing is crucial. Use an editorial calendar as a place to park your ideas, know what appropriate deadlines and workflows are to help with editorial decision-making, plan ahead and share resources. This should be a reference for everyone to see what’s going on, to create an internal awareness of what's happening across different platforms.

Content standards

In terms of guiding your efforts, you need content standards. Why? Content needs to be appropriate to our style/brand, following best practice and using optimal ways to publish on the web. This means taking into account accessibility and SEO, and having defined guidelines and standards around things like voice and tone, messaging architecture, visual content guidelines etc. 

3. Sustainability & support

“Have you set yourself up for success or struggle?”

We've talked a lot about building systems and defining goals, but what about sustaining and supporting these? Good content governance can solve content issues that arise. It’s about defining ownership, accountability and support to mitigate risk. 

Content quality assurance 

If your audience is seeing things like broken links, outdated information, old tuition prices etc, then this can do a lot of damage, and diminish their perception of the quality of the institution overall. Make sure you communicate expectations for content upkeep, helping people understand their roles and meet standards for accuracy and quality. What is the content owners’ maintenance process? Day-to-day publishing workflow with an editorial calendar, and also recurring content audits and checks?

Training

This is not an easy battle to fight in terms of funding and finding the time for it. But there is a real need for training. It’s important for quality and gives validity to efforts. Make training a cultural function & expectation, allocate time for it, and document everything. Getting the documentation up to date is a huge first step, but make sure it becomes systematised throughout the organisation, and that people become exposed to it. 

Enable peer support

Peer support can help mitigate the load of managing digital property and relieve central burden. People can maintain relationships and lines of communication, model effective governance, get buy-in on changes, share resources, and spur awareness & oversight. You need to be creating structures where you have communities and groups on campus where people can support each other. Strong relationships help reduce stress from the unexpected issues that arise, because there’s trust. 

How GatherContent can help with implementing content strategy 

GatherContent is a content operations platform helping higher ed institutions to plan, produce and manage content production collaboratively, and embedding content strategy and best practice into your editing environment. Find out what it can do for your institution by heading over to our higher education page, or trying out a free demo.

This is a summary of our higher education webinar presented by Georgy Cohen, director of digital strategy at OHO Interactive, and expert at wrangling digital content for universities.

Developing and implementing a content strategy in higher ed can feel overwhelming for a wide range of reasons, and these could be  things like:

  • Lack of budget 
  • Lack of time 
  • Lack of resources
  • Insufficient staffing
  • Shifting priorities 
  • Lack of executive buy-in
  • Campus politics 
  • Lack of knowledge 
  • Unclear ownership/process
  • Decentralised environment

When you’re in the day-to-day firefighting, urgent phone calls, and last minute requests, the idea of pausing long enough to reflect and recalibrate seems like an impossible luxury. So how can you start to make content strategy feel more accessible, break it down, and build it into your day-to-day and long-term approach?

In the webinar, Georgy shares the three pillars of a successful higher education content strategy plus lots of tools and frameworks to put into practice. Here are some key takeaways:

The three pillars of content strategy 

The 3 pillars that any content strategy approach within higher ed needs to account for are:

  • Strategy and synthesis. This means clarifying your communications intent and taking holistic stock of your present state. Starting from a place of intent and purpose; knowing where you’re at before you decide where you’re going.

  • Structure and systems. This is the ‘where you're going’ part. Examining the mechanisms that power your communications, considering people, process, and technology. How do we know we are aligned with our strategy?

  • Sustainability and support. Defining a realistic governance approach (and by doing so, iterating your strategy and giving context to your synthesis).
Image shows venn diagram with strategy and synthesis, sustainability and support, and structure and systems


1. Strategy & synthesis

"Every strategy needs a purpose. If you’re intentional, you’ll be successful, because you are giving actions informed direction."

Purpose manifests itself in three key factors, or building blocks, of content strategy. These are: 

  • Goals. Of course, this is about what you are hoping to achieve in your institution. What does success look like? Who are you trying to reach? Who are you trying to convert? You need to think about how organisational goals translate and align to content goals.

  • Messaging. To who are you communicating, and why? When you know who you’re talking to, what are you saying to them? What information are people seeking from you?

  • Audience. It’s important to focus your efforts. You can’t be everything to everybody. If we do that our content is going to be for nobody. Our audience is coming with tasks, with needs. So we need to align content to that.

2. Structure & systems

“When we’re thinking about structure, we’re thinking about people and processes, and how to best leverage connectivity.”

The more consistent, high-quality and structured your content is, the more confident your users will be. They’ll feel like they can trust you and get the right information, and that can have a lot of benefits and can help support conversions down the line. 

Here are just a few examples of structure and systems:

Taxonomy 

How are you organising content, in terms of different categories of content types across your site that are going to be relevant, and how is this being used? You need to make sure you are giving content the right directions and building that into the structure of the site in a way that supports your communications goals. So that on a program page for instance, you’re showing content that is relevant and not showing content that isn’t relevant to users, or supporting overall objectives. You can make your content work harder for you and get more out of it, by planning out informational relationships, and then equipping your publishing mechanism to fulfil that.

Editorial calendar

How is content being planned? How are you creating it? Who is creating it? How are you managing it? What type of content do you need to be creating? Having a way you can plan, schedule and organise digital content publishing is crucial. Use an editorial calendar as a place to park your ideas, know what appropriate deadlines and workflows are to help with editorial decision-making, plan ahead and share resources. This should be a reference for everyone to see what’s going on, to create an internal awareness of what's happening across different platforms.

Content standards

In terms of guiding your efforts, you need content standards. Why? Content needs to be appropriate to our style/brand, following best practice and using optimal ways to publish on the web. This means taking into account accessibility and SEO, and having defined guidelines and standards around things like voice and tone, messaging architecture, visual content guidelines etc. 

3. Sustainability & support

“Have you set yourself up for success or struggle?”

We've talked a lot about building systems and defining goals, but what about sustaining and supporting these? Good content governance can solve content issues that arise. It’s about defining ownership, accountability and support to mitigate risk. 

Content quality assurance 

If your audience is seeing things like broken links, outdated information, old tuition prices etc, then this can do a lot of damage, and diminish their perception of the quality of the institution overall. Make sure you communicate expectations for content upkeep, helping people understand their roles and meet standards for accuracy and quality. What is the content owners’ maintenance process? Day-to-day publishing workflow with an editorial calendar, and also recurring content audits and checks?

Training

This is not an easy battle to fight in terms of funding and finding the time for it. But there is a real need for training. It’s important for quality and gives validity to efforts. Make training a cultural function & expectation, allocate time for it, and document everything. Getting the documentation up to date is a huge first step, but make sure it becomes systematised throughout the organisation, and that people become exposed to it. 

Enable peer support

Peer support can help mitigate the load of managing digital property and relieve central burden. People can maintain relationships and lines of communication, model effective governance, get buy-in on changes, share resources, and spur awareness & oversight. You need to be creating structures where you have communities and groups on campus where people can support each other. Strong relationships help reduce stress from the unexpected issues that arise, because there’s trust. 

How GatherContent can help with implementing content strategy 

GatherContent is a content operations platform helping higher ed institutions to plan, produce and manage content production collaboratively, and embedding content strategy and best practice into your editing environment. Find out what it can do for your institution by heading over to our higher education page, or trying out a free demo.

Webinar Recording

Three pillars of a successful higher education content strategy

How to create a scalable framework for sustainable, effective digital communications.

October 25, 2018

3:48 am

Register now

Webinar Recording

Three pillars of a successful higher education content strategy

How to create a scalable framework for sustainable, effective digital communications.

October 25, 2018

3:48 am

Watch now
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About the author

Robert Mills

Rob is Head of Content at GatherContent. He is responsible for managing all of the organisation's content output and for their content operations. Rob also works on audience research projects and strategic initiatives to ensure their content meets both business goals and user needs.

He is a journalism graduate and has previously worked as Studio Manager and Head of Content for a design agency and as an Audience Research Executive for the BBC. He’s a published author and has written for industry publications including Net Magazine, Smashing Magazine, UX Matters, UX Booth and Content Marketing Institute. On occasion Rob speaks about content strategy and content operations at leading industry events or on podcasts.

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