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Planning for Content Creation in Higher Ed
Planning for Content Creation in Higher Ed


Planning for Content Creation in Higher Ed

Oct 29, 2018By mStoner Staff

Creating compelling content that moves your audience to action is one of the highest-value activities for marketing and communications professionals.

But creating amazing content — whether it’s a 500-word blog post or a four-page feature story in the alumni magazine — requires planning. At mStoner, we believe time spent planning for content is time well spent.

After hundreds of content-focused client engagements, we’ve identified six reasons why content projects go awry:

  1. Structure. Offices and departments are often siloed, making collaboration difficult across different parts of the institution.
  2. Staffing. The right people must be in place to consistently produce content of value. This means having access to writers, photographers, and videographers.
  3. Tools. You need tools that will enable effortless collaboration. Emailing Word documents back and forth becomes cumbersome and difficult to manage when you’re tasked with rewriting hundreds of pages of web content.
  4. Processes. Do you have a content approval process in place? Who is responsible for putting finished content on the website or social media? The larger the project, the higher the need for a defined process.
  5. Quality. Unfortunately, there are times when the work doesn’t come together quite right, and the final product is unusable. What then?
  6. Audience Needs. In some cases, we see beautiful content in search of a target audience. If your content doesn’t meet an actual need of a priority audience — and no one views the content or takes action as a result — the effort goes to waste.

How do we mitigate these risks? Proper planning from the start.

Three Steps for Content Planning

Step One: Assess What You Have

When was the last time you conducted a content audit and/or inventory? We recommend both. Why? It’s impossible to know where you’re headed if you don’t know where you are right now! The goal is to come out of this step with a clear idea of what you have that’s reusable and what gaps you need to fill with new content.

  • A content inventory is a quantitative assessment. This process results in a list, typically in a spreadsheet, of all the content at your disposal. A comprehensive audit will include text, video, images, and documents.
  • A content audit is a qualitative assessment that evaluates the content you cataloged during the inventory. You’ll likely add fields to your spreadsheet that include purpose, intended audience, accuracy, necessity, brand/tone consistency, quality, owner, last update, and next steps.

A full inventory and audit can take anywhere from two to six weeks and should answer the following questions:

  1. How much content do you have?
  2. What is the quality of that content? Is it accurate?
  3. Who owns each piece of content?
  4. Will you archive old or poor-quality content?

Skeptical, or short on time? Try it with the content on your top-level website pages. You may be surprised by what you find.

Step Two: Identify What You Need

Now that you’re clear on the content that exists, you can more easily identify the content you need to create to better support your audiences, as well as content that can simply be rewritten or removed.

We’re often asked, “How do I know what content will be relevant, timely, and impactful for my audience?”

To start to make those decisions, we use a tool called an Experience Map. To serve your audiences, you need to understand their experience in a meaningful way. Thus, when you empathize with your audience’s experiences, you can create and deploy content to enrich them.

Experience maps are graphical representations of the interactions individuals have with your institution. They’re effective tools for developing empathy and understanding for your target audience because they highlight users’ thoughts, feelings, and actions as they seek to accomplish a task, such as applying to your institution or donating to the annual fund.

I highly recommend downloading our free, on-demand webinar that covers how to use an experience map to help create stakeholder alignment, develop user-centered content, and prioritize your content efforts.

Step Three: Plan for Governance and Roles

With any large-scale storytelling or content project, it’s likely you’ll need to involve a number of people from a few departments. And the project won’t be anyone’s full-time job. Because there are always many other competing priorities, you’ll want to plan up front for how many hours you and the team can dedicate to creating content. This allows you to set a timeline that’s realistic and makes sure that you don’t get behind schedule.

If the project involves content creation that’s not necessarily produced by your office or department, it’s helpful to make a note of who needs to review and approve that content before it goes live. And, just as important, determine who will be responsible for maintaining the content after launch.

How many people does it take to create great content? Short answer: It depends. To figure out how many people you might need, examine the kinds of roles that are necessary to make your project successful.

Those roles may include a:

  • Writer
  • Strategist
  • Editor
  • Photographer
  • Videographer
  • Illustrator
  • CMS editor
  • Developer
  • Analytics specialist
  • Project manager
  • UX designer
  • Visual designer
  • Social media manager

Free Planning Guide

To help you plan for exceptional content, we’ve put together a printable Digital Content Planning Guide that includes a content planning worksheet.

Once you know what content you have, what you need to create, and how the content will be managed and produced, you’ll have well-earned peace of mind. Not only that, you and your team will be freed up to focus on what matters most: creating bold, distinctive, and truly impactful content.