Concretely, content! (Part 2: Planning for it.)

Content is king — on the web, in print, on social, and in video. In Part 1, I offered advice for creating content immediately, when you’re in a rush and have to produce. With a little more time though, how should you plan for content? What do you need to include in a content strategy?

First, understand that content connects your college or university’s brand to the hearts and minds of the audiences you are trying to reach, influence, and move to take action. It can, and should, demonstrate the truth of your brand promises. Here’s what you do:

  • Follow your brand standards.
    A brand standards guide should direct the content development. Providing detail about positioning statement(s), goals, audiences, messages, adjectives, and proof points to campus writers will ensure consistency across your channels and platforms. They can’t stay on message if the don’t know what the messages are.
  • Develop a well-articulated editorial style.
    Editorial style is made up of voice and tone. “Voice is the distinct personality, style, or point of view…” Tone is considered the subset of voice; it is the mood. (I adore Grammar Girl’s “Understanding Voice and Tone in Writing.”) The central marketing and communications team should write a summary of the voice and tone to be used for all communications and share it with anyone on campus who develops content. They can’t model what they can’t see.
  • Provide editorial direction.

    Regular and specific editorial direction is needed for high-quality, integrated, on-message communications. It doesn’t happen organically and should include:

    • Management (really, I mean control) of the photography and messaging on the homepage and top-level landing pages of your website.
    • Use of editorial calendars for keeping track of who’s saying what when. All the professional communicators should communicate. The best editorial calendars are cross-channel and cross-audience. Editorial calendars can set the stage for repurposing content.
    • A commitment to consistency. Getting your message out takes reinforcement and a regular, integrated approach across platforms means your audiences will get it above the noise of the other messages they’re receiving. Perhaps, consistency is the application of an agreed upon information architecture after the relaunch of a site. Or, consistency might be use of the official event calendar to promote events. (Yes, the events that you host, promote, and highlight are expressions of your brand.)
  • Use audience personas. 

    Audience personas can illustrate the creation of brand-based content for specific audience segments. Using data from audience interviews, a persona is a representative personal story from a particular audience segment. Personas humanize the target audiences for writers; at the very least, personas remind us that we’re generating content for people with different needs and expectations than our own. At their best, personas help to clarify choices in language, navigation, and the prioritization of content. For more, Wikipedia provides a fine summary about the use of audience personas for marketing.

Content planning also means repurposing and thinking broadly about what content is:

Do I need a Part 3? Tell me in the comments what else you’d like me to cover in future posts.

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Author: susantevans

Susan T. Evans is director of corporate and foundations relations at the College of William & Mary. She is a proven strategic leader with deep expertise in advancement, communications, brand management, marketing, digital strategy, technology, administration and organizational development. She is known for creative and strategic approaches to challenges within higher education, nonprofits and business.

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