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First Principles

22 Nov 2018

In our continuing efforts to keep people up to date on the progress of the developing web content strategy, today I want to talk a little bit about the emerging first principles.

So yeah, we’re starting to make a little bit of head way here in the web content strategy bunker. Normally that means Lancaster Hall, but today I’m tucked away in a corner of the staff common room as Kevin and the crew hang the Christmas decorations. I know, I know, I’m barely a paragraph into this post and already I’m digressing. But it’s the most wonderful time of the year (try reading that without singing the tune in your head) and I’m feeling festive. Plus, as I said, we’re starting to make some headway with our emergent web content strategy. Of course nothing is definitive yet, but I wanted to give an outline of some of the core content creation principles that we’re looking to include in our overall strategy.

Content Creation Principles

Having a framework or blueprint or set of principles will be invaluable to those of us tasked with creating content for UCC’s website. They give us a sense of structure, and a bit of guidance when we’re not sure where to start. To that end, we’ve been using the following to guide a number of nascent web content projects – be they an overall website revamp or the creation of specific video content for different areas. By answering this series of questions, you’ll be able to start to formulate a plan of attack in how you approach the creation of the content for your sites.

1. Who is your audience?

It’s not good enough to just say everyone! Be specific about who you audience are and why they are important to you. This will guide your content decisions strongly.

2. What are your messages?

Ask yourself what you want the audience to remember or keep in mind after they’ve watched a video or read the content of your site. You’ll then need to weave that into the mix of content so that you can give the audience what they want, while also getting across what you want.

3. What is the purpose?

There can be multiple purposes for a piece of content – to persuade, to inform, to validate, to instruct, and/or to entertain. Explicitly stating the purpose(s) of the content you are creating will give you a good steer as to the tone and voice and approach you are going to use, and what you need to include in that content.

4. Who owns it?

We need to state clearly who owns the content. This will give you clarity on who is responsible for the quality of the content, and who you need to approach to confirm the accuracy and relevance of the content.

5. When is it needed for?

Answering this question gives you an insight into the workload that creating this content is going to require and helps you plan out your work, shift around tasks and prioritise specific activities so that you can get the content ready for when it is needed (and ultimately ensure that the content is timely and relevant to the audience).

6. How are we going to promote it?

A key thing to consider is also which channels you will disseminate the content through, and how frequently, and for how long? The person asking for the content to be created needs to provide this information (at least in an outline) before you start creating the content so that you can create it in the right format. Now we would strongly recommend that your website be your primary channel for delivery of the content to your audience, especially if it is dense, complex information. But you will also need to consider how you will help people find this content. This can include social media posts, email newsletters, and making sure your content is optimised for search engines.

Tis a Start

So there you have our basic principles for content creation. A lot of you are probably already answering at least some of these questions. But hopefully this set of principles will help further guide you to creating effective website content for UCC.


Sources

A lot of our thinking on this has been informed by the work of Kristina Halvorson and Melissa Rach in their book Content Strategy for the Web, and Sarah Richards in her book, Content Design and if you’re interested in learning more about this area, I can’t recommend their books enough. I got them both on Amazon.

For more on this story contact:

Maurice Ryder | Web Content Strategist | Office of Marketing and Communications | m.ryder@ucc.ie / dewg@ucc.ie 

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