strategy for smart content decisions

(watch it online. I may have to do that myself, because reasons.)

these notes may be extra-terrible, because I’m still coming down from my talk.

we (still) need a core content strategy statement. the Origin meals example is really handy.

OMG We could use the audience and goals worksheet to establish a core strategy statement for their site.

Oh hey it’s content strategy bear. “Don’t be this guy.”

“start asking smart questions”

(just start doing the thing seems to be a core theme of ConfabEDU)

talk to the people you don’t want to talk to. if you don’t bring them along for the ride, they might derail you later.

some tools that she’ll try to link to later

the content strategy madlib.

content work sessions

MY PRESENTATION, Y’ALL. (slides on slideshare)

Didn’t faint. [check]

Mic on correctly. [check]

Drank water. [check]

Didn’t lose my place in presentation. [check]

Stayed enthusiastic. [check]

Stayed in time, but not too short [check]


Notes [added later]

Something I forgot to talk about that I only remembered later, spurred by Amanda Costello’s “silo” keynote: often we’ve found as we work through the topics that we need to bring in people from other areas. Sometimes sessions have to be devoted to who “owns” which pieces, who’s willing to keep them up-to-date, etc. It’s even happened a few times that people working on overlapping subjects have MET each other at our work sessions.

CRUX of the matter

“content repository user experience”

their team is in IT

@esses moved from architecture to web

“we’re all drowning in content”

“improving communication in the middle layers”

building something that will be remodel-able

designed for sharing

phased approach to a shared content repository

they’re on Drupal

during the migration, they worked with editors to at least break existing content into chunks with subheaders and lists. getting the mindset of chunking into people’s heads. (I wonder if that’s an option for the “speed-dating” version)

overlap! allowing people to curate content from a “single source of truth”

started with event calendar & faculty directory (YO THIS IS US)

didn’t need every possible functionality up front, better to go with “minimal viable”

“aiming for gymnist (vs contortionist)” in using Drupal’s flexibility

web averse vs web comfy vs web savvy

I like this slide describing someone who is “web comfy”

before, their training focused on technical

teaches users how to do their

“writing & editing for the web” is part of their training curriculum for editors

now must complete 2-part training: part 1 is writing, editing, taxonomy, editorial strategy, content types; part 2 is technical training.

(totes wanna steal their curriculum)

interesting idea: training on Portfolio?

octopus vs candalabra: I think we’re going to have to split the difference, because of how the information is actually managed. (but I need to figure out WTAF is going on with entry in the staff directory)

need to talk to JM, also, about some of the in-theme author experience issues (tabs, draft pages)

be realistic about bumps in the road

options for personalizing links on audience landing pages, options for submitting events & announcements. as an early phase towards crowdsourcing content.

can filter in events on your page that belong to other groups. (how intriguing)

most of the “sites” that they’re talking about are academic department sites, which is mostly not relevant for us. (and for which I’m often grateful)

“things that are maybe less than optimal”

playing well with others

most of our team agreements are implicit, rare to make it explicit

(I think is something we’ve been working towards in our work sessions)

happy teams: communicate well, share a common vision

unhappy teams have broken contracts (probably implicit)

“what’s their expectation of what I’m bringing to the meeting?”

“curating” the skills of a team — tell people at the outset what you expect

“what if…we put everyone in the room at the beginning!” poor communication, treating people differently, realize who is actually ON the team.

“one of the more insidious problems is failing pretty” – we let it go on too long. people don’t go to the meetings or respond to emails, but somehow there’s no consequences?! but if you’re not talking about what’s going wrong and why, it’s still failing

a really great team where they invented a person to blame everything for. “Tony forgot the coffee. Tony broke the printer. Tony put that bug in the code.”

getting teams to flow: if you’re building a team (hi Susan!) you have a lot of flexibility.

how do we build a team that communicates well?

slide will have book (etc) recommendations

“the invisible, non-work-oriented work of being on a team” – the social part of that, knowing each other as people.

“the fluffy things aren’t fluffy”

(so some of this is actually connecting with things that I’ve been talking about with my therapist, altho in re: social anxiety. weird.)

happy teams are balancing their workloads.


make your contracts explicit

write down the things that you’re going to do as a team.

what is the goal of our team? might have to a meeting, may discover that not all agree.

the question of tools. “I don’t know anyone who’s email isn’t the bane of their existence”

the process work of putting things together (categorizing, etc) seems like a lot of time, but is really, really, really important. it has to be intentional.

“most people were perfectly happy bitching about their email”

giving people a REASON to use the tool(s)

having a cadance (a pattern of working, agile, weekly meetings, whatever) is important, something the whole team buys into.

conversation with Jared Spool about skills vs roles — what happens when you have more than one person with the same skillset? And in our area, our intentions of what to do may overlap! (UX, Content strategy, etc, etc) you can cross-train with your skills, but who will make the decisions?

not team leader, but process leader; the person who builds a framework to help uphold the contract. to help you answer “are you getting what you need to reach the goal?” and say YES. in Agile the person who “removes the blockers” — neutral faciliation role

what if you’re not the person building or running the team?

sometimes it’s enough to just ask for those things; go in assuming the best until otherwise.

otherwise: be subversive. not talking behind people’s backs, but creating the environment in which you want to work. (which is pretty much what I used to do with Dale)

just start communicating well. be in charge of getting the team to know each other. start asking what the goals are. going out for coffee. being the bridge (my words, not hers).

an introvert who has practiced the craft of networking. her story is sort of the opposite of mine, only in so much as what I’m learning about meeting people I’m learning from someone who is AMAZING vs the cautionary example.

LOL. (I’m starting to think that there’s a lot of introverts who are really into making connections between people who “ought to” know each other.)

[minor personal revelation about previous job and small talk. talk to Oakwright.]

“reset” is probably the best idea for teams that have been working poorly for a while. can you bend the team leader’s ear? “Can we have a check-in on how the *team* is doing?” Every team has something working well, start with that!

forcing ourselves to be intentional (I think that’s one of the overall lessons of this) — “what’s important for us to agree to?” (I wonder if the Social Contract is a good model for this?) you don’t call people out for failing it, but build a culture where that’s just how it is.

Berkun keynote

we should all be poked at when we get into specialized language

“whoever uses the most jargon (probably) has the least confidence in their ideas”

precise language has value, but use the simplest language you can

“innovative” – used sloppily.

“narrative bias” – instinctively prefer simple satisfying stories even if they’re false

what happened before and after the “flash of insight”?

(this slide reminds me of the underpants gnomes)

where do good ideas die on your team?

talking about Star Trek — and I’m reminded that it was really based on Westerns (and that’s based on a myth of the Old West), so.

“we like to believe the best ideas win” (why I dislike when C sez “good design sells itself”)

“who’s a good scout on your team? are they doing scouting tasks?” (which we are here)

good stuff all around.

lightning talks

  1. M & Sh & student should watch the 1st one.
  2. oh interesting, theological school for UU. (2nd one) identify your MacGyver tools.
  3. “an email newsletter for students that they actually read” (cute logo) and it’s really nice looking (simple) short, funny blurbs. listicles! RESPONSIVE. (M should definitely check this out) doubled the click-through rate, didn’t see the usual drop off over the quarter.
  4. this bit on NYU Stern’s “street team” might be of interest to the admissions folks; they’re integrated with social media & other marketing, it looks like.
  5. this is about saying no, but what I’m finding interesting — and side-chatting about on twitter about — is the role of student workers in our work.
  6. card sorting: still the bomb.

(watch ’em online.)


user-centered content strategy

“we were basically emailing them direct links to pages on our website”

card sorts!

students’: mental model, priorities, language

(wow, I think we’re actually doing really well with this!)

4 steps to make the shift

  1. get management support & sponsorship

overcoming challenges — “show, don’t tell”: she mentions running a usability test

producing tangible results, involving stakeholders throughout.

card sorts!

need to read The Content Strategy Toolkit, which we already have at work.

2. building the right team

she’s really into student workers as part of the team.

“our users are all around us”

key skills: visual design, ux, content, analyst

foster their skills

she takes them to local conferences, have them present with her at events. (oh, maybe at the user group meeting, or even have them lead speed-dating content workshops)

3. involve users early in the design process

[what about getting the students involved in user research?]

“simplify people’s lives” (as our ultimate goal)

check rough prototypes early, so you can have your failures early.

nice clip of usability testing

use social media & email to create pool of participants (I wonder if that would work for prospective students) — for us, with students, the internal web message board works strikingly well.

“aim to make things better, not perfect”


4. measure & communicate results

nice report that they created to share improvement. (or is that a thing on tumblr? yeah, it’s a site that they update periodically: maybe once a month?)

“when fixing problems, try to do the least you can do” – Steve Krug

TBH, the MOST interesting thing about this session is how she uses and trains student works.

Q&A with Halvorson

(this was supposed to be something else, but that presenter had a family emergency)

some really nuanced thoughts on PDFs and context.

dealing with distributed authorship – if it’s a box that they check off instead of something that they really care about. these are still professionals! have to have compassion, relationship-building, trust. “my job is to make you look good” then identifying the areas that CAN’T suck and paying extra attention. if you can, work with HR & admin to get it [web authoring etc] into their job descriptions.

#1 way to build trust is page load time.

“they’re really not there for the slideshow”slack channels by project.

Cleaning up after a messy migration

“there’s too much to do it efficiently”

useful to see how the mess got that way, not to repeat past mistakes, but to remember that (most) people are trying to do their best with what they have.

migrate it all or nuke it & start over? (FWIW, usability testing is what gave us the whatever that the housing folks — our first really in-depth content session people — told US to “burn it all down and start over”)

[oh! talk to Susan about adding CMS access as part of employee leaving check-off]

“we had dead people in our CMS. who still owned content.”

policy for regular purging after a year. (oh, is that a thing I can do with Rules? removing Site Editor roles.)

[idea from talking about duplicate content — can I use that module that’s in the LC directory to alert to duplicate titles?]

I really need to do a test rollout as soon as I can get in an initial Migration.

good reminder to make sure it’s clear if something isn’t published (they’re coming from a similar setup where the CMS is very separate from the website, and people tried to email draft pages after the migration to Drupal.)

I feel like there’s maybe too much of the presentation about the terrible things they were going from, vs what I was hoping to learn about the post-migration cleanup. yes, yes, the old CMS was pretty awful.

“people’s behavior is shaped by their tools”

starting to wonder if there’s a way to do a speed-dating version of content worksessions. maybe a weekly open hours time at least for the next few months? what’s a good time for that sort of thing?

are there things that don’t actually belong on the website at all?

when they migrated, everything got moved over in a draft state. then after a year, if it hadn’t been touched, it was deleted: about 70% of all the pages!

communicating what the web IS for.

they wrote a manifesto. what would OUR manifesto be, based on our core values?

you don’t “win” by having the most pages 🙂

[thinking about having a section of things I would like to in the future with our content work sessions: the speed-dating version, the regular review]

minimum viable content – a lot like our “is it better than what we have now?” thing.

[got derailed for a bit looking at something about the committees site]

chart of mini-projects: looking for “click here”, regularizing pronouns, reviewing duplicate page titles (great for students!)

huh, they went directly to Drupal 8?

need to schedule another user group meeting!

How to succeed at practically anything

their sitch is a lot like ours (no one actually doing content strategy)

I feel like the Rahel slide needs to go to SB et al just to get that solid definition across.

  1. focus on the things that matter
  2. do those things well
  3. tell everyone about the cool thing you did
  4. measure the results

super-obvious (her words), but a useful framework.

the core mission is NOT to create websites, or publish alumni magazines, or manage social media campaigns. know the actual core mission. “what do we know about what keeps the people ‘on the 2nd floor’ awake at night?”

“mission statement generator” LOLs — OTOH, can be focusing.

focusing on which things should be livestream — using “the things that matter” as a filter.

“invisibility cloak” story was a great win: came from a signature program and was also objectively awesome.

reminder that online, a press release is its own destination — no longer just serving traditional media relations role.

“more people will see your online press release than reporters ever will”

specialty stories may research specialty audiences – “twisting quantum cryptography” got views via Slashdot & Reddit. (and thus a reminder to think about it as its own destination)


sometimes you have to do dumb stuff, but don’t let it get you to phoning it in

doing fun stuff (what would be fun stuff that would actually connect to the things that matter to us?)

we should also create opportunities for others to make & share their own stuff (she wants to do this more in her environment)

experiment and show value. (my thoughts: what’s the “next level” for fields of study?)

“operation jazz hands” — how could they jazz up some stories? as an experiment.

“just doing things, and being honest about what it took to do them”

she thinks Georgia Tech does a great job with Facebook.

tumblr: Yale & Rochester “a way for little niche communities to find you”

Oberlin annual fund ad. (this is really delightful, actually. need to share this slide in particular.)


it’s YOUR job to make sure people internally know what you do for a living. it’s on you to make sure that people see the value.

Wayne State web communications blog.

THE LEGO HOME PAGE at Rochester.

“they’re your little content babies and you have to get them out there” — promoting the actual content. Basecamp (project planning) + Slack (to break down silos WITHIN communications)

each bit of content needs its own distribution plan

slide about how people find news.


“what does victory look like?”

be honest about the amount of effort and what result will make you happy

[how are M & JM working together on analytics-type stuff? also, looking at news page and thinking about earlier ideas, how are we following up on stories that are basically “interesting event X is ]

“oh, I’m sorry it’s “only” for the web where it’s seen by THIRTY-TWO THOUSAND people” (re photography)

analysis about tweeting to admitted students. congratulated 92 students in kind, 44 of them retweeted: 13K followers of their own. “measuring the value of the high five”

“facebook challenge”: 50% organic reach, 1% engagement on each post. don’t always hit it, but it’s a strong goal. [link to really good presentation on this slide]

they have a list of things that work on Facebook. “own who you are”

[what IS successful in our livestreaming site? is it doing us any good?]

Increasing viewership


virtuous circle. (for sure)

“don’t wait for the process”