Author Colleen Jones on Social Media, Web and Mobile Content Challenges in Higher Education

Karine Joly is executive director of Higher Ed Experts, a professional development company, and editor of

Have you heard about Colleen Jones yet?

Hopefully you have, as she might have the key to web, mobile and social media content woes in higher education.

cover of Clout Colleen Jones wrote the best book I’ve read so far this year: “Clout, The Art and Science of Influential Web Content.”

Colleen has been kind enough to take the time to answer a few questions about content strategy and higher ed despite her busy schedule (she was presenting in London at an international content strategy conference just last week).

1) A lot has been said about the need for content strategy in higher ed. In your opinion, what is the biggest content challenge universities and colleges have to face today?

Ah, that’s easy. The number one content challenge that universities and colleges face is their view of their content problem and, consequently, their investment in a solution. Colleges and universities tend to look to technology as a magic pill to cure their content ills.

A couple of months ago, I talked with the website administrator at a college that had spent $100,000 on a content management system (CMS) and not one dollar on content strategy. So, this poor website administrator (yes, ONE administrator) was saddled with everything from migrating content into the CMS to wrangling content from stakeholders to managing the content once the new website was launched. And, how is he thanked? With executives complaining about the lackluster content. Well, what did they expect? They were lucky just to get the website launched with no disasters.

Now, I tell this story not to rag on a CMS. I tell this story to emphasize that a CMS alone cannot and will not ever solve your content problems. A hospital never buys an expensive X-ray machine and then forgets to establish the right processes or hire the right clinicians to use the machine. Why? That would be stupid, risky, and, frankly, malpractice. Yet, malpractice is exactly what colleges and universities do when they buy a CMS without investing in content strategy.

So, to overcome this challenge, colleges and universities need to understand the true source of their content problems is not technology. It’s a lack of content strategy. The solution? Invest in the right people and processes that, together WITH your CMS, will make your content get results.

2) Many institutions are now struggling to keep up with the increasing demand for quality content for their websites, social media channels and mobile websites. How can they do it without a magic wand? Is there really a proven methodology for better content?

You’re right that the pressure is “on” as students, parents, alumni and other users expect colleges and institutions to be available 24/7 on the web…including mobile and social. Businesses are facing the same challenge. If it’s any consolation, businesses are struggling to adapt, too. But, the good news is you don’t need a magic wand to adapt. You DO need good methodology. I’d venture to say that there are a few different methodologies out there. For a nice overview, check out the Content Strategy knol, which I co-curate. The core elements to the methodologies that work are analyze, plan, execute and evaluate. If you think about it, that’s a methodology for doing just about anything well.

2 responses to “Author Colleen Jones on Social Media, Web and Mobile Content Challenges in Higher Education

  1. Cant say anything else wow. Rebecca’s comment really is long and full of information such that it could even be an article. But anyway I would like to thanks karinejoly for posting this article about having quality content and also to Rebecca for the very informative comment which will help my cause for Affordable SEO Hampshire.

  2. It amazes me that even after all these years, we see the web as a technological problem instead of a strategic communications platform.
    Absent a BUSINESS strategy, which informs a CONTENT strategy, and a commitment to REDEVELOP our content, we just continue to build CMS products that do nothing but make it easier to put up more content faster and easier. And more does not equate with effective.
    And just because we have a CMS in place does not mean we are committed to crafting content and messages which align with the needs of our users.
    At UB we are going through a Digital Communications Transformation. As part of this we have committed that our units onboarded to the UBCMS will take a READY AIM FIRE ASSESS REVISE approach.
    We have invested in a creating a documented readiness process that leads our units through:
    –Understanding the changing paradigm of digital
    –Identifying business objectives
    –Understanding audience needs (using ethnographic Mental Models)
    –Auditing content (cleaning out the closet!)
    –Leveraging our information architecture templates
    –Building a content strategy that:
    >Synthesizes all the information gathered above
    >Informs what content should go into the site
    >Identifies messaging (both brand and user-needs)
    >Identifies calls to actions and key tasks
    >Suggests SEO positioning
    >Suggests stewardship level
    >Documents sources
    –Thoughtful redevelopment of content (positioned for the user and written effectively for the web)
    –A plan for assessing results
    All these steps, BEFORE any content hits the UBCMS.
    With that said, it is not easy to walk this path. Some of our units still want to focus on the CMS first, and even some seasoned web practitioners on campus are not fully engaged with the idea that a strategic approach to digital communications (which means they have to change how they do their work) is a path they want to walk down.
    But others have committed time, energy and resources to PLANNING.
    And through going through the steps to inform our content strategy and creating, assessing and stewarding content developed in alignment with the plan, we hope to improve our digital presence
    Because in the end, our e-visitors will judge our institutions by the experience they have on our web sites. We may not know they have been there other than the analytics footprint they leave. And in a Google world, EVERY page in our site is a potential home page for our e-visitors.

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