Summing up ContentEd 2018
Last week I attended ContentEd – a two-day conference dedicated to content strategy in higher education. In this post, I recap the highlights and lessons learned from this inspiring and educating conference.
2018 marked the 2nd edition of ContentEd. It’s run by Pickle Jar Communications, a content strategy consultancy specialising in the education sector.
It’s Europe’s only content strategy conference focused on HE and brings together delegates from around the world who are interested in all things content related.
Better content with structured content
Last year I got to hear Richard Prowse (Head of Digital, University of Bath) speak at IWMW about Publisher, their very own CMS that they’ve built, and I was glad to have the chance to learn more about it at ContentEd.
Publisher is all about structured content. It operates based on the principles of COPE- create once, publish everywhere. This means the content is marked up so it can be used across a range of platforms and services.
As our team goes on to planning the migration of EdWeb to Drupal 8, we’ve been starting to think about structured content. One of my initial concerns with structured content, though, is how we can get Edinburgh web editors (of which there are 100s) to adapt to this style of web editing, especially in an institution where many of them only update their site once or twice a year.
However, after speaking with the Digital Content Manager at Bath, I learned they have had non-specialist web editors come up to them to tell them how much they love Publisher and the way it gets them to structure content.
So that was reassuring and makes me more hopeful about the changes we can bring to Edinburgh because I believe structured content will lead to better content and better content means a better website. The dream!
Think outside your sector
The most surprising presentation at ContentEd came from Alex Ayling, Head of Digital Studios at BBC Worldwide.
What was the Head of Digital Studios at BBC Worldwide doing at an HE conference you may wonder? I wondered about this, too, and this presentation taught me a very important lesson: there is great value in learning something not directly related to your sector, but on a topic that gets you to think differently about your own work.
Alex joined us to speak about experiments in audience-led storytelling. He talked about instances where fans illegally remixed and shared BBC content which then turned viral. Instead of pursuing legal action against those who shared the content, the BBC embraced the free marketing and interest in their content from it.
For example, Alex talked about the much shared iguana-snake chase scene from Planet Earth II that was went up online before the series even premiered (and became the subject of many parodies).
Alex’s point was to not be precious about your content. Allowing outside collaboration can lead to new ways for people to engage with it.
This message is especially relevant to Edinburgh where we have a highly devolved publishing model and operate in departmental silos when it comes to our web content.
Even before we think about outside collaboration, we need to think of the ways we can collaborate internally and work towards a website that’s structured on user needs and not organisational hierarchy.
Content strategy is compassion
Tracy Playle, CEO of Pickle Jar Communications and founder of the conference, closed ContentEd delivering what I found to be the most important messages of the two days: content strategy is compassion and design for inclusiveness.
In the world of content, we succeed when we put our audiences front and centre. And inclusiveness goes beyond our traditional notions of diversity – for example, how do we design for introverts?
Tracy’s keynote reminded me why I love the work I do – it’s rewarding to work in a field where you genuinely care about your users and want them to have positive experiences when interacting with your content.
I’d also like to note that Tracy delivered these messages through analogies to the Disney film Moana. This delighted me greatly.
I love conferences…but what next?
I’ll end this post referencing the first speaker at the conference, Mike Petroff (Director of Content Strategy, Harvard University).
Mike kicked things off by telling us how he loves conferences and learning new ideas from them, but when he gets back to his institution, implementing those ideas is tricky.
This got me thinking about the value of conferences in general and what you choose to do with the lessons you learn at them.
The ContentEd team got us to fill out three actions we’d take after the conference, and I wrote:
- write a blog recap of ContentEd (check!)
- follow up with at least three people I met (two LinkedIn messages delivered so far)
- implement at least one new technique I learned in my workplace (need to give some more thought to this one)
More than halfway there, so off to a good start.
A massive round of applause and thank you to the ContentEd team for running an awesome conference. Hope to see you next year.