3. Mai 2019

No Team, No Master's Degree – On the Importance of the People Around You

When I started the Content Strategy Master's Programme at FH Joanneum, I expected to tackle it as a lone wolf. After all, it was not the first time for me to study remotely. So I got ready for two lonely years striving towards my degree. I couldn't have been more wrong.

close-up photography of howling wolf
Photo: Michael Mazzone via Unsplash

As soon as I received the note that I made into the programme (25 spots for 80 applicants – I was so proud), I was invited to a Slack channel. I had heard of Slack but had never used it before. We received a list of tasks to fulfill in Slack like "post in channel x what you are very skilled at" or "post in channel y where you work". I was skeptical, to say the least. I wasn't here to write stuff about me, I wanted to learn about content strategy! Then I began reading what the others wrote – and got really excited. 

It quickly turned out that my fellow students would be at least as exciting as content strategy itself. By all the little writing tasks in Slack we got to know each other better and better. By the time we met for our first presence week at the university in Graz, we were no strangers to each other anymore. Side note: To my surprise, many people were shorter than I had expected. How so? When I learn about people before meeting them, I imagine them as tall as I think they are skilled, don't you?

You Never Walk Alone 

It's great to study alongside people you like and respect. What's even better: To be constantly supported by these people. Our Slack conversations have evolved into a magnificent self-help group. Whenever someone posts a question, the answer doesn't take longer than half an hour. Someone will know the answer and post it immediately. Very often it's not about sharing knowledge but frustrations. Juggling a job, 
friends, maybe a family and a Master's Degree is no joke. We all get frustrated from time to time and I do not know of a single one of us who has not thought about giving up at least once. That's when the group shares encouragement and also practical support. One of us has to deal with exceptionally heavy workload at the office? The others will take care of the bigger parts of a group work. One of us has just delivered a baby? The rest of us will try our best to bring her up to speed a few weeks after (Yes, that actually happened). I honestly never thought I would feel this supported during a remote programme with only a few presence days. 

wolf pack on rock formation
Photo: Thomas Bonometti via Unsplash

Study Hard, Party Harder

The best thing about our group is that we like each other. Spending time together is fun and we do it as often as possible during presence times. A really big group turns up at a bar, a restaurant or even a gala? It's probably us, celebrating our latest finished assignment. Admittedly, we will also celebrate before finishing stuff if the opportunity presents itself. Some days we might have turned up to our classes slightly hungover but it was worth it every time. I can truly say that I love this course and that I am really happy to be part of this group. I'm not the only one. Alex has turned all of us into "buyer personas" and wrote the most flattering blog post about the Content Strategy Course 2017.

Keep this in mind if you think about applying for this programme: You might end up with a lot more people you care about by the time you get your degree.

29. April 2019

My Playlist to Write a Thesis to

It's time for my master thesis for the Content Strategy Master's Programme at FH Joanneum. Ideally I'm alone while researching and writing. My reality looks like this though: At least one of my cats wants to "talk" to me about their food situation and/or my husband is watching some science fiction series in the background. 

My solution is a Spotify playlist, consisting of electronic music. Headphones on, volume up, and I dive into my little thesis world. Feel free to use my playlist as well to concentrate.

And if you want to hear what writing a master thesis feels like, take a look at this blog post by my fellow student Alexandra ;)

15. April 2019

Content Strategy is the Same to Your Content as Marie Kondo is to Your Belongings

Just as I started to write my final thesis for my Content Strategy Master's Programme at FH Joanneum, a friend lent me the book "Magic Cleaning" by Marie Kondo. You might know her from her Netflix series "Tidying Up": 

I was instantly intrigued. Partly because I love tidying up and partly because I finally understood why I feel so drawn to content strategy: It's basically the same thing. Let me explain by going through the "KonMarie" method step-by-step and comparing each step to the related one of a content strategy process:

1. Assess What You Have AKA Do a Content Audit

Ms. Kondo tells her clients to first gather all clothes, or books, or kitchen gadgets in one place. This will give them a realistic picture of the amount of things they own. At the same time they can see in what condition each item is. That is what a content strategist does as well when conducting an audit: What does the organization have? Where is it? How old is it? The strategist wants to get a realistic view of the content she will deal with.

2. Take Out the Trash AKA Get Rid of Useless Content   

Tidying up with Marie Kondo is not about organizing the stuff you have but about organizing the stuff you want to keep. She encourages her clients to hold each of their items and to ask themselves whether they "spark joy". If not, they need to go. Not without being thanked for their service though. A content strategist could do the same: Before organizing the content audited, everything that is marked outdated or useless can be let go. It will not "spark joy" for any user.

3.  Store Your Things Neatly AKA Know Where Your Content is

After assessing what you have at home you can finally start organizing. Designate a "home" for every thing and keep it neat. Arrange your things in a way that it is easy for you to see and access them. A content strategy does this as well by modeling content and defining a governance plan. Ultimately a content strategist wants to make sure that content is always at the right place at the right time.

Maybe Marie Kondo should start a second career as a content strategist, what do you think? ;)

11. Januar 2019

Content Strategy in Organizations and in Life

Reaching the third semester of my Content Strategy Master's Program all the bits and pieces finally start making sense. I know, I'm a slow learner. It's exciting when it happens, though. Just a glimpse into what content strategy can be about:

  • We've learned much about auditing an organization's content, looking at the business needs and goals of that organization and determine whether goals and content fit together. 
  • We dove into rules and best practices when it comes to creating written, spoken and filmed content, and even peeked behind the curtains by making first steps in coding (probably the least popular lecture, I feel sympathy for our enthusiastic and patient lecturer).
  • Probably some of the most important lectures dealt with managing content. I think everyone is aware of the sheer amount of content around them and it is frightening when you realize that most of it is poorly managed. Thus content modeling will go a long way–soon hopefully. 
There is far more parts to the puzzle but this is what stuck with me most. I'm excited for what I can do with content now and I'm juggling ideas every day. I catch myself reading online articles with a content bias now: 'Have they modeled their content? That is, are all headlines defined? Is the author defined? What bits and pieces is it made of?' And it really soothes my mind when I can sense a strategy and a model behind a website's content. (Did I mention how much I enjoy a tidy home?)

Content Strategy I Learned from My Fellow Students

Foto: Sarolta Hershey // Edited in Canva

The best part of this Master's Program are my fellow students. We come from all over the world and many different industries. Thus I got to peek into companies, agencies and organizations I had no idea about before. And I learn from content initiatives there–as well as from the other students' ideas. Two examples:

The last thing we are learning from each other is not about the subjects taught. It's about life. Because let me tell you this: Going to work every day and studying in the evenings and on the weekends is tough. We need each other's encouragement and support. A few blog post have been written by us on the topic of managing professional and student life but Alexandra's New Year's Resolution has stuck with me: "Hand in the Master’s Thesis in June"–and don't wait until September. Wish me luck.

27. Dezember 2018

Starting Your Own Business Step 3:
Craft Your Content Strategy

You have spent time to define your offer and your target audience. You have also observed your competition and brands you call your role models. Now it’s time to look at all the material you have collected and draw clues from it for your own content strategy. The tips below are partly drawn from “The Content Strategy Toolkit” by Meghan Casey . It is the best hands-on book I know on the topic. If you want to dive deeper into the topic, get the book!
With your content strategy you want to make sure that you offer the right content, in the right place, at the right time, to the right people (Brain Traffic Blog). Now grab a bunch of sticky notes and a pen before you read on.
Photo: Laura Olsen, Unsplash

The Goal

What is your content supposed to accomplish? Do you want to inform? Is it supposed to sell right away? Do you want to offer help with something? Jot down each goal on a sticky note and stick them to a wall group them on a wall in a line.

The Right Content

Go through all your findings from the two steps before and ask the question: What content should I produce? What content will help get across my goals best? What will make my customers understand why they should buy from me, why they should trust me? You can look for inspiration to your competitors. Remember though that an ebook might not be as helpful for your customers as it is to theirs. Grab your sticky notes again, put down each idea on one of them and group them on the wall next to the goal it fits best. Maybe you need to duplicate some content ideas because they can help reach several goals.

The Right Place

Now to the next cluster: Where should you offer your content? It doesn’t always have to be your website. What about social media? Or a local event in your industry? Mark each of your content ideas with one or several little symbols that each stand for a place. In the example below the heart stands for a website, the circle for Instagram and the triangle for a newsletter.

15. November 2018

Starting Your Own Business Step 2:
Take a Look at the Competition

Welcome to the next step in creating your own content strategy. So far, you've defined your offer and your target audience. You know what you want to do and for whom. Now lets take a look at your competition.
Photo: Andrew Neel

Examining your competition does not mean you plan to copy them or will try to offer exactly the same (nor the exact opposite). This exercise will give you an overview of what’s out there in your field and it will probably inspire you. Your competition might well turn out to be your mentors. I've created a worksheet for your competitive analysis. Just download the spreadsheet for yourself to fill out.

This exercise will be as big or small as you want it to be. Pick at least three businesses in your field but not more than ten. Analyse their offers first and the content they offer second. You might find a blog or a newsletter or a really helpful ebook. What you see might inspire you to use a similar content type for your very own ideas. You might see things you would do completely differently. In the end, you will have gathered a lot of information about your market niche. Stay tuned for the third and last part of this series in four weeks.

18. Oktober 2018

Starting Your Own Business Step 1:
Define Your Offer & Your Customers

I'm a content strategist with a heart for small businesses, no: tiny businesses. I love the one-woman/man show. People who have an idea and dare to put themselves out there hoping to make a living off of their idea. Strategy-wise these solopreneurs often feel a bit lost though. Which is only natural if they are not setting out as business coaches. If you are starting out with your own business and need some strategy advice, this post is for you. 

What is a Content Strategy and Why Do You Need One?   

A content strategy is about finding out what content you need to reach your goals, how to produce it, where to publish it and how to manage it. You might also analyze your competition in the process. You could call it a business strategy that will immediately advise the best content output for your business. 

This sounds like it calls for a lot of reflection time, and it does. Like most solopreneurs, you will probably not have the time to sit down and work it out all before you start your venture. This is why I split the "sit down and write stuff down" part in three and will publish one step each month. You can define a content strategy at any step of your journey: Before you launch your business, while starting out or even years in when you are looking for ways to grow.

Step 1: Put Down Your Offer and Reflect on Your Customers

I've put together this reflection sheet for you that you can download and fill out. You don't like to write? Just record your thoughts with your phone. Or create a collage. If you have a specific product you might wonder why you should think about it. It will help you get a clearer picture of your own business and goals. Give it a go and stay tuned for the next step in the series.