Reinventing News on Your University Website: Chatting with @radiofreegeorgy #highered

by Kate Brodock on 18 July 2012

Posted in: Conferences & Events,Content Production

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A group of SU communications professionals had the pleasure of listening to Georgy Cohen this morning speak about how to best

Georgy is a writer, speaker and consultant focused on digital communications in higher education and nonprofits. She own Crosstown Digital Communications, LLC, and co-author Meet Content, a blog and resource for the higher ed community.

I’ve pulled together some of the key points of her talk here.

Tufts Now

When Georgy was working at Tufts, there were two different outlets for news, and no one knew what to do with them. They weren’t talking to each other. We decided we wanted to create a “delicious blend” of content from across campus.

This proved to be really hard really difficult for the our team to make that shift. We started looking beyond higher ed to news outlets, major brands, etc to see how they’re telling stories. These sites are the ones that are really setting the standards for telling news.

We came up with Tufts Now. The narrative overall is telling one story.

Online news in higher ed: An overview

What is the purpose of news on a university website? To support the brand, message and institutional goals and to connect with audiences through storytelling, delivery and presentation.  Content can’t stop at putting information out there, we have to make it valuable.

Most higher ed news sites have poor design, they aren’t dynamic, there’s an unclear audience, ineffective storytelling, they aren’t social and they’re stuck in the 20th century.  Your audience is reading, the New York Times, all the sites that are setting these standards, they’re savvy.

How about adding video, audio or photos? Social media? User-generated content and community management? Why not think more about SEO, tagging and linking? Are we publishing content that matters to our audience or are we listening to ourselves talk?

Think of a university news channel as a fleet of ships moving forward as one force. Everyone needs to work together, in the service of institutional goals.

News and Storytelling

Storytelling takes work and it takes structure in order to work. Stories take someone somewhere.

[Georgy recommends reading Neuro Web Design: What makes them click? to give insight into how people use the web]

We see ourselves in stories. The best stories, the ones most share-worthy, are the ones that would be almost weird to email or tweet without needing to include a reaction such as “wow” or “WTF” of “what?”

University’s are in a position to really resonate with peoples’ values and reflect the type of people your audience is made up with. That’s where storytelling comes in.

Planning and Publishing

ALWAYS ASK YOURSELF “WHY?” This needs to be the filter for all content we create, and it should always come back to our goals. This is going to shape the nature of the content, how we’re going to promote, who we’re writing it for etc.

“Create content that will satisfy a full range of consumers’ news needs and then build the links that will connect people to the relevant news they seek.” – AP’s digital philosophy. This means it has to be shareable and share-worthy.

News is Social

Georgy prefers to refer to it as being permeable, there are no more boundaries, there’s a lot of back-and-forth.

Community as Co-author

Socially-infused content is great. Use storify, bring social conversations into your news stories. Listening is a major part of this process. Monitor mentions of the university on all platforms.  Be in it for the best stories for the institution.

Storify mention! I love.

News as a Landing Page

How are people getting to your page? Are our stories structured in a way that gets you found?

There are many different ways people can find you: Social (sharing), search (SEO), media pickup, your website, RSS, mobile digital signage, etc. Is it prepared to meet these expectations?

Design has to support content. You need to think through your design, as well as your content management. Don’t let the delivery tool dictate your content.

[Georgy recommends Mobile First as a good read: "Focus and prioritize your digital offerings by embracing the constraints inherent in mobile design...Set a baseline mobile experience first, then progressively enhance or adapt your layout as device capabilities change."]

“Future-ready content [is] about seeing structures through the lens of meaning and storytelling, and building relationships across disciplines so that our databases reflect this richness and complexity” – Sara Wachter-Boettcher (2012) How are you going to succeed on the web?

The Value of Good Writers

“The real value of writers is to use their creativity to craft content that software and computing devices can deliver in meaningful ways.

What’s the Future of PR in Higher Ed?

Monitoring, listening, engaging, communicating and responding in real-time. The new news release: they aren’t just for media anymore. It needs to be shorter, targeted and relevant to matter any more. Being multimedia focused is helpful. You need to provide context and include the community. Use the content type best suited for the job (it might not be text!).

Final recommendations: “The New Rules of Marketing & PR,” David Meerman Scott.

Digital Journalist’s Handbook,” Mark Luckie

Content Rules,” CC Chapman and Ann Hadley

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