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Nov 10, 2020 BY Rob Mills UX Design & Content, Marketing

Three Pillars for Higher Education Content Delivery

Note: This is a guest post from GatherContent.

Higher education marketing is one of the hardest jobs on the planet. No joke! Higher education institutions and universities have to deliver a high volume of content across multiple channels for different audiences.

A lot of this content is also high-stakes because it’s linked to strategic business goals such as student recruitment, student retention, and research funding—to name a few.

The stakes are higher when you consider everyone involved in the publishing process (stakeholders, subject matter experts, marketing and legal teams, etc.) The risk of content not meeting business goals or audience needs increases, which could be due to:

  • Conflicting priorities and agendas
  • Lack of clear roles for those involved
  • Undefined or multiple processes and workflows
  • Wrong tools for the job, or a lack of training for those tools
  • No standards embedded in the content production process
  • No style guide to aid consistency
  • Silo mentality resulting in a lack of visibility and accountability

Collectively, those points above (which is by no means an exhaustive list) represent poor content operations.

Higher education content operations

Content operations, or ContentOps, is the combination of people, process, and technology that are required to produce, distribute, and maintain content in an organization.

Content operations relate to all of the content an organization creates and publishes. Any higher ed organization will have an on-going list of content requirements. Content may be campaign-based, a one-off project, ad-hoc in reaction to unexpected events, more random such as student-generated content, or more predictable and cyclical like an annual course catalogue or open-day events.

This puts a lot of demand and pressure on content production, delivery, and governance. With appropriate content operations, a university will be well-placed to create, deliver, and manage all of the content requirements with confidence.

There are three pillars of content delivery that can give higher ed content teams the confidence that their content is an asset:

Pillar 1: Productivity

Being productive is usually seen as a precursor for progress. But if time is spent on the wrong tasks, repeat tasks, or chasing things then you’re not actually being productive (or making progress)—you’re just busy.

Productivity is about spending more time focusing on content and less time managing the chaos that surrounds it. When it comes to content, time is wasted on:

  • Finding the most up to date version of the content
  • Reminding contributors of what they need to do
  • Emailing status updates
  • Chasing collaborators for feedback
  • Copying and pasting into publishing platforms

Again, the list could go on.

To be productive, people, processes, and technology must align in order to reduce the operational stress around content delivery.

Having clear roles and workflows means people involved know what is required of them (and why) and how they fit together. This extends beyond ‘the content people’ and includes designers, developers, and everyone working on a content project or initiative.

Defined processes help those team members make decisions about what to create and who needs to create it. Content operations ensure these decisions don’t have to be made for every single piece of content.

The technology must work together and not create even more work. The tools should allow people to focus on what they’re good at and support the people and processes.

Automation and integration of tools remove some of the manual work. The result is that those using the systems can spend time on the tasks they specialize in.

Technology mustn’t be a barrier that requires a lot of training. Rather, it should facilitate efficient content operations.

Pillar 2: Quality

It takes a lot of effort to produce quality content.

‘Quality’ is a subjective adjective. Quality could be used to reference accuracy, being on-brand, free from typos, and so on. Here, quality is referring to content that has been created with a clear audience and purpose in mind and therefore both supports and strengthens a university’s brand and reputation.

Content is at the heart of digital experiences and needs to be consistent (where relevant), accurate, and impactful.
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Content is at the heart of digital experiences and needs to be consistent, accurate, and impactful. Consistency isn’t always imperative to quality but there are some instances when this is important. There may need to be consistency in language, vocabulary, and tone in some circumstances which are part of generating trust and amplifying a university’s brand reputation. The University of Dundee used its content style guide as an opportunity to reduce and avoid issues with inconsistency in their content.

Content has to be accurate and up-to-date. Trustworthy sources and fact-checked content are essential in a world of “fake news” and vast amounts of information. This leads to impactful content which really supports a university’s objectives.

Pillar 3: Compliance

As if creating content that has to be accurate, high-quality, on-brand, measurable, and for multiple audiences isn’t challenging enough, universities also have to be compliant.

To ensure higher education content is compliant, there are accountability processes that ensure content has been through the appropriate stages of review and approval in order to meet regulatory requirements.

There are specific laws and regulations around accessibility, such as WCAG 2.1. Other regulations and areas of compliance include:

  • Image copyright
  • Social media compliance
  • GDPR (especially for those marketing to Europe)
  • Consumer Market Authority (for those in the UK)

At GatherContent we created a content standards checklist of key things to include when reviewing content for quality and compliance. Universities have so much content to create, publish, and maintain that embedding these standards within the production process can increase confidence in the content being delivered.

Getting started with your own content delivery and content operations

Investing in people, processes, and technology to ensure productivity, quality and compliance is no easy feat. Improving content operations is a long-term commitment that needs buy-in from leadership as it’s an organization-wide responsibility.

It might be easier to get buy-in by starting with a pilot project for a particular problem area. Find an opportune moment and prioritize where the pain is felt the most. It can also help to start by mapping roles, visualizing your content ecosystem, conducting a tool and tech audit, and trying to best understand the current state of content operations in your organization.



Rob is Head of Content at GatherContent. He is responsible for all content output and optimizing content operations. Rob also works on audience research projects and strategic initiatives to ensure content meets both business goals and user needs.

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