1. Juli 2019

Studying Content Strategy & Blogging About it

This blog used to be about beautiful things in life. That has changed a lot since I started my master's degree programme at FH Joanneum in Graz. One of our tasks has been to write a portfolio about our time in the program. You will find all posts related to this task tagged with "Studying Content Strategy". This will be my final post with this tag. Here are my thoughts on this project. 

A Portfolio? Not Really.

Our blogs on content strategy were supposed to be portfolios. The name alone was a turn-off for me. A portfolio is supposed to showcase my best work. I do not consider my student work portfolio-ready, it's a work in progress. While reading the blogs of my fellow students I can see though that some have found their voice with their portfolios, and those voices are beautiful and clear. Check out Xenia's blog Contentworthy for example, Marijana's podcast or Barbara's website. I loved reading - or listening to - their content. 

A Content Strategy Blog Lacking a Content Strategy

With these blog posts I have been lazy and anti from the beginning. I did not want to write any of them. I did not like the idea and thus I did not want to really think about what t could become. That is where my laziness kicked in: I just started writing without a real strategy. When I read some of my content strategy posts now, I realize I like them, maybe I even love some. If I had given them a frame from the beginning, maybe they would now be part of a beautiful concept. As it is, they are floating in space now. A bit sad.

How Could it Have Gone Differently?

I am a perfectionist, I do not like to show people work in progress - unless that work in progress is already great. This whole project would have needed a different frame for me: Maybe a common blog for all of us where we could have stayed anonymous. Or a log book – you know that old fashioned thing made of paper. I did not feel comfortable putting out myself online while learning something new.

What Will Become of This Space?

It will probably be shut down. At least until I find out what I want to do with it. Until I have finally managed to create a proper content strategy for it. I do not even know what it is going to be about. I might go back to blogging about design, or create a real portfolio, or maybe I will come up with a completely new idea. Next time I will not be so lazy about it and start with a content strategy.

8. Juni 2019

Writing a Master's Thesis: Well Planned is Halfway There

I am good at keeping things in order but only those that are outside of my head. When it was time to start working on my master's thesis in the beginning of the year, I freaked out a bit. I'm working full-time, have at least some housework to do (luckily my husband does most of it since I am a student again) and I also need to sleep from time to time. Now that I am almost done with my thesis I will allow myself the audacity to tell you how it's done.

1. Make a List

Lists are the best! As soon as you have the names of your monsters written down, they become smaller. On my list I put down things like literature research, interviews, actually writing the thesis and so on. For the whole thesis I gathered 17 items in an Excel table. Then I made assumptions on how many hours each task will take and how many days I will need for each task. That way I was able to look at my calendar, put my list next to it and calculate when I could be done with my thesis. Now that I look back at my assumptions, I have nothing but a sorry smile for my naive pre-thesis self: Did I really think I was Flash or something?

2. Track the Time

One of my fellow students, Philipp, told me about awork, an app that let's you track the time of each task you put down there. I transferred my master's thesis list into awork and clicked record, whenever I started a task. That is how I found proof that I was not Flash and that some items on my list might need considerably more time than I had thought initially.  

3. Get Your Friends on Board

Pretty fast it dawned on me that my beloved free time was gone for the time being. I braced myself and my husband. He reacted in the only sensible way by filling up the chocolate drawer for me and regularly offering me cocktails. Next I wrote personal messages to my closest friends as I did not want to disappear from the planet's surface, leaving people dear to me wondering why I wasn't spending time with them anymore. The result: One friend stopped by with even more chocolate as well as vitamin smoothies and another sent me a little gift in the mail. I was speechless. Now I am spending every free second thinking about how I could thank them.

4. Plan Your Reward

What will you do when you are done? Of course the main reward is a Master's Degree I will be able to brag with: "Look how smart and talented I am, I have a shiny piece of paper to prove it!" Sounds stupid? Indeed. Instead I am planning a different kind of reward. In my case it will probably be a weekend getaway with my husband – and a facial maybe, and a massage, probably some books (NOT related to my studies), and more chocolate of course. 

5. Plan Your Time After Your Studies

One of the first things I realized when I started studying again was how much time I actually had before that. I mean, my free time allowed for an entire master's degree program! I must have wasted so much time before (ahem Netflix...). I have a few ideas about what I could do after I'm done with my content strategy master's program at FH Joanneum. I want to try to learn to play the flute and I would like to try to learn swing dance. The emphasis here is on trying because musically I'm almost illiterate. But as you keep hearing: People never regret what they have tried to accomplish but what they never dared to even try. So here I come, post-degree self. I might not be a musical genius but if I have learned one thing by studying gain: I am freakin' tenacious!    

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.