By Bailey Herring
Content Strategy (TECM 3550) is all about retooling an organization's content strategically to help them achieve their goals. That content can be verbal, visual or multi-media and is often published on websites. This semester, Dr. Jordan Frith is leading the 3550 class in looking at the Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Denton County's online content.
Offered every spring, TECM 3550 asks students to analyze, audit, and suggest changes to a client's content strategies. Clients change each semester, so the course is always fresh. As Usability.gov says, "Ensuring that you have useful and usable content, that is well structured, and easily found is vital to improving the user experience of a website."
The coursework includes producing high-quality reports based on analysis of a client's online content. During this process, a visitor representing the client visits the students two to three times during the semester.
"The course is a really great way to get experience working with clients," Frith said.
This semester, students are focusing on the strategies employed by the CASA of Denton County. CASA volunteers work as state representatives in a foster child's life, providing a stable and positive adult presence while advocating for the child's best interest to the courts. Frith himself is a CASA volunteer.
"It's just such a great program," Frith said.
Students began their semester by analyzing the content CASA puts onto the internet, as well as how and where this content is distributed. Students then write a report based on how effective they find CASA's current content strategy to be.
This mirrors the approach taken by content strategists in industry like Brain Traffic, a consultancy that helps organizations develop and implement a strategy for their content. One of their principals, Kristina Halvorson, wrote the book Dr. Frith uses in TECM 3550: Content Strategy for the Web.
Following their content analysis, students conduct competitor reviews. These include an analysis of what works (or doesn't work) for at least three of the client's competitors or peers. This information is compiled into a second report for the client. In CASA's case, students are primarily looking at what tactics are employed by CASA organizations in other Texas counties.
Finally, students will take all they've learned about their client and propose a new content strategy for their client by producing a third and final report. This document encompasses a core strategy statement, suggested content and its wireframes or mockups, and more. Some clients have implemented changes based on these reports, according to Frith.
For Frith, the goal of the course is to teach students that technical communication is related to other forms of organizational content.
"The course is all about giving students a good skill set," Frith said.