The past couple of weeks sparked some new possibilities to test out, in hopes of resolving ongoing requests from content teams. Everyone has a role in making this possible. What then is the role of the content strategist? It involves listening for commonalities, looking for bright spots, and asking questions to facilitate people thinking about strategy.

Currently, group conversations have generated insight into:

  1. Facilitating workflows that can support a new way of doing things.
  2. ­­Creating a way to share human interest stories that show the value of Extension’s work.
  3. Improving access to resources in ways that audiences want.

1) Workflows

A lot goes into identifying, writing, reviewing and tagging content that only experts in the subject can do. Entering, coordinating and managing educational content by the content team, however, needs further discussion.

Events, announcements, newsletters, and county focus areas can all still be managed by the county office groups. Educational content, however, shifted to the program areas. Regardless of where faculty are stationed, the content is valuable regionally and statewide, and no longer seen as tied to a county. Who then is best to enter and manage this content of the statewide teams? How do we leverage existing resources to do so?

Some new ideas include:

  • Write into your annual work plan 5% of website responsibilities that go beyond creating and updating content, so that your time as a team member is acknowledged and supported.
  • Shift responsibilities and offer incentives, so a champion wanting to spearhead this innovative change can take time to set up topic pages and tagging guides as needed to organize and maintain content.
  • Leverage support professionals from the program area, such as education program assistants or research assistants, to learn the entry, tagging, and coordination processes.

2) Stories

“We need to capture the essence of who we are as a community in Extension and how we meet the needs of our communities,” said Anita Azarenko recently at the Quarterly Conversations. She asked, “How do we put feeling back into our website?”

Content analysis published in the Journal of Applied Communications* found the majority of awareness campaigns on agricultural websites used logical appeals with education-based and fact-based content. However, content with emotional appeals can be more effective in connecting with and being remembered by web visitors.

Stories showcase the value of what we do for the public by putting a face to our work. Publishing stories ourselves in addition to media coverage can increase the longevity and reach of our stories, and help show people how they too can benefit by being engaged with our programs. EESC is moving forward to capture these stories and to find the best way to showcase them online.

3) Audience navigation

Technology can level barriers for some, and be a learning curve for others. Audiences come with all different preferences and skill levels. The new content management system helps to customize how content is displayed, even for the audience that just wants a straight list of resources in one place.

Topic landing pages came out ten months ago so teams could organize the content based on audience needs and interests. The “custom topic sections” can gather similar content under easy to skim headings. Keywords (which are now easier to modify) can help filter less relevant content. Links to these resources can still be reached from county page focus areas if people enter the site that way, and topics continue to evolve based on content developed and how audiences look for it.

We’ll continue to work with faculty on improving audience access to resources they depend on in the coming months.

Web updates

  • A recording is available from Quarterly Conversations on Extension’s digital strategy.
  • Updates to the faculty and staff directory fixed filter functionality, added new filters and fixed links to county, program and unit/department on profile pages
  • A pesticide safety disclaimer is now an option to add in English or Spanish on articles (just check the box on relevant content)
  • Content that appears in web-based newsletter issues and or collections now have an attribution stating this connection.

* Assessing the Content of Online Agricultural Awareness Campaigns Joy N. Rumble, Quisto Settle, and Tracy Irani, This research is available in Journal of Applied Communications: https://newprairiepress.org/jac/vol100/iss3/10

Blog Post for Monday July 22 2019

Take a video tour and hear feedback

Do you still have people calling to ask how to find things on the website? Have you not revisited the Extension website since after the launch? You may be surprised how things have changed over the past year. This tutorial walks you through the four key ways to get reoriented to the website.

Share this video with your colleagues and clients, and consider posting these announcements on social media or in newsletters this summer.

Take a tour of the updated OSU Extension Service website to see different ways to find the science-based information you want. https://youtu.be/zWC1UgT1qis

What’s the resource you’re looking for? Here’s 4 ways to find it on OSU Extension’s website. Watch now. https://youtu.be/zWC1UgT1qis

Interested in what’s changed about the OSU Extension’s website since you last looked? We welcome you to start exploring again. https://youtu.be/zWC1UgT1qis

Or send them to the “How to Use this Website” help page that is in the footer of the website. Also, when you talk with someone new or respond to an email, consider asking how this person found you. What did they Google? Why did they click on your resource? What did they do once on the site? You may be pleased to hear what they found and what else would be of interest.

Web updates

You’ll notice several new places where we are collecting feedback directly from website visitors to inform our work.

To see the comments, web groups can click a “Feedback” tab on your content or group pages when logged in.

Also, a reminder to add the photo credit and/or required citation (e.g. Creative Commons attribution) when adding an image to the site. Just click on the “Edit” button after uploading it to find the caption, photo credit and photo credit link fields. This can be helpful when we get contacted from outside media that want to reprint an article or use an image.

The active summer season means lots of newsletters are packed full of advice and opportunities for volunteers, participants or general audiences. The Extension website hosts 70 monthly or quarterly newsletters from across the state, and a quick look at some can give you new ideas to try out.

If you don’t already post your newsletters on the Extension website, find out how to set up your newsletter. It will highlight your most recent issue and automatically show archived issues as well.

1) Make the connection

If you have a long list of upcoming events in your newsletters, follow the example of Lane county’s newsletter and add a link to the event posted on the Extension website, so people can learn more and register. Lane County filled up its classes thanks in part to its promotion in newsletters, on the website and across social media. If your newsletter also is sent in a print version, just provide the URL to your local program or county/combined station’s event menu page (this can be standard in every issue).

2) Make it consistent

Check if you are aligning your information across the Extension website, your newsletter and your social media. This includes cross-promoting content, since people like to access information different ways. Also, consider consistent branding with font, colors, and tone, such as in Woodland Notes.

3) Make it meaningful

Metro Master Gardeners newsletter does a good job of writing to “you” rather than just about “us” when trying to encourage participation in opportunities. They include information about why it may be of interest to them and what they can expect. They also include helpful reminders with links to where to find forms and FAQs volunteers need on the Extension website.

4) Make it simple

Keep your articles short (less than 500 words) and consider linking to the full article on the website or in Box to read more. They may be more likely to click if you write not as an organization, but as a person working on issues your readers care about. See a comparison example of a reworked original newsletter made simpler. Also, consider if readers only skim your newsletter’s headlines, will they still understand the gist of it?

5) Make it relevant

Look at your analytics to see what people are clicking on if you use an e-news service (e.g. Mailchimp), so you know what readers like and can do more of it. If you have a newsletter on the Extension website, contact the web and content strategy team to see how many people are viewing or downloading it. You can also gather interests of your audiences, and segment your list to send different information out based on those interests.

6) Make it actionable

Make the majority of content focused on today or tomorrow. Always provide a next step, even if it’s something simple like “Learn more” with a link to an OSU catalog publication. If you do highlight past events in order to thank those who were involved, share how it connects to the future and give specifics to show the positive impact their contributions have made.

7) Make it last

Small Farms News is a great example of having your educational content live on beyond the month it was published. As part of the archive process, they convert their PDF they uploaded to the web-based version, which means the main articles get added separately and featured across the site, not just in the newsletter.

8) Make your life easier

Many newsletters, such as the Linn County E-news,  find the design, delivery, and managing of email lists easier with an e-news service (e.g. Mailchimp, Constant Contact). People can subscribe, share or remove themselves from your newsletter lists on their own. It also notifies you and cleans up defunct email addresses, and helps to improve chances the e-news will reach their inbox and get read.

Do you have other suggestions? What do you like in a newsletter?

Recent Web Updates

This past month we updated the website groups contact lists. To see if you are listed correctly, or to find out who is in a specific content team or county office or program group, check Content Teams / Web Groups. The web and content strategy team sends updates to the leaders and coordinators of these groups, and they then forward it on to their members and gather any feedback to share back to the team.

Google Insights analyzes search phrases people use when searching the Internet, and found one trend they call the Age of Assistance. This fits well with what we do at Extension. Audiences come to the Extension website to find helpful resources, and in today’s online world they skim the content to quickly see if it meets their needs.

Google Insights discovered people are increasingly researching everything to either know what to expect or to make decisions.

People ask for:

  • Specific ideas (e.g. recipe ideas)
  • Things to avoid (e.g. pesticides to avoid),
  • What is best for me in my situation (e.g. best with my soil type).

They expect to find these answers online. Did you write your content in a way to come up in these type of searches?

Writing for the Web vs. for Print

Once on our website, will they decide to stay? When an article looks difficult to read, it sends a message that the topic will be difficult to do. By applying some simple changes to your content, you can make it more readable, and it will also encourage visitors to dig in and use it.

Some examples include:

  • Lead with the most important point
  • Break content into short, readable chunks

Many have done this already with content online; see a comparison table for even more user-tested guidelines when Writing for the Web.

Highlighted Points

You may have seen pull quotes in magazine articles, where an important or interesting sentence is enlarged and stylized. You can now do this for articles on the Extension website to catch the attention of browsing visitors. Just copy the sentence you want, paste on a separate line, highlight it, and click the “insert pull quote” icon in the tool bar.

Social Media or E-News Blurbs

If you took the time to write and post an article, then take a second to think how you can promote it so people want to click and read more.

The Teaser section of the editing screen includes a description field that shows up in search results and can be used for e-newsletters. On articles and videos, there’s also a new place to craft a Facebook post or short tweet, which will come in handy in the longer-term digital strategy.

Getting Started

For new content added to the website or when you’re reviewing existing content, keep the above suggestions in mind. However, for the several hundred articles already published on the Extension website, the EESC publications team will copyedit articles using the EESC style guide and apply these practices along the way. The content stays published while EESC and the Content Team leader work on revising and approving it. It will not affect the publishing process nor visibility of the content to the public. Here’s the process for content team leaders and links to learn more:

Read the full details of this EESC Copyediting process in the Extension Website User Guide under Managing Content.

List of changes to the web guide

When we have updates to the website, we will let you know at the end of all our future blog posts. Here’s one not already mentioned above:

There are new tagging fields on educational content to be used for internal reporting and sorting as part of the future digital strategy.

  • Season – is there a specific time of year this article or video is about?
  • Marketing Category – is there a specific theme this content fits?
  • Audience – is this content meant for a commercial or home audience?
  • Language – is this content in a language other than English (this was an existing field)?
  • Diversity and Inclusion checkbox – is this article or video specifically representing or addressing equity or social justice issues?

On the Extension website, we share practical educational resources that puts science into the hands of people across Oregon and beyond to help meet their local challenges.*

One of the essential commitments of this website change underway is to facilitate collaborative development of a customer-focused digital strategy based on content. Educational content on the website is driven by and managed by program area leaders (via faculty on content teams), and the content strategy is based on audience needs.

Priority is given to developing relevant, sharable content in OSU Extension’s new content management system. This content can then be shared many places, including the website.

Facilitate content strategy workshops

As faculty experts gather this summer to share projects of interest with each other, consider adding a content planning workshop to your agenda. What would this look like and what tools can you find to help facilitate this?

Extension’s content strategist** can work with content teams to facilitate interactive and reflective workshops, or develop templates for content team leaders to guide your own working groups. To plan, begin with three basic questions:

  1. Why are you doing this workshop?
  2. What do you need to get out of this?
  3. How will you get that?

The content strategy toolbox includes ideas such as:

  • Ways to define the top priority content you want to develop
  • Mapping your existing content to align it with audience questions
  • Creation of an audience journey map through the seasons
  • Development of a roles matrix and workflows to improve processes
  • Card sorting for tackling consistency in content keywords

If you would like a facilitated workshop, so the content team leader can fully participate in the activities, reach out early to collaborate on what would work best in the time and setting available.

Also, starting this summer the web and content strategy team will be looking more closely at your audiences’ experiences with the online content, both through direct user research and by digging into the analytics. Questions that have come up through discussions with content team leaders will be explored, and we may ask you to connect us to people you serve, while we reach out to those new to Extension. We want to learn what the public is looking for, and how that matches to what we provide.

Interested in a content planning workshop or want to explore more your audiences’ experiences? Contact the web and content strategy team to get started.

*This happens thanks to the faculty who work with Extension and Experiment Station Communications (EESC) to produce multimedia and catalog publications, and the also the new development of 38 content teams that create articles and share educational documents directly on the website. These include: Family and Community Health, Sea Grant, Forestry and Natural Resources, 34 Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources working groups, and a collaboration of three program areas focused on Youth Development.
**Michele Scheib

When a change happens, there’s a lot of fluidity in roles with some people pitching in where needed. At a certain point into the transition, clarity is needed to outline current expectations and responsibilities. This helps working relationships and goals be more defined, and taps into the strengths and interests of each member of a group.

Last week we shared our new guide on working on the Extension website, and it included updated roles for all who are involved with the web project and the long-term digital strategy. These roles are shaped by the guiding criteria of the “right people doing the right things”.

Roles and Responsibilities

Focusing in on just a few responsibilities at a time may make the way forward more manageable. Some of the suggested focuses for 2019 are highlighted in “Getting Started with Content” in the new guide. Full roles and responsibilities are also outlined:

Everyone in a content team or program or county office group can learn how to add content to the website. The team or group can also designate a member to be “publishing editor” who does the entry or this assignment can rotate. There is flexibility in how the roles fit for your team or group (see the points of contact for each team or group).

Working on the website can be more effective when you meet as a group and discuss, for example, “How does your content address the questions being asked by your audiences?” This collaborative inquiry can make your content more engaging too.

EESC can facilitate interactive workshops for your team this year to define your website goals, plan your content strategy, or map out your process in making the roles fit for your team or group. Contact the web team with your ideas and requests.

Over the last months, as you scroll down our digital strategy blog, we have shared various tips for managing content on the Extension website. Let’s revisit these to see what may be worth using in  upcoming quarters.

  1. Did you know most fields you need to fill in when adding content on the Extension site are searchable? Just place your cursor in the select field and start typing. A list will pop up to select from, such as the name of the county or a list of OSU authors.
  2. Keywords allow content to show higher in search results, and help you and visitors to narrow down the results too. You can add them using these keyword guidelines.
  3. For content that doesn’t use keywords (e.g. program resources, events), any important words that someone may want to search on to find the content should be somewhere in the text or title.
  4. To capture your effort as a content team leader in your P&T CV, document it in Digital Measures under “Other Assigned Duties.” Content you write or edit can be added under “Publications.”
  5. When you see a Program Resource list you want to reorder, click on the pencil icon that appears next to the list’s title and select “reorder items”.
  6. If you are hosting a virtual event or webinar, you can now select “online only” as the location. If your event is the same time and location on several different days, then you can mark the “event occurs multiple times in a specified period” checkbox to only have to enter it once.
  7. The Equal Opportunity and Accessibility statement is already on every page of the Extension website linked in the footer, so you only need to add it to downloadable documents on the website.
  8. For best results when posting applications (such as for Master Gardener trainings), add the application’s file or link as a “program resource” that displays on a “How to Join” sub-page. Then create an announcement that references that program resource or the page itself.
  9. When you save a piece of content, you can enter a “Revision log message” to describe the changes you made or why you made them. These messages get displayed in the content’s Revisions tab.
  10. A simple way to add new content to the website could be taking a newsletter or blog piece you have written recently and turning that into an article useful for your audiences.

Is there a suggestion that has worked well for you? Share it with our web team.

How can you keep content fresh on the Extension website? By repurposing what you are already doing. Also, by taking another glance through what you have and edit it with a readability or diversity lens.

Tapping into current efforts

Taking a newsletter or blog piece you have written recently and turning that into an article can be a straightforward way to add new content to the website.

Other content teams have latched on to an idea of locating and revamping older catalog publications as a way to avoid starting from scratch.

When you find yourself answering the same questions, providing familiar advice, or doing another standard presentation — turn these into quick articles or videos that you can refer people to online in the future. Short answers to featured questions are popular with web visitors.

Similarly, when you publish new research in different places, such as a journal article or  association report, take a new slant or go more in-depth on one aspect to write a web article that speaks to Extension audiences too.

Adding content with purpose

It’s not just enough to add content when you have it. To make this effective, you need to add content for the right reasons.

These include meeting programmatic goals and audience needs, which we will be working more with teams to better define this year, and then map out content with this in mind.

It also means taking time to think about how people skim content on the website, and about all audiences we are trying to include. A couple tips in our guide on our training page can help you take a fresh perspective on your existing content:

If you have questions or other suggestions, please reach out to our web team to let us know.

Keeping content fresh, current, and accurate on the Extension website means knowing the tools to keep existing content maintained. In certain cases, you may want your content to be invisible to visitors if it becomes out of date. Or, you might want to review the content another person updated before it gets published.

There are three ways to make content unpublished:

  • Draft: The content needs to be finished/reviewed before it gets published.
  • In Review: The content was published, but has been taken down for review.
  • Archived: The content was published, but is now out of date or no longer needed.

At the bottom of any edit screen, you will see these options in a drop down field above the Save button.

You can also see the status of all content at a glance on your group’s list of content.

Note that if you “Edit” a piece of published content and set its state to “Draft”, the previous version of that content will remain visible. To hide all previous versions, set the state to “In Review” or “Archived” instead.

To see the public version of the content, click on “View” tab. To see the latest draft of the content, click on the “Latest version” tab. These tabs are visible below the title on the content’s page. You can also see a “Revisions” tab, where all the past published versions can be found and reverted back if needed.

When you save a piece of content, you can enter a “Revision log message” to describe the changes you made or why you made them. These messages get displayed in the Revisions tab.

It is recommended for educational content or annual events to “archive” rather than delete. Deleted content will no longer be accessible and cannot be restored. Archived content can still be found on the Group Content page when logged in if you want to update it and republish. It also helps avoid the content being inadvertently added again, since the reason it was “archived” can be noted in the revisions field for future reference.

Read more in the user guide under Managing Content. As you do some housekeeping of your group’s content, reach out to the web team if questions come up. Thanks for your work to keeping the quality of content reflecting the valuable service OSU Extension provides the broader community.

With more than one way to add a program application to the Extension website – as an announcement, a program resource, an event, or text on a sub-page – how does one decide the best approach? One case example could help give insight into this question.

We took a closer look at 16 Master Gardener training programs* that had an electronic application (printable PDF or online form) linked from the website to see the audience’s actions.

What did we find?

  • Application links were seen more than 10,000 times and were clicked/downloaded nearly 2,000 times. This is a good 20% conversion rate (i.e. the number who downloaded or clicked on the application, divided by the number who viewed it).
  • Among the Master Gardener programs, 8 uploaded the application and 7 linked to it (1 did both). The applications available for download performed better.**
  • Only one program put a direct link to the application on their main program landing page, but they didn’t have higher success in conversion rate than anyone else.
  • However, programs that had an “announcement” showing on their main program landing page had higher average conversion rates. We could interpret this to mean that people who are specifically looking for applications with the intent to fill them out, find them through announcements.

  • Links to applications that were shown on a sub-page (usually the “How to Join” page) were seen more often than those that were only shown in an announcement or event. We could interpret this to mean that people who are not yet decided about applying or who are learning about it for the first time, find it through the sub-page menus.

Recommendation

Add the file or link to the application as a “program resource” that displays on a “How to Join” sub-page. Then create an announcement that references that program resource or the page itself.

Do you have other questions that you want to see if analytics can answer about your audiences? Get in touch with the web team to ask your question.

 

* The remaining Master Gardener programs asked visitors to get in touch with a person to apply or receive application materials, so these need to be tracked off-line.
**It would be useful for all the programs to see how many people actually submitted applications once they clicked to an online form or downloaded a PDF application. In the future digital strategy, online forms may be preferable for ease of processing and tracking applications.