Tuesday, August 26, 2014

How Do You Upcycle Your Content?

Two weeks ago, I was lucky enough to spend four days in Seattle, working with clients and meeting with friends and colleagues who live in that beautiful city. I decided to take a day to myself and go whale watching, something I had never done.

While on the boat, I got to chatting with a woman who told me she upcycles clothing. When she described what it was, my mind (as it often does), jumped to content.  When I went to Google ‘upcycling content,’ it became clear that other people had already thought about this. However, I think it’s good to put some definition about what upcycling content is and why we need the term in our industry.

What is upcycling?

Similar to recycling, upcycling is the process of taking a material used for something else, and mixing it with other things to make it more luxurious or better.

Why is upcycling content different from repurposing content?

Repurposing content means changing its format to suit your audience’s needs. Remember, content has three distinct parts:
  1. Information: What you are trying to say
  2. Format: The best way to say it for that audience (video for teens, executive summaries for busy execs, pictures for retail shoppers)
  3. Distribution: Placement on the appropriate channels where your audience spends their time
When you repurpose content, you are changing its format—so you are taking a video and turning it into an article, or publishing the transcript of a podcast. At Aha Media, we advise our clients to follow the Rule of 4—so for every piece of information you want to share with your target audiences, plan to produce it in text, video, audio and graphic content. That way, you’ll get the most out of your content.

What is upcycling content?

In my definition, upcycling would mean:
  1. Rewriting technical content to make it more conversational
  2. Cutting down longer videos to make them shorter
  3. Putting together different pictures to create a Slideshare or slideshow
So, upcycling is not editing content to make it shorter, or repurposing its format.  Upcycling content means taking content you already have (information combined with format) and making it better for your target audience. Distribution may change depending on what you’ve upcycled, or you may just use the same channels to show audiences improved content with some new elements added.

Let’s look at an example: You are a luxury hotel that has a small fan base that regularly publishes pictures on Flickr and Instagram. How about publishing that feed to your hotel’s website, or better yet, turn it into a slideshow that potential customers can flip through? You pick the best photos, give credit to the fans, and everyone wins.

What do you think? Are there examples of upcycling you’ve already done with content? Share those examples and we’ll post them to the blog.

Oh and the whales were great! Saw seven of them in the Salish Sea.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

What is Content Strategy?

There are many definitions for content strategy, and all of them help shed light on what is a critical and important discipline within the greater field of user experience design, often abbreviated as UX.

I was recently in Seattle at an awesome event run by Misty Weaver (@meaningmeasure) and it occurred to me that no one has ever put all the definitions for content strategy in one place. (At least not that I know of.)

Please enjoy this slideshow and if you have any to add, let me know! (@ahavaL)

Thursday, August 14, 2014

3 Ways Mobile Changed Web Writing

You know what’s awesome?

You can count on it when it comes to all things digital. Technology is changing, consumption of media is changing, devices are changing.
Download our Mobile Glossary.
Best practices change as well, and it's our job to keep you up-to-date. Below are three major things that mobile consumption of media has changed for web writing. Does your team need training in this area? Don’t forget about our fun, highly-recommended digital writing workshops.

3 Web Writing Conventions Mobile Changed

Here are three web writing best practices that have changed:
  1. Optimizing content to “chrome” ratio: It’s important to know that in general, web design is moving rapidly with the advancement of responsive design (the ability to publish on multiple devices without changing the design each time). One of the trends you will continue to see is hiding the “chrome”, the user interface elements like buttons, menus and other navigational items. This is because on such small screen sizes like watches (yes, these are coming), menus can take up too much of the screen, not allowing the content to breathe. 
    However, hiding the chrome can often result in confusion for your customers, which makes your content and writing so much more important. Work with your designers to recognize that on smaller devices, hamburger menus and gestures may make the most sense, while on desktops, surfacing the chrome might make more sense. And don’t be afraid to put links into your body content, to help people find the information they want.
    The Hamburger Menu: So-called because it looks like a hamburger, this menu icon is popular for mobile websites

  1. Above the Fold: I will always think of the fold fondly. But, let’s be honest—with mobile devices, the entire concept of the fold is changing rapidly. With the advance of responsive design, the fold changes depending on the device. So how can you write for above the fold when you have no idea where it will be for the user? Further, people scroll much more easily on a touch device than they did when they needed to use a mouse. This relic from the print age is dead, so mourn it and move on!
  2.  Long vs. short pages: We used to argue that pages were too long, and people wouldn’t read that much on one page. Because of the ease of scrolling on mobile devices, people will scroll and scan and scan and scroll, until they find the information they need. In fact, choosing to click on a link and jump to another page is fraught when you’re on a mobile device, as you may be in a bad Wi-Fi spot. We’re still following the advice we always gave: Give people the information they expected and needed from that page and break up the text appropriately with headings.

Need help making your content awesome? Contact Ahava today for content writing, content strategy and digital writing training classes for your team.


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Patients or Doctors: What Content Do They Like?

If you're a healthcare marketer, you know creating great content can be challenging. Recently, while I was working on a physician marketing campaign, I started thinking: What's easier? Creating content for doctors or patients?

How does writing for these two different audiences play out in your writing and research of content? There are so many different types of healthcare consumers: actual patients, concerned loved ones, the chronically ill, those that are unsure of their diagnosis. It's so easy to go down the wrong path and turn off a potential patient. Healthcare marketers also know there are many different types of physician personalities as well: How do you know when you're getting their attention or when you've lost them?  

The truth is, creating outstanding healthcare content is always challenging. Below are 3 questions we always answer at Aha Media Group to determine the most effective way to get at your target audience, as well as 2 additional tactics we use that may surprise you.

It's Always About the Basics

Answering these questions will help you adapt your content—whether it’s for doctors or patients. And our last two tactics tell you how to walk in your target audiences' shoes. Here’s how:

  1. Who I am matters: If your customers are doctors then you know you need to use facts and figures and persuade them using logic and rational thought. They are scientists, after all. If you’re writing consumer-directed content, remember that people make decisions, particularly healthcare decisions, for emotional reasons. This makes the approach you use critical.

  1. Watering holes: Go to where your target audience spends their time. Determine where to publish your content by knowing where your audience spends their time, attention and eyeballs. Physicians are probably easier to reach on physician-directed emails and websites; consumers can be many places.

  1. Answer my questions: Content feeds your pipeline and answers significant questions your customers want to know.  Marcus Sheridan, a noted content marketing expert, recommends making a list of 100 FAQs your customers consistently ask. Look carefully at that list.  If you’re writing for doctors, you’re probably looking at requests for clinical studies, data and research. However, when you're creating content for patients, their questions are focused on their care, the cost and how they're going to get better.  Find creative ways to answer those questions, through a mix of content—including written, video, infographics and customer stories.

  2. Speak my language: Find out what the different vocabularies look like for each audience. Use a combination of online research, Google Insights for Search and talking to doctors and patients to get a sense of what they call things.  People tend to buy from people they perceive as like them. Remember, the words you use make all the difference in creating that desired perception. So when you're talking to doctors, you can use the term percutaneous interventions. You may want to use minimally invasive surgery or catheterizations when talking to patients. Watch this video that reveals the findings of a survey that compares what words hospitals use on their websites, versus what words make the biggest impact on patient choices.

  3. Tell me great stories that mean something to me: Doctors want to know that buying from you will result in success on the job. Patients and loved ones need to feel resonance in the deep corners of their emotional lives. So when you're creating content, think about stories that resonate with the two different groups.

It's not easy to create great content for either audience. Defining who, where and what will make your job easier. Targeting and specificity are the difference between a doctor who is paying attention and a user who converts to a patient.

Want to learn to create great content? Join us in Scottsdale, Arizona this November where Ahava will be joining other marketers to talk about producing great healthcare content.  Or, take a look at Aha Media's writing workshops, available for healthcare marketing teams of all sizes. We'll teach you how to create great patient or physician-focused content--using the above tactics and quite a few others.

And, if you haven't already, download our popular 8 page whitepaper, "Content Strategy for Healthcare."

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Why Content Strategy Saved my Marriage

I really wish they hadn't put cameras in cell phones.

Here's why: Every few months, I make a printed photo book of my family's photographs. The pictures come from our family camera and pictures that I take on my iPhone.

Problem? My husband has an iPhone too. And he very often forgets to forward me the pictures. So months later, when looking through the printed photo books, we realize that there are pictures missing because I never had them to upload.

Does this sound familiar? Is valuable, vital and memorable content getting lost because your organization is missing important workflows around content management? (Are you also the family archivist?)

Why Governance Matters

Most people hate the word governance. But it's just a complicated word for establishing consistency.

But if we want to juggle the increasingly complex world of content, consistency must be our goal.

Consider the following problems and solutions:

Problem: Are you spending a ton of time on SEO and feel like you're sinking?
Solution: Implement the use of page tables with each and every page of content written or edited, so that you know at least the organic SEO is correct. (Need a page table? 
Contact Ahava today.)

Problem: Do people in your organization scoff at your content efforts? Is it almost impossible to get organizational buy-in?
Solution: Show them mistakes on the website. A/B test your pages. Bring them data that shows not embracing content governance is killing you in revenue.

Problem: You find that every time you need to create a new piece of content, there's a scramble to edit, publish it and distribute it on social media.
Solution: Create a checklist, similar to a recipe, so you can go through the same process each time you create that type of content. A blog post checklist may look very different from a video checklist. That's okay. Just make sure everyone on the team is aware of the different checklists for each piece of content. And don't be afraid to create a really simple one, and keep adding to it and changing it.  Process only becomes air tight when nothing else changes--so basically, never.

Just so you know, I practice what I preach. Now when I make a photo book, my husband has to send me all the pictures he's taken with his iPhone. Amazing what clarity communication can bring to a marriage--or any relationship.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Donald Rumsfeld Guide to Content Marketing

"There are known knowns; there are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns; that is to say there are things that, we now know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns – there are things we do not know we don't know.”
-Donald Rumsfeld, U.S. Secretary of Defense
February 12, 2002

The use of the above quote in no way demonstrates any allegiance to Donald Rumsfeld, or his thoughts on the Iraq war. Rather, his division on how we should contemplate decisions is intriguing. These four categories shine a light on the questions all marketers try to answer:

  • What do we know?
  • Are there things we don't yet know?
  • What can't we know?
  • Can we change anything?

As a content marketer, what are the things you know and how do you know them? How can those facts inform the critical facts you don't know? And, finally, how do you prepare for the unknown unknowns-what I liken to the fortune telling of content and marketing?


What You Just Can't Know

First, in any content marketing campaign, there are knowns. These are the questions you ask before you begin a campaign. The answers are available; they may require more market research, user testing, focus groups or other market research methods of gathering data, but you can answer these questions:
  1. Who are your targets?
  2. Where are your targets?
  3. What do they care about?
  4. What do they look like?
  5. Why are they connecting with you?

Here Comes the Source of Much Anxiety

How do you determine the known unknowns? What are the things you know you don't know? Is there a way to find those answers for questions that tend to look like this:
  1. Where are my targets (mentally) in the decision making or buying process?
  2. What content types are most important to them for this particular campaign?
  3. Will my messages resonate for potential customers?
  4. Will our content change their minds about us?
  5. Are we measuring the right types of engagement to know if the campaign was successful?


When you look at this list of questions, what jumps out at you?

The answers to these questions can be defined and transferred to the column of known knowns. You might consider performing content testing to answer #2 and #3. You could A/B test content to determine if you might refine your messaging to answer #4.  Or, better yet, you could refine your measurement metrics over time so that you can transfer #5 to the known knowns column.

Now what about the unknown unknowns?

Those are impossible to know. Could all the companies that used Tiger Woods as a spokesman have predicted his embarrassing affairs? Could the marketing execs at Southwest have magically peered into the future to see that Kevin Smith would get on one of their flights and be asked to buy an additional seat because he was considered obese? Could healthcare marketers who spent months planning cardiac cath campaigns have known that studies would show medicine might be just as effective as that procedure?
As a content marketer, your job is to sharpen the known knowns into needle-like points. Resolve the known unknowns you may be able to solve. And then trust that as long as there's no crystal ball for the stock market, there's no way you could be expected to have one.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

How to Manage an Identity Initiative, Redesign and Content Strategy All At Once

Aha Media Group and Johns Hopkins University worked together in a content strategy engagement while the university was undergoing an identity initiative and redesign.  Here are 5 recommendations and lessons learned presented by Ahava Leibtag and Lauren Custer at Confab Higher Ed: