Content Strategy- As Easy as a Trip to the Aquarium

You’re working on your civic tech project. You’ve nailed a killer idea and your project management is solid. If you want to make sure you’re successful, you need to also make sure that you have an equally solid Content Strategy Plan.

There’s a lot of really great definitions out there of what this phrase actually means, but I find the easiest–and often most accurate–can be summed up into one item:

Post-It Notes.

And hundreds of them. Content Strategy is part of the core planning of how to make an idea a project, and a project successful. It’s like the Google Maps of the project world. But what does that mean, what are the steps?

Imagine that a family of five is planning a trip to an aquarium. As people, we’re (mostly) used to planning trips and making decisions, so most of the time, we don’t actually think about the mechanics of what we do. If I say ‘a family is going to the aquarium’, we’ll often graze over it with an easy nod of acceptance; “oh, sounds fun” and leave it at that.

But what if I say there’s a family of five: two middle-aged parents, three-year-old son, twelve year-old disabled daughter, and eighty-five-year-old grandmother who cannot walk for too long. They want to go to the aquarium to see a dolphin show. Ah, now things change a little bit. Questions start popping up. Can the aquarium accommodate the family’s needs? Can their transportation? Does the aquarium they’re planning on visiting even have dolphins?

These are the questions that make up the essence of what Content Strategy is. In a whole, it’s the detail-exhaustive search for the following:

  1. What is the problem this project will solve? (Family wants to go to an aquarium with dolphins.)

  2. Who is the audience for the project? (The family–and each member of the family individually.)

  3. How will it solve the problem and with what resources? (Is the aquarium kid-friendly, and wheelchair accessible? Does it contain ample seating and dolphins to see?)

Once the answers to these three main thoughts are concrete, then a content plan can be drawn up–in the case of websites and design, this is really a series of detailed drawings and graphs. At times, a UX designer (someone who specialises in how to design for specific audiences) will often join the team to make sure the architecture of the project fits the need.

In our example, this would be like the customer service member that warns the family that the aquarium they’re planning on visiting is on the top of a large hill with many stairs, no chairs, and no dolphins…but luckily for them, there’s another aquarium across town that meets all of their needs. Being helpful, the customer service member gives the family directions and facility hours, as well as ticketing information for their specific needs. This is their content strategy, and now that family can move back up to step four of the project management process.

With such knowledge, each idea would then be able to have a chance at growing into a project, and each project a potential solution to one of our community’s local problems. And with this encouragement, we make way for the next stop on our Workshop time-trip: “Front End Design for Civic Tech” with Girl Develop It Wilmington and speaker John Himics of First Ascent Design. There, we’ll learn how to actually build the content designs we’ve planned, keeping our projects right on track.

Interested in putting your civic tech skills to the test?

We’ve been coordinating the 2017 Open Data Challenge over the first half of the year in partnership with Delaware’s Government Information Center and the Technology Forum of Delaware. Check our Meetup page for more details about events, including our hackathon. This weekend long event will be held June 2nd-4th and with an amazing theme: “Access to Hope through Innovation”. Don’t want to miss it? Check out more information and register here.

Written on May 8, 2017 by Aiyani Martin