Incremental Innovations: Your Content Cornerstone

What are your association’s content priorities this year? If you answered my question with a question, this Incremental Innovation is for you.

Imagine a world where you’re no longer at a loss after a disappointing call for proposals. Imagine working from a content calendar strategically delivering the right content at the right time over the coming year. Imagine not having to scramble to source next month’s webinar topic because your topic priorities for the year have been established. Imagine the potential of driving content initiatives proactively vs. reactively.

Sound too good to be true?

This and more are possible when you take the time to lay your content cornerstone. There are two key steps: Mapping your content terrain and selecting your content priorities.

First: Mapping Your Terrain

How do you determine which topics are worthy investments?

Begin by mapping out the content terrain your organization is dedicated to delivering upon. This could take the form of a curriculum content outline identifying subject domains and the topic breakdown within those domains. It could look like a mind map visually depicting your major subjects and the relationship between the concepts supporting them. Maybe it starts as a list of bigger topic buckets with bulleted keywords within each bucket. Or perhaps, based upon a job-task analysis your organization has conducted, you wish to depict the competencies your workforce requires to advance within key content areas.

However your terrain takes shape, you’ll begin to notice that you may star some topics and group other topics. You may notice that your terrain mapping features regions necessary for mastery of subject domains segmented into beginner, intermediate and advanced levels. Some content may be more timely particular times of the year or according to other industry cycles. You may notice some topics should be presented in sequence given their ascending level of difficulty. Allow these ideas space to play; collect and save them for the next step in laying your content cornerstone.

Benefit: By identifying the borders of your content terrain, you’ll gain clarity on your content commitments, subjects that lay on the outskirts of your core programming, and topics which you may decide are no longer within your scope. You may note areas where other organizations overlap your borders and could become potential partners co-branding content. You’ll be positioned to develop a content strategy.

Activity: Map Your Terrain

  1. Select your stakeholders.
  2. Set your info parameters (do you want to brainstorm buckets? Keywords? Topic relationships?).
  3. Select a brainstorming tool. Utilize f2f and/or digital white boarding. (There are lots of white boarding and mind mapping tool options to collaborate digitally)
  4. Recruit a small group to process the results.
  5. Refine the results with your stakeholder group.
  6. Consider allowing a comment period to a wider audience responding to your content map.

Second: Selecting Your Priorities

Armed with a vetted map of your content terrain, you’re ready explore that geography, further charting out your content priorities. Your priorities can then be sequenced, segmented, and scheduled for delivery across your education channels. Your content priorities should inform programming themes, tracks, and calls for speaker submissions. Identifying what content is necessary to achieve the results your learners require – and then strategically delivering it – elevates not only the relevance of your education programs, but your status as a content authority.

It’s natural that priorities will change over time, allowing new topics right of way as industry shifts dictate. Establishing your priorities serves as a decision making tool when content requests are made. Urgent requests for new programs can now be processed against your content strategy vs allowing the tail to wag the content-dog. For example:

  • Given our priorities, does this topic fit?
  • If it fits, do our development budget and schedule allow this addition?
  • If it doesn’t fit, is it because it’s not a priority this year – so can be parked for future consideration?
  • Is it outside our scope allowing us to graciously decline?

Benefit: Establishing content priorities also opens way for coordinating meaningful learning pathways across your education channels. Consider ways you can extend the effectiveness of your education programming by coordinating digital before and after touchpoints with live events. Consider how you may utilize coordination of your education channels to continue to support your learners as they apply what they’re learning, assisting them with overcoming obstacles within the context of practice. Consider how you may measure the response in real time of your learners to the different touchpoints along learning pathways – as well as the cumulative outcome of learning over time. By selecting your content priorities, strategically deploying learning opportunities over time, and measuring their effectiveness, your organization naturally builds a case for continued investment.

Activity: Select Your Content Priorities

  1. Utilizing the ideas you parked from the content terrain discussion as a starting point, ask your stakeholders to identify which topics are emerging as primary priorities? Secondary priorities?
  2. Identify which topics should to be segmented for beginning, intermediate, and advanced learners – and which of those segments is of highest priority? (Or other key segments you’ve identified within your audience)
  3. Consider whether particular topic priorities are aligned with seasons, cycles, or other timing consideration within our industry?
  4. Consider the best channel to deliver different content priorities to different target learner segments.
  5. Consider how your education channels can partner to form learning pathways comprised of multiple touchpoints featuring your content priorities.
  6. Develop a schedule for strategic content deployment.

Content Cornerstone Bonuses

But wait there’s more!

  • Use your content outline topics as tags in your LMS and course catalogue across education program channels so learning opportunities can be cross-referenced.
  • Leverage your content outline to create self-assessment blueprints that will guide learners to the next best learning opportunity you offer to address their growth areas.
  • Track how your different education channels are contributing to delivering your content priorities to ensure the optimal timing of delivery balanced across learning opportunities.

Effective and efficient deployment of professional development programming relies upon your content cornerstone as a reference point for strategic decision making. By mapping your terrain and selecting your content priorities, you lay a foundation for transforming the potential of your learning programs.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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