Over the next few years, websites will change from validation tools to learning platforms. Through your website, people will want to learn from your business, connect with your ideas, and develop strong relationships. Remarkable content, coupled with smart design, will help make those connections. The best communication professionals will help drive those connections and must be prepared for the changes immediately ahead. The talk will discuss a brief history of the web, how content is changing online, why we talk about learning, and where design and communications will be most impactful in the next few years.

For us poor folks who are in the communications, marketing and public relations field, the web at the moment looks something like the below. It is a a very crowded, very busy, very intense marketplace of ideas, information, and transactions.

logos from around the world

Last week, I presented on the topic of distinguishing your site from the rest by designing to educate customers, which I believe is the future, or definitely a future, of the web. The event was sponsored by the local chapter of the Canadian Public Relations Society, a membership-driven organization that supports professional communication and PR professionals.

I geared the presentation to discuss how content marketing has evolved and where it is heading. The overarching point that I wanted to get across was that these will be very good times for communications professionals who can address content strategically over the next few years. And I focused on three main topics:

Content Must be Helpful

Relevant, remarkable and regular content, created at the right time with the right tools, allows audiences to better understand and connect with a given organization. Using inbound methodologies, communication professionals are focusing on helping customers without interrupting them. It’s a more human, effective and enjoyable approach for organizations (offering ideas, services or products) to connect with people.

Design Must be Useful

Just putting up new content (e.g. a blog post, video, infographic, ebook) online will not fundamentally transform relationships with audiences. The best communication professional are using clear, thoughtful, and structured design approach. Websites need to not only attract customers with good content but they need to be friendly, enjoyable to use and responsive. Good design supports a great content strategy.

Analyses Must be Made

Good content and design will help forge new relationships and shine a new light on the organization and its services or products. When tying content, design and analytical and automation tools together, however, professionals gain a system for measuring their messages’ impact and growth. New platforms and tools integrate the process of creating and distributing content to very specific audiences and those tools, in turn, allow you to see what is working.

These are the three keys to creating an adventure in content marketing and marketing automation. We here at Manoverboard are becoming a HubSpot partner to further assist our clients in developing the content, methodologies, and sophisticated design for learning tools that it enables.

Here is the full presentation via Slideshare. I’d be happy to provide more detail about the talk if you are interested. And I’ll parse some of these slides further in a subsequent post.

laptop on desk

In college, we were tasked with writing a weekly blog that would be worth 10% of our final grade. To be honest, it wasn’t an exercise that I particularly enjoyed at first. The workload for my program was intensive, so my blog fell to the bottom of my priority list. Oftentimes, I felt that my blog writing was rushed and fell flat. Additionally, I wasn’t sure who I was writing for.

I started using a few easy strategies to make my blog more appealing and I ultimately grew to enjoy writing it. A couple of my posts were even published in the online edition of my local newspaper. I think university administrators assigned to writing blog posts can relate to some of my challenges. They have hectic schedules, have the challenge of trying to sound professional and entertaining at the same time, and must write for wide and varying audiences like students, prospective students, their parents, and faculty and staff.

The tools I used to grow my blog can also be used by any university administrator to get more mileage out of their blogs. So here are some tips to help you write punchy blog posts for your university.

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william blake's "glad day"

Seven days ago, I told myself that I needed to complete the challenge of writing something compelling, revealing, or helpful every single day. It would last just one week, which is less than an eternity. I’m now sitting in front of my desk, at my office, in front of a monitor, using WordPress’ “distraction-free writing mode” to craft this piece.

It’s been an incredibly gratifying experience and one that I will not soon forget. Before I answer the Day 7 question, I’d like to answer its opposite, which is this: What are you not taking with you from this Challenge?

The one thing that I wish I had achieved is the ability to lock in a certain time of the day to write. Some people might poo-poo this and argue that as long as the pieces got written, and they’re relatively not bad, then I should be happy. And the pieces did get written, and they’re not (all) bad, and I am satisfied.

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guard rail and road

We always design a site in stages. Our process is built to facilitate the production of highly usable, scalable, and engaging websites that endure. First, we spend a substantial amount of time talking with our client about their business, the way they work, their challenges and opportunities, how much time they have to write and produce content, and where they want their business to live in three to five years.

We think and plan for the long term; I tell clients that the very last thing I want for them is to have to redesign their site in a year.

After many hours of discussion, which we call Discovery (after the legal activity), we’ll start to build a wireframe for the site, which then gets reviewed by our client. Depending on the size and nature of the project, we will also write a creative brief, develop a technical and functional spec, provide a sitemap document, and create a mood board.

Then we hit design. Typically, designing a new site concept takes between three to four days of work. A few months ago, I created a design concept for a client in about 7 hours.

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It’s been a week. A really good week and an exhausting one at the same time. And yet there is no beer in the fridge.

According to the #YourTurn Challenge, Day 5 is advice day and the question is this: What advice would you give for getting unstuck?

Related, I have five pieces of advice, as follows:

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