Check out the new and improved Group-onomics website, which we helped launch in late March.
We oversaw content strategy, information architecture and content development, working in collaboration with their web development agency, iDesign.
It’s hard to believe, but they are still skiing in Aspen. This upcoming weekend — that’s right, the first weekend of May — will mark the final weekend to grab some turns at Aspen Mountain. It was a pretty good year for snow, and my partners at Aspen/Snowmass have made the most of it, adding two bonus weekends to finish off the stellar season.
I’ve been keeping busy with these guys — updating landing pages for summer, streamlining navigation, improving user paths to crucial pages, and generally making their site’s content more engaging one page at a time.
The big project this year: collaborating on a new blog. Initially created to tell the deeper story of their ski school, the new blog has also been promoting events, updating readers on skiing conditions, lending an insider’s perspective to the resort and destination, and generally following their #ContentCrew as they enjoy the best job on planet earth.
I advised them on the set-up and launch strategy, and created and helped maintain an editorial calendar throughout the season. But the really fun part for me has been contributing content on my favorite subject — food. As you might suspect, Aspen/Snowmass is top shelf when it comes to on-mountain dining.
Here are some of the posts I created for them (and there will be more to come this summer):
You know how chefs get ornary when they find out you want to hold an ingredient, or substitute something in its place? Well, I can sympathize with their reaction in my line of work.
In the case of content strategy, skipping strategic steps up front will always dilute the end result. If you are presented with a supervisor who wants to “ala carte” your content strategy project, here is your defense:
Frequent excuse for skipping: ”We already have marketing goals established. We don’t need another set of goals?”
Why it can’t be skipped: Marketing goals often cover umbrella ideas for all initiatives. But as a result, they do not offer tactical aspirations when it comes to something as complex as content. That being said, content goals should always take the lead from marketing goals, and translate them to relevant applications. “If we want to accomplish x, then our content online must do y.” Content goals also have great longevity: you can hand them to any good content writer down the road, and they’ll have their marching orders.
Frequent excuse for skipping: ”It takes too much time. Can’t we just audit 20 pages and be done with it?”
Why it can’t be skipped: How many websites a day do you visit? And of those, what percent do you bounce from due to a bad user experience, or content that just doesn’t make sense? Exactly. Odds are, your site is turning someone off right now because a link is broken, a navigational path is too convoluted, a typo makes you look sloppy, or a page they thought was about A is actually about B. The point is, none of us have patience when we’re online. The only way to wrap your head around what’s wrong with your content (and how your site supports it) is to allow someone to get in the weeds and start pulling.
Frequent excuse for skipping: ”Now that we know what’s wrong, why don’t we just fix it?”
Why it can’t be skipped: Completing an audit and identifying fixes is just the beginning. And if small fixes are identified — typos, broken links, empty fields — go ahead and get going on them. But an audit isn’t like editing a mid-term paper. The biggest reason for this exercise is to identify overlapping trends across the site that are preventing you from accomplishing your content goals. Often, this goes beyond just the words on a page, and trickles over to design, development and even workflow. Documenting the tactics that will need to be employed — as well as who they involve and in what order they need to be implemented — not only gets everyone on the same page, but its creates an easy-to-follow way forward for everyone.
Frequent excuse for skipping: ”Kale is bitter. I would rather eat dandelions laced with Roundup.”
Why it can’t be skipped: Kale you can skip. I hate kale, too. I’d even ask a Top Chef to substitute it.
The three steps outlined above are just the three most common ones to be jettisoned from my experience, and certainly, every project is different. But content strategy is founded on (a) establishing objectives, (b) evaluating how you are currently meeting (or failing) those objectives, and (c) establishing a corrective course of action. It’s not a three-course meal. It’s a process. Don’t skip any of these steps.
Ah taxonomy. The grubby, mind-twisting terrain of identifying our content. Typically, people who love executing taxonomy strategies also love the Container Store.
Me? Not so much. But when you can properly organize, tag and identify your content, you begin to make relevant connections easier for your audience. That, I do like. So, for me it’s a necessary evil that must be embraced. Fortunately, I’ve found a way to make it one-step more fun than buying a closet organizer for my 3-year-old daughter’s toys.
To tag your content properly you need two things: specificity and consistency.
The more exact you can be in identifying your content, the better you will inform a system of that content’s exact relevance.
And the more consistent you can be in your process and word-choice, the more uniform your content connections will be.
Whether you are playing around on Pinterest, marketing your company through a blog, producing a vast ecosystem of B-to-B content, or selling stock photography, you have to master taxonomy. Here’s how I make it work for me.
I recently helped a client with a taxonomy issue. Multiple departments from different disciplines — think: journalists in one camp, data crunchers in another — were publishing content to the same platform. Each was approaching the tagging process completely differently, and it was destined to break the system we hoped to set up for them. Our end goal was to revamp the site and power it with standard relevant content modules throughout. Problem is, no matter how robust and fancy a CMS is, if its working with inconsistent and vague taxonomy, it won’t be able to serve relevant content. In other words, journalistic pieces on wine importing could not connect with relevant research papers on burgeoning Asian wine markets.
To iron it out, I set up a question-based workflow for entering taxonomy into the system. What geographic regions are the focus of the content? What industries does the content serve? What themes are present in the content? Etc. We identified 10 questions and paired them with two simple rules:
Content strategy is my day job, and photography is my passion. They have a lot of natural crossover, particularly in the main industry I serve — travel. And as with the written work, taxonomy of photography is enormously important.
So when tagging my photos at import into Lightroom, I adopt a custom Q-and-A workflow:
It’s a consistent process and I go through it in sequential order everytime. Then when an image is ready for uploading to Photoshelter — my stock photography platform — I go deeper.
You get the drift, but if I shot from the hip while keywording these images, I wouldn’t come up with nearly as robust or consistent a set of keywords. If someone wants to see other images with a campanile and the Alps in Italian wine country, they can.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to run to the Container Store.
We’re excited to announce that Aspen-Snowmass has hired Headwaters Content for content strategy and development services for their both their website and publications.
In May, we began work by closely collaborating with Aspen-Snowmass’ marketing team to develop content for their Vacation Planner — both the domestic and international editions. Since then, our attention has turned online where we are focusing on search engine optimization, engaging landing-page content, and communications strategy for the upcoming winter season.
As a mountain resort, Aspen-Snowmass is in its own league. It is simultaneously a haven for celebrity glamour, a leader in environmental stewardship and the home to the Winter X Games. Yet, despite its international fame, this ski resort has not lost its local vibe.
In the winter, it’s four mountains — Snowmass, Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands and Buttermilk — serve skiers and snowboarders on one lift ticket. The options are staggering: steeps and glades at Aspen Mountain, bowls and bumps at Aspen Highlands, halfpipes and cruisers at Buttermilk, and more than 3,000 acres of terrain at Snowmass. Give me a week, and I’d ski maybe 20% of the four mountains.
In summer, the mountain resort plays host to outdoor concerts, mountain biking events, an award-winning camp for kids, and several niche festivals. Back that up with an insanely good restaurant scene and the iconic Maroon Bells as a backyard, and its pretty close to being the perfect mountain destination.
Business trip anyone?
Few things are more exciting for us than a new client. But a new client that is working on one of the world’s most critical issues? Now that’s something that truly fires us up.
We’re very pleased to announce that Headwaters Content has been hired by Water for People to create a long-term content strategy and develop content for their suite of communications.
Around 884 million people in the world are lacking access to safe drinking water, and an astonishing 2.6 billion are without adequate sanitation facilities. Compounding these two facts is an increasing shortage of water supplies, which will only place more — and in many cases, catastrophic — stresses on populations.
Solving this massive issue requires more than just building wells and improving sanitation — it requires an infrastructure to maintain and regulate the system. It is because of this that Water for People takes a new approach, which they call Everyone Forever (see above video).
To truly change the reality for communities ravaged by water poverty, Water for People works in areas where it can give every resident safe drinking water and sanitation systems that are self-sustaining. To do this, they collaborate with local governments and business leaders to fund, develop, and maintain water systems that will break the cycle of water poverty for good.
This isn’t a build-a-well-and-move-on-to-the-next-village operation. This is lasting change with extensive health and economic benefits for these communities.
As bold as Everyone Forever sounds, it is an approach that has come to fruition in Chinda, Honduras, and is well on its way in other municipalities where they work.
Water for People is currently operating in 11 countries, including Rwanda, Uganda, Guatemala, Bolivia and India. We’re thrilled to begin work with this next-generation NGO.
A good friend and frequent partner-in-crime asked me the other day whether he should have a blog for a new business he’s launching. As someone who frequently reads blogs, strategizes about blogs, and contributes to blogs, my knee-jerk reaction was about as predictable as NBC’s prime-time programming: “Hell yes, you should be blogging.”
But, wait. Let’s think about this. After all, I want a new car, but do I need a new car?
So we ran through a few questions that helped him decide that its probably not the top priority for him.
If these simple questions take the wind out of your sails, I hate to say it, but creating a compelling and powerful blog and keeping it fresh just isn’t going to happen for you.
If you want to use a blog as a business-building tool, it takes massive amounts of discipline and creativity over a long period of time. It also helps that you are a decent writer, but more importantly, that you enjoy writing. Without that, it will most likely die on the vine.
My wife and go-to website designer, Hailey Day, fits this mold. A few years back she started a blog for her business, HeyDay Creative. She doesn’t really enjoy writing, and at the time, didn’t really know who her audience would be. After a handful of posts, she discovered that carving out the time to write about graphic and web design was taking away from billable work. So her marketing strategy shifted to SEM, and she hasn’t looked back.
Blogs are easy to underestimate — both in terms of man-hours and the creativity they require to keep it interesting. Having said that, the inverse is true: the power of a great blog and its ability to build customer loyalty (and organic traffic to your website) can also be easily underestimated. Start with these questions, and you’ll begin to get a sense on whether blogging is worth it for your unique situation.
We’re pleased to announce that Inspirato — a new luxury destination club which Forbes recently called one of America’s Most Promising Companies — has hired us for extensive content strategy and development services.
Headquartered in Denver and launched earlier this year, Inspirato already boasts spectacular residences in 29 destinations around the world, including Tuscany, Paris, Turks and Caicos, California Wine Country, Mexico, the Caribbean, Hawaii and Colorado.
It is also based on a premise we love: “overpaying for a vacation is not a status symbol.” Well said.
They offer something unique to the luxury vacation club market: lower nightly rates and more flexible availability. Inspirato members pay a one-time initiation fee, then an annual maintenance fee, which allows them access to residences and experiential tours around the world for a significantly reduced rate (up to 80% off in some cases). Here’s more on how the club works.
We’ll be joining the Inspirato marketing and web teams through 2012 to provide strategic support on how compelling travel content — on their website, blog, video channels and print destination guides — can lead to more members and more vacations.
OK, so we’ve established that content farms are responsible for the crapification of the web. Not necessarily a news flash, but a fun eyeball to poke our finger into.
Fortunately, there’s also plenty of great content out there. Here’s what’s intrigued us in the past month: