Educated Content: Collaboration, Problem Solving & Creativity

posted Dec 17, 2014, 7:36 PM by Harry Hawk   [ updated Dec 25, 2014, 10:08 AM ]

Content: More than Blogs, Video and Podcasts
Large or small, if you are looking to build awareness and influence for your brand, most experts will tell you that content marketing is crucial if not a critical step. But, most practitioners of content marketing focus on blogs, vlogs, videos, perhaps a podcast, and of course posts on social media sites. Midwifing compelling content often means coaching domain experts into telling great stories about your brands, your staff, your customers and the world that surrounds your enterprise.

The text, "Education LIghts The Way" imposed near an image of the Montauk Light House and a sign indicating the light house was commissioned by George Washington.

SEO: Why Content Marketing Works?
Content marketing works (in-part) because search engines like Google & Bing are optimized to seek out high quality content. When search engines find good content, they display links to it; if your content is chosen it will appear (hopefully prominently) on search engine results pages (SERPs) whenever search terms (keywords) match your content. The more limited, specific, detailed, focused, and unique your content, the more limited, specific, detailed, focused, and unique your audience will be. When high unique and specific keywords are used in the search, they are referred to as Long Tail Keywords (LTKs), meaning that they are less popular outliers in the search result. Many content marketing teams try to create many pieces of content, very specific to their business, designed to appeal to these LTKs.

Educate Your Storytelling
Truth be told: there are many other types of content including white papers, infographics and ebooks; educational content is very under-utilized. Educational content encompass web sites, applications and traditional software that provide instructions, computer mediated lessons, lecture materials (slides, video, etc.) combined with quizzes or tests, or even full scale online education like a Massively Open Online Course (MOOC). Educational content can be utilized by consumers before or during the sales cycle. More importantly, after a sale is made, many consumers and even B2B customers can benefit from additional education and training. From tchotchkes to million dollar medical devices, often it is only after the sale that people learn how much more they need to know to fully benefit from their purchase.  Forums, chat rooms, FAQs and other common collections of knowledge and wisdom barely scratch the surface. A set of lectures, tests, quizzes, badges, awards, rewards, and online certifications can help your customers maximize the value of their purchase, turning a typical purchase into a dynamic, shareable success story.

Is Teaching Easy?
It is daunting enough when you start down the road to content marketing once you realize that you need to be incentivizing rank and file staffers, their managers and C-Suite executives into becoming writers and storytellers; you need to do this because your content has to come from authentic domain experts, not ghostwriters or freelancers. So yes, it could be scary challenge turning your domain experts into educators. Truth is stranger than your imagination -- humans are not only natural storytellers, they are also natural teachers, educators and (yes) students.

An image of Harry Hawk in front of a white board and a video screen.

The Truth About Teaching & Learning
I recently heard a lecture by Cathy N Davidson, Distinguished CUNY Professor and director of its Future Initiative. Cathy is also the co-founder of HASTAC; Wikipedia helps explain what HASTAC is. "Humanities, Arts, Science and Technology Alliance and Collaboratory, pronounced 'haystack'... a virtual organization of over 12,000 individuals and institutions dedicated to innovative modes of learning and research in higher education, K-12, and lifelong learning." [Listen to my comments on Professor Davidson's lecture.]

Cathy Davidson (Distinguished Professor (CUNY) and co-founder of HASTAC)

From Cathy's lecture I learned about another potential roadblock to using educational-oriented content marketing. Cathy discussed at length how today's educational system is mired in its historical roots (1865-1925), in training farmers and shopkeepers into becoming factory workers and middle managers. It is no wonder that people think they are unable to learn on their own, and to direct their own education... that's what they were taught in school.

In today's business world, ideally, your staff would collaborate with both your vendors/suppliers and with your current and future customers to innovate, train, develop and explore how to maximize your products and services. Your staff might even find themselves working with your customer's clients; your colleagues and yourself might even start to collaborate with some competitors to define industry standards which may seem farfetched, but is in fact exactly how the Internet was developed and continually enhanced today.

It's all about the People
Professor Davidson makes the case that today's educational standards and any related technology are failing to capitalize on human interaction, interpersonal communications, and the inherent ability for people to be natural storytellers, teachers, educators and students. According to Cathy Davidson, our current educational technology may have been recently coded, but in reality, it is perhaps a century and a half outdated.

Ancient Knowledge Gap
Professor Davidson, in classroom after classroom, has demonstrated that students, when given the responsibility to manage their own education, are able to plan, direct and collaborate to the point of being able to design their own courses, set their own learning objectives and outcomes, and to evaluate their own performance as well as that of their peers.

Bottom UP Learning
If you are considering creating content around the aforementioned learning opportunity between your staff, vendors and customers it is important to make a critical point: there isn't any need for a C-Level executive to "manage" the outcome. Similarly, Professor Davidson has found that teachers can relinquish some control of their classroom to the students. Sitting down with your customers (physically or virtually), it is likely (with little or no coaching) that your customers can articulate the learning outcome that they need; they will easily tell you what their objectives are. A perfect contribution to your content marketing would be a learning environment designed to foster detailed understanding about products,  services, emerging technologies, including new and existing applications. Cathy and other educators make the same point about students.

Innovation & Opportunity
Can your staff work creatively, collaboratively focused on teamwork to solve problems? A central theme of Cathy Davidson's lecture was that today's educational institutions are not teaching students how to work that way. Students are being taught to work alone, to avoid collaboration and to challenge innovation rather than to seek it. Cathy isn't opposed to using technology in education (far from that), but in her lecture she seemed concerned about anything that stubbornly maintains educational standards from the 1860s, which will likely continue to fail in training prospective workers and managers for the 21st & 22nd centuries.

I recorded some comments about Professor Davidson's lecture for Kevin Anselmo's podcast on Higher Education. Here is an outtake from that podcast. Kevin operates Experiential Communications, a consulting firm benefiting academics and administrators. Kevin has also blogged about an online course which Cathy offered via Coursera on the future of education.