Developing a feature story strategy

Feature stories - they are a fact of life within our Drupal sites right now. Whether you love 'em or hate 'em, we all know they have the instant ability to add freshness, credibility, and life to our sites. Or, totally embarrass us. 

I'm not going to debate the effectiveness or the user friendliness or accessibility of these bits of content. What I'm interested in doing is introducing the idea of creating and applying strategy to what is shown in these areas.

College of Agricultural Sciences (CAS)

I'm in charge of the Feature Stories show on the main CAS website right now. There are smaller groups and programs within the College that manage their own Feature Stories. The first thing I did when we migrated to Drupal 7 is set up a plan and schedule for Feature Stories. Because this new home page is temporary, I'm not going to spend a zillion hours making sure that the Feature Stories are 100% perfect on message and changed constantly. I'm just going to develop some strategy to make my life easier: 

Number of Feature Stories (FS) at one time: 5 or 6

Schedule: Three of the FS are changed out monthly; one FS is not shown for more than THREE months. 

OK, so that is a rough plan. I added the schedule to my calendar, and I give myself a week to change/update FS. But what do I put up there?

Content Time!

So, I know that I am luckier than most. I have both URM and Extension continually creating newsworthy pieces of content that I can feature. And not only that, awesome visuals featuring food, wine, wildlife, bugs, etc. Go ahead and hate me. But still, that can be overwhelming. Time to bring in some content strategy!

I start by taking a look at CAS's key audiences:

  • Prospectives
  • Current students
  • Our supporters - biz industry, K-12, legislators, media
  • People looking to learn the issues - general public, media

(Note: we all know the Dean would have about 100 more audiences but I try and narrow)
And then, I look at what CAS has identified as our College Areas of Excellence in our Strategic Intent:

  • Food and Agriculture 
  • Water Resources
  • Environmental and Human Well Being
  • Integrated Systems Biology 
  • Natural Resources Stewardship

Now what? Well, each month I look at my collected bits of content, aka potential FS (oh yeah, keep an email folder or an evernote file with links to everything that has happened.). Then I ask myself the following questions about each one:

1. Does this FS illustrate a CAS Area of Excellence?
2. More broadly, does this FS support an OSU Core Message?
  • Internationally recognized public research university
  • World-class faculty and accomplished students
  • America's natural resources university
  • Drives innovation through collaboration
  • Enhances well-being, social progress and community prosperity
  • An inclusive community
  • Transforms students into leaders 
3. Does the Feature have good content?
  • Is there a compelling image associated that shows people at work?
  • Is there an associated video?
  • Is the text well-written and appropriate for the web?
4.Does the Feature apply to one or more of audiences? See above.
5. Does the Feature compel a user to do something?
  • Find out more
  • Deep dive earn about an issues (i.e biotechnology in ag) 
  • Apply to be a student 
  • Give us $$ 
6. Does the Feature have impact? (Note: still working on this)
  • Track clickthroughs/PVs
  • Mo' Money

How this Works in Reality

Interactive Communications wrote a good piece for about urban horticulture and the local food movement in Portland featuring faculty member Weston Miller. Looks great, but is it a good FS for the College?

Using my strategy document I write down the following:

Weston Miller piece – Area of excellence: food & ag. OSU Core Message: community prosperity, world-class faculty. Good content: yes, written by URM. Apply to an audience: yes, supporters, prospectives interested in local food, gen pub. Compel user: Maybe to sign up for BUFA. Impact: Well, I haven’t gotten this far yet.

In sum, using my strategy, yes this is a good FS for the CAS website. (also, I can email this to someone when i get the inevitable "why is that on the homepage?" email)

Hope that this helps!