Teaching is Learning: Looking Back at NCMPR 2015

Posted: April 8, 2015

Matt Walters Chief Services Officer

Two weeks ago, Diane, Tony and I enjoyed several days in the Pacific Northwest, a trip that began in Portland for NCMPR 2015 and ended with an unexpected but not unwelcome romp through Seattle, the humor of which deserves its own series of blog articles. Suffice it to say that Tony, aka the original “Dapper Dan Man,” and the always-dazzling Diane had to traipse around Seattle with a guy who picked the wrong flight to “pack light.”

For me, it was a trip of firsts. First cross-country flight. First Pacific sunset. First time being stranded due to a flight cancellation (if you can call an unexpected vacation in Seattle being “stranded”). First pilgrimage to the original Starbucks storefront. First time I’ve ever checked into a hotel room to find Brad Pitt waiting on my bed (thanks, Palladia!).

By far the most exciting first of the trip, though, was giving VisionPoint’s first intensive workshop in website content strategy to a room full of content creators, marketing directors and website strategists from community colleges across the U.S.

We’ve shared our work in higher ed content strategy at numerous conferences over the years, but the 3-hour workshop format at NCMPR gave us a new opportunity to slow down, teach through the process and give attendees not only a step-by-step overview of how to create and execute a content strategy, but also the chance to practice that methodology in real time.

To that end, Tony and I dreamed up a fake community college — Rip City Community College, in honor of the conference’s host city — and announced to the unknowing attendees that they’d just been hired as Rip City CC’s new Marketing Director. We created banners with Rip City CC’s logo, wrote a background story on all that had been happening at Rip City in the previous few years, and encouraged the attendees to make their own imaginative contributions to Rip City CC as the workshop progressed. We even gave away some free t-shirts.

The President, we explained, had hired them to create a proactive, intentional content strategy for the purposes of driving enrollment in several key Rip City programs. The workshop was our opportunity to walk through the steps of a great content strategy while actually building one for Rip City CC.

We knew the exercise would be loads of fun, which it was. What we DIDN’T anticipate —though any seasoned educator would have told us to expect this — was how much we would learn about content strategy, especially in the context of community college’s needs, through the process of teaching the workshop. Our attendees not only executed the steps in our methodology, they challenged us to tweak and enhance our process through the questions they raised and the ideas they contributed. It was like witnessing our “Thirsting for Knowledge” VisionPoint come to life.

Immediately following the workshop, the three of us rushed to a table in the hotel lobby to write down several builds on our content strategy process, sharing those builds with several attendees who wanted to conduct the same workshop with their content teams on their campuses. Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve been hearing back from those attendees about which parts of the workshop worked for them and which parts they changed for their campuses. Their feedback is continuing to hone and refine not only our workshop curriculum but our approach to content strategy as a whole.

Ultimately, I think that emergent fluidity is part of what I love most about being a content strategist, the fact that those of us striving to actually do content strategy in higher education have the opportunity to help give shape and definition to a field that is still discovering itself. I came back from NCMPR not only grateful to the conference for the opportunity to have given the workshop, but also reinvigorated by the ways our attendees challenged and sharpened our approach.

If you’d like to hear more about the nuts and bolts of our evolving approach to higher ed content strategy, or about the curricular details of our workshop, please don’t hesitate to reach out. I’d love to share more about what we’re learning and to learn more about the unique content-related challenges you’re facing on your campus.