WRD 532: Content Strategy (Winter 2019)

Course Description

In this course, you will learn the fundamentals of content strategy, defined as an emerging set of principles, practices, and genres that guide organizations in the creation, delivery, and governance of digital content. We will apply methods typically used by content strategists to evaluate organizations’ existing content and content-related practices, and learn how to derive content and process recommendations that both meet user needs and are feasible to implement and sustain. WRD 532 has a substantial, quarter-long client project at its core, designed as an opportunity to translate theory into practice; as part of a team, you will help one of our four nonprofit partner organizations—the Beverly Arts Center, the Greater Chatham Initiative, The Learning Center, and Universidad Popular—to develop a viable content strategy and documents that will support that strategy.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this course, you should be able to:

  • Work effectively as part of a team to execute a content-strategy project for an organizational client
  • Conduct key types of content-strategy research, including user-, stakeholder-, and competitor-analysis research
  • Deploy genres commonly used to evaluate and govern digital content in organizations (e.g., personas, content audits, editorial calendars, editorial guidelines, etc.)
  • Specify content types and create sample content that meets both users’ needs and organizational goals
  • Articulate the challenges faced by those working to create, circulate, measure, and maintain networked, digital content, in both nonprofit and for-profit settings


Aalen, I. (2015, Jan. 6). The core model: Designing inside out for better results. Retrieved from https://alistapart.com/article/the-core-model-designing-inside-out-for-better-results

Bloomstein, M. (2014). How does message architecture drive the content and design? In Content strategy at work: Real-world stories to strengthen every interactive project (pp. 27-37). Waltham, MA: Elsevier.

Casey, Meghan. The content strategy toolkit: Methods, guidelines, and templates for getting content right. New Riders, 2015.

Halvorson, K., and Rach, M. (2012). Content strategy for the web, 2nd ed. Berkeley, CA: New Riders.

Halvorson, K. (2018, April 26). New thinking: Brain Traffic’s content strategy quad. Retrieved from https://www.braintraffic.com/blog/new-thinking-brain-traffics-content-strategy-quad

Redish, J. (2012). Planning: Purposes, personas, conversations. In Letting go of the words: Writing web content that works, 2nd edition (pp. 17–36). Waltham, MA: Morgan Kaufmann.

Rockley, A. (2016). Why you need two types of content strategist. Retrieved from https://contentmarketinginstitute.com/2016/02/types-content-strategist/ Rockley, A., Cooper, C., and Abel, S. (2015). Excerpts from Intelligent content: A primer. Laguna Hills, CA: XML Press.


  1. Content Critique: Using recognized principles and practices from content strategy, you will analyze several samples of online content from one organization and write a report that identifies key strengths and weaknesses of that content, makes prioritized suggestions for improvement, and presents some concrete revisions. The report will be designed for a busy workplace audience, and therefore should make use of screenshots, lists, tables, and other visual design techniques.
  2. Preliminary Content Strategy Report for Nonprofit Partner: Each team will produce a preliminary report for its nonprofit partner organization, focused on discovery and articulation of the nonprofit’s key audiences and messages, which includes most or all of the following items: personas, user-research findings, competitor/peer analyses, message architecture and core strategy statements, and a content audit. The team will submit one report, and each team member will also submit a Team Performance Review.
  3. Final Content Strategy Report for Nonprofit Partner & Presentation:  Each team will produce a second report for its nonprofit partner organization, which incorporates essential content from the Preliminary Report and adds additional information about content creation and governance. Final reports typically include most or all of the following items: editorial calendar(s), channel and velocity plans, content specifications and structure guidelines, wireframes and sample content, and workflow and metrics plans. The team will submit one collated document similar in structure and style to the Initial Content Strategy Report, and each team member will also submit a Team Performance Review. Additionally, the team will make a presentation to all our nonprofit partners in our last class meeting before finals week.