WRD 532: Content Strategy (Winter 2021)

Course Description

In this course, you will learn the fundamentals of content strategy, an emerging set of principles, practices, and genres to guide organizations in the creation, delivery, and governance of digital content. We will apply methods typically used by content strategists to evaluate organizational content and content-related practices, as well as learn to generate feasible content strategy recommendations. Much of the work of WRD 532 will be grounded in content-strategy tasks that we do for several nonprofit partner organizations.

By the end of the course, you will be able to:

  • Conduct key types of content-strategy research, including user-, stakeholder-, and competitor-analysis research
  • Deploy the genres commonly used to evaluate and govern digital content in organizations, including personas, content audits, editorial calendars, editorial guidelines, etc.
  • Design content types and create sample content that meets users’ needs and organizational goals
  • Define “intelligent” and “structured” content and use strategies to make content more discoverable, reconfigurable, and adaptable
  • Articulate the challenges faced by those working to create, circulate, measure, and maintain networked, digital content

Readings & Resources


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

Land, P. (2014). Content audits and inventories: A handbook. XML Press.

chapters & articles

Atherton, M. & Hane, C. (2018). Understanding structured content. In Designing connected content: Plan and model digital products for today and tomorrow (pp. 31-42). New Riders.

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). Elsevier.

Glotfelter, A. (2019). Algorithmic circulation: How content creators navigate the effects of algorithms on their work. Computers and Composition, 54, 1-14.

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

Pullman, G., & Gu, B. (2020). Reconceptualizing technical communication pedagogy in the context of content management. In Teaching content management in technical and professional communication (pp. 19-39). Routledge.

Wachter-Boettcher, S. (2017). Normal people. In Technically wrong: Sexist apps, biased algorithms, and other threats of toxic tech (pp. 27–48). WW Norton & Company.


  1. CONTENT CRITIQUE (30%): Using principles and practices from content strategy, you will analyze several samples of online content from one organization of your choice 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. CONTRIBUTIONS TO PRELIMINARY PORTFOLIO OF CONTENT STRATEGY DELIVERABLES (20%): You will contribute to a portfolio of content strategy deliverables for one of our nonprofit partner organizations, which contains items that codify the nonprofit’s key audiences and messages. The Preliminary Portfolio typically includes personas, user/stakeholder research findings, competitor/peer analyses, a message architecture and core strategy statement, and results of a content audit. You will produce or collaborate on several of these deliverables and contribute to a coauthored memo or slide deck that summarizes the deliverables for your nonprofit partner.
  3. CONTRIBUTIONS TO FINAL PORTFOLIO OF CONTENT STRATEGY DELIVERABLES (25%): Working with the same nonprofit organization as you did for the Preliminary Portfolio, you will contribute to a second set of deliverables, which contains items to manage content creation and governance. These deliverables typically include an editorial calendar, channel and velocity plans, content specifications and structure guidelines, wireframes and sample content, and workflow and governance plans. You will produce or collaborate on several of these deliverables and contribute to a coauthored final report for your partner organization, which is visually similar to the Content Critique report and summarizes all of the deliverables and recommendations in the two portfolios.
  4. INTELLIGENT CONTENT TASK (20%): This project is a chance to begin integrating “intelligent content” methods into a workplace of your choice. You will identify a content sample that is not currently guided by the principles and practices of intelligent content creation and propose feasible content, workflow, and governance suggestions to make that content more discoverable, reconfigurable, and adaptable. The assignment deliverable is a memo that engages with our readings to summarize how the content sample can be improved with an intelligent content approach.
  5. D2L POSTS AND PARTICIPATION (5%): You will submit three D2L posts (<400 words each), which respond to readings or propose project ideas. You will also submit drafts of major projects to the D2L Discussion area. The timely completion and quality of these posts and drafts, as well as the quality of your engagement in class discussions and activities, will constitute your participation grade.