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Content Strategy Across Industries

What does higher education have to do with healthcare or finance? More than you might think!

Conference Revelations

Last week I was lucky enough to attend Confab Higher Ed. As always, Confab offered a variety of fantastic talks – so many that it was difficult to choose between them. But what most struck me wasn’t the brilliance of the speakers, or the breadth and depth of the information, or even the variety of perspectives.

What struck me was the ways in which higher education topics apply to healthcare and finance.

What do Education, Healthcare, and Finance Have in Common?

At Mad*Pow we are often asked why we focus on these three seemingly diverse industries. But the truth is, they have quite a few similarities:

  1. All three industries are subject to regulations
    Some of these regulations are federal, some are state, some are county, and some are from private organizations. Anyone who says “why can’t we just [insert idea here]?” may not be considering some of these regulations. In order to design successful experiences, we need to think beyond the constraints of regulations, while still being aware of them.
  2. All three are very complex, making literacy within each difficult
    According to the NAAL, only 12% of Americans have proficient health literacy. Two thirds of Americans lack basic financial literacy. Although numbers for “educational literacy” are not as well tracked, we know it’s an equally confusing and complex system. Without a content strategy it’s nearly impossible to create a system or experience that will navigate these challenges.
  3. The stakes are high; if people can’t get access to these, they will not thrive
    To quote Count Tyron Rugen, “if you haven’t got your health, you haven’t got anything.” It’s impossible to work, to care for yourself or others, or to feed and clothe yourself if you aren’t healthy enough to get around, and if you don’t have the financial stability, or the literacy skills to read and write. All the markers of success are impossible without stability when it comes to education, health, and finance. In addition, many people fail to understand how interconnected the three are. It’s easy to go into debt due to health issues if you don’t have the literacy skills to communicate with insurance organizations. It’s impossible to get an education without the budget to stay in school.
  4. People struggle to get access to all three
    While most people agree that they need healthcare, financial wellbeing, and education, few understand the hoops they need to jump through, the people they need to speak to, or the opportunities available to them. They don’t know they have access to scholarships, or they don’t know how to apply. They aren’t aware of opportunities for better healthcare or ways to prepare for a financially stable retirement. The education is available to help them, but it’s not easy to find.

  5. People prefer self-service across all three, often digital
    There are a lot of opportunities to use your phone to take action online. But given the complexity of the systems, few people are able to complete the tasks they want to. This leads to frustration, which won’t be solved until we create smooth, simple, intuitive experiences.

How can Content Strategy Help?

At Confab, several talks focused on ways to improve experiences in Higher Ed. Of course, what I noticed was how applicable these improvements are across all three industries. For example:

Content in the Age of Personalization, by Matt McFadden described the key elements of creating targeted experiences. The more we can provide an experience that understands who the user is and what they need, the better we will be at helping them accomplish their goals and navigating complex industries.

The Accessible User Experience, by Robin Smail detailed the ways a team can ensure all audiences can navigate and use an experience. Accessibility is no longer a bonus feature – it’s table stakes.

Getting Real About Content Workflow, by Rick Allen explained how to make all the pieces run smoothly: with a content workflow that matches the team’s internal needs.

Check out my write-ups from those talks, and the slides when they become available. I learned a lot, and I look forward to implementing it for higher ed projects and beyond.

Marli Mesibov

Marli is a content strategist with a passion for the user experience. Her work spans websites, web applications, and mobile. Marli is the VP of Content Strategy at the UX design agency Mad*Pow, and she serves as managing editor at UX Booth, a publication about all areas of user experience. Marli is a frequent conference speaker, and has spoken at conferences including Content Strategy Forum and LavaCon. She can also be found on Twitter, where she shares thoughts on content strategy, literature, and Muppets.

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