What are the digital basics I need for content development in my organisation?

In this article, we look at the digital basics for content creation and development, exploring the importance of an attractive website, thoughtful content, and post-publication marketing.

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What are the digital basics I need for content development in my organisation?

1. Introduction

Content comes in various forms, on various platforms, in various styles. You might want to film a video documenting the architecture of a certain listed building. Or maybe you want to write a post on social media explaining the resurgence of a certain species of butterfly. Or perhaps you want to put together a long report for your website, complete with images, exploring the industrial history of certain docks.

All of the above is content. Content is simply storytelling with a purpose. And content is everywhere, in every direction we look. There is a problem, though. While content is everywhere, lots of it isn’t very good. Too much content simply adds to the noise, repeats what’s already been said, and depends on no research or planning.

The key to great content is planning, preparation, and using the right digital tools. So, without further ado, we want to run through some of the digital basics that can vastly improve content development for your heritage organisation.


2. A functional and attractive website

Creating a simple website where you can share news, give updates about your latest projects, add links to events, embed imagery, and integrate with your socials is simple. Several heritage organisations have great websites that provide the right information in clean and simple ways. Check out the simplicity of The Georgian Group, for example, or the image-focussed design of Historic Houses.

There are plenty of free and low-cost options that allow heritage organisations to build effective websites. Organisations may use one of the more simplistic content management systems, such as WordPress, which allows organisations to create attractive websites through customisable templates and designs. Check out The Bourne Conservation website to see a simple example of WordPress in action.

Alternatively, heritage organisations might want to consider snazzier software as a service option, such as Wix and Squarespace. These platforms are slightly different from the standard content management system, with the focus on website building, but they can help you create simple and beautiful websites. The sites have lots of sophisticated customisable templates, making the process of branding and implementation simple.

Organisations might to consider a bespoke content management system, which supports more specific needs, such as greater accessibility and interactivity. A bespoke option tends to allow for personalisation, autonomy, and optimisation. The downside is that a bespoke content management system will likely cost more and come with unnecessary complexities for small organisations.

Your choice of content management system should always depend on your needs as an organisation. So do your research, take stock of your current resources, tally the possibilities, find out your user needs, then pick the best content management system option for your heritage organisation.

See also question: 8. Where do I start when building a new website for my heritage organisation?


3. An effective content calendar

Once you have a functioning website, you’ll need to create content. The first thing to consider is the type of content you’ll want to create. Think about what your audience might want to see, what you find most interesting, and choose what to cover.

A content calendar allows you to schedule all posts, articles, videos, and other posts, and contains any other essential information. Content calendars should be tailored to your organisation, but typically include title, writer, medium, publication date, and so on.

Some of the benefits of planning content include:

  • Ability to publish more topical content
  • Better planning to help manage your workload
  • Greater insights through tracking and data analytics
  • Increased return on investment through targeted expenditure.

Heritage organisations can track the content they’re going to publish, as well as tracking the metrics of content they have already published. The easiest way to plan and track is through the development of a content calendar.

Content calendars may include marketing essentials, target users, relevant keywords for search engine optimisation purposes, social media elements, and so on.

Importantly, effective content calendars will have a section that covers data analytics, allowing organisations to track the success of all content. They can then use those metrics to define future content, further developing strengths and correcting weaknesses.

Content calendars can be put together in various ways. You could, for example, use traditional spreadsheets using Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets.

The spreadsheet could use columns for each of the above criteria, with rows for each piece of content, then tabs separating weeks, months, or years, depending on the amount of content you plan on publishing.

There are also apps you could use that have been specifically designed for content management, which possess both a calendar and the necessary elements of project management. Some of the most popular include CoSchedule, Contently, and Loomly.


4. Thoughtful and precise content

The actual act of creating content is perhaps the toughest part. Ensure that you use the right mediums and the right content, always aiming for educational, informative, and engaging content which aligns with your values. It’s also helpful to think about what your audience wants to see, and publish content with them in mind. And remember to make sure everything looks and sounds great!

Plenty of tools can help with content creation, regardless of your medium. Grammarly and Hemingway are two free apps that aim to simplify and clean-up your writing. Audioboom can host podcasts that have been edited on Logic Pro X, Adobe Audition, or any other podcast editing software. Webinars can be held on Zoom and published on YouTube without too much editing.

All content can be improved through effective use of imagery. Some of the best free image libraries include Unsplash, Pixabay, and Gratisography. For paid options, heritage organisations could opt for Shutterstock. And organisations can use Canva to resize, improve, and jazz up your images, making the imagery even more attractive.

Finally, organisations may want to practice search engine optimisation (SEO) when writing pieces. SEO can be complex, but there are basic rules you can follow, such as ensuring content is readable, using regular hyperlinks from reputable sites, and ensuring keyword-focussed titles.

For people who do not have much experience with SEO, there are several digital tools that can help, such as Google Search Console, SEMRush, and Moz Pro. There are also lots of free resources on this website!


5. Post-publication marketing

Finally, heritage organisations should use digital basics to improve content visibility post-publication. Two key tools are the correct use of social media and the use of email marketing.

The key with social media is to publish the right content on the right platform. Videos may prove more successful on TikTok, Snapchat, and YouTube, for example. Written content might prove more successful on Twitter and LinkedIn. Image-based content might do well on Instagram, whereas audio content could work on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter.

Do not try to use all platforms. Heritage organisations should master a few platforms, rather than spread resources across all platforms, mastering none. Remember to do your research, as each platform has written and unwritten rules that can improve the reach of your content.

Email marketing is the act of sending emails to users with a specific purpose, whether that’s to raise awareness, fundraise, or promote an event. It is perhaps the most popular and most successful form of marketing, which heritage organisations of all shapes and sizes should use.

There are plenty of email marketing software that heritage organisations can use to improve their marketing. Consider Mailchimp, DotDigital, and GetResponse. There are lots of other options, so measure your resources and pick the one that best suits your needs.


More help here

Group of people each holding and using their mobile phones

How social media can help me reach more visitors for my heritage organisation

This written resource by Trish Thomas will help you understand the best approaches to developing a social media strategy that can help you reach more people. It covers the following areas: how to define your audiences and their motivations; how to define channel objectives; how to use data to help you plan content; how to develop an effective posting plan and how to set targets and measure success.

Published: 2022
Resource type: Articles

Creative Commons Licence Except where noted and excluding company and organisation logos this work is shared under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 (CC BY 4.0) Licence

Please attribute as: "What are the digital basics I need for content development in my organisation? (2022) by Ioan Marc Jones, Charity Digital supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund, licensed under CC BY 4.0


More help here

Digital Heritage Hub is managed by Arts Marketing Association (AMA) in partnership with The Heritage Digital Consortium and The University of Leeds. It has received Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and National Lottery funding, distributed by The Heritage Fund as part of their Digital Skills for Heritage initiative. Digital Heritage Hub is free and answers small to medium sized heritage organisations most pressing and frequently asked digital questions.

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