The Content Corner: Making Those Connections

Mar 30, 2015
A Boxer (dog) appears to jump on a grassy area outdoors, with large black and white text added to the image that says: Super Excited About Memes

A (possibly infamous) blog post from last Friday and the discussion/debate that followed reminded me of several important points that we all may lose sight of during our hectic schedules.

1. Audience Determines the Message

The first big item was that audience determines message; or more importantly, the best way to reach your audience may force you and your agency out of your comfort zone. Thankfully, it makes you embrace new—and at times—slightly scary technologies and helps you redefine what your concept of content is.

If the best way to achieve your communication goals with a particular audience is listicles covered with animated gifs or a mobile game or things that no one at your agency has heard of, then you need to adapt. You must research where your audience already is and then speak their language, even if it leaves you uneasy. But this cuts both ways, as the original blog post and subsequent news articles prove.

2. Content of Many Colors

Along with audience determining your message, your message can help determine how you communicate it. I’m regularly hammering the term “efficient” when it comes to content and that is very important when you are examining what would best do the job. Again, it’s about efficiency and not so much about comfort levels (and I’m talking about my comfort levels, too).

One great example of this that has gained popularity of late is the infographic. It’s fast and can quickly provide a ton of useful information to a user. Add animation (when you need to) and you have an even more effective communication tool.

As opposed to a video, if you have a brief segment without audio that you need to share, then use the animated gif. 18F has several great examples of this from their GitHub/Terminal tutorial.

An animated gif showing code being typed

3. Don’t Lose the Joy

This may be the biggest thing that smacked me in the face this week. The world we work and live in is fast-paced; many of us are constantly working to feed the beast along with juggling tons of other issues. It’s easy to lose sight of the bigger picture; it happens to everyone.

All the other stuff I write about is important:

and I will keep writing about it, but every so often I need to go to Smithsonian’s Tumblr and remind myself how much fun this can and should be.

We have to always remember that our main mission is reaching out and building community and making people’s lives better. That’s a wonderful responsibility and we have so many exciting tools (with more popping up all the time) to play with and try and fail when needed. Animated gifs, kinetic infographics, live-streamed video: whatever it takes to make that connection, because that’s why we’re doing this. If you need to increase your comfort level with at least one of these visual platforms, then sign-up for Essentials of Animated Gifs for Government.You’ve just finished reading the latest article from our Monday column, The Content Corner. This column focuses on helping solve the main content issues facing digital professionals, including producing enough content and making that content engaging.