Content Strategy: Key Takeaways with Jen Davies, Yordanos Teferi, and Shikū Wainaina

In this event, hosted by Comm Lead alumni Camila Pechous, we focused on creating a comprehensive communication strategy with a focus on content creation, and tried to answer the question “How can small businesses and community-based organizations create content that actually furthers their goals?” We welcomed content strategy manager Jen Davies as well as Yordanos Teferi and Shikū Wainaina from MCC-Othello for a conversation about navigating all the communication you feel like you ‘should’ do, and focus on strategic efforts that will advance your short and long term goals.

Jen has spent 15+ years in tech, first at Expedia where she tried her hand at sales, then merchandising, and finally found her home in content management. After Expedia, she went to the agency side, leading Content Strategy at agencies in Seattle and London. Now she’s at Facebook, where she works as a Content Strategy Manager on the Developer Platform team. In all of her professional roles, Jen focuses on creating great product experiences that work for people, where they feel confident and supported in their journey. Outside work, Jen loves hanging out with her Girl Scout troop and spending time outdoors with her family.

The Multicultural Community Coalition’s (MCC) mission is as follows: We build power, combat displacement, and preserve culture through collective ownership and shared programs.”

MCC will anchor several community organizations by creating a shared, multicultural community-owned and operated co-working space and an essential Cultural Innovation Center (CIC). The CIC is envisioned as a vital heritage and cultural arts venue which will house year-round, cultural events and activities; a dedicated space for cultural exhibits, storytelling and curated artworks that tell the history of our peoples, the stories of their lives in the Rainier Valley and the vision and aspirations they hold for the future.

From MCC, Yordanos Teferi is an eDiscovery Attorney with over 16 years of experience in combined law firms and Fortune 100 companies. Upon returning to Seattle, Yordanos began serving on the board of the Eritrean Community Center which introduced her to the great work of the Multicultural Community Coalition for which she currently serves as the Interim Executive Director. Yordanos also serves on the King County’s Pandemic Community Advisory Group, Communities of Opportunity (COO) Governance Board, City of Seattle’s Policy and Operations Advisory Group, City of Seattle’s Equitable Development Initiative (EDI) Advisory Board, City of Seattle’s Transportation Equity Workgroup, as well as on the Community Health Board Coalition’s Leadership Council.

Shikū was born in Kenya and raised in South King County. She graduated from the University of Washington with a degree in Public Health. She got her start in nonprofit work in 2012 when she helped to co-found a small NGO. She is passionate about community health and serves as a community leader in the Kenyan Community through the Kenyan Coid Response team.

One of the key challenges MCC is facing with content strategy is that they aren’t effectively capturing all of the amazing work they and their partners do, on their website. “We are engaged in doing a lot of the work… but we aren’t showcasing that anywhere.”

Jen suggests that before any organization creates content for their website, they ask the question “what do I want my website to do for us?” In MCC’s case, they want to be a resource center for their community, engage their partners, and tell the rich history of the organization. 

“We are hoping to capture the story of how MCC came to be, because it’s hard to explain to partners or funders why projects are happening… our origin story has gotten lost.” 

To effectively draw an audience into the story of MCC’s history, Jen suggests using a blend of descriptive paragraphs and visual components like a timeline, or compelling photos like the ones MCC already uses on its site. 

“It depends on what you want people to get out of it”- to inspire an audience, use a story format, focusing on key years where the organization did something impactful, creating moments where you can highlight continuing organizational needs as an ask from the audience. 

In contrast, a timeline builds trust with the audience, it shows a long, positive track record of the organization. 

Yordanos notes that she likes the idea of using a combination of the two saying “I like that there is a visual and a narrative… You are engaging different types of people in this way.” 

For building websites themselves, Jen says that no one website tool is necessarily better than another. Some suggestions she and the audience gave were Squarespace, Wix, WordPress, Weebly, and Canva for designing specific elements. “Focus on the outcomes you want to see and find the tool that does that for you” says Jen. “Tools can drive us to do things we didn’t intend” so it is important to start from the problems you want to solve, not the other way around. 

MCC is also looking at options for using social media to showcase this work, but like so many small organizations the consultancy works with, they don’t have the bandwidth to do so. “Content is always a problem” Jen says in response, it is expensive to create and you have to maintain it. 

One of Jen’s biggest tips, especially for organizations with strong partnerships like MCC, is to start by amplifying partner content, rather than always creating your own. Each platform has a different option for doing this. For example, Facebook simply has the option to share others posts, while Twitter has the option to retweet. In general, Jen suggests switching around the wording or context of other’s content before sharing, to help it resonate better with your own audience. “Social media is about showing liveliness and showing that you are paying attention.” 

In a similar sense, Jen suggests repurposing your own content for multiple platforms. For example, resources from an organization can be turned into simple Instagram posts that can be reposted when they become relevant again. 

Additionally, Jen offers that you can use content to find volunteers that can help with social media. Particularly during this pandemic when people tend to have “more time than dollars” to spend in their community. “We like the idea of having a volunteer option- we are not really asking for donations right now” says Yordanos, so consider what messages are the most important for your organization and focus on amplifying those. 

While Jen cautions that “customization of social posts will help you get the most out of your channels” she recognizes that technology to automate social posts can be very useful for organizations facing a limited bandwidth. Between Jen and the audience several recommendations came up including Hootsuite and Sprout Social.

To establish a voice and tone for your organization on your social media platforms Jen suggests using MailChimp’s Voice and Tone guide and getting feedback from users. “You have to strike a balance… you don’t want to be too flippant but you have to be human.”  

On a final note, Shikū added that “it’s important to practice grace… it can be hard when you have all of these things you want to execute but you don’t have the capacity to do so. Take care of yourselves.” 

Watch the recording below. Please note the consultancy will be closed while we prepare for the upcoming fall quarter. Thank you for supporting our summer event series, stay tuned for more events this fall.