This was a project I worked on as part of one of my graduate courses –  COM 597: Multi-Platform Content Strategy.

OVERVIEW

The U.S. Coast Guard is one of the five armed forces of the United States and the only military branch to fall under the Department of Homeland Security. The U.S. Coast Guard has a rich heritage dating back to the establishment of the U.S. Revenue Cutter Service in 1790. They safeguard our maritime interests and environmental concerns both domestically and internationally. The U.S. Coast Guard lives by the core values of Honor, Respect and Devotion to Duty. They are Semper Paratus – always ready.

Their website hasn’t been a high priority until recently. In 2012, President Barack Obama installed the Digital Government Strategy—a comprehensive government-wide strategy to revamp government websites to current standards to deliver better services to the American people. Under the new requirements, the the US Coast Guard now has to update their website.

USCG.Mil Website
USCG.Mil Website

Unfortunately the U.S. Coast Guard is faced with a multitude of problems stemming from their lack of funding – one of them being their website(s), which have been highly neglected.

In doing this project, it became apparent that few people know what the U.S. Coast Guard is, what they do and therefore, why they should receive adequate funding.

This content strategy was designed to help the United States Coast Guard fulfill the requirements set forth by the Digital Government Strategy. It will also help them increase public awareness, engagement and support of the military branch.

 SCOPE

This content strategy focuses on the following sites:

  • U.S. Coast Guard Homepage www.uscg.mil In its current state, uscg.mil serves as a hub for information and resources pertaining to the general public, media, active duty, reservists, auxiliary, retired members, dependents, civilian employees and contractors.
  • U.S. Coast Guard Newsroom www.uscgnews.com The U.S. Coast Guard’s official media relations site.

CONTENT AUDIT AND ANALYSIS

Due to the sheer volume of content that exists on http://www.uscg.mil, the audit was comprised of a sample of 74 individual pages from the site, as well as:

● 20 recent posts on Facebook
● 30 recent tweets
● 38 links from uscgnews.com

The content audit encompassed mostly qualitative factors, as the USCG wasn’t able to provide any key metrics beyond their monthly Google Analytics reports (a FOIA requirement).

Through the audit, I was able to evaluate the purpose of the pages and the intended audience. I also evaluated the content based off of key factors including usability, value, coherence/clarity, and findability. Through the audit, I found that:

  • Approximately 58 percent of the content on USCG.mil was targeted towards an internal audience
  • the site’s navigation was highly disorganized and redundant
  • Approximately 22% of audited content was duplicated or outdated
  • Difficult to find or access information

It was also immediately apparent that the US Coast Guard’s brand messaging and voice differed significantly from platform to platform. USCG.mil’s Google Analytics report only reinforced these findings. According to their Feb 2015 report, their 404 page was one of the most popular pages.

IDENTIFYING AN AUDIENCE

A successful content strategy is dependent on fulfilling both the goals of the target audience and those of the business.  In communication with the client, it was clear that they wanted to market to the general public—”civilians” in Coast Guard terminology. But beyond the general public, they didn’t have any clear picture of who they were trying to reach.

Working with available resources, I tried to narrow down the scope of the general public and from this created three “general” audience personas.

Primary Audience
Karen is a member of the USCG’s primary target audience, as she has a direct connection to someone in the US Coast Guard.

 

Secondary Audience
John is part of the USCG’s secondary target audience, as he works in a field and lives in an area that is affected by the US Coast Guard.

 

Tertiary Audience
Alexa is a member of the tertiary target audience through her connection to Karen

 

CORE STRATEGY AND RECOMMENDATIONS

The new U.S. Coast Guard website will build awareness, engagement and support of the military branch through being a rich resource of stories and information about the U.S. Coast Guard’s history, missions and recent activities.

In order to do this, the USCG should develop a unified brand messaging hierarchy, along with voice and style guidelines. They should then remove or revise most of content that is on USCG.mil and other websites and platforms, in order to resonate with their target audience of civilians.

KEY MESSAGES

To resonate with their audience and meet the USCG’s goals of raising awareness, increasing engagement and support, the USCG should develop key messages around the following questions:

  • Who is the US Coast Guard?
  • What are they doing?
  • Why do they need support? What’s the best way to do this?

VOICE AND TONE

Because an approachable voice and tone is a crucial element in connecting with a civilian audience, it’s important that the US Coast Guard voice is clear and non-technical.

Additionally, by positioning their brand around the values of “Semper Paratus,” their unique motto that means “always ready,” the US Coast Guard will be able to differentiate their brand from the other military branches. It also gives them a familiar framework with which to proceed with these changes.

Voice and tone recommendations for the US Coast Guard
Voice and tone recommendations for the US Coast Guard

 

WORKFLOW AND GOVERNANCE

The overall content and design will be regulated by the Office of Public Affairs and the Digital Media Officer. They will ultimately be responsible for monitoring the various platforms and content to ensure they align with brand regulations. Units will continue to create and manage their individual pages but will abide by the content guidelines and update regularly to support a unified online Coast Guard presence and uphold the mandated Digital Government Strategy.

New content will be generated by the Office of Public Affairs and the Digital Media Officer. The USCG should also capitalize on the talents and knowledge of its internal community and encourage submissions for content. Creating a content brief and story templates will provide guidelines for those who are interested in contributing. These items will also ensure that contributors provide necessary information that can help ease production time and align brand formatting.

All content will be funneled through the Digital Media Officer, who will review and decide if it is applicable to objectives and Coast Guard brand, using a content quality checklist, along with the brand and style guidelines. They may decide to pass the content along to leadership to determine eligibility and relevance. If moving forward, the Digital Media Officer will work with the author to revise content to meet quality guidelines. The guidelines act as a final review step to keep all content high-quality and unified with language, voice and tone.

Content will be built in the Content Management System (CMS) published, and promoted on the appropriate social media sites with a regular cadence. To complete the workflow, the Digital Media Officer will notify the content author/contributor and other key influencers. This may include leadership, local public affairs offices, and relevant sub-committees.

Finally, the Digital Media Officer will be responsible for a bi-annual content audit to ensure the website content is kept up to date and meets current standards.

CONTENT DISTRIBUTION STRATEGY

USCG Newsroom and USCG Compass will be consolidated into USCG.mil, which will serve as the primary source of information. Content will be distributed via a responsive and device agnostic website.

Through topic mapping and keeping our personas in mind, I proposed a more streamlined structure for the new uscg.mil website.

Proposed Content hirearchy for the new USCG.mil website

MEASURING SUCCESS

The success of the content will be measured based on KPIs and content goals centered on the strategic objectives of awareness, engagement and advocacy. The measurements include Google Analytics, along with basic social media metrics.

Screen Shot 2015-05-24 at 3.06.36 PM

 

Outstanding work! I am excited to send your work to the Captain…Seriously you rocked it!– L/T Anastasia Visneski, Digital Media Officer, US Coast Guard

 

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