the sally sisson blog


October 5, 2019

Back-To-School: Creative Content Writing & Curriculum Development

Writing, editing and wrangling content

Although I’ve been writing content and curriculum for TogetherCounts.com over the past seven years, this is the first time I’ve been responsible for the entire Schools section of the website. During the spring and summer of 2018, I developed the content and curriculum for all four levels — Pre-K, Grades K–2, Grades 3–5, and Grades 6–8 — plus training modules for the Educator Support Center, at-home activity guides and lesson plans to be used in conjunction with FDA (Federal Food and Drug Administration) charts and guidelines.

Like many website writing and wrangling projects, this involved hundreds of manuscript pages of text, along with nearly as many images, illustrations and video clips. When the final web pages, PDFs and slides were all laid out and uploaded by the web developer, I decided to tally them up. The total: 676 pages of content!

  • Curriculum Units: 12
  • Lesson Plans: 48
  • Pages of PDFs: 440
  • PowerPoint Slides: 236
  • Total pages of content: 676

The new web content went live in September 2018 and is being used again this year in U.S. schools nationwide and by TogetherCounts.com partners including the Girl Scouts and 4-H, America’s largest youth development and youth mentoring organization. The free content is accessible to teachers, parents and after-school volunteers as well.

Check it out here at https://togethercounts.com/educator-support-center/

Part 1: The Creative Process

The Challenge: Develop a new conceptual framework and lesson plans to reflect the newly expanded approach to Health & Wellness recommended by the CDC and ASCD (Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development). Customize content for different grade bands (Pre-K through grade 8) for use by teachers in U.S. public and private schools nationwide.

The Solution: I worked side-by-side (virtually, that is) with design colleague Doug Eymer of EYMER Brand Laboratories to toss ideas back and forth. (Conceptual work doesn’t happen in a vacuum!) I knew he was the right guy to add personality to the visuals for maximum kid-appeal — while driving home the key teaching points in effective ways that would stick.

The New Graphic Toolset: Here’s the final result, below. Called the “Wellness Wheel,” this graphic laid the foundation for the curriculum units and all of the content for the Pre-K through Grade 5 lesson plans and teaching guides. Printable worksheets, also designed by EYMER (see samples below), incorporated this and complementary graphics to help tie all of the separate units into a cohesive whole.


Part Two: Collaborating with teacher reviewers, a curriculum writer, website developer and more…. [to follow]

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November 7, 2017

Kicking Up the Creativity in Content Marketing

Airlines that take branded content above and beyond

Digital marketing is soaring in the airline sector, with digital, social, apps and experiential (big time) increasingly added to the mix. A bit over the top in some cases, but it’s proving to be effective as airlines crank up their creative to lure millennials and differentiate their brands in a competitive space.

As a writer, I’m more wowed by words than virtual reality, but recognize there’s value in both. I recently flew on two airlines with notable approaches, one more old-school than the other. Both were on the economy end of the scale, but both provided content-rich experiences that made the experience feel anything but.

Case Study #1: Icelandair

Two years ago I knew two people who’d been to Iceland. This year it’s 20 and counting. Thanks to a brilliant airline marketing campaign, more people than ever are visiting the Nordic island nation, not just jetting over it. Read “How Icelandair’s ‘Stopover Buddy’ Experiential Campaign Boosted Sales by 30%” if you don’t know the backstory.

I did my own mini version of that, taking a 24-hour stopover on a flight from London to Boston—just long enough to wash my cares away while drinking cold beer in a steaming geothermal hot spring at the Blue Lagoon spa, set in a lava field 10 km/6.5 miles from the airport.

So I knew the airline was riding high as a result of this experiential campaign. I just didn’t realize that content played such a prominent role in the overall branding and was pleased to see so much of it sprinkled about.

content marketing airline headrest

Bite-sized content

The first thing I notice upon boarding is the messaging on the headrests. Each cloth has a line of clever copy: snippets that entertain and inform and leave you wanting more.

Then I get to my seat and find a blanket and a pillow, each telling a different part of the bigger story. The design is clean and distinct, making my economy class seat feel more “Scandi sleek” than utilitarian.

 

Fun factoids

Mealtime brings yet more snackable content, with napkins and cups printed with factoids about volcanoes and glaciers and hot springs and other geological wonders. Most include some Icelandic [íslenska] vocabulary to pique interest and get you in practice.

While a translation for “hello, where is the bathroom?” might be useful, this STORKUR steam on my coffee cup is a lot more compelling. The messaging is doing its magic. My in-flight magazine tells tales of geysers, volcanoes and geothermal spas. I learn that Iceland is richer in hot springs and high-temperature activity than any other country in the world. That people have been bathing in these primitive volcanic pools since the days of the Vikings. I’ll be damned if I’m not one of them!

Words and more words

The one at the right shows seven different ways to say cup. At least I think that’s what it is. Or seven different terms for drinking vessel.

I won’t remember more than one, but that’s not really the point, is it?

 

credit: designweek.co.uk

Even the bathrooms are decorated with branded content.

Drip, drip, drip.

I learn something new about Iceland at each touch point. I’m genuinely eager to learn more.

@randfishkin tweet Icelandair

The customer experience

Blue Lagoon, Grindavik

My whirlwind #stopover is an exhilarating success. A bucket-list experience for the books and I return to Reykjavik airport rejuvenated and scrubbed clean with algae and minerals. I pick specs of silica out of my damp hair and stuff my backpack with brochures for my next visit.

On the plane I snuggle up in my (branded) blanket, ready to bliss out. I rest my head on my lullaby pillow and watch the “Northern Lights”—mesmerizing mood lighting beamed from the ceiling and side screens lining the cabin. This might be the closest thing to hygge I’ll ever find at 35,000 feet. A satisfying customer experience indeed.

HYGGE (pronounced “HUE-gah”) is a quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being.

 

Bilingual Lullaby Pillow

Bye bye and hushabye,
Can you see the swans fly?
Now half asleep in bed I lie,
Awake with half an eye.
Hey and welladay,
Over hills and far away,
That’s where the little children stray
To find the lambs at play.

– An Icelandic Lullaby

 

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February 8, 2013

Snow Fall: An exceptional piece of interactive multimedia journalism

Interactive multimedia content

Snow Fall: The Avalanche at Tunnel Creek, by John Branch

Captivating.

This is one of the most impressive interactive news stories I’ve seen. Click the picture above and experience it for yourself. Grab a cup of hot chocolate and watch the whole thing. Trust me, it’s that well done.

Behind the scenes.

It took more than 11 staffers at the New York Times more than six months to complete. One can only imagine the budget. To learn how this interactive news story was made, read this Q & A with the graphics director, multimedia producer, video journalist and editor who worked on the project:

How We Made Snowfall:
A Q & A with the New York Times team

“The New York Times’ astonishing Snow Fall: The Avalanche at Tunnel Creek, launched in the final days of 2012, capped a year of extraordinary work in interactive journalism, both at the Times and in newsrooms around the world. In the six days after Snow Fall’s launch on December 20th, 2012, it had received more than 3.5 million page views and 2.9 million visitors, nearly a third of whom were new visitors to the Times website.”

Disclaimer from an armchair reporter

I am neither an adventurous skiier, nor an adventurous sports person of any sort. But as a young girl I spent many weekends on the bunny slope at Stevens Pass, the setting of this story. I remember stories of my older brothers skiing at Seventh Heaven, as well as stories about my dad almost dying while climbing Mount Rainier.

My family moved from Seattle to Boston when I was five years old, and I spent occasional winter weekends on intermediate slopes while friends raced down black diamonds.

But I admire great storytelling and was quickly drawn in by this piece. I am excited to see what this team, and others like it, come up with next.

Best wrap-up I’ve read

The Atlantic: ‘Snow Fall’ Isn’t the Future of Journalism
Journalists will continue to find more options and build more tools to astonish us. Stuff like this will get better and better and slightly more frequent, one hopes. But it won’t become, generally speaking, frequent….

Give “Snow Fall” the respect it deserves. It doesn’t need to bear the augury of “journalism of the future.” It’s just a rare and sensational gift for readers in the present. That’s quite enough.

 

 

 

 

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