I’m a Brooklyn-based content strategist and digital consultant. My specialties include digital product strategy, content planning, UX design, brand ecosystems, mobile platforms, multi-channel campaigns, and general digital strategy and messaging. Here are details about some (mostly) recent projects.
Going digital-native with an annual report.
Like many progressive, forward-thinking companies, JetBlue devotes significant internal resources to corporate social responsibility, or CSR — everything from renewable energy programs to LGBT policies and airport composting. In the past, the company’s annual CSR reports were static (print and PDF), but the staff wanted the immediacy, flexibility, and reach of an online experience. JetBlue’s chief marketing officer pulled me in to help shape the high-level content strategy and framing for this inaugural online-only annual report.
I worked with the JetBlue team to catalog and prioritize the airline’s relevant 2016 CSR news using assorted tactics and techniques, including a fun and highly collaborative card sort. In my final deliverable and presentation, I proposed fresh groupings and labels for the different sections; outlined a conversational approach for voice and tone in general and display copy in particular; and organized the topics and stories that best illustrated JetBlue’s impact in each area. When we were done with the content strategy, I participated in several handoff meetings with the design team.
Launching a total redesign — just in time.
A few weeks before Barack Obama’s inauguration, I got a call from my pal Matt Ipcar, a brilliant web designer who’d worked on the Obama campaign in Chicago and was then serving as the lead designer for the transition team in D.C. Matt’s biggest project for the transition was a total redesign of WhiteHouse.gov, and he told me that the team needed some help relaunching the site. Was I interested in coming down to D.C. for a few weeks to pitch in?
It was one of the most exciting experiences of my life. Working with the small core team, I helped with content strategy, writing, editing, content loading, CMS wrangling, IA refinements, and assorted other tasks. After two weeks of extremely long days and nights, we pushed the site live at around 3 a.m. on January 20, 2009, a few hours before Obama was sworn in as the nation’s 44th president. It was a hell of day.
Prototyping a problem-solving platform.
Agency: Blue State Digital
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is constantly developing online platforms to open its digital doors to qualified students all over the world. Blue State Digital, where I worked from 2009 to 2013, has partnered with M.I.T. on a number of digital projects. In early 2016, BSD asked me to come on board to help shape a prototype for a collaborative problem-solving platform that M.I.T. was thinking of building. So-called “challenges” — where student teams work together to solve a scientific, technological, or business problem — are a common part of an M.I.T. education, but they don’t easily translate to a purely virtual context, with students and alumni logging in from around the world.
On board as a freelance UX director, I worked closely with my former BSD colleagues and the primary client contact to hone the strategy and tackle some complex UX, content, and technology challenges: Should students choose their teammates, or should teams be assigned? What kind of collaboration interface will enable students to work together best? How should alumni advisors participate? Should M.I.T. build an entire new platform from scratch, or could some existing platforms (e.g., Slack) help drive the experience? After lots of strategizing, sketching, whiteboarding, wireframing, prototyping, designing, and presenting, we’d made a lot of progress toward determining whether such a platform was truly viable.
Improving the UX for Verizon’s video app.
Part of a broader industry battle within the increasingly lucrative mobile video space, Verizon’s go90 is an ambitious, well-funded video app aimed primarily at millennials. (The app’s name refers to rotating your phone 90 degrees to watch a video.) As a so-called OTT, or “over the top,” platform, go90 does an end run around traditional cable and satellite TV arrangements, offering a mix of syndicated and original shows distributed via apps and the web.
The go90 platform had already been in development for a couple of years — and was nearing launch — when Verizon hired the digital agency AKQA to overhaul the app’s design/UX and plot a roadmap for its post-launch evolution. I joined AKQA’s UX team as a freelance content strategist to help shape the platform’s future experience.
Working closely with AKQA’s UX and design teams, I tackled content challenges both macro and micro. The platform would ultimately offer hundreds of shows and thousands of episodes in a wide range of genres and categories, and it would all need to be comprehensible on a mobile screen. What kinds of content pathways and editorial formats would put the right content in front of the right users at the right times — and continuously daisy-chain them to more? What sorts of content cues and labels would increase clarity, consistency, and fun as users moved through the experience? I wrangled big spreadsheets of shows to reorient the user-facing taxonomies to make them more intuitive; developed a lively editorial approach for video channels and playlists; and helped shape the content details on a screen-by-screen basis.
The go90 app has evolved significantly since then. Here’s the current website.
Revamping a hotel brand’s content experience.
A subsidiary of the hotel company Wyndham Worldwide, Club Wyndham offers membership-based vacation time shares at more than 75 resorts around the United States. Club Wyndham enlisted the digital agency Rokkan to lead an ambitious, multi-phase project to overhaul the brand’s customer-facing digital experiences and improve its inventory and reservation systems. The ultimate goal: Inspire existing customers to take more vacations more often, and with more convenience.
Wisely, Club Wyndham understood that effective content would play a big role in this effort. I joined Rokkan as a freelance content strategist to develop the structures and editorial approach for several sections of the new site.
Working as part of Rokkan’s UX team, I began by undertaking a detailed content audit of the relevant sections, including ones devoted to news, travel inspiration, and member orientation and support. I identified content strengths, weaknesses, and gaps, then developed a client presentation that pointed the way toward a fresh approach. (The client was responsible for developing most of the actual new content.) I also helped lead several brainstorming sessions with the client in Orlando.
Ultimately, I was tasked with creating two primary formal deliverables. First, I developed an extensive “Content Playbook” laying out a series of high-level content recommendations for each section, as well as detailed advice about how to approach all the fresh material to make it lively, informative, and consistent. Second, I developed a concise and polished “Voice & Tone Guidelines” document for circulation throughout the company, to ensure that all current and future content contributors understand how to write for the brand — and how not to. I also took on some copywriting along the way.
Marketing Verizon’s connected-car product.
These days, many new cars include connectivity technology that enables drivers to use their phones to track mileage, get speed alerts, receive maintenance reminders, and so forth. But what about older cars? Hum is a combination hardware/software product from Verizon that upgrades outmoded vehicles with similar connectivity features.
Verizon hired the digital agency Rokkan to overhaul the Hum app and redesign the product’s marketing website. Rokkan brought me on as a freelance content strategist to lead the content planning for the marketing site, working closely with the agency’s design, strategy, and UX teams. The original site didn’t do an effective job of explaining the product or why users should want one. And the support section didn’t include enough clear, easy-to-understand information for existing customers or potential ones. Solving these issues was a top priority.
After performing a straightforward content audit of the existing site, I devised an updated sitemap that reflected the Hum site’s new priorities. I developed and presented an extensive competitive analysis that looked at the digital marketing approach of Hum’s direct competitors, as well as potential inspirations in the “internet of things” and consumer-product spaces (including Nest, Casper, and the August smart lock). I also presented a lifestyle-oriented approach for the site’s blog; a clear strategy for structuring and developing the crucial FAQ section; and a more intuitive category scheme for the product’s dozens of features.
Reinventing digital at a world-famous institution.
Agency: Blue State Digital
In 2009, Carnegie Hall hired Blue State Digital — where I was then the director of content strategy — to conduct a full-scale assessment of its entire online program, from ticketing flows and fundraising strategies to site content, social media, staff infrastructure, and list acquisition techniques. Over the course of three months, a colleague and I met with more than 100 staff members across the entire institution to delve into Carnegie’s objectives and strategic priorities. When we were done, we presented an extensive action plan containing strategic and tactical advice in dozens of areas, including audience growth, patron loyalty, fundraising, site design, content approach, and technology.
Following the audit, Carnegie retained BSD to lead the content planning and IA/UX for the first redesign of carnegiehall.org in more than a decade. I set about the daunting task of cataloging and analyzing Carnegie’s reams of digital content. I dove deep into every corner of the site and catalogued my findings, and I also studied other offline material, like brochures. My work on this intensive, months-long process was deeply informed by our prior strategic efforts, and I ultimately generated stacks of sitemaps, wireframes, content strategies, and an elaborate faceted search scheme for browsing performances and buying tickets.
The site’s visual design and tech buildout were ultimately handled by other firms.