Looking back 2 years…Get out and communicate: How a web communications director communicates — and succeeds

February 23, 2009

2 years ago I wrote an article for the March issue of Campus Technology called Get out and communicate How a web communications director communicates — and succeeds. It was a top 10 keys to success list to benefit others taking charge of web communications. I thought it might be an interesting time to take a look back and see now after holding the job for almost 3 years what worked and what didn’t work. See what you think about the original top 10 or some of my thoughts after 3 years.

10 Embrace ‘management by walking around.’
  • Take a stroll! Be seen on campus.
  • Go to lectures, attend sporting events, and support your user group’s activities.

This theory which I think I first learned in a basic management course in college still holds true today. Some of my best ideas for projects come from lunch and coffees around campus or just being out of the main administration building.

9 Find and build partnerships

  • Whether it’s the folks in IT, the Communications office, your design team, or others on campus, seek out the people you need as partners.
  • Build relationships and trust with these key partners.

Building relationships and trust with key partners has been one of the most productive things I have done. So many of the most successful projects we have completed in the last 3 years have been through collaborations with other offices.

8 Organize coffees, lunches, and many more meetings

  • Offer to meet with all offices, academic departments, and campus organizations, as a chance to learn about their needs, wants, and demands.
  • This is a great way not only to match a name to a face, but also to start to build their users’ trust in you.

This one of course gets old after a while but was worth it the first year.

7 Seize the day—today

  • You have one opportunity to make a great first impression: your first user group meeting.
  • Immediately start building partnerships and ask users what they want to get out of the meeting.

This one has taken on a little different meaning as I have evolved in my position. 2 years ago I was talking about some of the first meetings you have with campus clients. But now you should seize everyday. Everyday is an opportunity will you take advantage of it?

6 Don’t get stuck in the mud

  • When setting up yearly goals for your department, create the “Big Mo” (momentum) through many small wins.
  • With these small wins, try to engage as many of your key audiences as you can.

Here is one I probably could have done a better job with over the last few years.

5 Practice ‘The Three Cs’: Clear, Concise Communications

  • Don’t use two words when you can use one.
  • Don’t make e-mails or updates to your user group too long or complicated— they won’t read them!
  • Don’t make meetings too long; strive to keep them engaging.

This holds true not just in web communications but throughout higher ed. Another way to say it is keep it simple stupid.

4 Create a data-driven culture

  • If you don’t have a web analytics tool, get one.
  • Don’t let people make decisions about the website without using your trend data and usability testing.

This is a tip that I use almost every day. People will often take their own personal experience or the singular experience of someone else and extrapolate that to be everyone’s experience.

Ex. No one can find my page on the site. We should be on the homepage.

Data will help you make and stand by these decisions. The one addition to this one should be about educating your VP and senior leadership team about the data as well.

3. Remember: The customer is always right

  • Consider your office a service organization to others on campus.
  • Find ways to say “yes” to projects—it goes a long way in building partnerships.

Sometimes this one is tough to do but it will not only win you friends, it will win you partners and respect across campus.

2 Be strategic, but don’t forget about the operational
  • Keep your institution’s long-term web needs, wants, and demands in mind as you work on small tweaks to your website and navigation.

This one works hand and hand with number 6. You can use small projects to build up to a larger one. I think we have done this fairly well over the last 3 years. you can’t run before you walk and you can’t walk before you crawl.

1 Close the feedback loop
  • Getting lots of good feedback is not enough.
  • Once you get the feedback, use it and act on it. If people see that their feedback matters, they will be more willing to give you their real thoughts and opinions.
I would like to be able to do this more with short polls, quick usability tests, and surveys but just have not found the time yet. Maybe it will happen as we enter year 4.

cost benefit analysis who is minding the web …

February 10, 2009

It is an interesting time in higher education web communications. The economy is down, endowments have taken a hit, operating budgets are being looked at closer than ever. In the January issue of Campus Technology the lead article is about how to keep your “IT” job.

While all this is happening I have found myself in the interesting dilemma of spending more and more time on social networking sites like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. I am spending less time on our insitutional site at a time where we need to make sure our messages are sharp, focused on value, and consistent with our brand? Of course increasing my institutions visibility on these third party sites is important but what is the trade off?

While we are all out trying to figure out how to best take advantage of social media who is at home minding our institutions website? What is the “perfect” balance of time between the .edu site and Facebook?

I am not sure I have figured it out. We are trying to make sure that our insitutional site is on message while promoting and prompting conversation about that message with social media tools. What thoughts do other web professionals have?

Campus Technology

January 15, 2009

What is a blog really good for? Shameless self promotion of course. I was actually surprised today when the Vice President for IT sent me an email that said

To All-

Paul is quoted in January 2009 Campus Technology.

Of course I did not remember the August interview but was pleasantly surprised to find that I at least looked coherent. Feel free to check it out…