Digital Marketing & Communications

We've seen 1s and 0s you wouldn't believe

Digital team sprint notes, 27 October - 9 November 2015

📥  Sprint notes

What we did

  • Supported transitions of Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences and Widening Participation into the new CMS.
  • Carried out pre-launch reviews of transitioned content ready for public release in November.
  • Released first list of content items using the Event content type.
  • Included links to staff profiles from team profiles they are listed in.
  • Improved the way Person Profiles display when some details are not included.
  • Restricted access to edit metadata about organisations.
  • Enabled the creation of Groups.
  • Designed homepage for large screen sizes.
  • Carried out user research on new designs of course pages.
  • Received 94 technical support requests and resolved 78.
  • Received 12 new content maintenance requests and resolved 9.

What we will do (10 - 23 November 2015)

  • Support transitions of Admissions, Computing Services, Finance, HR and the About section.
  • Provide preview functionality in the new CMS.
  • Generate lists of all the published items of a particular content type.
  • Improve the utility of team profiles.
  • Improve Beta URL formats.
  • Design and test new content models and page designs for the online version of the Bath prospectus.
  • Discovery around requirements for forms on
  • Optimisation of on-site search results.


Digital roadmap update for November 2015

📥  Roadmap

Version 15 of our Digital Roadmap looks ahead to November and has been approved by the Digital Steering Group.

Progress made in October 2015

  • Our deployment software (Bamboo) was updated to the latest version, and we automated deployment of PHP apps.
  • New functionality and design features were added to the new CMS and site in preparation for launch (see weekly sprint notes for details).
  • The Faculties of Engineering & Design and Humanities & Social Sciences carried out transitions to new CMS.
  • A new ‘mobile first’ course information page was prototyped following the new course content model.
  • The first meeting of the Research Editorial Group was convened.
  • Person Finder was updated to exclude student details in external searches.
  • The 50th Anniversary website was launched with the first set of ‘Our stories’ features.

Priorities planned for November 2015

  • Support next group of lead publishers in uploading and creating new content in the CMS.
  • Release the first sections of the Beta into the public domain.
  • Develop the next templates for the online Prospectus.
  • Produce undergraduate content marketing plan.
  • Produce a working prototype of our Worldwide section.
  • Run a discovery project to understand user needs related to forms on
  • Use Funnelback usage data to improve site search results.
  • Upload next wave of content and features on our 50th Anniversary site.

Next update

University staff and students can find the detailed version of the Digital Roadmap on the wiki via

The next version of the Digital Roadmap will be Version 16 and is scheduled for release w/c 23 November.


Building Bath’s digital presence on Chinese social media

📥  International, Social media

There is a whole other social media world out there beyond Facebook and Twitter that the University of Bath can be part of. Sina Weibo is the first non-English social media site on which the University has established an official account. We are looking to source a wide range of content from faculties, departments and services across the campus.

Weibo, meaning microblog in Chinese, is one of the most popular social media channels in China, with over 30% of its internet users actively using this platform.

Like Twitter, Weibo has a 140-character limit. Over the years, Weibo has gradually become a mix of Twitter and Facebook for features. Users can upload images and videos, insert hashtags, emoticons, music and videos in posts, as well as retweet and comment on others’ posts.

Weibo has a reward system that encourages users to spend more time on the site. Users can receive virtual medals and gain popularity for actively engaging with users.

Launching University of Bath's Weibo account

We launched the University’s official Weibo account on 3 June 2015. Our aim is to support the University’s reputation for world-class teaching and research excellence amongst Chinese-speaking audiences.

University of Bath Weibo screenshot

University of Bath Weibo

Following the launch, we have carried out the following steps:

  1. Verification - we have had our account verified, so there is now a blue ‘V’ sign appearing next to our Weibo logo. This means all the users will be able to tell that our account is genuine and official.
  2. Design - we have ‘decorated’ our timeline page following our brand guidelines, including the choice of logo, background color and images.

Publishing on average 2 posts per day, we have over 800 followers to date, the majority of whom are Chinese prospective students.  As Digital Editor for Internationalisation, my responsibility is to oversee the account on a day-to-day basis and develop a content strategy tailored to different periods of the academic cycle.

Engaging with Chinese users

Weibo offers us a unique channel to interact with our Chinese prospective students..

Over the busy Student Induction period, I worked closely with the International Student Advice Team in Student Services and had assistance from a Chinese postgraduate student to post daily messages with the goal of helping Chinese new students prepare for their travel to the UK and transition to a new life at Bath.

With Induction related messages, we have created hashtags, such as 'University of Bath tips' to group relevant posts and make it easy for users to search and save to read later. We've also conducted a series of interviews with current students and published ‘long weibo’ posts as case studies. These posts have proved popular and generated a lot of appreciative comments.

We will develop more diverse ways to engage with our followers ahead of the next Induction periods. For instance, we can organise online events, such as live Q&As to answer student enquiries.

What’s next?

Projecting the University overseas is one of the core priorities of our International Strategy and projects like the one we have begun on Weibo are squarely aimed at supporting that strategic goal.

We are very excited by the potential of Weibo for raising Bath's profile in China and with Chinese audience internationally. Feeback has so far been positive. It is important to continue improving our engagement with prospective students while also raising our visibility with a wider range of Chinese audiences, including current students and alumni.

To achieve this, we need to collaborate with faculties, departments and services across campus to draw in a richer range of content. Over the coming weeks I will be in touch with a number of teams, but you can also contact me via


Digital team sprint notes, 13 - 26 October 2015

📥  Sprint notes

What we did

  • Launched the 50th Anniversary website and released the first set of stories about objects and people that represent the University's development since 1966.
  • Supported the transition of Faculty of Engineering & Design into the new CMS.
  • Enabled the publication of a basic organisation landing page on the Beta site.
  • Multiple attachments can now be added to publications in the Beta CMS.
  • Designed the homepage for the Beta based on mobile and tablet screen sizes.
  • Designed a new course information page using the Beta design patterns for mobiles screen sizes.
  • Updated Person Finder to exclude student contact details from external search queries.
  • Upgraded Bamboo (our deployment software).
  • Received 100 technical support requests and resolved 84.
  • Received 10 new content maintenance requests and resolved 6.

What we will do (27 October - 2 November)

  • Support transitions of Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences and Widening Participation into the new CMS.
  • Carry out pre-launch reviews of transitioned content ready for public release in November.
  • Iterate organisation landing page features.
  • Establish groups as an organisational entity in the new CMS, allowing content to be associated with them.
  • Improve the utility of team profiles.
  • Improve Beta URL formats.


Improving communication through University blogs

📥  Blogs

We have 39 active blogs on and they are proving very popular. Traffic to our blogs last year increased by 175% and we have a healthy balance of new and returning visitors.

The popularity is a satisfying reward for our bloggers, who have been sharing fantastic insights into what's going on throughout the University campus and beyond.

Valuable insights

Highlights have included:

  • our 1st year undergrads posting about life and learning at Bath, as well as providing useful advice to those applying to study here.
  • Dr Philippe Blondel with his Sounds of the planet dispatches from the challenging research conditions he encountered in the Arctic
  • Stefano Simoncelli keeping us hooked on his PhD studying daily migrations of zooplankton
  • the Opinion blog's much-sought after source of expert commentary from our academics on the big national and international topics of the moment
  • the Travel Advice blog which has become a secret source of protips for staff, students and visitors on getting to and from campus by the quickest, easiest routes
  • Miao, our International Digital Editor, sharing what she learned on visiting our peers in Harvard's digital teams.

Our blogs platform is still in its early stages of development. Yet these few examples above demonstrate how blogging is expanding the editorial and engagement options open to those running our research, recruitment and student experience activities. There are many more fascinating posts to be discovered, so dig in at

More to it

It’s important that our blogs contribute something distinct to the main website. Where is informative, the blogs on must be insightful. For our blogs to be worth visiting they need to provide a behind-the-scenes view into the workings of a role, project, department or the University at an organisational level in a way that would not otherwise be available.

Teasing out the purpose and contribution of each blog is an important discussion that takes place between Digital and bloggers when we set up each blog. It’s been recommended to us that our onboarding process for new bloggers could be improved by providing a written account of blogger responsibilities and what is desirable content for the blogs versus the main site. So we’ve done just that and the guidance has been published on the University wiki.

Blogs can be run by staff or students of the University, either as individuals or - even better - as teams.If you are interested in getting started, please email


Day 4 at Harvard: We need to rethink teaching and learning in the digital age

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📥  Digital strategy, International

During the past three years, Harvard has made university-wide effort to combine technology into education.

My visit to HarvardX is an incredibly eye-opening experience. Michael Rutter, Director of Communications, and Meghan Morrissey, Senior Project Lead at HarvardX, give me a tour around the office while we discuss what learning really is in the digital world.



Consisting of three teams - video, project management and research - HarvardX has its own studios to maintain the highest standards of quality when producing their online courses.

The HarvardX video team

The HarvardX video team

HarvardX studio

HarvardX studio

HarvardX studio

HarvardX studio

No longer classroom learning vs. online learning - it’s one

"We do teaching and learning, using technology." This is how Michael defines HarvardX in the simplest way.

He points out that distant learning can date back decades, but the setting is much more competitive now. A lot has changed with technology as well as the social landscape in the past years.

"The timing is related to the rise of social media, connection and scalability of the Cloud. The MOOC cannot exist without all of this. Interactive components and social forums have made the teaching and learning so much more dynamic," Michael says.

"So we don't see a line between what is in the classroom and what is online. There is only one thing. This is what Harvard does in the digital age and how we are modernising the way we teach and how people learn."

He also gives me an example.

"The School of Public Health has been working with us for two years. The problem with public health is, there are a lot of doctors in the field who cannot take two years off and study on campus. The School created a Masters programme with the majority of courses online. That means you still get high-contact experience with the Faculty and the best course content online.”

Internationalisation with digital learning

Is HarvardX part of Harvard’s digital strategy or international strategy?

"It’s both," says Michael. "It's about expanding our global footprint and having the sense that we have to be involved as an institution. It's not just a global marketing regime. It's also about Harvard leading in teaching and learning.

"We have to be mindful that not all learners can come to the campus. They grow up in the age of Google and search for everything. Their expectation of what learning means is very different from what we thought it would be. They want to learn anytime, anywhere.

"This is how we react to learners’ expectations about how and where learning happens. This is the way Harvard engages with the world."

Unlocking the past of the world’s most populous nation

ChinaX is a HarvardX course that lasts for 18 months. It started in October 2013 and is organised in 10 mini courses than span over 6,000 years in history. Delivering a mix of history, politics and philosophy, the course helps learners access the world’s most populous nation.

It also makes use of the most popular Chinese social media platforms, such as Weibo and Youku, to generate interest, discussion and create a community for learners.



"This is a knowledge discovery and exploration experience," says Meghan, who is part of the project management team and has been heavily involved in the structural design of the course.

"This is an output of teacher-student collaboration. The origin of the course dates back to the Chinese History 185 seminar, taught by Professor Peter Bol, the Vice Provost of Advances in Learning, and Charles H. Carswell, Professor of East Asian Languages and Civilizations.

Professor Bol co-teaches with Professor William Kirby, Spangler Family Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School and T. M. Chang Professor of China Studies, and they have both contributed their life-long knowledge and experience in this field to the ChinaX course."

Driving digital learning as a world-class institution

What makes Harvard want to be part of the digital learning landscape?

"We have to be here. We have to invest in this. We have to push boundaries," Michael says. "There has been a high demand at Harvard for digital technologies to be integrated into classroom. Luckily this is a presidential priority. It's comes from top down. We have heavy institutional support."

How can learners benefit from it in terms of employment?

"Due to the system of micro credentials, you have a much more tailored and customised experience. It makes you rethink what a professional credential looks like," Michael explains.

Employers, such as Google and IBM, work with online course providers to design training they require.

"Online learning gives you tools to measure a very specific subject or skill you have learned."

Where is HarvardX heading to?

"Currently we see it as an experimental experience. In future, we hope to be even more collaborative, not just for learners, but also for professionals and scholars," Meghan says.


Day 3 at Harvard: Storytelling in the digital world

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📥  Communication, Digital strategy, International

As a subscriber to Harvard Gazette's daily email newsletter, I am constantly impressed by how the stories are told and the stunning photos that are worth 'a thousand words'. The quality of content on the website has been inspirational to me and my work at Bath's Digital team.

As the official news voice of Harvard for over a century, Harvard Gazette highlights innovation and discovery in teaching, learning and research across the campus.

Today I have the opportunity to learn first-hand knowledge and experience from the Harvard Gazette's Managing Editor, Terry Murphy; Jim Concannon, the Gazette's News Editor; and Mike Petroff, Associate Director of Digital Content Strategy. The word 'storytelling' has been frequently mentioned and discussed throughout our conversations.

The Harvard Gazette office

The Harvard Gazette office

“Storytelling is huge!”

Having spent 28 years at Boston Globe and 5 years so far at Harvard Gazette, Jim is definitely one of the best people to talk about storytelling.

Gazette holds weekly editorial meetings with the faculties, binging discussions into early conversations about whether this is a good story or how to structure it to make it a good story.

What makes a good story? I am curious.

"Each individual story stands on its own." Jim gives me an example of a recent story on Gazette, How coffee loves us back. It has made connection to the National Coffee Day in the USA on 29 September and gathers all the research done by Harvard University on coffee. It has also gone viral on social media.

A piece of advice comes from Terry: "Always add the human elements into a story. People care about people. That's how the story captures the attention from your readers."

Another great tip Jim has offered me is: "Slow down and think how to tell the story better. Make the time for discussion. Every subject can be interesting, as long as you ask enough questions."

“If you build it, he will come”

Harvard Gazette's primary subscribers are the Harvard community, consisting of students, parents, faculties and alumni. But does Gazette write specifically for international audiences? Jim’s answer is straightforward: "Telling a story is our first priority. Just like the movie Field of Dreams's line - 'If you build it, he will come.'"

The marriage of news and digital

Harvard Gazette website was redesigned and relaunched in 2013. Since then, the multimedia storytelling has really taken off.

The change of audience behaviour due to mobile and social was the main driving force. More and more users read stories on different sizes of screens and through multiple channels. Instead of landing on the Gazette website as the first point, they are often driven by the daily e-newsletter and social media.

Gazette's stories have also received incredible attention from external media that re-create stories and publish them on their own sites.

Terry and Mike's teams work very closely together when it comes to reusing content on multiple digital channels. The Gazette writers and editors create high-quality and shareable stories; the Digital team finds the relevance to popular conversations online and leverages it across social channels. Mike also constantly monitors the analytics of where the stories are travelling to, as well as how much attention they have received, and feeds back to the editorial team.

"Another way of managing content effectively is to use a strong editorial calendar," Mike suggests. "Not simply to schedule when a tweet needs to go out, but a general temperature check of what is discussed around the world on social. We constantly ask ourselves: Do we have content to make a connection to a topic?"

Tell a good story, find the relevance and share it with digital tools. That's one of the most valuable lessons I've taken away from Harvard Gazette today.


Digital roadmap update for October 2015

📥  Roadmap

Version 14 of our Digital Roadmap looks ahead to October and has been approved by the Digital Steering Group.

Progress made in September 2015

  • The Beta version of our new CMS and website went live and were opened up for campus users to access.
  • The first departments and sections (IRO, Student Services, Research case studies and Faculty of Science) were transitioned into new CMS.
  • Developed new publishing and design features for the new (see fortnightly sprint notes for more details), principally the aggregate content types and their corresponding templates.
  • The Student Recruitment editorial group had its inaugural meeting.
  • Technical delivery of the 50th Anniversary was completed.

Priorities planned for October 2015

  • Support publishers in uploading and creating new content in the CMS.
  • Upgrade deployment tools.
  • Convene the cross-departmental group to provide editorial coordination of research content.
  • Produce Undergraduate content marketing plan.
  • Produce the next iteration of Person Finder in Alpha.
  • Utilise usage data of Funnelback application to improve site search results.
  • Upload content and go live with our 50th Anniversary site.

Next update

University staff and students can find the detailed version of the Digital Roadmap on the wiki via

The next version of the Digital Roadmap will be Version 15 and is scheduled for release w/c 26 October.


Day 2 at Harvard: How Harvard Business School creates its unique brand experience

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📥  Digital strategy, International

Walking across the Charles River from Cambridge on a sunny autumn day is definitely a treat. At the end of the bridge is Harvard Business School where I'm meeting Brian Kenny, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer at HBS.

My meeting is at the Cotting House, a beautiful three-story Georgian Revival style house named after Boston investment banker and philanthropist Charles E. Cotting (1889-1985).

Charles River

Charles River

Harvard Business School

Harvard Business School

Harvard Business School

Harvard Business School

Baker Library

Baker Library

Cotting House

Cotting House

The HBS Marketing and Communications team consists of 15 people including professionals focusing on areas such as public relations, social media, web, digital, marketing and brand creation. Their goal is to shape messages, embed brand strategy and eventually change the perceptions of HBS.

The brand strategy for a mission-driven institution 

HBS's mission statement for all of its staff is very bold and clear: we educate leaders to make a difference in the world. It's also about providing a transformational experience to the students, to gain an experience they don't have before joining HBS.

The brand strategy has been embedded throughout the entire student journey: from being a prospective student to an alumnus; from classroom learning and building relationships to giving back.

How to make students and alumni proud of HBS? "Constant communication and keep enforcing it," Brian says.

Content strategy shift and challenges

HBS used to aggregate articles from The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal that were talking about the School. This was going on until a few years ago when the School decided to make their own, unique voice by creating organic content and embedding external articles in their own stories.

"It is very important to connect your content to what's happening in the world," says Brian. However, this also poses a challenge: how to work with the faculty to tie their specific research to the global affairs?

HBS goes global with a region-specific strategy

The content Brian's team creates is global in nature. But HBS still has its regional strategy. They have research centres and classrooms in nine countries across Europe and Asia with India being one of the largest markets. HBS regularly contributes articles to one of India's biggest business newspapers, Mint. HBS also has a Sina Weibo account for its executive programmes in China.

Using social media to change perceptions

With over 100 years of history, Harvard Business School wants to be perceived as an innovative and friendly institution by the outside world. Social media has been an important tool in making this happen. The social channels HBS subscribes to help create the voice for both students and faculty with a warm, welcoming and humorous tone. "They definitely have sparked conversations about us!" Brian smiles.

One more piece of advice? "The story is the end product," Brian says. "Bear this in mind, no matter if you are a content creator, a designer or a web developer - we are all telling stories in the end. That's how we work together as a team."

More storytelling discussion with the Harvard Gazette team to come.  Stay tuned.


Day 1 at Harvard: It's all about collaboration

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📥  Digital strategy, International

Harvard University has established the best practices for content, multimedia and social. I'm visiting Harvard to learn how the team develops and delivers a comprehensive strategy for digital communications and engagement.

I kicked off my one-week long trip to Harvard by having meetings with Perry Hewitt, the Chief Digital Officer, and Benjamin Sharbaugh, Associate Director of Digital Strategy.

Our meetings were at Harvard’s Smith Campus Center (formerly Holyoke Center), located next to the Harvard Square Station on MBTA Red Line and directly opposite the Wadsworth Gate to Harvard Yard.

The Office of Digital Strategy, as part of the Harvard Public Affairs and communications, is on the 10th Floor. From the balcony, you can get a panoramic view of the stunning campus.

A panoramic view of Harvard University

A panoramic view of Harvard University

Harvard Public Affairs & Communications

Harvard Public Affairs & Communications

If I had to only pick one thing I’ve learned from my first day at Harvard, that would be collaboration. It’s all about creating a community and atmosphere for collaboration.

The team

First of all, how is the Harvard Digital team formed? Perry's definition of a high performing digital team published on Harvard Business Review gives a comprehensive overview of what the team does:

Digital teams are responsible for developing, testing, and implementing a strategy to reach and engage target audiences through digital channels like web, mobile, and social. While other groups may draft the messaging, a digital team works hand-in-hand with marketing and product leaders to curate and create digital-first content strategy. Most often reporting through the CEO or CMO, digital teams may also be responsible for implementing cross-channel analytics, surfacing relevant emerging trends, and providing comprehensive guidelines. As institutions have weathered the seismic communications shift from managed brand broadcast to real-time community interaction, digital teams have stepped in to manage listening platforms and identify opportunities for engagement. Finally a successful digital team will build a strong partnership with IT, who owns critical technology infrastructure and associated services.

Harvard identity guidelines and decentralised publishing

"At Harvard, we are big believers of guidelines and put a lot of effort into developing them," Perry said.

"We are in charge of branding by producing guidelines for website, storytelling,  social media, images, colour, fonts, etc. We make them easy to follow and don't provide any classroom training. We don't police the schools in terms of how the guidelines have been followed when creating content.  The schools have their own autonomy and authority to decide what they want to do digitally and how to do it. So as the central team, we have very little control of it. We are so decentralised, and sometimes I wanted it to be more centralised. The grass is always greener on the other side," Ben laughed.

Harvard’s show, but not tell

Harvard’s central digital team started collaborating with schools 5 years ago. "We create a community to share and encourage digital understanding, as well as celebrating good work," Perry said.

Harvard digital has its own 'Show & Tell'. The Digital Roundup is a monthly newsletter produced by the Office of Digital Strategy to share the latest digital news among Harvard staff to exchange ideas, share interesting article, tips, statistics and learn from industry experts about how to make digital work easier and more interesting.

This is also followed by a monthly meet-up - The Digital Roundup Live presents digital content, projects, and knowledge from around Harvard University.

Academy is another free event to encourage sharing the best practice of digital work from around Harvard. Each Academy has a theme; the next one in October is Multimedia Academy. The tickets ran out within hours of the date being released.

We don’t create content, we aggregate it

It’s not about ownership. It’s about how to aggregate the voices.

Social media has been a big driver to This is all about the balance between influence and control. "We don’t give one definite version of Harvard. We create sharable content, aggregate content from all over the university and syndicate it out through our multiple digital platforms. It’s about user experience from all the channels we output."

Social tools help content to be captured, categorised and shared to make a great impact and a ‘Harvard experience’.

Change management

So how do you get people to get on the bus for change? This is the question I most want to ask Perry and Ben. "This is really hard!" both told me.

Perry's tip for managing the change is: being an early adaptor is the key. "Work transparent, make people understand their role of the change and bring them at much earlier conversations. This is because people want to be part of a winning effort, to be in the right direction.

"We make so much effort into back-end development to make it easy, interesting to use and to make work look good from the front end. For example,," Perry explained.

Next week, I'll be meeting the Harvard Business School's content team and learn how they manage their own site and collaborate with the Digital Strategy team. There will be more to share shortly.