Digital Marketing & Communications

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

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.


Digital Support - the process and how we are performing

📥  Communication

We have written a lot recently about the new projects we have been working on, particularly the CMS Beta. However, we also need to support users with existing products and services alongside this, which is where my job as a Digital Supporter comes in.

When you have an issue or question about a service or product we offer then you email

I pick this up and one of 3 things happen:

  • it is dealt with at the first point of contact
  • we request further information where needed
  • it is escalated to the Content or Development team for further investigation

On average, 19.6% of requests needed further information so far this year. This is 3.2% up on last year. If we don’t have all the information we need to resolve your request then we need to ask for it which means it takes longer to resolve it. So, if you do need to contact us for support it would be helpful if you can include the following:

  • the system or service you are enquiring about
  • the URL (web address) of the page or service
  • details of any error messages you are receiving if you are having an issue with one of our services

Performance of support

As part of my role I produce monthly support reports which detail how we did during the previous month. Compared to the same period (January – August) last year:

  • we had 107 less requests in total but we had 41 more requests specifically for Digital Support
  • we are resolving more tickets in 1 day
  • our average resolution time is 8 hours less per month

The main request so far this year is for changes to be made to pages in our existing CMS. A majority of page changes are made at first point of contact which reduces the burden on the Content Team.

More information on how support is performing can be found on the support statistics wiki page (login required)


One of the best indicators that we are doing our job well is to ask you to provide us feedback on our service. We do this by sending a link to a feedback form when we resolve a request. Our average feedback return rate to date for this year is 27.4% and we would like to increase this so please complete the form when you receive it. It only takes a couple of minutes and it will help us to improve our service to you. Of course, you can always provide feedback at any time by emailing

Next steps

We currently aim to resolve the requests received into support within 48 hours. We do this by triaging requests that come in based on urgency and impact. I would like to formalise the support process in the near future by setting up a Service Level Agreement.

I have been working on an internal knowledgebase which enables other members of the team to cover support efficiently in my absence. I am extending this to provide a Service Catalogue and knowledgebase for users so that some of the most common queries can be resolved without even contacting us. Users can also see the products and services we offer.


If you have any questions about the products and services we offer or our processes then feel free to contact


Changes to content maintenance during the beta

📥  Communication

This week we reviewed the changes we introduced in April to content maintenance in preparation for the start of the new academic year.

To make sure that we can continue to support lead publishers who are working on transitioning content, we will only support business-critical content maintenance tasks. You can submit tasks by emailing

‘Business critical’ is any content which is required for the University to function, and if not updated could stop our users from completing tasks or cause the University reputation, financial or legal risk. For example:

  • homepage updates
  • clearing and adjustment
  • changes to visa regulations
  • course fees
  • financial statements
  • induction
  • league table ranking
  • changes to travel advice for disabled users

You should still:

  • report problems with the CMS and website
  • report broken links
  • report factual inaccuracies

If you’re still not sure if a task is business-critical you can call me.

If you submit a task and we don’t think it is critical, we’ll email you to ask you for more information before we make a decision.

If we decide the task isn’t critical, we’ll do one of two things:

  • for changes to existing content - we’ll email you, place the work on hold and pick it up after the beta concludes
  • for new content - the Digital team’s management will review the request and arrange a time to meet to discuss how we can support you

If you have any questions, please get in touch or comment below.


Adopting an agile approach to content at Bath

📥  Style, content and design

I spoke at the Institutional Web Managers Workshop (IWMW) in July. At the event I talked about how Bath has adopted an agile approach to content and what we have learnt.

Watch the talk
Content has become increasingly important to universities to achieve their strategic goals. Find out what agile is and why we've adopted an agile approach to the creation, delivery and management of content online.


Digital team sprint notes, 1 - 14 September 2015

📥  Sprint notes

Digital team members wearing hats

A big occasion demands a hat

What we did

  • Went live with the new CMS and made the new site available to campus users.
  • Transitioned International Relations Office, Student Services and Research case studies to new CMS.
  • Opened a form to capture feedback on the Beta from publishers and users.
  • Implement output templates for Campaigns, Corporate Information, Locations, Projects and Publications.
  • Started development of interface to manage department and group landing pages.
  • Developed guidance for publishers on when and how to use the new content types.
  • Fixed number of template bugs identified once real publishers began uploading real content.
  • We received 73 technical support requests and resolved all 73.
  • We received 10 new content maintenance requests and resolved 13 overall.
  • Charlotte volunteered at another successful Open Day, as well as supporting the event with updates to the Open Day pages.

What we will do (15 - 28 September)

  • Support the transition of Faculty of Science, student recruitment and travel advice content.
  • Provide content creation training to lead publishers across a number of departments.
  • Issue guidance for lead publishers on managing media via Flickr, SoundCloud and Vimeo.
  • Provide the ability to add self-contained sections in order to build up a detailed guide.
  • Enable the upload of several attachments to a single publication content item.
  • Allow Editors to manage a basic landing page for their department.
  • Improve our deployment of template changes.
  • Improve our logging and back-up procedures.
  • Develop an updated map of our properties in the centre of Bath.