Earlier in the year I was approached by CASE and asked to put together a programme and deliver a seminar which would help CASE members make the most of the web. For the unfamiliar CASE is the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education it is "the professional organization for advancement professionals at all levels who work in alumni relations, communications, fundraising, marketing and other areas". I was asked to put together a programme which would give members from the more traditional marketing/communications backgrounds an insight into how HEI's are using the web at the forefront of marketing/communications initiatives.
That I did.
On Tuesday (2oth May) we held said seminar in London to an audience full of colleagues from Higher Education in a variety of marketing and communications roles. The seminar entitled The Web : a Powerful Recruitment and Communication Tool featured presentations from both traditional and modern Universities and looked at differing approaches and strategies to strengthen online communications.
I started the day by delivering a presentation entitled "A Question of Confidence" (slides below) which focussed on the current climate, our audiences and explored the potential for utilising web technologies to push information out and extend the reach of communications.
Next up we had an interesting presentation from Adrian Porter of Precedent Communications.
Adrian reported on the findings from recent reports into how modern and traditional Universities used the web. Looking at four areas; objectives, technology, communicating and basics, Precedent compared how Universities measured against each other. Without wanting to give too much away (the report is only due to be published in June)... the results were very interesting and not how I expected!
Following Adrian we had a much anticipated presentation from Helen Aspell who is the Head of Digital Marketing at the University of Southampton. I was particularly interested to hear what Helen had to say as Southampton have recently re-branded and re-launched their website which has prompted a lot of debate. The website particularly has attracted a lot of discussion in web circles with Brian Kelly recently asking the question "Is Southampton Setting A New Standard For Institutional Web Sites?"
So I eagerly awaited Helen's talk and I wasn't disappointed.
Helen spoke about the reasons why the University felt a re-brand was necessary, something I found particularly interesting given its position and status. As I feel many people still assume re-branding or investment in marketing is only required to fix a problem it was interesting and encouraging to hear how Southampton used a re-brand to strengthen their position. With regards to the web I found some of the approaches used really obvious (once Helen had mentioned them)! Social bookmarking the entire site, using stories in the media to highlight research from the University are key examples of maximising what you have and things which I and others will certainly take away and explore.
Overall I was really impressed with Southampton not just with the website (which I find visually appealing and easy to use) but with the way the University LIVE their brand. It's incredibly important to know who you are as an Institution and to provide an experience which reflects that... and it's great to see this being carried across to the web.
Lots of food for thought!
In my next post I'll feed back on presentations from Roy Bayfield, my former colleague at Edge Hill University, Pamela Michael from Imperial College London and Emma Leech from Manchester Metropolitan University.