Hi. I’m Cary Foster, and I’m the new Director of Web Communications at the Office of Marketing and Communications. I’m brand new to Saint Joseph’s University in a role that’s never existed before, so I want to take this opportunity to explain my goals, ambitions and priorities.
First, why this position was created.
Here’s the gist of how the official job description explains my responsibilities:
- serve as the University’s lead web content strategist;
- promote an integrated web presence across SJU.edu, MySJU, social media, and mobile apps;
- develop, implement and manage online communication strategies in support of the institutional goals;
- facilitate partnerships across the University to devise a comprehensive web communication plan;
- partner with colleagues in IT to drive ongoing web development for SJU.
In short, there is an institutional need for a dedicated expert to establish a university-wide online strategy for Saint Joseph’s and follow through with specific goals that support the overarching institutional priorities.
Why I was hired.
I was hired into this new position because I have just the background and experience to build this venture for the University. Prior to Saint Joe’s, I led a team of five web professionals at Oberlin College to propel their top-level web marketing, content strategy, web governance, social media, UI/UX design, software development, and email marketing.
I know what it takes to run a successful online strategy, and I’m excited to contribute my expertise to my talented colleagues in both Marketing & Communications and Information Technology.
What I plan to do.
To be frank, I don’t have any solid plans yet, nor should I because I’m still in the process of getting to know this place. I have lots of ideas based on my first impression of the University’s online collaterals, but it wouldn’t be fair for me to solidify any plans just yet without hearing some ideas from you, the campus community.
To that end, here are a few to-do items straight out of my Wunderlist:
- set up strategic discussions with University leadership;
- schedule planning sessions with admissions;
- schedule discussions with the deans to hear their visions;
- set up conversations with academic department chairs for input from faculty;
- schedule strategic discussions with University Communications;
- schedule strategic discussions with division-specific communications liaisons;
- schedule a conversation with student senate;
- start a webteam blog to share ideas with campus;
- establish a cross-functional project group for developing institutional digital style guide;
- establish a cross-functional project group for developing institutional social media guidelines;
- establish a student webteam to help with site production/maintenance;
- define staffing needs.
As you can see, most of my to-dos are about talking with people. And I intend to do a lot of listening. Through these conversations, I hope to start forming some short-term and long-term goals for Saint Joe’s.
Improving the online experience.
While I’m still learning the unique people, history, culture, and the sheer organizational complexity of SJU, my fundamental purpose in my new role is driven by my desire to improve the online experience for our general audience.
Nowadays, improving the online experience can involve a ton of different things, and the following are the components of web communications that’ll drive my short-term and long-term priorities:
Visibility & Positioning
How we want people find our site, and what key phrase we want Saint Joseph’s University to be associated with on search engines.
Branding & Messaging
What our online communication channels convey, and how they come off to people. Basically the personality that people perceive through our online mediums.
How intuitively information is organized for our visitors when they navigate the website.
How seamlessly the webpages, images, videos, email campaigns, etc. display on the variety of modern mobile devices.
User Interface Design
How intuitively interactive components are designed on our website, email campaigns, mobile apps, etc. for the visitors.
Platform & Software Compatibility
How consistently webpages, email campaigns, videos, apps, etc. display/function on the many versions of various software on all of the operating systems that are being used on the oodles of computers and devices out there.
Maintenance & Production Cycles
How opportunely we position resources on our website for visitors.
Content Contribution Model
Who the content experts are on our campus for the different areas of the website, and what the workflow looks like for them to contribute their specialty content for the website. This ultimately impacts what visitors see on the site.
How website assets are structured, categorized, tagged, etc. in the database so that different types of content can be related for dynamic output. E.g. department ←→ area of study ←→ major/minor ←→ related majors/minors ←→ course description ←→ course id ←→ related courses ←→ faculty profile ←→ directory data ←→ syllabi.
Other Technology Stuff
Of course, there are tons of other systemic considerations that ultimately influence the online experience: e.g. server uptime, server response time, network/server security, disaster recovery protocol, software security, software versioning and deployment plans, etc. Luckily, I have expert colleagues in IT who are better at thinking about technology than I am!
Just as you have a three- to five-year cycle for upgrading your computer, we generally have three- to five-year cycles for upgrading websites and other digital collaterals. For this reason, many of our short-term and long-term goals will be planned with this natural life cycle in mind.
Looking at the cycle for Saint Joe’s, one of the inevitable priorities that I see coming for the University is playing catch-up to the mobile revolution. I’ll likely write another blog post dedicated to explaining why mobile strategy is important for the University, but it is certainly a huge and fundamental component to improving the overall online experience for many people.
So, I hope to seek your input and hear your ideas through chitchats, discussions, heated arguments, angry phone calls (nope, none of that), and perhaps through the comments section below.
I look forward to hearing from you.