And with that awful pun I launch into my last blog post of the year...

I'll start by outlining an addition to our course lists, which are now all alphabetically sorted. For a while now we've made do with these displaying as a long list which, although being dynamically updated from our course database, were pretty static with no anchor points. This is why we undertook a bit of work to make them more accessible and to include a little alphabet picker at the top. Job done and much more user friendly! We're also planning on rolling this out to our other asset lists in the near future.

New staff training opportunities
coming soon!
Other things the team have been working on of late are content updates to our Student Life, Alumni and Partnerships sections and delivering the first of many Writing for the Web training session. The latter is something which will offered to all staff in the new year - meaning that we hope for the quality of writing on our site to improve tenfold. My favourite quote from the first session has to be "This is WRITING for the web, not copying and pasting..."

Yesterday afternoon I attended the unofficial Squiz/Funnelback user group at City University. This was a great opportunity to talk to our equivalents at other universities (and beyond) who work with Matrix on a daily basis.

This is about as classy as
our decorations get
Lots of great ideas were shared and I particularly liked the demo of Trello, a fantastic free project organisation tool. We're already setting it up with the idea that this is now the go to place for all web projects and progress monitoring. We also used the meeting to talk about how we found the upgrade to Matrix version 14.8 which is something we're in the middle of having implemented right now!

In other news, it's been a week full of getting into the Christmas spirit. From spending all of the swear box money accumulated through the year on decorations from the 99p Stores (we have a LOT!), to going out for a festive pizza with the team. We also exchanged our Secret Santa presents, took part in national Christmas jumper day and 'Christmas-ified' our intranet to coincide with the launch of our digital Christmas card.

Looking back on 2013 (my first full year in the job) it's been a pretty intense but rewarding time. We've seen some team members come and go (the former mainly due to me as I've been on nine interview panels this year!) and also have had more than our fare share of accolades in the form of external awards (two golds, three silvers and five ceremonies) which have been tremendous fun. I've also learnt lots and loved the opportunity to work on the first University cinema advert which seems to have been a great success. On a personal level it's also been great as I've welcomed my third child and have started studying for a diploma (having just submitted my first assignment...)

So what do we have planned for 2014? Definitely loads of revamped website sections and we've been gearing up for these in the last month by undertaking a variety of audits. We're also working on stage two of our events calendar and are in the process of a complete homepage redesign.

I hope you all have a brilliant Christmas and new year break. My final task for 2013 is to get my 'to do' list down to double figures...

Merry Christmas from the University of Bedfordshire Digital Marketing team!

A badly Photoshopped montage of the team. I've excluded myself as there's enough
photos of me on here already!
In our team it's easy to focus on keeping the website ticking over, supporting our editors and monitoring the progress of our campaigns. This can leave little time to focus on new developments, which of course, is the fun part! Everyone loves a new toy (especially at this time of year) so we've recently set aside some time to look at some new solutions which will help us more easily monitor and communicate our vast amount of public content.

Our new social dashboard with live
updates being published to the site
every twenty minutes
The first thing we've just gone live with is our new Social Dashboard. This basically combines all of our social profiles (our Twitter, Facebook, Instagram accounts and blogs) and presents them in one regularly updated place. After some extensive research (and lots of free trials) we decided on the paid service Tint. This did everything we wanted and had the benefit of being easily customisable and responsive with some great analytics functionality.

We were also very impressed with the level of customer service we received with Tim (at Tint!) being particularly helpful and supportive of our cause. Now we're up and running we're looking for a way to further promote it on our homepage, make evidence based tweaks to the presentation and also roll out more specific 'Tints' - e.g. by creating one just for our student blogs.

We've now also gone live with with our new Belong at Bedfordshire CRM. This means that we've added all of our enquirer data and they should have received emails from us encouraging them to sign up. The benefits for them at the moment will be content (videos, blogs, subject guides and key dates) which will be tailored to their interests. The plan is that we can now communicate with them much more easily and give a great user experience to them before they even come here!

Another big development is around our brand and social monitoring. Thanks to some amazing work by Ranjit at Statistics Into Decisions we're now getting live updates of wherever we're mentioned the very second it goes online. This is from anywhere on the internet from news sites to Blogs to people's personal Facebook pages. We can then engage with them or add Google adverts to articles which mention us - it's true real time marketing! This has been a lot of work to refine and block out some of the noise around our brand (a lot of which we create) and is a bespoke fusion of two big media monitoring tools. We've already picked up some brilliant content which would have gone unnoticed otherwise and have Tweeted it out immediately!

In other news Graeme also attended the opening of our new crime scene investigation rooms with TV presenter Nick Ross and filmed the below video for our news stories:

Lauren has also been busy working with other departments to completely revamp their web sections and has this week launched both new Open Days and Part Time sections. It's been a lot of work to bring them up to speed and decide on which content to move, delete or create. Obviously, this is still a work in progress but a website's never finished right?!
It's been quite a varied week since my last blog posting and I've welcomed some changes to the usual routine. The first of these was the opportunity to get more involved in the curriculum here at Bedfordshire. This is always something I've been interested in and my previous role at a South London academy gave me lots of opportunity to make my way into the classroom or to attend residential trips.

This time I was contacted by one of our lecturers to help with a project currently being undertaken by our MSc Business Web Analytics and Management students. They have been asked to come up with a full marketing plan to promote their degree and this is where I came in! It was really great to get a chance to go along and talk to them about what we already do and how we decide which courses to push and through which channels. I particularly enjoyed going back to basics and reminding myself why I chose to work in this sector. It's always great to see that the majority of our academics are extremely conscientious and good at getting the best out of their students - sometimes that's easy to forget in the haze of emails and last minute requests. I'm definitely looking forward to seeing what the students come up with following our chat...

Following on from that, we've had our last bit of training with our friends at Azorus in Canada and I met with our partnerships office regarding a complete revamp of their web presence. As a University it's also been announced that we've been awarded the Queen's Anniversary Prize for our research which is the highest form of national recognition open to higher and further education institutions in the UK. Throw into the mix some challenging emails from one member of staff and the great buzz that our graduation ceremonies bring to social media and it's all been pretty hectic!

(L to R Graeme Stenhouse, Lauren Hague,
Me and Laurie Taylor)
The real crowning achievement this week though (from my point of view), was our WIN for Best Website at the first ever Prospects Postgraduate Awards. As previously mentioned, this was our fifth awards ceremony this year and to go out on such a high was truly amazing!

In a change of pace we made our way up to Manchester in the morning for a 12.15pm start (stopping at the Christmas market to build up an appetite on the way). We were accompanied (as usual) by Sarah from the Marketing team as they were nominated for best prospectus in a very competitive field (where they unfortunately just missed out). We then took our seats at the Radisson Blu hotel in a room full of other universities for an introduction from compère Laurie Taylor. We felt we had a pretty good chance as we were sat next to the staff from Prospects themselves (surely they wouldn't want to sit next to the losers?!)

We were so happy to win, and the trophy itself is a great example of glass design which we're now looking for somewhere to display. Bring on next year and hopefully some more ceremonies - these have been massively enjoyable and I couldn't have done it without such a dedicated and supportive team. It has been tiring at times (those award entries don't write themselves!) but it's all been worth it to get some much needed internal and external recognition (and some very delicious three course meals!)
Here we go again... Yet another blog post on a night out at an awards ceremony! Last Friday night we attended our fourth one of the year so far - the Thames and Chiltern CIPR PRide Awards. These awards celebrate work done in the public sector and this was the second one of these we were due to attend after the CIPR Local Public Services Awards back in February. This time we were shortlisted for Best use of Digital (for our corporate film) and Best use of Social Media (for our Clearing campaign).

Having a full table meant we could
make quite a noise when our categories
were announced!
After some time off studying, and a few days of respite to digest my new knowledge, I whizzed into Luton to meet the team in the office. It was definitely quite amusing finding them sat at their desks wearing their finery before the taxi took us to the (conveniently local) Sopwell House in St. Albans where the ceremony was due to take place! Our group for the evening were Elisabeth and Lauren from my team, Sarah from the Marketing team and Andy, our Market Research Manager. We also had some very special guests as we were joined by Spectrecom who did an amazing job of working with us on our corporate film. Finally, the evening would not have been complete without a blast from the past in the form of Hannah! She has now moved on to a promotion elsewhere but seeing as our two nominations were predominantly her work (and she wrote the awards entries!) it wouldn't have been right to exclude her...

After being the first to arrive (I guess we had the easiest journey) we sat down for a very nice three course meal (we're getting used to these now) and the awards proper. Our first nomination came around pretty quickly and we were delighted to win another silver for Best use of Digital. This was actually our fifth silver in the last few years showing a definite pattern!

Us receiving our gold award on the
stage. Black was definitely the outfit
colour choice of the evening...
However, the curse was soon to be broken when it was announced that we were awarded GOLD for Best use of Social Media! Finally, a new start! Needless to say were were extremely happy and I could hardly hide my excitement by bouncing up and down in my chair.

To top off a brilliant evening the Marketing team also won gold in their category for Best External Publication followed by another surprise award for Best use of Research, Planning, Measurement and Evaluation. Wow! A clean sweep - I'm guessing we weren't that popular with the rest of the room. Andy was particularly pleased to have won a much deserved award for his research especially as he has teased us in the past for our insatiable appetite to be externally recognised at these ceremonies! This is to be the penultimate awards ceremony of the year with our fifth and final one taking place on 19th November where we are nominated for Best Website at the Graduate Prospects awards. Let's hope we go out in style...!
Our venue for the next two days
It's that time of year again! Last Thursday and Friday the team and I headed down to the Inmarsat Conference Centre in Old Street for for the second ever Squiz and Funnelback European User Summit. This year, was set to be a little bit different as it was spread over two days and I had been asked to give one of the 30min presentations. Thankfully, I had lots to talk about - including our new events calendar.

On arrival we were greeted with pastries and coffee and found it was a great opportunity to network with Squiz's other university clients. The focus of the first day was client stories and it all kicked off with an opening Keynote from Stephen Morgan (Managing Director at Squiz). The first two client stories of the day focussed on Elsevier's new site launch and the corporate setup of the prison service which led them to creating their new intranet. After a short coffee break (which allowed a much needed intake of sugar) it was my turn on the podium...

Me on the podium talking about the
importance of collaboration
As we've been Squiz clients since 2011, my presentation looked at how we rely on them to take on a lot of our development work. I also wanted to give an overview of how best to manage external and internal relationships. To reinforce the former I made reference to this excellent blog post from a few years back. Apparently this prompted a sharp intake of breath from the Squiz staff as they wondered what context I was going to put this in!

I also ensured I had a section on the importance of responsible content which led on to talking about our recent web strategy document and events calendar. Here's my conclusion as Tweeted by Finlay at Squiz:
All in all I thought it went pretty well and the import thing is that I stuck to my allotted time! There also seemed to be a really positive buzz on Twitter. All of the sessions are now online so feel free to check out my performance below:

Squiz Funnelback 2013 European User Summit - University of Bedfordshire from Squiz UK on Vimeo.

The afternoon sessions then continued to contain some very interesting case studies (particularly from our friends and rivals over at Hertfordshire!) and were wrapped up with canapés, drinks and a complimentary bottle of champagne for all presenters (which was a very nice surprise!)

Day two was set to be much more intense as the Squiz web technical consultants took the floor to talk us through some tips, tricks and new developments. The most exciting of these was a move away from Java for the admin interface of Matrix and our CMS now utilising Javascript. We're due this update in December and it's definitely going to improve our user experience. Suffice to say I made copious notes and have compiled a new shopping list of features for our site which we'll get to work on immediately. So, overall two days very well spent!

After these two days of professional development I'm now off to the IDM to begin my diploma in digital marketing. Let's just hope there's room in my head for all of this new information and it doesn't push out vital pin numbers!
First things first. Before I get started on writing about our forthcoming CRM system I'd like to make mention of us making (another) awards shortlist!

This one is at the first ever Prospectus Postgraduate Awards where we are finalists for Best Website. The ceremony itself will take a bit of a different format from what we're used to as it's due to take place on 19th November in Manchester over a lunchtime! We're all excited that we're in the running for another website award, so watch this space for a write up of how we get on...
Anyway, on with the main event! Our new Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software...

Our system of choice. We're currently
being trained on their new 'jazz' interface.
As far as marketing in the 21st Century is concerned no big company can be without a system like this! We are currently in the position where we have been relying on stitching together a number of different solutions (some online, some offline) in order to deliver our own CRM. However, soon after I began in this job it was decided that we needed a system which bought all this together in one place and made it more manageable.

And so began the tendering process... As a result of this the provider which we chose to go with was a Canadian company called Azorus. What swung it for them was the fact they offer integration into our SITS database and also have a good portfolio of existing university clients. We'd just have to work on ways to manage the time difference between us and them (and remember the dates of thanksgiving!)

We then needed to define exactly how the system would work. In short, it requires applicants to sign up (either online or via iPads at our open days) to access personalised content on the courses they are interested in (including student blogs and videos). We were very cautious at the planning stage to ensure that they would get some quality content which is also helpful to them (i.e. a calendar of UCAS deadlines etc.)

What is in it for us is that we can then send out targeted communications based on when they signed up (e.g. 'Thanks for coming to our open day' emails) and chart their progress through the application cycle to becoming fully fledged students. The SITS link is vital in this so that they don't continue to get communications from us once they have started university or have removed their applications for any other reason. We'd like to thank Leicester who have given us some great pointers on how they use the system and work with other teams to ensure it's success.

My team have been heavily involved in the implementation of the system which has now been named 'Belong at Bedfordshire' and will offer full support to staff on adding content, the design of the communications and overseeing the quality and production of the media rich content. Also, we're developing a plan for rollout on our website and are now looking into running both prospectus requests and sign ups via our course pages through it. It's exciting times but we need to remember to learn to run before we can walk as a system like this can have so many uses. The plan is that we have the complete system up and running for our community roadshows - the first one of these will be in the Watford Mall W/B 4th November.

Right - that's the introduction! No doubt, I'll be posting again soon on how the launch went. I now need to get back to writing my presentation ready for this Thursday's Squiz and Funnelback User Summit 2013. Knowing I'm going to be presenting in a room full of web professionals is quite a daunting prospect...!
These past few weeks have seen a number of very different initiatives being handled by the team. Getting our teeth into some different things has been great fun and demonstrates the diverse mix of projects we get involved with.

The chandelier in the room we used
for the pitches. Putt is definitely the
most opulent of our campuses!
The first of these was my involvement in the new Prospectus pitches at our Putteridge Bury campus. In the past, this has been handled solely by the Marketing team, with some input from other areas (such as the International Office). However, this time it was felt that to deliver a truly integrated campaign it was important that I had some input with regards to how it would translate online. Obviously, this is something which I have been championing for a while, (the thousands of hits to our website show the importance of campaigns working across all media) and the success of our Clearing campaign shows that this is how we now need to work.

So, I met the team last Monday for a day of design pitches and tea drinking! There were three different agencies pitching for the contract and we were all very impressed with the quality of their work and their research. After a totting up of our scores there was a clear favourite, who have been informed that they will be leading on the production of our 2015/16 suite of publications (no wonder I get confused what year it is!)

Our new 'Creating futures' campaign
- this one stars Jodie who is now
a Production Co-ordinator at ITV
Aside from this we've been working on the final visuals and content for our 'Creating futures' Winter Campaign. This follows on nicely from Clearing but instead of showcasing current students it has a focus on our Alumni with some successful graduates talking about how their time at University helped them to secure their dream jobs.

Our involvement has been to go to their places of work and film interviews with them and to produce a variety of online marketing materials such as Google ads, banners, digital signage and a landing page. As usual, we'll be closely monitoring the statistics to monitor it's success.

One of Sophie's drawings depicting
how university courses are taught!
One really enjoyable project has been constructing the new Bedfordshire Academy website with our Partnerships Office. The idea of this is to promote University from primary school age right up to sixth formers. This gave us the opportunity to make a bespoke website which, although fitting into our brand, also offers something a little bit different. Therefore, we have been working with Sophie Carpenter one of our BA (Hons) Art and Design students who is also an illustrator and she has been doing a great job of making it look fun and appealing to people who wouldn't usually visit a University website. We've also been playing around with her illustrations to create little HTML5 animations! We're very nearly there and are now just waiting for the last bits of content before going live. Watch this space for a link to the finished product.

In other news, I'm just about to begin studying for my Digital Marketing Diploma with the IDM (finding the time to do the work required will be the main challenge!) and I'll also be putting the finishing touches to our new CRM. I know I've promised it for a while but this will definitely be the focus of my next blog post. I just need to ensure it's 'above par' before making it live to the world...
Last week finally saw the end of months of planning, hard work and testing. as we launched our new University wide events calendar. This was proposed a long time ago, but staffing changes and the lengthy sign off process for the brief has meant it's been a bit longer in the making than originally planned!

It all started with a conversation with our events manager who highlighted the need for something much more intuitive than what we already had. I completely agreed and so set to work. Internally, there's a growing understanding that staff need to have more responsibility for their own content, and this was a common theme in every process of the planning.

I began by looking at various examples of online events calendars, both in the HE and FE sectors and beyond, to get an idea of how we would like ours to work. As soon as we had a rough framework I then wrote an extremely detailed brief on the back end functionality and followed this with designs of how we would like it to look. As well as adhering to our brand, one thing that was particularly important was that it should be searchable and filterable - it's a good job we run Funnelback on our site which would be easily be up to the task!

After nearly two years our working relationship with Squiz and Funnelback is now particularly efficient. Hence, we only needed one project briefing meeting before they got up and running with the more technical aspects of the build. This involved weekly burn down reports, regular questions on variances in the functionality and design and finally, a weeks worth of (intensive) testing our end to ensure it was all good to go live.

To briefly summarise, the calendar works like this:
  • A member of staff accesses our online form which they populate with the full event details (with a number of required fields)
  • This then enters workflow so our team can ensure there are no errors in format or content
  • Once it is published it is added to the full events listing (following the Funnelback re indexing)
  • This is filterable by audience, department, category and campus (once applied there is the option to embed calendars for specific audiences on their pages)
  • It also feeds the day's events through to the homepage
  • An automated response is sent to the event originator two weeks before the event occurs
  • Once the event occurs it is then automatically archived
Crucially, this now empowers staff to be owners of their own content. We've also coordinated an internal communications campaign to ensure that all staff are aware of this new product. There's now no excuse as to why events are not well attended - so many different departments run them and once this becomes routine for them I have every confidence we'll be showcasing a very impressive portfolio.

Now that we're live and staff are populating it with content we're looking at some extra features for phase 2. These will include the ability to add key dates, the next event showing on the homepage rather than the events on that day and more details on the events pages themselves.

Upon completion, I was asked to present on this (among other things) at last Friday's Heads of Department meeting. So far, the response has been overwhelmingly positive with staff particularly impressed that they can just fill in an online form to create new events (that one is thanks to the Squiz asset builder!)

See you at Immarsat Conference Centre,
Old Street, London on 24-25 October 2013
A massive thanks for all of the work carried out by Squiz and Funnelback to turn this around whilst broadly adhering to our brief (and for being able to interpret my designs!) I'll be delivering a presentation on the above process and also demoing some of the functionality at the Squiz and Funnelback User Summit 2013 on 24 October which will be entitled 'Super Search'. I'm really looking forward to it as it will be a great chance to highlight our work and learn about the work of others. Maybe I'll see you there?!
Working in the Marketing department is definitely very fast paced and this is what I really enjoy about it. We're allowed the flexibility to try new things (some work, some don't and our constant monitoring of our campaigns/website bear this out). Working like this allows us to keep up with the latest changes in web and we're supported by a healthy budget - all in the name of recruitment and improving the student experience.

Thankfully we're given the resources
for this not to happen!
It's always interesting to me to see how we're perceived in the institution. My opinion is that we have a responsibility to offer the best possible service to our colleagues, and in the last year I've spent a lot of time fostering relationships around campus and giving presentations on our working practices. I've particularly targeted staff who have been quite vocal about our digital/web provision in the past. More often than not they have good reason to be. Only by listening to them, giving them an understanding of what we do and why, can we improve our internal reputation. Sometimes they have some great ideas too!

This week I've been updating our section on our intranet for staff which includes our latest website developments, our strategy and project gantt chart and (of course) this Blog! I really enjoy writing this as it makes me realise what we have achieved and shows colleagues the wide range of projects we get involved in. Complete project transparency...

Can we fix it? Yes we can, (as long
as we know the asset number...!)
Quite often we're at the end of the line when it comes to getting jobs done. Someone has an idea for a project, they talk to various stakeholders, they get a budget approved, and then they come to us to action it! If someone reaches the end of their understanding of how to design or build something then when we get involved... This means we have quite a lot of power because we're relied upon as the 'doers'.

This is not without its own challenges though. Sometimes we get very little time to turn something around, sometimes we get a wooly brief (e.g. 'I want a banner/header image by Thursday!') and sometimes people's lack of technical understanding makes work take a lot longer than it should. Institutionally we do pretty well, with most staff understanding the more technical aspects, and the fact that we're in a more competitive sector has made a number of senior managers up their game, making our life much easier.
There's also increased understanding from above that we are the experts in what we do. This is because we back every decision up with reams of statistics to prove that our contribution works! As we are the 'doers' there's the danger that we're perceived as the people who are responsible for something going wrong or not getting delivered on time. By saying we'll fix something we're then admitting responsibility, which can be a problem. However, rather than pointing the finger we're keen to be the team who will say 'I know that's a problem - we'll fix it!' and often we do...

Our Clearing meetings have shown that senior staff are genuinely appreciative of our work (and the extra hours we've been putting in recently). All this leads to a much happier workforce and much better inter-departmental working.

Now, what do you want fixed...?!
Writing this blog can sometimes be pretty tough (and I don't just mean finding the time to do it!)

Our online dashboard interface (with video!)
Things move very quickly with the web and digital marketing, and this is what I particularly enjoy about the job I do. However, writing about our latest initiatives in such a public forum is something I need to be careful about, in what is becoming an increasingly competitive sector. With that in mind, I wanted to showcase some of the work we've been doing to track our Clearing campaign as it begins to come to an end.

We have been working with Ranjit at Statistics Into Decisions for over a year now and it has been a truly collaborative process. We usually liaise with him when we have any big campaigns to monitor (i.e. our Virtual Open Days) and then he provides daily reports on what is working and how we can better focus our efforts. It's really useful for us to get an 'outsiders' view on things and pull together all of our campaign monitoring in one dashboard. Well, this year for Clearing we're gone one better...

Data for our Bing search campaign.
Bigger bubble = more activity.
Ranjit has built us a bespoke online dashboard based on our campaign activity and requirements - and best of all it contains LIVE data! This makes refining our campaigns much easier as it's all comparable and in one place. We also have the ability to drill down and exclude areas of activity which are dwarfing others (Google - I mean you!)

Two other great features are the daily videos and the competitor analysis (I'm keeping quiet on the latter of these!) All of this has been built to be iPad compatible and is really useful when demonstrating the impact of what is and isn't working to our Vice Chancellor.

This information has helped us change and mold our campaign as we go along and I'm very pleased we had the foresight to write this extra spend into our campaign plan at the beginning! Some of the extra activity we have added includes many revisions to our AdWords campaign (which has been much more competitive than ever), a little Facebook new starters posting and a series of videos on tips for students applying through Clearing (see below).

We'll definitely be taking this new initiative further for all future campaigns to ensure that we are as informed and targeted as possible. Now back to checking more stats to see how we can push the last of our remaining courses...!
Here we go again! Finally, our many months of hard work has been launched in the form of our Clearing campaign. This has been the ultimate team effort and has comprised not just getting our website up and primed but planning and implementing a full digital marketing strategy as well.

This year we have a truly integrated campaign with an increased amount of activity and also some really exciting new initiatives:

A whole new way for us to spend
our online marketing budget!
The first of these is Twitter advertising, which has been available in the United States for a while but is only just being rolled out over here. Signing up with them has meant we've had our account verified (the little blue tick next to our logo) and can pin a chosen Tweet to the top of our timeline. The main focus though is promoted Tweets where we can target key messages to people Tweeting specific keywords (e.g. 'clearing' or 'results'). We can also target chosen @ handles to grow our followers.

We are one of a handful of universities experimenting with this and so far we're really liking the results we're getting and how easy it is to administer. Look out for us invading your timeline soon!

We're also running with Video on Demand advertising for the first time ever. You can see us on ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 with a remixed version of our cinema advert. There's also a number of video interviews with the students who feature in our print campaign (expertly edited by Graeme):

Alongside all of this, we have text messages going out to unplaced applicants via Weve, radio adverts (on Heart FM, Choice FM and Capital FM), Facebook promoted posts and adverts on various higher education websites. We're also running with our usual aggressive Google AdWords campaign!

While all this is running and being optimised we'll be working closely with our old friends at Statistics Into Decisions to monitor all activity around the campaign. This year they've built us a live (iPad compatible) online dashboard so our VC can keep up with how we're doing.

So basically, log on anywhere online in the next few weeks and you'll see us! I'll be writing another blog post soon on how it's all been going for us...

Lauren (in a previous life) helping us
out as an extra in our cinema advert
Finally, I'm really pleased to say that we now have a full compliment of team members so I've been busy with inductions. Angela Soane is our new Web Content Officer and she has already set to work on updating our research section and will definitely be a big asset to the team.

We've also welcomed Lauren Hague who has moved over from the Marketing team to fill the role of Digital Marketing Officer. She's straight in the deep end with Clearing but has the advantage that she's been with the University since 2011, so should understand what she's getting herself into!
This blog is quickly becoming just a list of awards ceremonies we're either shortlisted for or have attended! Therefore, I'm going to make the first part of this post as brief as possible before moving on to write about some of the work we've been doing...

We found out on Friday that we have been shortlisted in two categories of the CIPR PRide Awards 2013 (for 'Best Use of Social Media' and 'Best Use of Digital'). Obviously, we're very excited about this so roll on the 1st November 2013 at Sopwell house in (conveniently local) St. Albans! Also, a big shout out to our colleagues in the marketing team who are up for 'Best External Publication'.

Now to write about the work we've been doing over the last few weeks - apologies if it's all a bit brief as each one could easily warrant a blog post of their own!

Staff Conference presentation - 8th July 2013

Early this month I submitted a proposal to present at the annual University staff conference. The theme of the conference was 'The Student Experience' and I thought this would be a great opportunity to educate staff on our use of social media. I was particularly encouraged that 85 people signed up to attend my 45min session meaning that people internally are waking up to the importance of social media. It all went pretty well and there were some great questions at the end. As always, I was preaching to the converted but the fact this number is growing can only be a good thing!

Believe it or not, this is one of Luton's
more aesthetically pleasing buildings
aside for the University's ones of course!

Office move - 10th July 2013 

We're now settled into our new office (necessitated by the building of a new Library) and it's like we've always been here. Despite being open plan and closely resembling a call centre it's been all good and a very easy transition. The air-con has been particularly welcome in the hot weather we've been having!   

This move was made much easier by us in the Digital team just picking up our iMacs or MacBook Air and then wandering across the road. The same is not true of some colleagues who seem wedded to paper and files in this now digital age - all of our files are stored in Dropbox! It's a good job the office is also much more spacious, to accommodate the new additions to our team...

Team interviews - 22nd & 24th July 2013

We've recently advertised for two roles to complete the team. A Digital Marketing Officer to replace Hannah and a Web Content Officer. I'm now in a position where I feel I've interviewed the entire office at some point or another but was particularly looking forward to these as we had two strong fields. I'm pleased to say that we've managed to recruit for both roles and one of them may be familiar to regular readers of this blog (introductions later). Both were tough decisions but we're confident we chose correctly.  They are due to start in time for Clearing so they'll be straight in the deep end no doubt...

Blogs and Graduations - W/B 22nd July 2013

Finally, just a quick note that our blogs (including this one!) have now been plugged into our website search. We're really pleased with this development (thanks Funnelback) and by looking at the analytics it's clearing had an affect on our viewing figures as well. Now to further educate our authors on correctly tagging up their content!

Olympian Greg Rutherford at our
Bedford graduation ceremony.
We also made a big step this week by live streaming all of our graduations. This proved a big hit and we could watch from our desks the likes of Greg Rutherford, Kriss Akabusi, Darren Gough and Kevin Whately receive their honorary doctorates. It looked pretty hot in the marquee at our first ever Putteridge Bury graduation!

That's all from me for the time being. My next few posts will focus on the rollout of our new CRM which has been taking up a lot of our time. Also, we're frantically putting the finishing touches to our online Clearing campaign which is more detailed than ever before.
The big awards event for anyone working in higher education marketing are the Heist awards. This year the Renaissance hotel in Manchester was to play host to these on 11th July. We were extremely chuffed to be shortlisted in two categories: 'Best Website' and 'Best use of Digital/Social Media'. Whilst our colleagues in the Marketing team were shortlisted for 'Best Postgraduate Prospectus' and Learning Resources for 'Best Internal Communications Campaign'.

After a busy morning finalising the visuals for our clearing campaign (more on that in another post) off we trekked to Manchester in search of fortune and glory... We arrived in plenty of time and were in great spirits thanks in part to the wonderful weather. After checking into our hotel and enjoying a pre-awards drink, off we walked past the Arndale Centre (reminding us of Luton!) to the venue.

The theme of this year's ceremony was 'A Night at the Movies' meaning that there were lots of clapperboards and cardboard cutouts of film stars everywhere - Darth Vadar being a particular favourite of the group! We took our seats, in an admittedly very crowded room, to enjoy a great three course meal (the dessert was sickly to the extreme - even the spoon was chocolate!) Then it was time for the awards to begin and to welcome our celebrity host Meera Syal...

Team 'University of Bedfordshire'
proudly displaying our awards
The Marketing team were up fifth for 'Best Postgraduate Prospectus' in a particularly competitive category of nine nominees. Unfortunately for them they weren't selected for a prize on this occasion but this did not dampen their spirits. It also gave them that added impetus to come back bigger and better next year.

The next category we were up for was 'Best use of Digital/Social Media' where we had entered our already award winning Digital Clearing Campaign from 2012. This was a massive category of fourteen nominees and again we came away empty handed - it was all down the the final two categories...

The tenth category was the big one for us: 'Best Website' this being a particularly big accolade as there isn't a university in the land/world without one! There was to be no bronze in this category, instead just two highly commended. As these were announced I was getting more and more nervous, and then it happened:

Needless to say I was over the moon punching the air as we skipped up to the stage! This is a truly remarkable achievement at such an event as this and will definitely help give us the collateral we need internally to reassure people we are definitely delivering cutting edge work. That was me smiling for the rest of the evening!

Winners! I didn't let our award out of
my sight for the next 48 hours...!
Up twelfth were Learning Resources who received a very impressive bronze award in the 'Best Internal Communications Campaign' category for their promotion of Discover. This was again, much deserved and topped off what was already a very enjoyable night.

The next morning we surfaced for breakfast in a continuation of our chirpy mood (despite the lack of sleep). We were really pleased to find that The Complete University guide had written an article on our successes from the night before. They summed up our website as 'An intelligent use of analytics contributed to a well presented and engaging site with good functionality giving a good sense of the university'.  A long journey home after very little sleep has never felt such plain sailing. Check out the short video of our great night out below:

The main campus at the University of Bath
Woah... I am tired... I just got back from a return visit to the Institutional Web Managers Workshop which this year was held in the city of Bath. The theme of the conference was 'Managing Change' and with the shake up introduced to the sector in the form of tuition fees, as well as this possibly being the last IWMW (due to funding cuts),  it was extremely apt. Each plenary session had clear undertones of how things are now very different for staff in higher education, there is no longer a guarantee of a job for life and return on investment is more important than ever.

These conferences are unique in that they have good representation from the vast majority of UK web teams and have a great mix of sharing best practice, learning new things and therapy sessions! The parts I particularly enjoyed was the opportunity to speak to other universities about what is working for them at the moment. This happened in two sessions which focused on social media and analytics and how they are being used. I was really pleased to come away feeling what we are doing is up there with the best and that the effort we're putting into tracking all of our campaigns is really paying off. This was also evident during one of the lectures delivered by our friend Ranjit from SID. He went to great lengths to showcase to everyone all the work done by us during clearing last year and the benefits it had on recruitment.

Taking a break on campus between lectures
Two talks which had a real effect on me were those delivered by Paul Boag from Headscape and Neil Denny from allLD. They benefited from having great presentation skills and from not being afraid to tell it like it is. I agreed with the vast majority of Paul's talk which basically stated that instead of feeling hard done-by it's up to us to make a change to the way we're perceived professionally. Only by being proactive, outspoken and full of ideas will we be respected and given the resources we need to innovate. It also ended with a great quote from Grace Hooper that 'It's Easier to ask for forgiveness than ask for permission', so instead of acting like victims we just need to take the bull by the horns (something I wholeheartedly agree with!)

The Roman baths in the early evening
No trip to Bath would be complete without a visit to the Roman baths themselves and we were fortunate enough to have the place to ourselves on the second evening's drinks reception. It was truly breathtaking and highly recommended to anyone who is in the area. We also had a chance to catch up with our good friends at Squiz and Funnelback who did a great job of keeping us entertained as well as discussing some of the big projects we have on the go at the moment - it's great to see them expanding yet further in HE and they are busier than ever before.

Finally, there was a good session on working with developers and the benefits of having an in house team or outsourcing, the usual mentions of responsive web design and lots of thinly veiled recommendations on the need for Agile project management. No doubt my favourite quote cited in a presentation was one from Winston Churchill: 'Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm'. A great message and hopefully one that is taken on board by the organisers so they can continue to keep this event going into the future...
Last week was one of mixed emotions as Hannah left the team (and the University) to move onto pastures new after three years here. We're all really happy that she's moved on to a more senior role elsewhere, but were very sad to see her go. It's clear that the wide variety of jobs she's undertaken whilst here, as well as her proactive attitude has really stood her in good stead for the future. No doubt, one lasting project she completed whilst here was the corporate video - a truly fantastic piece of work which has had an impact far surpassing our objectives for it. She said herself, it was the best work she has ever done and it will be really hard for us to top.

Bruno the Bull - the Beds SU sports masot
One job she did set the ball rolling on before leaving was the new SportBeds website which has gone live this week. Although still in it's infancy, the plan is for this to grow into a central place for everything sport related at Bedfordshire. We have the buy in of the sports academics, the Student Union, and those responsible for our various sports clubs and will be closely monitoring the impact both on recruitment and team sign ups.

The University of Bath plays
host to the IWMW 2013
Things move at such a fast pace here that I almost missed the fact I have now been in this role for a full year (meaning this blog is now a year old as well!) It's easy to get caught up in all of the jobs (and emails) coming our way and not realise just what we have achieved in such a short period of time. There's still the wide variety of new projects coming up (as well as at least one more awards ceremony) so there will definitely be no shortage of content to keep this blog going for another year!

My next blog post will focus on the Institutional Web Managers Workshop 2013 (taking place this year in Bath). I'm looking forward to networking, learning new things and also taking part in some therapy sessions with people in the same boat as me at other universities! Last year's event in Edinburgh was great so I've got high hopes.

Right! Time to get back to my Staff conference presentation using my new favourite presentation tool Prezi...
Last week we gave some attention to the course pages on our website. The decision was made when we launched over a year and a half ago to display two years worth of courses and that we would manage these pages via an XML feed. This feed basically takes a selection of the course information held within our SITS database which is relevant to Marketing our courses (Title, description, duration etc.). It is then sent to the website to update on a nightly basis and ensures consistency across all publications - this is also where our Prospectuses take their copy from.

One bit of work which was necessary, was replacing all of the descriptions held within SITS with more marketing focused copy. This is where we asked our Faculty Marketing Assistants for help and they do a great job of liaising with the relevant academic and pulling out the key selling points for each course.

It's very important have a system in place for checking the copy, adding more Marketing related content that the feed cannot provide (e.g. images, videos and links) and also for switching over the years of courses on display. The latter of which we have just completed.

On Tuesday we switched our website from displaying 2012/13 and 2013/14 courses to displaying 2013/14 and 2014/15. This is the second year we have done this and the process was extremely simple thanks to all of the hard work we did last year. I'm also pleased to have a set date for this change to happen on our site annually so that all departments can work together to make sure the content is of the highest quality possible once we hit the switch! It is also very important that this fits correctly into our application cycle - so, job done for another year!

As this is (quite rightly) one of our most accessed sections we'll definitely be looking at continuing to develop our course pages yet further in the near future. The planning of this is all important, along with the buy in from other departments who are essentially supplying us with data!

PS. You may also have noticed that we've tweaked the style of our blog templates (including this one) to be more in keeping with our website -  I'm particularly pleased with how they now display on mobile!
One of the key features of our current Vice Chancellor's tenure so far is his unwavering focus on the student experience, and, as we approach the end of the standard academic year, it seems only fitting that the efforts, commitment and achievements of staff and students alike are recognised at our innagural Vice Chancellor's Student Experience Awards.

Which means that tomorrow night (Friday 7 June), set against an amazing backdrop provided by our Putteridge Bury campus, lecturers, support staff, senior managers and students will gather to find out whether they are the proud winner of one of the awards, which range from Inspirational Teaching and Team of the Year, to Best Collaborative Project and the big one, Student of the Year.

Naturally this has required a fair bit of input from us in the marketing and events teams! Graeme and I were asked to produce nomination videos for each of the categories, which was a great opportunity to go and meet the people that have nominated this year's winners and hear about what these (often unsung) people have been up to. These kinds of videos are definitely one of my favourite parts of this job because it reminds me what this University can do for people - and how the 'transforming lives' motto is actually achieved, in most cases, by the encouragement of a single tutor or the dedication of an individual student.

What's more, this project meant our new team member Graeme had the opportunity to flex his After Effects muscles to produce a really nice set of motion graphics which complement the printed materials and the physical awards perfectly. Check out a tiny teaser clip of his work below:

The awards are just another example of the exponential growth of the use of video across the University, and this project has provoked some discussion amongst the team about the best techniques for this kind of video - it has certainly given us both the chance to hone our interviewing and prompting skills to ensure we have soundbites from nominators that really capture the essence of the awards ceremony, and the University's values.

With this kind of project, you have to achieve a balance between graphics, music, and interview to ensure that the tone is in keeping with the rest of the occasion - it's as much about understanding emotion as it is technical production. Having been given a maximum length for each of the 15 videos, there were a few that we just couldn't edit down because the content was so good - and I think the skill here is knowing when to break the rules to really hit the mark. After all, we all know that our deserving winners won't mind sitting for a few extra minutes before they hit the dancefloor (and the bar!) once they have seen the incredibly touching things their colleagues and students have said about them.
After two weeks off on paternity leave it's like I've never been away. There has been one major change though and that is that a new team member has joined us! Graeme Stenhouse started on Monday the 29th April as our new Digital Marketing Assistant. Due to some spectacularly bad planning this was also the day my son was born which meant my team had to step up at very little notice and guide him through his induction. They did a brilliant job though (particularly Hannah) and on my first day back he was already in the swing of things and producing some great work on his brand new Mac.

Graeme had previously worked at the University as a Print and Digital Designer for the Student Union and it was this experience that convinced us he was right for the role. One of his first tasks was to produce a video on the official opening of our new Postgraduate and CPD Centre which you can see below:

The timing of a new team member has actually worked out very well as there is lots of new work coming our way to help organise the new Vice Chancellor's Awards (nominations videos and the programme etc.) and we seem to be producing more video work than ever before. It will also give him a good chance to get up to speed with our systems before the onslaught of Clearing begins. All hands on deck...!
Blog posts have taken a bit of a back seat recently. That's partly due to some big things afoot - planning for clearing, a new CRM and a new team member (more on all of those soon). Also, I've become a Dad for the third time which is both amazing and massively tiring. This means I'm taking advantage of the University's very generous paternity leave policy at the moment but felt that I couldn't wait to share the following news...

Looking back over the past year it seems a lot of what we do is attend award ceremonies. These are generally great fun and show that the work we're putting in is up there with the best. The really big marketing awards in higher education though are the Heist Awards which this year are to be held in Manchester. I was fortunate enough to win a silver one in my previous role for 'best internal communications campaign' which was an amazing experience and got me hungry for more. Well, that time has come!

We found out last Thursday that we had been shortlisted for 'best digital / social media campaign' (again for our work during clearing) and also for 'best university website'! Getting something for either of these in my first year in the role would be truly brilliant, as we're up against some very stiff opposition and these are massive accolades. It would also be the collateral we need to cement our reputation amongst both our peers and with our internal stakeholders.

We're also very excited for the traditional marketing team who have been shortlisted for 'best postgraduate prospectus' and the library who are again featured in the 'best internal communications campaign' category. There's no doubt that there will be a great atmosphere on 11th July when the awards are announced.

I'm now off to stockpile some more sleep. Being a Dad is almost definitely as tiring as being a Digital Marketing Manager!
It's been a little while since our last post on here and this is partly due to the Easter holidays. However, the main reason is that the team has been extremely busy working on the first ever University of Bedfordshire cinema advert!

The success of our new corporate film coupled with the fact that our Vice Chancellor was extremely keen to get us advertising in cinemas built to this project - which became a real team affair. We had four weeks from conception to deliver a finished 30 second cinema advert complete with online campaign. Ready, set, GO!

Overall, I'll say that we're very pleased with the finished result and below is the rough process of getting an advert like this made:

Firstly we needed to select a production company. We had a number in to pitch their ideas to us and the VC and were very pleased to award Spectrecom (who we worked with during the corporate film) the contract. Their original pitch focussed on a student in an interview situation. However, we felt that we wanted to depict someone already in work and excelling due to them coming to Bedfordshire. This all took shape really well and was meticulously storyboarded. We then began our search for locations, extras, and of course, a STAR!

The decision was made that we first wanted to give our current students a chance to audition as it would add authenticity and be a great addition to their CV. We sent out the call to our Performing before the Camera and Theatre and Professional Practice students and shortlisted the best applicants for a day of auditions. The standard was extremely high and students from both Bedford and Luton applied. However, one girl stood out with a breathtaking reading of a monologue from the film Annie Hall. We were therefore very happy to give the role to 3rd Year Theatre and Professional Practice student Stephanie Pearson for the four day shoot.

Once we had organised a strict schedule for filming (comprising four of our campuses, a live graduation scene and a large number of extras) we were ready to start shooting. The planning was definitely the toughest bit so as not to disrupt any lectures but also to effectively showcase our fantastic facilities. It all paid off though, as the shoot went extremely smoothly with plenty of time to refine each shot and make the most of what we had at our disposal. Take a look at the gallery of production photos below for an idea of how the advert was crafted:

Whilst all this was happening we were also finalising the cinema bookings, clearing the music licence and liasing with the BBFC in order to get the film rated. This also proved a very smooth process and the edit was locked after just two days of refinements leaving plenty of time to negotiate with record companies and get the advert rated as 'U' - Suitable for all!

That's me! Abusing my privileges
(as usual) in a cameo as a lecturer
This whole process has been extremely enjoyable (but VERY tiring) and is a real eye opener as to the amount of work that goes into creating something of high enough quality to be shown in the cinema. What we were particularly pleased with is the way the project took shape as a true collaboration and it was almost like we were all one team. Stephanie, as the lead actress, could not have been more professional and we're sure she has a bright future ahead of her. She even said that this experience has shown her what she wants to do when leaving the University of Bedfordshire!

If you want to watch the advert in the cinema for yourself then take a look at the schedule of where and when it will be running and if you are fortunate enough to see it then Tweet us using #bedscinema. Also, if you like the music, we've been granted the licence to use it by our old friends Various Cruelties again!

The final part of this project is to monitor it's effectiveness, which is where the online campaign comes in... that's a blog post for another day though...
Next PostNewer Posts Previous PostOlder Posts Home