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...
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