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...
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