At OUTC16, CEO and Founder Lance Merker opened the conference with a profound claim:
A university’s website is the most important digital asset of a college or university.
The single most valuable resource. That’s a huge claim.
Just consider the nature of the world wide web. At any given time, at any given place in the world with internet access, someone can access our website to obtain information and communicate with us via a form or email.
This realization, that a person can have an unpredicted interaction with our brand anytime and anyplace, is simply amazing.
With this recognition comes a great responsibility. Are we doing everything we can to prepare a successful experience for our visitors?
You invite some friends over for dinner. You’re not exactly sure what time they’ll show up, but you have a general idea. You know some of them well, and you may not know others quite as well. You have at least a basic feel for what they will want to eat once they arrive. So you prepare. You choose the appetizer, drinks, main course and dessert, but your focus is largely on the main course. You gather the ingredients, and prepare the meal. When they come, you take note of how well they are enjoying themselves, and if they have everything they need.
Shouldn’t we do the exact same thing for our website guests? Well, of course!
With analytics, we can learn who are users are. What are the user groups? What characterizes them? Who are they, and what are their goals?
We must consider these answers with a recognition of who we are. What does our website say to each audience group? What are our goals? What makes us unique? The answers to these questions will help us to create the right message for the right audience.
What do these audiences look like for us as a leading University?
– Recruiting prospective students — marketing the right message to the right audience, effectively communicating who we are.
– Engaging current students — providing the resources that our key stakeholders need.
– Nurturing alumni relations — growing and maintaining valuable relationships.
– Promoting public and media relations — having the right voice with the outside world.
– Building community relations — broadening our touchpoint with the community around us.
And the audience is constantly expanding. Different cultures, different countries, different perspectives. It’s more than just giving the facts about what students or prospects will learn when they sign up to receive an education from us. It’s about communicating with the proper tone to translate the correct message, not just in content, but in presentation.
The emotional response that our content, look and feel elicits is the driving factor to a prospective student’s next steps. The perceived notion is that the quality that our website communicates is the quality of the education that they will receive. It’s one integrated culture. Our job is to recognize what our site is speaking today, and what we want it to speak in the not-so-distant future.
Step it up. Build the brand. Communicate the message. The message matters.