38: Web Governance at DePaul University w/ Zoe Jacobs

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Zoe Jacobs, Web Content Manager at DePaul University discusses the pros and cons of different website governance and ownership scenarios in higher ed.

I would imagine would be really hard to establish a new governance kind of out of nowhere, so I think it needs to be tied to something. You're listening to enrollment growth university from Helix Education, the best professional development podcast for higher education leaders looking to grow enrollment at their college or university. Whether you're looking for fresh enrollment growth techniques and strategies or tools and resources, you've come to the right place. Let's get into the show. Welcome back to enrollment growth university, a proud member of the connect e Tou podcast network. I'm Eric Olson, AVP of marketing at Helix Education, and we're here today with Zoe Jacobs, web content manager at to Paul University. Zoe, welcome to the show. Thanks so much for having here. Thanks much for being here. Super excited to talk with you today about the pros and the cons of different website governance and ownership scenarios and higher read before we dig into that, Zoe, can you give the listeners a little bit better understanding of both to Paul University and your role there? Sure thing. Yeah, so de Paul University is a large university in the city of Chicago. We have around twenty three thou students and I work in the Web Communications Department, which is part of the University Marketing Communications Department, which is within the division of Enrolling Management Marketing, and so we're a group of about ten people, or a mix of front end developers, content strategists like myself, content producers and designers, and we actually use a custom build of share point for our cms that's developed and supported by our it department. And then we're sort of the collaborative owners and we consult on, of course, content. You axui design all that good stuff. Awesome, Zoe. Let's get started right of the bat with a really hard one. Who should own an institutions website, it or marketing? So that's a really good question to start off with. I think it's sort of an overacting question. I'm sure a lot of people deal with this at their institutions. So I think really it depends on the organizational structure both...

...of the institution and of the CMS. So if your institution is using a cms that's in house, like we are, we have a we have the custom built version of of share point. It's all self supported. I think it should be a collaborative effort with marketing owning the content, the design and the messaging and it supporting it from a system standpoint. But if you're CMS is vended and supported externally by a third party, and I think it should be owned entirely by marketing. The content should always be owned by marketing because of the importance of a consistent brand, voice, tone and overall content strategy. The web is your institution's biggest marketing opportunity and should be treated as such. I think so it should be a collaborative effort, but the value of content and the consistency of the content and the design strategy should be owned by a marketing department because of, you know, enrollment goals and brand stewardship. Keeping that in mind, I think, is ideal. I think it's important in a team to have people that kind of span both. I see a marketing though, we're really lucky that we have a lot of people who sort of straddle both of those lines, you know, understanding the technical aspect and how it how it connects to the end result, the marketing. End Result, I think, you know, depends on the institution, but overall I think it should be definitely collaborative. If not marketing, having most of the ownership. There's a fantastic answer and I'm super excited to dig a little deeper into some of those little offshoots. Institutions who use a content management system like you mentioned inherently have a somewhat decentralized web content governance in that it gives stakeholders throughout campus some sort of empowerment to create, to edit to publish. What are the critical things to consider from a governance standpoint when working with the CMS? So I think this is a really huge balance. I think it's something that every institution probably has a different approach for. I think it's important to give stakeholders and subject matter experts the empowerment to create content and I think it's important that they have their input and you know, these are people who really...

...understand their programs and really know what the INS and outs of what they offer is. But letting it be the wild west would be a huge problem. So I think balance is really crucial. One of the critical things to consider would be, aside from functional training for the CMS, I think when it comes to content, is communicating your content strategy and establishing structures for approval, which is, if you have a large institution can be. We do it at the college level or department level or whatever level is like a step up from the content creators. So we have a sort of hierarchical system where we have power users in each area who approve content and oversee a larger pool of editors as a way to handle this. So I think it's important to consider the relationship that you, as like Your Marketing Department or Web Department, have with these areas, and communicating your marketing strategy out to the power users as well as to the content creators is really important. But this can be tough because, as much as you know, academics, professors, whoever these people are, are all about learning, there are some who think that they already know everything there is to know about how to describe their program and that, you know, that might be true, but they don't know how to do it. Maybe for the online audience, especially from mobile audience, people who are used to scanning people whose attention spans are audience. Their attention spans are really short, and so I think communicating that strategy web why best practices. That's important for for maintaining consistent voice, but also for reining in that long overwritten content so I think good tiered approval structure, especially if you're cms allows. It is a great way to manage this without micromanaging everything. We're a really large institution, so it would be nearly impossible for us to like oversee every single bit of content that needs to be approved across all of our properties, and so we really look to those power users and to sort of rain in all of the people who are subject matter experts but not maybe web experts. Yeah, that power user concept is really interesting. So in those cases where the power user has that kind of last past editorial control, is there...

...anything that you're marketing team is doing to empower those power users to understand your brand standards to, you know, stay consistent with your overall voice? Yeah, so we have a resources website that we use to sort of give a like a style guide and best practices overview, and that really that was a really great way for us to get sort of our own basis out there, but then also just regularly communicating with them. I think meeting with them regularly facetoface has really helped, especially when unique situations have come up with content that we haven't thought of and we need time to sort of work through them, with with those people to make sure that the end result will be optimal. But yeah, I think I think just general communication with those with those users, with the with the power users and with the content creators is really helpful, whether that's a resources site or a workshops or on de band training or anything like that. What do you do, if I'm trying to think of you know, do you believe institution should kind of create a governance model based on the fact that they do or don't have people that they trust to be, you know, power users are not? For example, if there are certain faculty and programmed actors who are excellent writers, who have a great enrollman mindset, you might inherently trust them to write their program page content, where in another department it's hard for you to find a power user. Is it important to create a governance system that has flexibility based on the talents that you find within departments, or are you trying to create a government system that that works no matter what telling you have in place? I think in a dream world would be great to have standardized, Evergreen governance model, but I think a lot of us have those more custom models, especially when dealing with periods of time where resources are limited or when there's high turnover, that's when you'll start to see the holes in the in those custom models. But ideally a governance model that works no matter what the resources of the skills of the users would be the most sustainable and I think and hired. Especially today. We're...

...resilient and I think for a long time there was this joke that was like, but that's the way we've always done things, and that's really changed in the last few years. At least I've seen it during my career over the last five years. It's seen it change and I've talked with other people at other institutions at conferences and I think that we're all sort of seeing that we've become more flexible and we adjust, we implement solutions that work across the enterprise more and more rather than those piecemeal solutions because we've seen the value in them, and I think that's something that I want to overtime see more of my own institution where we're not customizing governance models for each college based on what they have right now. We're looking at it in a bigger picture and making sure that there are, you know, fail safes and backups in place so that when people leave or, you know, people's job descriptions just change, because sometimes it's, you know, sometimes a power user will be a dedicated person who's like a marketing professional from a college or a department and that person's whole job is like everything digital marketing for that unit. But sometimes it's just a professor who like, happens to have a knack for the web or, like you said, is a really good writer, and maybe that person, you know, either gets promoted to chair and they just don't have enough time to devote to the web anymore or, you know, they had get an offer at another university. You know, you never know when people are going to leave. You need to make sure you have at least a process in place too on board new, quote unquote, power users, if not a tiered system where there's more than one approver for every unit, there's more than one power user, so that you know if that person's out sick or if they leave, there's there's that backup. Awesome, awesome, Zoe. I think you've given us a couple clues along the way, but can you give us just a high level understanding of what Web Governance, what web content governance looks like at de Paul from a bird's eye view and what's working and what's not with that specific kind of governance. Yeah, so we have sort of a model. It's like a mix. So we serve as the central knowledge base of experts for Web content. We own the information architecture and site structure for...

...all of our sites, which is something that is built into our cms where we control, you know top all the navigation, all that good stuff, and we own and manage, of course, all of the content on the main Depaul University site to all the Dou and we serve, of course, some partnership with our it department, as the source of support when they have questions or they need help or some thing's not working, we're the people that they turn to. But each college in office has, of course, a group of site editors who can edit and create content, and then those couple of approvers that are, you know, like power users, site owners that oversee those those at it's before they go live. They're the ones who approve pages for publishing. And so it's sort of a sort of a mix because we own, you know, regular to Paul that Edu content. And then there's also these college and office sites that have maybe a mix of of set maybe it's just one person, maybe it's a whole group of people, maybe it's a committee, you know. So it's sort of a mix. But we're recently we've tried to sort of take really close look at the content that has an enrollment goal tied to it, so that's program pages and your degree description pages, and so we've recently actually taken on a project where we're enforcing a new government structure where we, as the marketing department, are writing and owning that content, but we're really partnering very closely with the units, the colleges and the departments to make sure that we're getting information that we need about the program so that we can organize it and structure it the best way possible. So it's been it's been sort of a collaborative effort throughout the university to partner with them and make sure that, even though we're going to be owning the content, that they still feel like it's accurate. And so we're using them, as you know, subject matter experts to help us really form the structure of the content make sure we're hitting all the good points about what makes our programs unique. But then we're also coming at it from marketing branding and...

...had that strategy perspective to make sure that's going to work best on the web, and it's been working out really well for us. Just recently we've we're still getting through all the colleges that we've been doing this and it's really working. So anything outside of those program pages were allowing the Department or the college to own anything that's non recruitment focused. It's a really interesting and in really clever line to draw. Zoe, I can't thank you enough for coming on and and sharing your thoughts in the very thoughtful approach that you've taken to Paul. Web Governance such a landmine at so many institutions and kind of this third rail in higher that never gets talked about and there are so many opportunities left in the table because of that. So super appreciate you helping to spread the good news of Web Governance. Any next steps, advice you have for institutions who are listening to this and saying, boy, we got it, we got to establish some sort of web governments at our institution? Any pitfalls they should try to avoid? Sure, hang yeah, so I mean it's a really big left and I think especially establishing governance outside of like either migrating to a new cms or starting like a really big project like us with this big enrollment based project, I would imagine be really hard to establish new governance kind of out of nowhere. So I think it needs to be tied to something and I think it's really important to be really transparent about why you're introducing a new governance structure. I think it's really important to make sure that the timing works really well for everyone. If you're trying to, you know, implement a new governance structure and like the middle of a time when most of the people who edit the website, especially if their faculty, are super busy, either like the end of the quarter or the beginning of the quarter or semester, that could be really difficult to tiping. I think is really important. But also just you getting getting people on board, getting by in from stakeholders, subject and our experts and making sure that you know when you're establishing governance, it's not police officer versus civilian, it's not like it's a collaborative effort and it should be transparent. It should be, I don't know how to...

...describe what we did, but I think the best thing to say is to be transparent about it and also have it, have it be something that's part tied to a goal or tied to a project, and whether that's like, oh, we're gonna, you know, revamp the Seo of all of our sites. Hey, marketing is going to come in and, you know, help you with all of your content to make sure that you're hitting really good keywords. But we're doing all the best practices for SEO and here's our dates and just sort of making that like the the beginning point of why you need to establish the governance. So, Hey, we're going to help you with this. And I just wanted to give a quick shout out to something that I thought was incredible that I heard at those that confab eat you and two thousand and sixteen, rest in peace. Have Bett you, two thousand and sixteen. Shelley Keith had this presentation about using on demand training as a means to establish governance. And so what she did was when they moved into and I think I think it was when they moved into a new cms, but she provides on demand training for people who want to be able to edit the website. So they have to go through this online training that she's set up then take a test at the end of it and if they passed the test, then they can get permissions to the website. And I think that's a really cool way to do it because it's sort of like a reward at the end of it and you make sure that you're getting through that only the how to use the cms part of a training, but also she can put the best practices stuff in there and the quisite end can really give her insight into that person's strength without having to be like they're all the time for in person training. So I think if you can establish sort of a reward like that, if you are going to implement governance that is like cms structure, like editing structure oriented, that's a really great way to do it. I just love that idea. I think it's so cool and I want to do that. Reason had here. We move into a cms, we upgrade or something. I really want to do that because I think it's brilliant. It's a brilliant way to, you know, get people to understand like why I've not only why you're implementing this governance, exture wire changing things, but also like teach them, make it like a knowledge sharing experience and then reward them with...

...the permissions at the end of that experience. Such good stuff. Zoe, thanks so much for joining us today. What is the best place for listeners to connect to you they have any Folo up questions? Yeah, sure so. My personal twitter is Zoe i Barker, but then you can also follow us at Depaul Webcom with two MS and then you can also ejem me and Zee Barker at de Paul. That ed you awesome. Thanks against so much for joining us today, Zoe. Thank you so much. Attracting today's new post traditional learners means adopting new enrollment strategies. Kelix educations data driven, enterprise wide approach to enrollment growth is uniquely helping colleges and universities thrive in this new education landscape, and Helix has just published the second edition of their enrollment growth playbook with fifty percent brand new content on how institutions can solve today's most pressing enrollment growth challenges, downloaded today for free at Helix Educationcom. Slash playbook. You've been listening to enrollment growth university from Helix Education. To ensure that you never miss an episode, subscribe to the show and Itunes or your favorite podcast player. Thank you so much for listening. Until next time,.

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