There’s nothing like a visit for discovering the essence of your campus.

I am a regular contributor to the mStoner blog. My recent post there is cross-posted here.

Before I worked at mStoner, I thought of “intake” as the set of questions you are asked when checking into the hospital. You know, the interview you get from the people in white coats or scrubs that includes questions like, “And when did you last have something to eat or drink?” or “What medications did you take prior to coming here today?”

The caring people who work in hospitals just want the whole story. They want to find out any detail that may be relevant to your procedure or your possible reaction to that procedure. mStoner intake isn’t much different. Yes, we know education. We’ve worked with more than 200 colleges and universities and independent schools. Although we bring a depth of experience to our work, we don’t assume that what is true for one school is true for another. As a standard, we do “intake” during the strategic discovery phase of a web redesign project to discover what’s distinctive about your campus.

mStoner intake is, in a nutshell, three or four of us arriving on campus for a two-day visit and meeting with somewhere between 40 and 100 people. Talking to stakeholders is an ideal way to kick off most any kind of project. This video describes current work with Webster University and recently completed intake on the Webster Groves campus.

We do quite a bit of background work to prep for these intake visits. I typically use a client’s website to learn about the individuals we’ll met. We also write question sets that are specific to the groups we’ll be facilitating because, like the people who do hospital intake, we want to hear it all. We ask, “What is distinctive about the students here?” and “What does the public misunderstand about this university?” and “Why do you teach here?” and “What do you think is missing from the current website?”

Because we typically meet with students and professors and admission counselors and student life professionals and senior leadership, we come away with loads of information about a campus. We come away knowing both the detail and the essence. While observing the culture and uncovering the ethos of your campus, ideas for the creative, editorial and technology that we’ll develop within a web strategy start to bubble up.

In my first six months at mStoner, I was a part of three intake visits. And, as I click publish on this blog post, I’m on site at a campus leading my fourth. The truth is I love these visits. It’s great to spend time with clients face-to-face and I like the challenge of covering as much ground as we can with stakeholders. I end up taking a million notes as I try to keep track of all of the possibilities and must haves for exceptional strategy. It’s true: intake is one of my favorite parts of my new job.

Thanks to all of mStoner’s current clients for helping to plan these campus visits. We know that finding space and scheduling all of those people to meet with us isn’t easy. Once we present the strategy and more for your new website, it’ll all start to make sense. Stay tuned.

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Author: susantevans

Susan T. Evans is director of corporate and foundations relations at the College of William & Mary. She is a proven strategic leader with deep expertise in advancement, communications, brand management, marketing, digital strategy, technology, administration and organizational development. She is known for creative and strategic approaches to challenges within higher education, nonprofits and business.

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