Where you lead, I will follow. #HigherEdLeadership

There are many talented and dedicated people working on campuses these days. Yet, in front of your laptop or while swiping on your phone, you might get a different impression. There is scrutiny on higher ed in particular, and often the emphasis is on the failures or inadequacies of individuals and groups on our campuses.

When I’m away from my devices, I am face to face with warm and engaged leaders who make higher education better. They inspire me. They talk about the ways in which education transformed their own lives. They recall students, by name, sharing their fascinating stories with detail. These leaders are working hard every day on creative and visionary solutions to chore challenges at their institutions.

For me, leadership and strategy go together. If you’ve heard me speak during a conference or webinar, or you’ve read my blog, you already know a few of my own catch phrases about strategic leadership. Here I pair up some of my thoughts with those of higher ed leaders who inspire me.

Strategy is difficult, it takes time, it involves risk, and it requires decisions. But there is a huge pay off.

A college president I interviewed recently said it better when she recalled the advice she got from her earliest mentor: “Write down everything that’s important and then put it all in priority order. And, by the way, all the items on the list can’t be priority number one.”

Without a strategy to guide your choices, everything you do (or are asked to do) seems like a reasonable option.

On HigherEdLive, Rebecca Bernstein, director of digital communications strategy at University at Buffalo, said it succinctly, “Everything I do is something I don’t do.” If you haven’t watched her appearance on HigherEdLive — “The Homepage is Dead; Long Live the Homepage?” — you should. You must. Please do.

Marketing and communication plans are easy to create when you don’t have to pay attention to the facts.

mStoner’s, Greg Zguta says, “Not everything can be measured. And not everything that can be measured is worth measuring.” The stakes are too high; we must evaluate the individual tactics in our marketing plans. Planning + execution + measurement.
Is strategy a buzz word? Not in my book.

Strategy is for thinking about, and planning for, the future.

 

This post was originally published on January 31, 2015. I have updated it for accuracy.

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Research Landing Pages: Take Two

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about research landing pages on university websites. As background for that blog post, I visited the websites of many large, research-focused universities, including Georgia Tech. I was drawn to (and shared) some compelling copy from Georgia Tech’s Research landing page. At the time, I didn’t know Georgia Tech was about to launch a newly-designed research section!

A few days after publishing that post, I heard from Kirk Englehardt, director of research communication. Kirk pointed me to Georgia Tech’s new research web pages and I want to share this follow up post as an additional resource for those who may be planning for new research landing pages. The team responsible for the new site:

  • Relied on market research for planning.
  • Tied decisions to the university’s research strategy.
  • Created content targeted to the industry audience.

For the big reveal, here’s the old landing page:

Georgia Tech Research Before

 

Here’s the new one:

Georgia Tech Research After

 

Gems from the new Research site @georgiaatech

  • The site’s simple navigation set creates a focus on industry collaboration and core research ideas. It makes external audiences a priority.
  • The amount of copy is reduced by about half from the prior site. The new content is more visual and more engaging.
  • The externally-focused Industry Collaboration page presents the idea of recruiting top students.  Georgia Tech’s “next big breakthroughs” are presented well on the Core Research Ideas page.
  • Pages for each of the core research areas include information on partnerships and outreach, sidebar content about research facilities and institutes, and related news. See Manufacturing, Trade, and Logistics as an example.
  • The News includes links to a research magazine and an undergraduate research journal. (The landing page for Georgia Tech Research Horizons is also well done.) The latest content from Research Horizons also appears on the homepage and is sprinkled throughout the site.
  • The Creating the Next video is a storytelling piece featuring researchers talking about how they’re creating the next….

Kudos to the team @georgiatech!

Research Landing Pages on University Websites

I did some research on research landing pages. Why? Because Research is typically the topic of a top-level landing page on most university sites, and I wanted to get a sense of the content strategy for these pages.

You may already know that Carnegie classifies 108 universities as having very high research activity (RU/VH). I looked at about 17.5% of these by randomly visiting 19 homepages and navigating to the research landing page on each one. Here’s a quick summary of what I found:

  • 10 include navigation to information about student research; most of these use the “undergraduate research” label.
  • Only four use infographics or type for bragging points or to highlight key pieces of information.
  • Only four include video.
  • Some have a presence on social media: 5 use Twitter (@AUSResearch, @CU_UndergradRes, @osuresearch, @umichresearch, and @uvavpr); 2 have Facebook pages: OSU Research and ASU Research Matters; and one, ASU, uses Instagram.
  • 13 include links or content for research centers and institutes.
  • 16 link to internal content about research administration.
  • The landing pages of three focus almost exclusively on internal, research administration content.

My Thoughts about Research Landing Pages

I think research landing pages are an opportunity. Done well, they are content-rich pages where you make the case for your institution’s research impact. Because landing pages are often the primary points of entry, you should think of them as secondary homepages. When a prospective graduate student or faculty member at another university googles “research University of __”, will they find what you’d like them to find?

Also consider there is limited understanding by the public of the value of the research mission. Landing pages allow us to connect the dots for key audiences. Engaging and assessable content will help prospective students and parents see the value of research — in terms of educational opportunities, career preparation, and reputation. We want to position a university’s research activity to demonstrate impact and how scholarship betters the world.

Research at Georgia Tech inspires game-changing ideas and new technologies that help drive economic growth, while improving human life on a global scale.

Repurposing stories about research from university magazines is a worthwhile investment. Research features in these two magazines are fine examples of digital storytelling and superb sidebar content for research landing pages:

When creating or re-envisioning a research landing page:

  • Limit the amount of internal content. Detailed information for researchers should be placed elsewhere in the IA.
  • Use stunning photography that tells a story.
  • Use infographics and microcontent to make the impact of research understandable.
  • Include news and announcements but also include evergreen content about your research mission and its benefits to students.

Gems I Uncovered

The 19 Research Landing Pages I Visited

Arizona State University
Boston University
Columbia University
Cornell University
Dartmouth College
George Washington University
Georgia Institute of Technology
Johns Hopkins University
Ohio State University
University at Buffalo
University of California Riverside
University of Chicago
University of Michigan
University of Miami
University of Rochester
University of Texas at Austin
University of Virginia
Vanderbilt University
Virginia Commonwealth University

More about landing pages (on the mStoner blog):