Case study: EIT website and online strategy

By | March 9, 2011

About the client

The Eastern Institute of Technology (EIT) is a public Tertiary Education Institution in Hawke’s Bay. EIT serves as the main regional higher education centre for Hawke’s Bay. EIT has 3200 equivalent full-time students across five faculties – Business & Computing, Science & Technology, Arts & Social Sciences, Health & Sports Science and Te Manga Maori.

EIT’s aims for their online marketing are:

– To attract more student enrolments, both from New Zealand and overseas

– To attract high-quality staff

– To encourage more graduates to re-enrol for futher study

– To foster better relationships with the local business community to ensure EIT’s courses are in step with industry demand, and to help graduates find employment.

The target markets for EIT’s marketing are diverse, ranging from school students and their parents, overseas students and their parents, current students who are thinking about returning, academic staff, and the business community.

The problems

EIT’s Marketing Section had already identified some major problems with their online marketing.

  • there was no clear and coherent online marketing strategy. They needed answers to questions like “How can we use online marketing to maximise the effectiveness of our marketing overall?” “What should we be saying in our online communications?” “What online marketing tools should we be using?” “Who should be doing what?” “How do we know if our online marketing is succeeding or not?”
  • The EIT website was old and looked dated. Its design did not engage visitors very effectively or integrate well with social media. Worse, the Marketing Section couldn’t effectively co-ordinate their online marketing with other marketing initiatives. For example, they could not easily create and edit landing pages for each department or for specific marketing campaigns.
  • The Marketing Section found it difficult and time-consuming to manage website content. It was especially difficult to upload application pack PDFs for individual programmes because there was no automated process for updating all the application packs. They needed to be uploaded individually.
  • EIT’s use of social media was fragmented, inconsistent, and largely ineffective. Their Facebook account was set up as a group account rather than a dedicated business page, and their use of Twitter was very sporadic with no coherent content strategy.

These problems were compounded by EIT’s relationship with their current provider. EIT were seeking to form a closer relationship with a more responsive company.

Mogul’s solution

Online marketing strategy

The first thing EIT needed was a comprehensive, integrated digital communications and online marketing strategy. To develop this, we ran an online survey for all EIT staff, and ran two 3-hour workshops for the Marketing Section.

From the survey results and strategy sessions, we were able to provide EIT’s Marketing Section with a comprehensive plan for their future online marketing efforts, including what tools they would use, how the tasks and areas of responsibility would be allocated, and how success would be measured.

New website

The strategy process also uncovered the need for a completely new EIT website that would create a greater sense of engagement with current and future students, their families, and academic staff. As well as providing an extensive resource for information on EIT’s courses and programmes, the new site would need to foster a sense of community around EIT using social media tools including Facebook, Twitter and blogging by staff and students.

We have built EIT’s new site entirely on the WordPress CMS and blogging platform. It includes comprehensive social media integration, staff and student blogs, RSS data feeds, and easy content management. We have designed the entire suite of custom features so that EIT staff can upload and manage content themselves, especially programme details and staff profiles, and interact easily with their visitors. The troublesome PDF uploads for each study programme are handled automatically, significantly reducing the staff overhead involved in maintaining the site.

Issues faced during redevelopment of EIT website

Legacy data from previous site

There was a huge amount of content in the legacy website which needed to be migrated to the new site, including over 200 staff profiles, 60 programmes, and 150 news articles. Unfortunately this data was not easily accessible as the legacy website stored it in a proprietary CMS. Manually inputting this amount of content was not a feasible option so we solved this by writing a custom script which ‘scraped’ the content from the front end of the legacy EIT site and imported it into the new EIT WordPress CMS.

However, some content still needed to be loaded manually, especially for the ‘landing pages’ for each subject area. When we started the project, we proposed that it would be more cost-effective for EIT’s Marketing Section to input this content themselves. As the project progressed, however, it became apparent that we were the best people to input this data. This reinforces a good rule of thumb for web development project management: if in doubt, the web developers should load the content, at least to start with, and there should be ample budget allocated to this.

Requirements of the organisation’s various stakeholders

An essential phase of any project is requirements gathering, to make sure that all the stakeholders are happy with what’s being built. The EIT project demonstrated to us that the there are many different stakeholders at a tertiary institution, and it can be a challenge to bring them together to agree on a website’s design and functionality. Sometimes, at the beginning of a project, it can even be a challenge to identify exactly who the stakeholders are.

We were able to accommodate most of the needs of the various stakeholders within our project plan, even the ones who ‘came late to the party’ and only saw what was possible once development was underway. However, there must be a cut-off point for features, after which our change request process handles requests for new features.

Tairawhiti Polytechnic Merger

During the website redevelopment, EIT announced that it would be merging with Tairawhiti Polytechnic in Gisborne. EIT has 3200 equivalent full-time students while Tairawhiti Polytechnic has approximately 1000 EFTS, making the combined organisation one of New Zealand’s largest institutes of technology.

We needed to bring the content from the Tairawhiti website into the new EIT site as quickly and effectively as possible. Most importantly, we needed to import the details of all of the academic programmes offered at Tairawhiti. This was not a trivial task, as the Tairawhiti programme data was not in a very structured form. Again, we wrote a custom script to ‘scrape’ the programme content from the Tairawhiti site and import it into the EIT site.

The Results

Facebook

Since we developed the strategy, the EIT group page on Facebook was abandoned and replaced with a business page and the number of fans effectively started again from zero. Leanne Webster has put a lot of work into developing a community around the EIT Facebook page and it has been a great success, with lots of photos, video, and competitions running daily. The page now has over 1000 fans and is receiving great comments and support from an active community.

Blogging

Our research into other universities’ websites showed that blogs are becoming a big part of keeping students, staff, and the public informed of what’s happening. A blog article can go into more depth than a Facebook update, but not as formally presented as a press release or an official newsletter. The previous EIT website did not have a blog function, so Brenda Chapman has been writing regular blog posts on Fruitbowl.co.nz, a local Hawke’s Bay business blog instead. The feedback has been good and the articles are successfully raising the awareness of EIT’s success stories, courses, and community involvement.

The new website allows for multiple blogs, so each faculty or subject area can have its own stream of news articles.

“We could see the benefits of working with a local company and we were impressed with Mogul. Not only with their professionalism but also the way in which they listened and learnt as much as possible about our organization and the needs of our target markets.

“Mogul’s technical knowledge, communication and project management skills have met our expectations. ”

– Brenda Chapman, Marketing Director at EIT

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