Earlier this year, we created and launched the new centralised postgraduate taught pages for 2016 entry. With the 2016 academic year now upon us, we have launched the 2017 entry versions of these pages to provide information for prospective students for the 2017-2018 academic year.
For the 2017 PGT pages, we used our experience from the 2016 launch to improve our process for communicating with content coordinators and pushing the pages live. However, there is still room for improvement.
Working alongside Publications
One of the main problems with the 2016 launch was that we were not in synch with Publications, who were also asking for sign-off from content coordinators for the print prospectus. This resulted in overlapping emails from both digital communications and Publications, leaving content coordinators feeling overwhelmed with the amount of content edits they had to provide.
Additionally, digital communications and Publications were contacting different content coordinators for the same pieces of content. This meant that we often had incomplete or inconsistent information between the web and print pages.
For 2017, we took the following steps to improve our synchronisation with Publications:
- We asked for Publication’s list of content coordinators and corresponded with these individuals.
- Publications sent out a side-by-side template of the web and print content to content coordinators. We used the responses from this template to adjust our pages before we sent them out for final amendments and sign-off.
One of the things that worked well with our new process was getting in touch with the same content coordinators who had liaised with Publications. This allowed us to collect more consistent and accurate information across the print and digital prospectuses.
However, there were still some issues working in tandem with Publications. The first problem we encountered for the 2017 launch was that the web content sent out in Publications’ template was still in its first draft, which meant that content coordinators were working with old information that had later been changed. Therefore, when we sent out the web pages again for final sign off, content coordinators had to check content that often looked very different from the content they were first sent in the template.
For 2018 launch, we hope to synch even more with Publications. When the 2017 template was sent, we had not finished launching all of the 2016 pages, meaning some of the information was still in draft form. However, now that all PGT pages are launched, the template that will be sent out for 2018-2019 should be completely up-to-date; content coordinators will only need to check one template, one time for both print and digital prospectuses to make any adjustments for the next academic year. We are also meeting with Publications regularly to ensure that our communications are coordinated.
Recording our process
In 2016, we kept no formal record of the launch process, which meant that everything from when amendments came in to whether a course had been signed off or not, was kept in personal email folders or in a content editor’s head. This created problems when a content editor was sick or on annual leave because there was no way to find out the status of a particular course without them. And without clearly marking which dates we sent information out, it was difficult to track which coordinators needed more time and which ones needed reminders for sign off.
Thus, for 2017, we came up with a spreadsheet to track our launch process. The spreadsheet was created in Google Drive, so any member of our team could access the spreadsheet at any time. For each programme, the spreadsheet detailed:
- Corresponding School/Department
- Contact for sign off
- Email address for contact
- Date we originally sent content
- Date we received amendments
- Date content was signed off
- Date we sent a reminder of the sign-off deadline
- Date we sent a notice that the deadline had passed
- Date the page went live
- Any special notes
We also colour coordinated programmes to signal from an overhead view courses which had been signed off, courses which had special application deadlines, and courses which were not running for 2017-2018.
The spreadsheet was an incredibly useful way to keep track of our launch process. It allowed our whole team to keep up to date with the PGT pages, showed us where problematic courses were cropping up, and reduced the number of overlapping or inconsistent email messages we sent out.
For 2018, we will make a copy of the 2017 spreadsheet and use this same method for recording our progress.
For 2016, the content team divvied up the workload for creating the pages and liaising with content coordinators by School. Each content team member used her individual email account to contact coordinators, meaning that all communications about PGT content could only be accessed by the team member responsible for that School. As with our recording problem, our lack of a centralised method for communication created problems when a team member was absent because there was no way to find out the status for her courses.
In 2017 we used a centralised email account shared with Publications called firstname.lastname@example.org. This allowed our team to easily see and pick up any communication thread coming in, regardless of which team member had originally started the thread. It also allowed us to review what communications had been sent to Publications so that we could check for consistency.
Overall, the move to a centralised email account was very successful. Having the pgtcontent address meant coordinators could quickly tell what the email was about, and we were able to take care of amendments or queries much faster and with fewer errors. For 2018, we will use this central email account again for the bulk of our communications.
However, email is not always the best, or most productive way to get sign off from coordinators. Between 2016 and 2017, we have identified certain courses which tend to need more adjustments than others or require other special attention year on year. For these courses, it would be preferable to have a meeting with content coordinators early in the process to work out exactly what needs to change for the next year. This will help reduce the time spent emailing back and forth about complicated amendments.
Tl;dr Between 2016 and 2017, we have improved our launch process by working closer with Publications, keeping a record of our launch status, and using a centralised email account. We could improve for 2018 by synching more with Publications and meeting one-on-one with coordinators of time-demanding courses.