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How three UK universities successfully deliver their prospectus content

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You'll learn how they streamline content production and connect internal silos. You'll also learn how the systematisation of this process makes prospectus content production easier, cheaper and the content itself more valuable year after year.

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How three UK universities successfully deliver their prospectus content

  1. 1.   How the universities of Aberdeen,  Leicester and Keele streamline the way  they produce & deliver prospectus  content      GatherContent Content Operations Platform for Higher Education
  2. 2.   How the universities of Aberdeen, Leicester &  Keele streamline the way they deliver prospectus  content    When producing a prospectus, course descriptions, open day announcements or  any other myriad of student recruitment content, a constant requirement is for this  content to be useful and helpful. Both for the organisation and the audience.    With a prospectus there will be an annual requirement, with a clear timeframe, for  when content is needed. But whilst that frequency makes the process familiar, that  doesn’t mean planning, producing and delivering that content is any less  challenging.        GatherContent Content Operations Platform for Higher Education
  3. 3.   The challenges of producing student recruitment content  Prospectuses are the cornerstone of student recruitment content and the key  economic driver. Every year they must be delivered with the highest quality and  legally sound content possible.    After talking with 100s of University teams we’ve identified three key  challenges in producing a successful prospectus:    1. The content needs to be published digitally and in print (often with varying  requirements for each)  2. Creating alignment around the content production process  3. Managing involvement from people across different departments and teams    Without clarity on the people, processes and technology involved, the process of  delivering this content can be chaotic, frantic, and frustrating.     This short guide aims to unpack these challenges and explore ways to improve  them with real examples from three UK based universities.   Elements required for successfully delivering prospectus  content    Before diving into examples it’s worth taking a moment to understand what we have  identified as four of the key elements required for delivering prospectus content  efficiently:  1. Clearly defined roles   2. An agreed workflow  3. Structured content types and templates  4. A content style guide  Clearly defined roles for producing prospectus content  You need clearly defined roles to establish who is involved in the process and what  they each need to do. By providing clarity on responsibility, it’s easier for people to  do what’s needed with accountability.    GatherContent Content Operations Platform for Higher Education
  4. 4. Content workflows for producing prospectus content  A workflow is an agreed process for how the clearly defined roles fit together,  mapping out each stage the prospectus content must pass through. Contextual  workflows set a clear process for the team to follow, help to alleviate bottlenecks  and keep content moving.    Structured content templates for producing prospectus content  Inconsistent content is a big problem when lots of people are involved, and made  worse when those people work in silos. One Subject Matter Expert (SME) may  provide one paragraph for their course description, but another SME may write two  pages. Structured content types and templates ensure consistency across all  departments.    Content style guides for producing prospectus content  Content style guides are also an antidote to inconsistent content. The rules and  guidelines around content production will empower content creators to produce  content in the brand voice, tone, style and format.    Bringing all of these elements together can be challenging, but investing in your  prospectus content production process can have great benefits for the business and  the audience.     Now that we understand the challenges of publishing high quality prospectus  content, let’s have a look at how three UK-based universities took control of their  content production & delivery processes.                        GatherContent Content Operations Platform for Higher Education
  5. 5.   How the University of Leicester is streamlining processes  for successful digital transformation    The University of Leicester committed to digital transformation, deciding key  projects to enforce and achieve this were their prospectuses.    The online and print prospectuses were treated as separate entities with different  processes for creating, editing, approving and publishing the content. As part of the  transformation, processes needed to be streamlined by moving content production,  editing and approval to a centralised model.    The Marketing and Communication team worked to:  ● Bring both versions of the prospectus into one workflow to ensure clear and  visible communication around it’s production  ● Create structured content templates for Subject Matter Experts  ● Provide clear guidelines for the style and format of content  The team decided to move away from processes they knew caused problems: Lots  of manual tasks that were prone to errors – collecting content from many  departments in Word Documents and managing the process using spreadsheets,  emails, annotating PDFs, and many other frustrating annoyances.     The University of Leicester chose GatherContent as the centralised place for all  content production.       Read the full University of Leicester case study  GatherContent Content Operations Platform for Higher Education
  6. 6.   Because their online and print content had previously been produced in isolation of  one another, despite there being a significant overlap in content, there was  repetition of tasks too, so neither ideal nor efficient.    They ​defined a structure​ for both versions of the prospectus which would ensure  consistency in the content provided by the subject matter experts. The ​content  templates​ were provided to Subject Matter Experts so they could populate them.    They also included guidelines with the templates that guided the content creators  on word lengths, formatting requirements, and style. This resulted in greater  consistency across all of the content.     Here’s a quick example of customisable template in GatherContent:    GatherContent Content Operations Platform for Higher Education
  7. 7.     Following this they defined a bespoke workflow to ensure there was an agreed  process for delivering content and people were assigned to each stage. Their  workflow stages were:  1. Content added  2. Sent to department  3. Amends made  4. Ready for design  5. Website updated  This agreed workflow removed the previous uncertainty around who needed to do  what, and by when. There was now transparency in their process and they could  easily track progress from draft content, through to published. The workflow also  allowed them to identify bottlenecks and gaps in the process which they could  resolve to keep content moving. Gone were the frustrations of the previous process  where nobody knew the status of content, what version was the most recent and  how close they were to having it all approved.  Starting with a pilot project before going all in  Rather than change their entire way of working overnight, the university decided to  test their new structured content and workflow on a pilot project for their  Undergraduate prospectus, which initially involved 10 departments. Following the  success of this the new production process was to be rolled out to 24 departments  for the Postgraduate prospectus.     The benefits of digital transformation for the University of Leicester  Investing in their process as part of the wider digital transformation project yielded  significant benefits:  ● Combining content production and organisation for their printed and digital  prospectuses  ● Significantly reduced email traffic between Marketing Team and the  academic departments  ● Streamlined workflow to make it easy for people to focus on what they  needed and to avoid bottlenecks  ● Structured content templates helped to deliver consistent content, produced  on time  GatherContent Content Operations Platform for Higher Education
  8. 8. Connecting two processes also connected people, with content at the heart. It was  a prime example of how investing in people, process and infrastructure can ensure  content operations are efficient, and as a result, content is effective.    Further reading: ​How University of Leicester connected two prospectus processes  to go digital-first for efficient content operations            How the University of Aberdeen connected silos around an  agreed workflow    The University of Aberdeen require printed copies of their course prospectus, but  the university also identified a need to improve their online course information  offering too. They have three work streams for producing a prospectus: content,  technical and information architecture.    This requires efficiency and orchestration when it comes to bringing lots of people  together. To encourage collaboration during the content production phase,  members of the marketing team run workshops with the academics. The key  outcome of the workshops is to agree what their course pages on the website need  to communicate to prospective students. Marketing can then write the content  based on that insight and then check with academics to see if it is a fair reflection of  their programme.    This created clear roles, and clarity on the responsibilities for each of those roles. A  key component for that collaboration being successful is the workflow. The  university used GatherContent for this project as a central platform their workflow  and progress could be tracked within.      GatherContent Content Operations Platform for Higher Education
  9. 9.   Read the full University of Aberdeen case study      Once the team had an understanding of the content requirements and finalised the  information architecture and structure for the online prospectus and content, they  moved through their agreed workflow which consisted of the following stages:  1. In progress  2. Academic involvement ​- content is passed to the subject matter expert for  technical input and accuracy  3. Review content for the web  4. Marketing review  5. Second academic review  6. Approved  There is a bridge here between all parties involved and all those included in the  workflow have a clear task to complete. There can be a lot of people needed for  delivering student recruitment content, and that is fine so long as they serve a  purpose in the process.    We recently surveyed our customers in higher education and asked:    What is the average number of people a piece of content passes through  before it is published?    The average was 4. It's difficult to say if 4 is a lot or not many at all as it is different  for every organisation, and often different across various teams and projects within  the same organisation. Also, a ‘piece’ of content is quite subjective, but the purpose  of the question was to get a sense of how many people can be involved in content  production.  GatherContent Content Operations Platform for Higher Education
  10. 10.     The extremes of the answers given were 2 and 10. Content only including 2 people  from draft to published. That seems efficient and frictionless. 10 people on the  other hand seems like it opens up that organisation to risk delays, compromises,  bottlenecks and chances of content causing issues. That’s a little presumptuous,  but often, more people means more politics, shifting goalposts and conflicting  priorities. Yet sometimes content will need to pass through 10 (or more!) people so  the focus shouldn't be on how many people, but ensuring all those involved have a  clear role and workflow to follow.            How Keele University is systemising prospectus content  production  Keele University has recently experienced a cultural shift in collaborative work by  investing in the people, processes and technology they need to put content first.  This is all part of a web transformation project which is a university-wide initiative.    They recently used their undergraduate prospectus project as a pilot to try a new  way of working. Their undergraduate prospectus is one of the University's most  important assets, acting as their leads document. This document also influences  GatherContent Content Operations Platform for Higher Education
  11. 11. other requirements throughout the academic year. On the content side, the content  in the prospectus informs the accuracy of content on the website.    How Keele University changed their content production workflow to  become more efficient    Previously, Keele University created their prospectus using a plethora of Word  documents that would fly back and forth on email and sit in random folders across  people's own drives and multiple email inboxes.    Challenges Keele University faced with their previous content production workflow  The symptom of this process was different versions of the content, and prevalent  silos meant that whilst some Subject Matter Experts were working on version 5,  others were on version 2. It also meant people didn't understand where they fit in  the process and what they were meant to be doing. Senior Managers were  copywriting when they only needed to be fact-checking.     Keele University created a bespoke workflow in GatherContent to alleviate these  issues and bring a new level of clarity to roles, responsibilities and process. This  workflow in GatherContent was the same as when they created the prospectus in  Word documents, except now it all happened in one place, with real-time  collaboration, version control, and greater transparency.    There were 73 people involved in the undergraduate prospectus project, and a  further 20 people who had a view of all the content and activity. The content  amounted to ​194 individual items​. Every subject area across the university  engaged with the project (and GatherContent) in some way.    Managing almost 100 people across almost 200 items of content (as well as all of  the people and content outside of the prospectus project) shows the enormity of  why it is important to have the right and best people, processes and technology in  place.     Today, Keele University continue to use a bespoke workflow for their content  production, they assign clear roles and responsibilities, use content templates, and  embed a content style guide in their templates. All inside ​one central platform​:  GatherContent​.    GatherContent Content Operations Platform for Higher Education
  12. 12. Refining the content production process for the prospectus content has set out a  roadmap for how they plan to change how their print projects happen and how they  can improve development of content so that it isn't a once-a-year process, but  rather ​a rolling process of iteration and continuous improvement​.        Conclusion: Reduce human and technical friction for effective  content    There are no silver bullets when it comes to content, and even with efficient ​content  operations​, mistakes can happen. But by reducing human and technical friction,  you’re giving yourself the best chance to deliver effective content for your audience,  whilst meeting those all important student recruitment goals.    The three universities in this guide all overcame challenges you may recognise. We  are proud that the GatherContent platform is helping all of them be more efficient  and successful in their daily work and consequently is freeing up their team’s time  to work on critical activities to drive revenue through student recruitment.     If you want to give GatherContent a try and the timing is right for you we’d love to  show you how other universities have found success using our platform. You can  sign up with a free trial​ to get an idea of the platform yourself or get in touch to have  our team show you show it works.    Organise a time for our team to show you how  GatherContent works Or ​learn more about the platform     GatherContent Content Operations Platform for Higher Education