How to: Consolidate Your Communications Using onMessage

December 9, 2014 Peter Baron

In our continued effort to highlight schools, we’re excited to feature Jenna Starkey, the Director of Communications and Alumni Relations at Bentley School (Lafayette, CA), and her work managing their website built on onMessage. We want to extend a big thank you to Jenna for sharing such great tips and ideas.

Take a moment to learn how Bentley uses onMessage to consolidate communications with the school community, measure the success of their site, and more. Plus, walkaway with a few of Jenna’s favorite tips on how to improve your site.

Let’s start with an introduction — who are you and what do you do?

I work as the Communications and Alumni Relations Director for Bentley School, a K–12 co-educational, independent day school in the Bay Area. The school has three divisions with 680 students, on two campuses. Therefore, communication is key.

You’ve used onMessage as a way to consolidate your communications with the Bentley community. How have you approached this? How are you getting the message out?

Since launching onMessage, we’ve been able to communicate with our internal community and prospective families in a way we haven’t before. The new dashboard makes it easier to manage and understand the complexities of communicating with parents and faculty. Our approach is all about streamlining and clarifying our information, which revolves around three areas: public-facing content, internal-facing content and Pushpages.

We work to keep our public-facing content as fresh as possible by publishing new stories when they become available, which is about one to two items a week. This content can be cross-published in various channels and media. Our internal content is a bit more complex. When the information comes to us, we then play with different content types and roles to serve our needs.

The third area of communication I mentioned is Pushpage. We send a robust Newsletter every week to our entire K–12 community and it’s one that we are very proud of. We also use Pushpages for nearly all of our Admissions announcements, emergency notices, Annual Fund Campaign updates and Gala promotions. Our WhippleHill database is our system of record at Bentley, so we trust and rely upon the automatically updated distribution groups that live there.

Let’s talk about measurement. How do you determine the success of your communications? Do you have examples of the type of data you’re measuring?

The success of our public-facing content is measured with the daily website traffic and page view tools. Additionally, our Pushpage views can be measured by reporting on the “users read,” “clicks” and “bounce backs” results displayed once a job has been sent. The data in these areas prove valuable when rethinking content, audience and timing of each post or project.

You’re a school that moved from Podium to onMessage? What are the biggest changes you’ve noticed? How was the transition?

Before the upgrade, our website was not optimized to be able to capture the life within our school. In large part, our difficulty centered around not being able to see how modules were connected and pages were built. Our team was frustrated that we couldn’t share information the way we wanted.

We launched our new upgraded website in August of this year, and we are very pleased with the results so far.  The school’s webmaster and I have spent a great deal of time figuring out how we can take advantage of what onMessage offers. We have been especially impressed with the ease of managing and customizing our public-facing web pages and news items – this has been the biggest change for us. I also feel reassured by the analytics display that helps us keep a pulse on the engagement within our site.

Our team was engaged in a significant upgrade process as a whole, primarily because we simultaneously launched a new front-end design and site map. That project was intense for our team, but we enjoyed doing it. The user-friendly page building experience in onMessage played a large part in that process. Overall, we were satisfied with the experience and impressed with the shift in functionality.

When we talked in the past, you commented on the level of website control that onMessage offers. Can you share some examples and dive into the benefits?

The Page Layout tools are flexible and powerful, with a couple of levels of standardization via Master Layouts and Styles. Cross-publishing pieces of content, whether that is Text, or a list of Downloads, helps standardize content across the site. The control over who can author each category of content also gives us flexibility to distribute authoring, or restrict it, and have more stylistic control of content.

What advice would you give to a school considering onMessage? What’s your favorite tip?

As a team, we carefully assessed our needs and thought this was the best product available. Each school is different. This works well for Bentley.

My favorite tip? Don’t skimp on learning the intricacies of style functions and the ability to cross-publish content (which relates to both onMessage and onCampus). Mastering this has been key to our success and allowed us to capitalize on the channel options available to us.

Thanks for sharing all of this info. I know all schools using onMessage will benefit!

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