Blogs - June 2011

Below are the blog entries for June 2011

Using Blogs to Educate Your Stakeholders

By Kat Liendgens
Thursday, June 30th, 2011 at 7:30am

Let me start by thanking William & Mary, one of our long-time customers, for tweeting out kudos to the Hannon Hill team and for including a link to a blog published by their creative team. We really appreciate the great feedback! Check out their latest post, in which they explain the new features implemented in Cascade Server 6.8.
 
Blogs are an excellent way to keep your users up to speed on what your creative and technical teams are up to. The more you communicate with your stakeholders, the more engagement you can foster. These days, with social media becoming such a prominent way of not just marketing a product, but also of communicating in general, blogs are quickly evolving into a tool of choice for many technical teams to interact with their internal customers.
 
There are several things that I really like about the William & Mary Creative Services Blog. For instance, in addition to how concisely Mark Windley, the author, explains how the new features, such as the Image Editor or the Context Menu, work, he also makes sure to point out the benefits of those features, which is an important aspect of educating your users and ensuring continued buy-in. Another thing that’s very effective is the overall tone of the blog, which is very conversational. I would be hard-pressed to find a single person on my team who enjoys reading manuals, and a great alternative to detailed documentation (which is tedious to write and oftentimes boring to read) is a set of quick posts that are easily digestible and mimic real life conversations.
 
After reading the Cascade-related post, I started reading other posts as well, and really enjoyed the broad spectrum of topics covered. They are quick reads with very specific take-aways. While the overall language and tone is consistent throughout, the contributors’ individuality still comes through. Comments are enabled on each post in order to give the readers the opportunity to directly interact with the creative team.
 
So I am reciprocating the kudos by saying great job, William & Mary’s Creative Services!
 
How does your organization’s web team communicate with users?


Category

  • Product Upgrades

Best Practices For Creating A Mobile Site Webinar Has Been Rescheduled

By Chris Armistead
Tuesday, June 28th, 2011 at 6:00am

Due to unforeseen circumstances, today's Best Practices webinar will not be taking place today at 2PM EST.  It has been rescheduled for this Thursday, June 30th at 2PM EST.  We hope you'll sign up today to reserve your seat for the reschedule of this free webinar.  As a reminder, this webinar will feature Hannon Hill's own Amy Liu providing attendees with best practices for creating a mobile site in Cascade Server.  We apologize for any inconvenience this has caused, and hope you can attend Thursday's event. 


Category

  • News

21 Other Reasons to Come to Atlanta for the User Conference, Besides the Obvious...

By Holly Wright
Friday, June 24th, 2011 at 6:45am

As an Atlanta native, I sometimes forget about the amazing attractions our city has to offer visitors, such as the great improv comedy theatres, boutique shopping, midtown nightlife, signature southern dining, and our very own dinosaur museum, among others! If you’re already traveling to Atlanta for the 2011 User Conference, why not come early or stay an extra day or two and enjoy our beautiful city? If that’s not an option, you could still catch a show, squeeze in some down south comfort cuisine, or sneak over to the midtown bars if you time it just right.

Here are 21 of my personal recommendations for taking in the sights if you find a little spare time before, during or after the conference (in order of proximity to the hotel, by my judgment):
  1. Georgia Tech vs. Kansas home football game (Saturday 12:30 pm) – If you can’t get a ticket to the game or you get into town after it starts, just step outside the hotel and enjoy some game day festivities with a bunch of Yellow Jackets! :)
  2. The Varsity – an Atlanta trademark and the world's largest drive-in, The Varsity is well known for its dogs, although my personal favorites are the frosted orange and the onion rings! Mmmmm!
  3. “Wicked” at the Historic Fox Theatre (Sunday 1:00 pm/6:30 pm or Tuesday at 8:00 pm) – the Fox is by far my favorite venue in all of Atlanta and is definitely worth a visit!
  4. Mary Mac’s Tea Room – delicious, classic southern cuisine just a couple blocks from campus.
  5. Midtown bars – Front Page News (which also has a fantastic Sunday brunch), Deadwood Saloon, Flip Flops, Opera, Ri Ra, Cypress Street Pint and Plate, and Halo are excellent places to start if you're looking for nightlife with half a mile of the hotel!
  6. Piedmont Park and the Atlanta Botanical Gardens – located side by side, the park is a great place to jog or people watch, and the Botanical Gardens hosts spectacular exhibits throughout the year; both are beautiful!
  7. Friday Night Jazz at the High Museum of Art (Friday 5:00-11:00 pm) – see the permanent collection as well as any special exhibits while you enjoy live jazz and cocktails.
  8. “Into the Woods” at The Alliance Theatre (Sunday 7:30 pm or Tuesday 7:30 pm) – see the Tony Award-winning musical at this Tony Award-winning venue, adjacent to the High Museum
  9. World of Coke Museum – not just for kids!  Free samples included.
  10. Georgia Aquarium – visit the largest aquarium in the world and see the impressive Beluga Whales! 
  11. CNN Center – take the Inside the Studio Tour and see what they do behind the scenes at CNN (daily 9:00 am-5:00 pm).
  12. Falcons vs. Philadelphia Eagles at the Georgia Dome (Sunday 8:20 pm) – don’t even think about going unless you plan to cheer for the Falcons…I’m serious …
  13. Braves vs. Mets at Turner Field (Sunday 1:35 pm) – ditto about the Braves…
  14. Atlantic Station – shopping, dining and upscale bowling at Ten Pin Alley (Diddy-style, for real!); for free transportation, take the Tech Trolley
  15. Whole World Improv Theatre (Friday 9:00 pm, Saturday 8:00 pm/10:30 pm, or Tuesday 8:00 pm) – just a short cab ride away and you'll be laughing all the way home!
  16. Zoo Atlanta – GIANT PANDAS!
  17. Decatur Square – Go to Brick Store Pub if you’re interested in draught beer and food that is made from scratch.
  18. Shopping at Lenox Mall, Phipps Plaza or Boutiques Around Lenox – Drop into Tiffany’s for some high-end shopping at Phipps Plaza or Fab’rik if you prefer the buckhead boutiques.
  19. Virginia Highlands – shopping, dining, and nightlife; be sure to hit up my favorite highlands restaurant Noche for tapas and sangria!
  20. Fernbank – that’s the dinosaur museum I was talking about before! Exhibits haven’t been announced for September yet, so check back.
  21. And last but not least, my hometown rock: Stone Mountain – watch the spectacular laser show on the side of the mountain (Saturday 8:30 pm) or just enjoy an up-close view of the largest natural granite formation in the world; if you have a few hours, climb the mountain!

Most of these are walkable or MARTA-ble, with the last few likely requiring a taxi. There are many other art museums, concert venues, playhouses, and comedy venues that have not announced their fall schedules yet. When it gets closer to the User Conference, I will update this list to include a few more shows and exhibits.

If you have any questions or want to add a day to your hotel stay, please contact Chris Armistead at info@hannonhill.com and he'll be happy to take care of the arrangements for you. Additionally, if you have any other suggestions for places that people might want to visit or things you’re planning to do in Atlanta during the conference, please comment on them below.

Finally, if you haven’t signed up for the User Conference yet, please click here to do so today! 

----UPDATES----

As I receive additional suggestions, I will publish them here:
  1. Birthplace/Museum for Martin Luther King, Jr. – Check out this site for information about and to plan a tour of MLK's birthplace! (Thanks, Joel Dixon)
  2. TacoMac – How could I forget!? Try the TMI (Three Mile Island) buffalo sauce on some wings and enjoy a beer from their extensive array. The original is in the Virginia-Highlands area but the closest one to the User Conference is about 5 blocks away and carries 140 beers on draught and 200 in the bottle! Read the story of the chain's founding and see the menu here. (Thanks, Christine Russell)

Keep the suggestions coming my way! :D


Category

  • Events
  • News

9 Reasons to Create a Dynamic Online Magazine

By Holly Wright
Monday, June 20th, 2011 at 10:30am

You’ve got a rich, captivating alumni magazine filled with interesting articles, don’t you? And your staff does an incredible job of making sure these articles are well written, the magazine goes out on time, and it looks great, correct? And you just know that when those issues go out, your audience is reading them, right?

Uh oh, is that last one a tricky question?

A popular subject at Hannon Hill recently has been online publications, such as magazines and newsletters. The topic started trending around here when one of our clients sent an email to the client listserv asking to see examples of other schools’ online magazines because they were looking to use Cascade Server to create a site for their alumni magazine. As usual, several other clients quickly responded to the request and shared their sites with the list (see links below).

In response to the interest in dynamic online publications, we asked another client, Reed College, to host a webinar as part of our client webinar series to show what they have done with their online alumni magazine. This was one of the most interesting webinars yet and drew a good-sized crowd, reaffirming our hypothesis that this is an important subject to you.

So without further delay, I want to present to you my top 9 reasons to transform your print publication into a dynamic online magazine.  With an online magazine, you can…

  1. Get feedback on your articles – With traditional magazines, you work super hard to create what you think will be useful and interesting articles for your audience. However, after the magazines leave the printer, you have no idea who actually reads your articles, much less whether they like them. When your content is online, you can find out how many people are reading your articles and allow readers to comment on the articles or share them with others if they find them particularly fascinating. 
  2. Give them what they want – I know as well as anyone that sometimes you need a little inspiration for a new article or blog post (see the paragraphs above). As readers comment on your existing content, it will spark ideas for future articles. When you give your readers content that they ask for, they are more likely not only to read it but also to share it. Give them what they want!
  3. Reach more of your target audience – There are a number of reasons why the people you created this magazine for won’t end up reading it. Especially if they move and forget to tell you, of all people! Having your content online means that anyone can find, read, share, and comment on your articles. And best of all, they can read them from anywhere with an internet connection.
  4. Broaden your offering – Print magazines can deliver outstanding graphics, but they can’t deliver video or audio. Additionally, there are times when you want to share a short snippet or a very long story that may not translate well into the print format. The flexibility of an online magazine allows you to communicate using a variety of media, because sometimes a video is worth a thousand pictures.
  5. Get social – Generate more attention for your articles by allowing your readers to tweet them out or share them on Facebook. One of the challenging parts of using social media for many people is figuring out how to talk with their audience about more than what they eat for breakfast in the morning. You’ve already got the stories; now use them to start a conversation.
  6. Tailor your offering – One of my favorite features of Reed College’s online alumni magazine is their “most viewed” section. They use the Google Analytics information that they already collect on stories to determine which article is most read, and they feature that headline at the top of the page. By using the most-read article to grab readers’ attention when they first land on your site, you can improve your success at getting people to stay on your site and read more.
  7. Integrate news releases – Although you may want to publish each issue online as it goes out in the mail, you can keep bringing people back to the site over and over again by integrating your news stories with your magazine site. Why not create a one-stop-shop for all the news and full-length articles about your organization and related stories?
  8. Drive more traffic to your main website – Creating an online magazine can help with the search engine optimization for your main website. By regularly providing fresh content using your keywords and adding links to your main site where appropriate, you will drive more traffic to your main site both from the online magazine site and from your organic search listings.
  9. Experiment – With a dynamic site, you are able to easily change the layout, images and other graphical elements to see what works best for your stories. Experiment frequently and keep track of how long visitors stay on the site and what they’re reading to see which combinations have the greatest impact.

This list could go on and on, so please share what you have discovered through creating an online version of your magazine, and share links to your magazines in the comments section below.

If you’re thinking of creating on online magazine for your organization, here are some of the examples that our clients have shared over the last few weeks:


Related Content

Category

  • News

Things to Remember when Selecting a Web CMS

By Joel Dixon
Thursday, June 9th, 2011 at 11:30am

I recently received a phone call from a university looking to select a web content management system (WCMS or Web CMS). The call was a standard initial research conversation and eventually ended with a refrain I find myself saying over and over: "Glad you're interested in our solution and you're impressed with our pricing versus the competition. However, the most important thing is for us to learn what your key objectives are and determine if we're the right fit for your university…"
 
It is always surprising, but not unusual, that the latter is hindered because the former hasn’t been fully considered by the organization. This strategic planning is not about bells, whistles, web 2.0 tools and polished sales demos. It’s based on a much simpler equation:
 
Great content management strategy = Strategic Goals + Specific Objectives + Desired Outcomes 

You might be more familiar with this metaphor:  “Is your ladder against the right wall?”

Strategic goals frame the problem and ensure that your ladder is against the right wall. Focused objectives are rungs on the ladder and measure specific incremental progress along the way. Desired outcomes are reaching the top of the wall and provide a clear output to measure whether you successfully achieved the correct result.

Now, the simplicity of an equation or metaphor doesn’t make the process easy. But it does set the parameters for how you can start defining your strategy. Here are some strategic questions that might guide your process:

STRATEGIC GOAL:  
  • What is your organization trying to accomplish with its website?
  • What do you want to achieve through your web content management process?

OBJECTIVES:  
  • What tasks or “calls to action” do you want visitors of your site to take?
  • What processes would best facilitate and simplify your team’s tasks for creating, managing and publishing web content?

OUTCOMES:
  • What are the desired results you want to measure to determine website success?
  • What results will confirm that your Web CMS is effectively supporting content managers’ tasks?

Once your organization has done the “hard” part and sketched out a general content management strategy based on Strategic Goals, Specific Objectives and Desired Outcomes, then likely it will be determined that a Web CMS is a great tool to facilitate your strategy. However, I still have to temper your zealous Web CMS purchase one more time.

Many universities I speak with often begin the Web CMS selection process with unrealistic expectations for these tools.  Here’s where a simple list provides perspective.

What a Web CMS CAN do:
  • Streamline the content publishing process
  • Efficiently allow organizations to reuse content across their website(s)
  • Alleviate the IT and web team bottleneck for content updates
  • Provide enforcement for branding and style guidelines
  • Serve as a hub to manage campus-wide content across multiple mediums including web, print, mobile and social media channels

What a Web CMS CAN’T do:
  • Replace a good content strategy
  • Create relevant, useful and quality content
  • Resolve long-standing organizational politics around web management and content strategy
  • Eliminate the need to determine Goals, Objectives and Outcomes for your web marketing initiatives
  • Solve all your web and social media challenges

Whether your university is just beginning web strategy discussions or already on the road to selecting the right web content management system, remember to put first things first and maintain the appropriate expectations about how a Web CMS will facilitate your objectives. For Hannon Hill, a good “fit” is simple: Supporting your organization’s current tasks for creating, managing and publishing web content and simplifying the overall process.

There are other topics that are also important if your university is looking to pursue a website redesign or social media marketing effort, and my recent higher education conference presentation about creating and managing web campaigns covers these in more detail.

However, I would love to hear your thoughts or questions on this topic...

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  • News
  • Resources