Connecting two prospectus processes to go digital-first for efficient content operations

4 minute read

The University of Leicester was founded in 1921. This leading UK University is consistently one of the most socially inclusive and has 20,000 students and almost 4,000 staff.We recently spoke to Caroline Miller, a Senior Project Officer on the Strategy, Marketing and Communications team, about the University's strive towards digital transformation.The Marketing Team at the University have experienced these areas of success with GatherContent:

  • Combining content production and organisation for both 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 allowed for consistent content to be produced on time

Streamlining processes for successful digital transformation

A lot of organisations face the challenge of multi-channel content production, collaboration made difficult by silos and too many different ways of working.This was also true for the University of Leicester. It's not to say processes weren't efficient and content wasn't high-quality, but they were aiming for digital transformation and a key project for this would be 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, that situation needed to change, processes streamlined and content production, editing and approval centralised. GatherContent was chosen as the Platform to use because the University had already used it successfully on a website redesign project. Now the plan was to use it for ongoing content production as part of their content operations.

Manual processes prone to error

When the annual cycle of updates came around for the Undergraduate and Postgraduate prospectuses, PDFs or Word Docs of the existing content were sent to the relevant departments where they were annotated digitally with changes, or sometimes printed and annotated by hand. This process also resulted in a lot of emails going back and forth.Those involved from the departments varied greatly, but included Professional Services staff, Admissions Tutors, Course Directors and Academic staff too.

It's good to have one place where we can upload content and everyone who requires it knows where to access it. It saves a lot of email traffic.

Katy Bennett, Associate Professor in Human Geography

Whilst this way of working still allowed for content to be worked on collaboratively, and deadlines met, it also involved a lot of manual tasks that were prone to error. Undesirably, it also meant repetition of tasks. Although there was some differences in content between the print and digital prospectuses, on the whole, there was a lot of overlap yet two ways of gathering, approving and publishing what was in essence the same content.

Starting small and trialling a new way of working on content

Once the decision had been made to bring these processes together, using GatherContent, it was also decided that the best chance of success would be to start small and then roll out the new way over time.The first trial involved the Undergraduate prospectus only, and half of the departments within that, which was 10.The Strategy, Marketing and Communications team setup the project in GatherContent. Initial page templates for the courses were setup to capture all of the content needed, in a consistent way.

An example of a page template created in GatherContent for the Geography course.
The template was used to give instructions to content creators to ensure the right content was delivered in the right format.

Once pages were created and structured using templates in GatherContent, the necessary people from each department were invited to the project to add their content.

You can see from this example that content was easy to provide for each department as it was broken down into individual components and sections.
Content was easily formatted and provided as required, including links and lists.
The pages were also structured in GatherContent to allow for inclusion of meta data and keywords, capturing everything in one place.

GatherContent was the single source of truth for content during this lifecycle and also facilitated cross-departmental collaboration, connecting silos to ensure content was delivered and approved on time.

The final published page for the Geography course.

Following the success of the Undergraduate trial, the same process using GatherContent was applied to the entire Postgraduate prospectus project. That involved 24 different departments.For the next academic year, the project will be applied to all Undergraduate and Postgraduate departments as the process is scaled up.

GatherContent has made updating course information so much more efficient for staff in Marketing as well as for our academic colleagues.

Sam Winter, Senior Marketing Officer

Visualising a content eco-system

As part of our conversation, we visualised the content eco-system around the prospectus project. As content operations involved people, process and infrastructure and this visualisation shows all three and how they connect to deliver content.

What the diagram doesn't emphasise is the time needed to setup the project before involving the departments. But that investment in the process and infrastructure upfront facilitated successful collaboration with the people involved, and made it easier for them to edit and approve the content.

Structuring content for efficient content operations

The bespoke workflow in GatherContent was kept relatively simple:

  • Content added
  • Sent to department
  • Amends made
  • Ready for design
  • Website updated

This allowed the Marketing team leading the project to quickly understand what stage each item of content was at, and identify any bottlenecks.

They then created two templates within GatherContent, one that captured all content for both versions of the prospectus and one that was just for the print versions.The catch all template was structured with clear fields to ensure consistency in the content produced across all departments. The person within the departments was then invited to the project to comment on and edit the content that the Marketing Team has populated the templates with from the existing version of the prospectus.This brought together content that was locked away in PDFs, course pages and the prospectus. Centralising content in one place or discussion and approval.For the online prospectus, content was then migrated to the CMS, ready to go live. For the printed version it was migrated to their design tool.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.


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About the author

Robert Mills

Rob is Head of Content at GatherContent. He is a journalism graduate and has previously worked as Studio Manager and Head of Content for a design agency and as an Audience Research Executive for the BBC. He’s a published author and regular contributor to industry publications including Net Magazine, Smashing Magazine, 24 Ways,WebTuts+, UX Matters , UX Booth and Content Marketing Institute. On occasion Rob speaks about content strategy and ContentOps at leading industry events.

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