Using GatherContent to create a prospectus

5 minute read

Keele University was founded in 1962 and is number one in England for overall student satisfaction and is Britain's biggest single-site campus. They have almost 1700 staff and 12,000 students.

We recently spoke to Jonny Williams, Head of CRM, Creative Services and Content, who is part of the Directorate of Marketing and Communications. Jonny shared the university's experience of using GatherContent for their Undergraduate prospectus (viewbook) which is the 'heart of their marketing operations' and also highlighted these areas of success with GatherContent:

  • Using GatherContent has resulted in a major shift in terms of the cultural understanding of collaborative work
  • Saved time and reduced confusion around content requirements and production
  • GatherContent added a skillset to the Marketing team and is a gateway for getting them to understand ContentOps

The challenge of student recruitment

Keele used GatherContent for the organisation, production and management of content for their undergraduate prospectus (Viewbook). This is one of the University's most important documents, acting as their lead physical recruitment tool. This document also influences other requirements throughout the academic year. For example, the design of the prospectus informs elements like their UCAS materials. On the content side, the content in the prospectus informs the accuracy of content on the website.

Using GatherContent for the prospectus content has set out a roadmap  for how they plan to change the way 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. This is will align with a web transformation project which is a University-wide initiative. 

Jonny took GatherContent to the marketing team, digital team and Marketing and Communications Director, and they were all in agreement that GatherContent could connect silos and help the University level-up to a more mature content operations.

Replacing a plethora of Word documents

Before using GatherContent as the central place for the prospectus content, it was previously created using a plethora of Word documents that would 'fly back and forth on email and sit in random folders across people's own drives.' Jonny added that this was less than ideal because the symptom 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.

But it got done. The process worked in that those involved worked hard with what they had and the content was delivered, but the operations around the content weren't as efficient as it could have been.

There are three key elements to ContentOps; people, process and technology. Using GatherContent, a Content Operations Platform, introduced the technology that would bring together the people around a shared process. Jonny said using GatherContent 'completely changed the game as it meant everything was in one place which allowed for absolute transparency on content' and this resulted in a shift in terms of the cultural understanding of collaborative work. 

The old process of Word documents 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. Adding a bespoke workflow to GatherContent has alleviated these issues and brought a new level of clarity to roles, responsibilities and process.

Institution wide buy-in for a new way of working

Once the team had started the trial of GatherContent, setup a test workflow and added some proto-content, they signed up to a paid account and started to onboard others.

After the initial setup there was a complete handover to the Marketing Services Team, where a Marketing Officer for each faculty was brought into the process. The team were instructed to develop a template for the content and went about this by thinking about the things they usually ask for via Word documents. A template was created in GatherContent for courses and it was at this stage that subject matter experts from each faculty were brought into the process.

The structured content template in GatherContent.

There were 73 users within GatherContent for the Undergraduate prospectus project. There were a further 20 people who had a view of all the content and activity in the GatherContent account, and that content amounted to 194 individual items. Every subject area across the university engaged with GatherContent in some way across the project, even on a small level of just creating one page of text.

Getting buy-in across the university was, as Jonny put it, 'very organic.' There was agreement on using GatherContent from all levels. Managers fed it down to the Senior Marketing Officer, the Senior Marketing Officer then fed it down to a Marketing Officer, and from there it went out to the subject matter experts. But a key person was identified within the departments and faculties who bridged the gap between the subject matter experts and marketing.

The bespoke workflow designed within GatherContent, colour-coded, and with descriptions for each workflow stage.

That meant at the SME stage of the workflow there was someone who took control of the process. This freed up more time for the marketing officers as they only had to relay with one person rather than all of the subject matter experts.

Systematising content production

Using GatherContent has resulted in a systematic, scaleable and repeatable process for delivering content, more like a conveyor belt where the project team can confidently ask and answer "what's up next? Do we want this bit, yes or no? Do we want this bit, yes or no?"

GatherContent was able to help us overhaul and streamline our content collation process for our Undergraduate Prospectus. It enabled academic, administrative and marketing staff to copy write and proof content in a flexible yet cohesive way. This resulted in copy needing fewer revisions at proofing stage and leaves us with a platform to use for other projects that will ensure uniformity of message and consistency in style.

Steve Male, Head of Marketing Services

Using the templates for structured content in GatherContent allowed Jonny to view everything with a different lens, a filter for reusable chunks of content as opposed to an A4 page of text. As Jonny himself said, "the nicest thing about using GatherContent was that it was very easy for the Marketing Officers to explain to people the idea of these blocks of content." 

The Marketing Officers could say, "You're filling out this box here, you're filling out that box there." If there was a problem with one box then it could be resolved in isolation, rather than dealing with the whole document.

Being confident in the content that's published

The marketing team didn't have to worry about saying, "I need 300 words from you"to subject matter experts because they included rules such as word lengths and style guides, within the GatherContent templates. That meant content creators had the guidelines they needed at the point at which they needed them.

Guidelines were provided in the templates, giving content producers the rules they needed when they were writing.

This controlled the format of the content being supplied by subject matter experts, so 300 words were provided whereas historically the open ended structure-less canvas of a Word document could result in thousands of words and inconsistency across content supplied by different departments.

This empowered the content creators and gave the marketing team confidence in what was being delivered. It also gave the content the attention it deserves, and needs! The prospectus has to happen every year as a key part of student recruitment so introducing GatherContent for an essential project contributed to this success as it became part of the content operations, rather than an optional platform that some would use and some wouldn't.

Confidence also comes from having everything in one place, including revision histories. If there's a problem with content the team can easily understand where it went wrong and who worked on what. It's not about blame, but about being able to get back on track quickly thanks to absolute transparency. Jonny explained that the high-level of transparency puts everyone in a better position because 'it means that we are able to talk to anyone whether they are a person who's in an administrative role all the way up to the Vice Chancellor's office to say, "Right, we know where we are, we know how many pieces of content were outstanding, and we know what needs to happen to get this done."

For any team in the world to be able to say that phrase, "We know exactly what's going on," that's just a godsend. That's absolute gold. So for us GatherContent has put us in a position where we can say we know exactly what's going on.

Jonny Williams, Head of CRM, Creative Services and Content

Jonny added that GatherContent isn't 'a massive learning hurdle' so getting people onboard and confident was straight-forward. He also added that GatherContent has added a skillset to the marketing team both in terms of learning a new technology, but also with that technology being the gateway for the team to understand ContentOps.


Higher Education Insights Report

Results and insights from an analysis of the digital environments of 156 UK and 160 US universities.

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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