Let me share this whole new world with you

24 May

Student Communication Services at the University of British Columbia (UBC) was once a production shop. It went through significant changes before Janeen Alliston came on board last year remodelled the unit and its culture. We’re going to transform student communications at UBC.

One of our team meetings – ice cream boosts creativity. True story.

With Janeen’s leadership, the team now operates as an agency, where each of her Communications Coordinators provide strategic communications support for one to two of the fourteen student services units.

This team structure means we can match students’ information needs with each unit’s communications priorities, we can do away with competing messages and duplication, and we can organise communications in a way that is meaningful to students.

This blog post wouldn’t be possible without Janeen’s hard work and mind-blowing vision for student communications so please credit what you’re about to read to her (really, a lot of these words are hers).

Don’t you dare close your eyes

We have the data and we’re prepared to use it. Two key research pieces have helped us develop our new approach for communicating to students:

New to UBC survey – An annual survey that measures the characteristics and expectations of our incoming students. Students have told us we over-communicate to them, that it’s difficult to learn about opportunities, and that they’d like more in-person interaction.

National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) survey – An annual survey that evaluates the quality of a student’s experience while at university. It tells us UBC students finish their degrees, but not all are entirely satisfied with their experience.

A hundred thousand things to see

Every interaction, whether digital or in-person, contributes to a student’s university experience and how they talk about it with others. What can Student Communications Services do to help?

  1. Anticipate students’ basic information needs and deliver timely, relevant communications through appropriate channels (let’s cut back on email spam).
  2. Communicate student services units’ key messages that are connected to the academic experience, experiences outside of the classroom, and career building.
  3. Increase participation across a broader cross-section of students by making them feel welcomed, included, and invited to participate.
  4. Support students’ personal connection to UBC through their relationship with their Enrolment Services Professional (ESP).

Students are in control of their own UBC experience. We want to help define it and show them how everything they do while at UBC helps them to shape their career and lead successful lives.

Are we only dreaming?

It all seems a little ambitious, right? We plan on pulling it off by:


  • Give students a new landing page experience using responsive design
  • Develop a content strategy that migrates 14 separate unit sites into 6 “themes”
  • Creating a style guide that will support all communications channels
  • Curate fresh and relevant content from across campus

Supporting students through social media

  • Create centralised channels and a social media strategy
  • Help units better meet the needs of their audiences through their channels
  • Educate students on:
    – online privacy
    – their online brand
    – filtering and organising social media
    – dealing with information overload
    – balancing social media use with their academic and personal lives

Updating the UBC fyi (undergraduate student blog and enewsletter)

  • Organise and prioritise information to students
  • Address those basic information needs first, featured messages second
  • Transition the UBC fyi (blog) from a stand-alone blog to fresh content on the new
  • Redesign the UBC fyi newsletter and use a CMS that provides rich analytics

Hold your breath, it gets better.

*A big thank you to Disney for keeping me entertained with Aladdin as I wrote this post.

1 Comment

Posted by on May 24, 2012 in student communications


Tags: , , , , ,

One response to “Let me share this whole new world with you

  1. Linda Ong

    May 24, 2012 at 8:56 pm

    Great post. And I can honestly say that other campus communicators (like my team!) are really looking forward to finding ways to work with your team too.


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