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With a student population of close to 30,000, nearly 9,000 staff, and 138,000 alumni in 137 countries, the University of Manitoba has a very large constituency. The university’s printed newspaper, The Bulletin, kept these thousands of stakeholders informed of campus news and events for more than 70 years. In 2014, after a reader survey indicated a strong preference for a digital publication, the university decided to make a change. The communications team at the university knew that this would be a substantial undertaking and that there were communications challenges that would accompany such a change.
We were pleased to spearhead University of Manitoba’s transition to its digital news portal UM Today. One of the goals of the project was to reach a wider audience than the print publication and to establish a strong connection with readers, regardless of their location, their previous experience with The Bulletin, and the depth of their knowledge about the institution. This new communications tool also had to fit with its existing branding, work across devices and platforms, and integrate with social media channels. Moreover, it had to meet the university’s exacting timeline and have an administrative backend that would allow multiple writers and editors to create content.
With careful attention to its brand identity guidelines, we developed a responsive news site that captures University of Manitoba’s energy, vision, and success. The UM Today site includes featured top stories, important recent news, social media feeds, an RSS events feed from the university’s main site, community links, and internal ads. We also developed a bold “In Focus” section that showcases a particularly hot topic that has been identified through analytics or editorial preference. We built the site to handle nearly any type of news content, including large amounts of copy, video, photo galleries, and short blurbs. Moreover, we established custom-built permission levels so that website administrators from departments throughout the university could only access their portion of the website. Even with all of this functionality, we were able to design a site that the university’s marketing and communications personnel can easily manage in-house.
Manoverboard recognized what was at stake for our university community and helped develop the strategy and planning required for our move to digital news. They played a vital role in the new website’s success. Colleges and universities looking to take their digital strategy and platforms to the next level will find an experienced, collaborative and talented partner in Manoverboard.—Michael Marshall, Manager, Digital Content Strategy