HUNTER COLLEGE WEBSITE GETS AN “EXTREME MAKEOVER”

When I arrived at Hunter College in spring 2018, one of the most pressing priorities was a total overhaul of the college website, which had not been updated since 2010. The existing website was built using an arcane CMS that offered limited flexibility to incorporate popular features like photo carousels and embedded videos. The site was also not mobile friendly, a major liability for any organization these days, but especially one that heavily engages with young people.

The challenge for Hunter is that its website is really a universe of microsites — more than 150 of them — managed by staff across the College’s many schools and programs. To address that, we decided to redesign and migrate the site in stages, beginning with the landing and about sections of the site. We wanted to keep much of the content from the old site, which focused on news and events, but we also wanted to add “gateway” messaging for the College’s major audiences: current and prospective students; faculty and staff;alumni and supporters; and the broad public. Additionally, we wanted to make the page more visually engaging and modern, a sea change from the old site, which was almost exclusively comprised of links as seen in the screencap below.

The result was transformational. The new landing page is vibrant and engaging, with a navigation structure that allows visitors to quickly find their way to the information they seek. Bold buttons that provide a clear call to action around Hunter’s institutional priorities, such as applying to the college and encouraging donations. Faculty and student achievements get the spotlight they deserve, and new features celebrate major milestones toward achieving Hunter’s core strategic initiatives.

The redesign makes it easy to target specific content to key audiences. As news stories are gradually migrated onto WordPress, custom news feeds will make it possible to populate selected stories into different sections of the site by simply checking a box on the back end. A similar approach has already enabled the creation of tailored event feeds spotlighting key dates and programs of interests for discrete audiences. This ensures that the content on the website will always be fresh and relevant for visitors.

As the rest of the site is migrated onto the new platform, the Communications team can partner with faculty and staff to efficiently build pages using the new template and incorporating selections from a wide array of modules that meet their unique needs. For example, when we sat down with colleagues to discuss building a new section of the site dedicated to the College’s “All In East Harlem” initative, they wanted to be able to showcase the scale of its impact, to highlight major “wins,” and to create an archive of current and past projects. We proposed a landing page that features an eye-catching statistics bar and photo carousel to achieve the first two objectives, with secondary pages spotlighting the initiative’s most significant projects and cataloging the full range of programs that they have worked on since the initiative was launched three years ago. The entire process — from needs assessment, to design, to build — took only weeks to complete.

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While much work lies ahead, the site provides a strong foundation to execute that work efficiently and to equip website managers throughout the College to maintain their pages and easily add “bells and whistles” as new content is available.

10 REASONS TO SAY HELLO

As part of The Human Project’s recruitment strategy, we partnered with Ogilvy and Lonelyleap to produce a video series featuring everyday New Yorkers sharing their stories and their hopes about  how we can come together to build a better New York of the future.

A 90-second hero video introduces and frames the campaign.

A separate suite of 15-second videos focuses on individual stories, from a Manhattan couple whose New York pride inspires them to make their hometown better, to individuals describing challenges with issues like healthcare access, Alzheimer’s, affordable housing, income inequality, and the rising cost of living — 10 reasons why people should “Say Hello” to Human Project recruiters. The series concludes with a rousing charge from a college student and basketball player who likens this moment to the final quarter of a championship game: “If we can pull this off, they’re going to know who we are. Making New York City better is going to make everywhere better.”

Videos will be shared via social media, in community meetings, and through an immersive participant-facing microsite that will go live when the study launches.

SOLVING THE PUZZLE TO A BETTER, LONGER LIFE

In 2017, I led a complete overhaul of the existing Human Project website. We threw out all content and developed a streamlined mobile-friendly platform with messaging to inspire researchers, journalists, funders, and the broad public. The website was framed around our new brand narrative and upgraded to incorporate our beautiful new logo and visual identity, developed in partnership with Ogilvy.

The goal: building trust and enthusiasm about a pioneering research initiative with the potential to solve some of the toughest health and policy challenges we face today.

In addition to the main Human Project website, we are planning a multimedia microsite that will engage and educate prospective participants as they consider whether to join the study.

GETTING TO 10,000

One of the biggest challenges for The Human Project is persuading 10,000 New Yorkers to share a wide range of their personal data, from medical and financial records to geolocation and metadata generated from moment-to-moment as they go about their daily lives. To achieve that, we need to paint a picture of the better, brighter New York City that might be made possible through the simple act of sharing that data —  most of which is already being collected, bought, and sold without compensation or awareness.

At the same time, prospective participants are undoubtedly wary about the prospect of a data breach. To reassure them, we need to educate participants about the unprecedented steps The Human Project is taking to protect their privacy. Put simply: data security is The Human Project’s top priority, and their information would be far more secure in our database than in any other system where it is already collected and stored.

This document outlines the recruitment and enrollment strategy I devised for The Human Project and the many marketing resources I created to execute it, including the presentation template itself. It encompasses everything from the new visual and narrative identity we developed in partnership with Ogilvy to our planned print and digital advertising campaign and community outreach efforts that are already underway as we test the entire strategy in fall 2017.

 

REINVENTING CONSENT

The Human Project has an ambitious goal: recruiting 10,000 New Yorkers to help solve our community’s biggest challenges by sharing the bits of information they create from moment to moment, every day. The study has the potential to make groundbreaking discoveries that extend and improve lives — from preventing diabetes and asthma to improving schools and relieving financial stress.

The opportunity to be part of such a pioneering research initiative is inspiring, but it is not without risk. The study directors are committed to being leaders in the ethical conduct of big data research. They will never sell or give away participants’ personal data. No researcher, government entity, or company can take a participant’s personal information. And they are taking unprecedented steps to be transparent about potential risks to participants. While protecting participants’ data and privacy is the study’s top priority, part of that protection extends to making sure that participants know exactly what they are signing up to do when they agree to join the study.

To achieve that goal, I led scriptwriting and development for an innovative online consent system that translates complex legal forms into engaging animated videos with simple language and interactive quizzes to facilitate understanding. Unlike the dense agreements consumers routinely skip reading when turning their lives over to Mark Zuckerberg and Tim Cook, each video is written at a sixth-grade comprehension level, with adaptations geared to teens and younger children aged 7-12. Whether providing a general study overview or walking participants through data risks and security protections, the videos ensure that participants are truly informed and comfortable with everything that study participation entails. Each video also reminds participants how the data they are sharing may help to build a build a better New York for everyone.

In the video below, for example, we go over the specific types of data that will be collected using the study’s smartphone application. The video reassures participants that we won’t be looking at the content of their emails and social media posts, or know which websites they visit when online. Rather, we’re interested in understanding their digital “habits” — the amount of time they spend visiting websites or how often they engage with friends and family through text messaging.

 

MEET THE “NEW” NEW LEADERS

In 2016, I led a comprehensive rebrand at New Leaders. This encompassed development of the brand strategy, producing a new suite of marketing collateral, and overseeing development of a new website: NewLeaders.org.

New Leaders got its start recruiting principals to work in America’s highest-need schools in 2000. Today, the organization trains education leaders at every level — from teachers up to superintendents. The rebrand was intended to catch New Leaders’ reputation up with its current scope of work, while conveying the vital impact of school leadership.

We anchored the brand strategy in a new tagline, “Leadership Changes Everything,” which enabled us to highlight compelling alumni stories that showcase how strong school leaders elevate teaching, accelerate learning, and build brighter futures for students. Those stories featured prominently on the new website and in print collateral. We also created a living library of alumni profiles representing the full range of programs New Leaders operates and the many cities in which the organization works. Each profile stands on its own, but together, they show the wide-ranging influence of a great school leader.

Another key component of the rebrand was development of a 200+ slide “master deck” intended to make it easy for staff members to build compelling, brand-aligned presentations. It took me just a few minutes to create this sample presentation to pitch the Emerging Leaders program to a prospective new partner. The master deck not only saved considerable time for staff throughout the organization, but also ensured that presentations were consistently polished, professional, and included the latest program outcomes data.

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UNTAPPED

In 2015, I oversaw publication of Untapped, the most successful report in New Leaders’ history. Untapped transformed a dry program evaluation into a compelling, public-facing report making the case that quality, job-embedded training was essential to unleashing the transformative potential of teacher leadership.

To promote the report, I partnered with the U.S. Department of Education to launch Untapped at a Teach to Lead summit in Washington, DC, with a panel discussion featuring top officials from organizations like the Center for American Progress and the National Network of State Teachers of the Year, among others. This collaboration ensured a splashy release as audience members live tweeted the conversation. By the end of the event, #Untapped was a trending topic on Twitter and more than 1,000 people had downloaded the paper.