Last September we sat down with Mercedes Maskalik, Director of Marketing at TASIS The American School in England, when they launched their brand new responsive websites. The TASIS redesign included four websites: Switzerland, England, Dorado, and the TASIS Summer Programs.
"These are four sites with different stories, different goals, and different voices. But what remains constant is the ethos of TASIS – a passion for excellence and a great appreciation of beauty," she said.
While the initial spotlight on the school gave us the opportunity to showcase their incredible design, we know that a lot more happens behind the scenes to keep websites like these looking fresh. So, we checked back in with Brendan Shea, Webmaster at TASIS Switzerland, and Mark Chevalier, Associate Director of Communications, to get a better understanding on how they successfully manage their new site on a daily basis.
Brendan and Mark are fortunate, as they have a tremendous marketing and communication team that includes Kim Nelson, a photographer/social media person; Jacopo Riva, a part-time graphic designer; Michelle Arslanian, a part-time website assistant; and Kristin Pedroja, a freelance writer/editor.
ALTHOUGH NOT ALL INTERNATIONAL SCHOOLS ARE SO WELL-RESOURCED, OTHERS CAN CERTAINLY BENEFIT FROM INSIGHTS PROVIDED BY THIS WELL-OILED TEAM.
"TASIS has worked with Finalsite for many years and loves all the great tools the platform provides. It wouldn't be nearly as easy to have all the same features in WordPress or Drupal," said Brendan. "Finalsite offers modules that work well together to engage and get the job done. Every day we rely on eNotify, Forms Manager, the portals and much more to get our job done efficiently and effectively."
Aside from having access to tools that make their job easier, their website also gives them a way to showcase their robust community. Switching from a fixed-width site to responsive means they can create an optimal viewing experience on any device. "We knew we wanted to change that [a fixed-width site] and make it more multimedia rich and interactive," said Brendan.
One of the most notable design elements of TASIS Switzerland's site is their use of cinematic photography and videography, noted as one of the top design trends to watch in 2016.
"When visitors come to our site, the Ken Burns Photo-effect and drone video footage draws them in right away. With the Finalsite platform, it is simple to update these homepage elements and we have received such positive feedback because it does such a great job showcasing our amazing community and location."
What's your key to making it all happen?
In short, organization and schedules.
They are never short of ideas for content, as TASIS is an incredibly vibrant community where their students, teachers, and alumni are constantly doing amazing things that they want to share. Brendan stressed that the important thing is that they keep a schedule, and have a functional, professional presentation for our content.
"Thankfully, our Finalsite tools make it easy to host and organize our content, and our new website provides an attractive and engaging user experience that works great on all devices. We don't have to worry about formatting it for different devices – we know it will work," said Brendan.
Mark, who coordinates the content/copywriting for the website and print projects, said they typically work on a month by month project basis. Relying on input from the rest of the team, they are constantly collecting copy for various publications including a monthly email newsletter, blog, and annual alumni print magazine.
With so many channels of communication, how did you determine the best way to segment your content?
As a boarding/day pre-k through postgraduate school on one campus, TASIS has a lot of detailed information to send out to specific groups (students, parents, alumni, faculty) on a continual basis. They use different vehicles for communicating information based on the time-sensitive nature of the information, the importance of the information, and the intended audience.
They maximize their use of Finalsite's News Manager, Blogs, Portals, and eNotify and augment this with social media to communicate with their various constituents. This multi-channel approach has been well received by the entire community including alumni.
The school uses Veracross integration, which makes it "very easy to maintain up-to-date mailing lists and segmented groups for all of our broadcast email needs," said Brendan. "We rely on eNotify, Finalsite's broadcast email tool, to send our monthly newsletter, as well as segmented newsletters to various groups."
Here is an example from their April newsletter, which implements a panel-design-like scrolling experience.
They also maintain a Google document for ideas, with the overhanging goal to always appeal to the various constituent groups: alumni, parents, students, faculty, admissions agents and prospective students. The monthly newsletters get sent to over 7000 people and typically have strong open and click-through rates.
Readers get a good overview of the robust community in this newsletter, but can also gain more information by clicking on links that lead them back to the website. "We make sure we include information that appeals to different groups. We can showcase our various academic travel programs, highlight student accomplishments, spotlight alumni, and provide a preview of upcoming events like the annual school musical. We've also started to repurpose historical articles that highlight our 60 years as we gear up for our big Anniversary Celebration this summer," said Mark.
Both Mark and Brendan said that they were very excited about their new blog, which is accessible on the home page. "The well-designed blog provides an in-depth exploration of past events and stories around campus, and the stories tend to be more reflective than straight news posts," said Mark.
"Someone who is new to TASIS can get a good idea of what the school is all about when they visit the blog, and many of the posts should hold up well over time and be of value to our Admissions team."
However, the blog is only in its infancy. "We would like to include more student writing to include different voices on the blog. Part of the thought is to have a more formal setup for this, perhaps through an extra-curricular activity or club."
TASIS's in-house photographer Kim Nelson is busy capturing photos around the school during all their events. She does a great job segmenting content to maximize reach on various social media channels.
From Facebook and Twitter to Pinterest and Tumblr, TASIS is engaging constituents across a range of channels. The links to their social media accounts can be found in the websites footer, making them easily accessible at any point in the website browsing experience.
DAILY AND WEEKLY COMMUNICATION
TASIS relies on Finalsite's portals for sending information and collecting more timely communications.
"Our division heads create weekly bulletins using Google docs and these serve as a clearing house for all time sensitive information, which we post in the community portals and then share the links through eNotify," said Brendan.
"We also regularly use Forms Manager for collecting information, requests, and event registration, and Calendar Manager for posting up-to-date information about our events on our public calendars. Members of our community can find all of the information they need in one place: our website."
What is in store for the future?
The schools' redesigns were timely as TASIS celebrates 60 years of achievements this year. With the Finalsite Platform, they were able to create a microsite for the grand event with its own banners and navigation. It showcases some amazing old photography and other multimedia content, highlights alumni profiles, and includes event registration.
"The event takes place in August, and the site will be a living piece of content as the event approaches," said Brendan. "The event is in August, so we see the site as a living thing that will continue to change as we get closer to the event. It is also great as we can copy many pieces of this microsite to the main school website. Working with Finalsite has been a pleasure and has enabled us to achieve so much."