The role of the Communications Office is to coordinate strategic communications efforts on behalf of the College, particularly those relating to admissions, advancement, the College's website, social media, and media relations. Communications' staff members work with members of the College community to tell Swarthmore's story in a way that is accurate and compelling, in order to share, promote, and further the work of the College. The division includes Web and Media Communications, Advancement Communications, and Editorial and Creative Services. The Vice President for Communications also serves as the Secretary of the College, working closely with the Board of Managers.
As part of their review process, directors in the Communications division annually submit strategic goals for the upcoming year, which are tied to the goals of the division. These in turn derive from College goals articulated by the president and president's staff. The directors' goals focus on new strategic initiatives in the upcoming year and are evaluated at the end of the year for the unit's effectiveness at achieving them.
Development and Communications
- Fine-tune and implement the advancement communications strategic document.
- Contribute to a successful social media strategy for alumni, parents, and friends of the college.
- Bring Alumni Relations completely into the advancement communications fold.
- With co-directors, improve collaboration and communication to enhance an effective, efficient Communications department.
The Development Communications Office has made significant progress over the last two years towards accomplishing its stated goals. The Office has developed a strategic communications and marketing plan that will be carried out in the context of a future major fundraising effort. For two consecutive years, the Office has produced annual reports that have been well received both for their content and their visual appeal. Redesigns of e-newsletters, nearly complete, will be revealed in e-mailings either in the summer or early fall of 2014. Data collection and analysis of open rates, click through rates, opt-outs, and individual clicks for each story included in the e-newsletters has and will continue to inform content selection and layout. A giving website redesign is in the offing, pending communications-related decisions pertaining to the fundraising campaign, decisions sure to influence the structure of the redesigned site.
Editorial and Creative Services
- See the redesign process through to its completion, culminating in a new print and Web design for the magazine.
- Bid the magazine out for printing, making greater sustainability a priority.
- Launch an editorial advisory group with campus community and alumni members, to serve as a sounding board/source of story ideas as the magazine evolves.
- Continue to develop the writers' group as a conduit for greater cross-team collaboration and collegiality and as a means to improve the work we do for the College.
- Explore formation of a Tri-Co alumni magazine editors group to foster greater collaboration between our colleges and to share best practices.
In preparation for a redesign of the magazine, the editor met with small focus groups of alumni in Oregon, California, Minnesota, New York, and Washington, D.C., as well as with members of the Board of Managers and the Alumni Council to hear what readers like about the magazine and what they feel could be improved. She conducted a total of eight focus groups. She also arranged for a critique of the magazine to be executed by a nationally prominent alumni magazine editor.
In the last year, the editor also sent surveys to a small, randomly selected group of alumni after publication of two issues to gauge immediate reader reaction. She also conducted a customized version of an extensive Readership Survey, which the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education provides free to members. Surveys were mailed to 4,500 randomly selected readers, with a response rate of 14 percent (650 respondents). The CASE survey also allowed us to benchmark our answers against those of other institutions. This data gathering has positioned us well to meet reader needs with our new magazine design.
Web and Media Communications
- Recruit two exceptional members of the Communications team;
- Develop a more robust media and social media strategy showcasing Swarthmore's essence
- Strengthen the connections and relationships between web and media communications and the other divisions within communications;
- Play a key role in the development of a mobile site for Swarthmore.edu;
Ensure a smooth and timely transition for the migration of legacy websites into the new design
The Communications Office launched a redesigned Swarthmore website in April 2012. Swarthmore.edu now provides an improved navigational experience, a sharper focus on featured content, and better conveys the beauty of campus and provides a stronger sense of place. The redesign touched virtually every academic and administrative department, representing about 85 sites and about 5,500 individual pages and components.
Since launching the new site, Swarthmore.edu has experienced a sustained increase in traffic. Page views increased from an average of 8.8 million page views (2011) to 9.8 million (2013). This represents an 11 percent increase in overall traffic to the site. In addition, the overall average time that visitors spend on the site doubled, from 3:25 to 6:36 minutes. The average pages/session also increased from 2.68 to 2.93 pages and the bounce rate fell from 49 to 46. These indicators suggest visitors are in fact spending more time on the site and are exploring different sections of the site.
In addition to the site redesign, we launched the sesquicentennial website on Dec. 16, 2013. On that day alone, the site received 1,272 unique visitors and had 10,694 page views-a quarter of all traffic to swarthmore.edu. Since its launch, the sesqui site has received more than 10,255 unique visitors and over 64,300 total page views. Visitors spend an average of three minutes on the site at a time, viewing about four pages per visit.
Oversee the development of a Swarthmore mobile site
We initially planned to proceed with this project in parallel to the conversion to a new CMS this academic year. However, after not making sufficient progress on this front, we decided to uncouple the two projects late last year. We are now primed to switch to a new CMS in July, after which work on the mobile site will resume.
Engage our constituency groups, particularly alumni, by further developing the College's social media presence
Since Sept. 1, 2012, the College's Facebook likes have increased from 3,826 to 5,705, 49 percent increase. The rise in followers is due to engagement campaigns such as #ThrowbackThursday, #SesquiSpotlight, and posting at more strategic times. The three most popular posts have occurred since Feb. 2014 (tracking became available in Sept. 2012).
Since Sept. 1, 2012, the College Twitter followers has increased from 1,916 to 4,200, a 119 percent increase. The rise in followers is due to engagement campaigns such as #Swat100 and #Swat150, as well as a rise in the popularity of the medium. The three most retweeted, favorite, and clicked tweets in the profile's history have occurred since Aug. 2013 (tracking became available in Sept. 2012).
The College launched its Instagram account in Sept. 1, 2013. The College currently has 700 followers, which is on par with peer institutions. Campaigns such as #SwatPhoto have helped make Instagram that social media platform with the highest engagement among prospective and current students.