Farewell 2012: A notable year for mStoner
I’m not sorry to see 2012 go. In the living of it, and in retrospect, it seems like a difficult year in many respects. Lots of political angst, a divisive election, and growing anxiety about how higher education is serving our nation and the world. I call this meme “the edupocalypse” — only half-jokingly.
Nevertheless, it’s been a banner year for mStoner: we’ve accomplished a lot. I’d like to share some of what we’ve done and feel proud about in our year-end report. (Here’s last year’s.)
I organized this report a bit differently than in previous years. I’ve been thinking about mStoner’s stakeholders and realized that, as an owner of mStoner, there are three groups of stakeholders I really care about:
- Our clients. We work for some outstanding institutions. Among them are world-class research institutions dedicated to innovation and to teaching and learning. Their discoveries can truly change the world. Yet even though not all of the institutions we serve have that kind of reach, every single one of them makes a real difference in people’s lives — helping them to learn, to grow, and to change their own world. Such lofty goals provide powerful inspiration for us, providing even more incentives for us to do our absolute best work for our clients.
- Our community. We’re incredibly grateful for the colleagues and friends who collaborate with us, share ideas, insights and resources, ask hard questions, and work to make highered a better-informed, closer-knit community. We’re dedicated to contributing our share of resources and knowledge to help others, as they’ve helped us.
- My mStoner colleagues. All of us at mStoner are blessed: we work with smart people who are dedicated to each other and to our clients.
Finally, I’m also interested in the rest of .edu: there are people whom we haven’t had the opportunity to meet yet. I want them to know about mStoner and for us to learn about their needs and challenges.
So, keeping everyone in mind, here’s some of what made 2012 a great year for us at mStoner…
Clients and client work
Our clients entrust us to work on their most important marketing and communications assets. Seriously. In today’s online, mobile, social world, there’s no more important destination than an institution’s website — unless it’s the others essential online assets like blogs, the YouTube channel, Facebook presence(s), and Twitter feeds that comprise the current online ecosystem.
We were fortunate to complete projects for more than 17 institutions this year, with notable launches at the University of Idaho, North Carolina A&T, the College of DuPage, the Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University, Becker College, National Louis University, Widener University, Spring Arbor University, Webster University, and UC Hastings School of Law.
We’re particularly proud of our work for Webster University and UC Hastings. They built responsive sites, which will resize appropriately for a variety of devices and screen sizes from mobile phones to desktop monitors. And we implemented a responsive design for Clarkson University — the original site launched so long ago — in 2011, to be precise.
A website redesign always makes a big splash because there’s something to look at and play with. However, many of our projects are less visible and more focused on helping clients solve problems, build capacity, or lay the groundwork for a larger initiative. We completed major analysis and strategy projects this year — for Fordham University, the American University in Paris, the College of Idaho, Georgia Tech, the Northwestern University Alumni Association, and the University of Arkansas — and worked with the Office of the President at Columbia University to plan and develop the web presence for an imporant, campus-wide initiative (this site will launch in Q1 2013). We did smaller strategy projects for the Kentucky Community and Technical College System, Muhlenberg College, the Pingry School, and Princeton University’s Office of Undergraduate Admission.
Although we’re known for our websites, we’re proud of our work in print, too. The viewbook we designed for The Ensworth School won Best in Category, Promotional Campaigns from the Printing Industry Association of the South. And, in February, the student recruitment piece we developed in partnership with William & Mary was the focus of a Chronicle of Higher Education article on alternatives to the traditional viewbook.
I’ve always believed that mStoner has a responsibility to contribute to our community and to the advancement of professional knowledge in our field. In fact, it’s a strong ethic for everyone: all of us at mStoner recognize the importance of sharing what we learn with our community through articles, blog posts, conference presentations, and webinars.
In 2012, we launched an important initiative and announced two others:
- In February, we launched EDUniverse. The website is a hub where members of the highered communications, PR, marketing, web, social media community can share ideas and content–blog posts, articles, white papers, presentation handouts. And they can go there to find inspiration and ideas for their own writing or projects. Anyone can browse EDUniverse, but what really powers the site are the contributions from more than 650 members. We curate the site and highlight signficant contributions on key pages. We thank SCVNGR, edUi, Hannon Hill, and EDUCheckup for sponsoring the site in 2012: sponsorships help to pay for maintenance, hosting, and other expenses.
- In October, we announced that Higher Ed Live, a network of live-streamed interviews and discussions about significant topics in higher ed founded by Seth Odell, was merging with EDUniverse. We’ll work on fully integrating the two websites this year.
- In September, we announced that we’ll publish our first book, Social Works: How #HigherEd Uses #SocialMedia to Raise Money, Build Awareness, Recruit Students and Get Results. Social Works contains 25 detailed case studies illustrating how 28 institutions in the US, the UK, and South Africa used social media, along with other channels, in successful campaigns to recruit students, raise money, muster public support for institutional projects, create brand awareness, and boost alumni affiliation.
In thinking about these efforts, we realized that we could achieve significant synergies in the future by linking the EDUniverse website, Higher Ed Live, and our books. So we created a subsidiary corporation, EDUniverse Media, where all of these efforts can cohabit. Stay tuned: we have some exciting ideas we hope to begin to realize this year.
I’m pleased to say that mStoner staff members — including Susan Evans, Doug Gapinski, Kylie Stanley Larson, Voltaire Miran, Mallory Wood, Fran Zablocki, and me — were active on the conference circuit this year. We presented at CIC’s President’s Institute, CASE Social Media and Community, the CASE Summit, CASE Europe, HighEdWeb, SUNY-CUAD, AMA’s Symposium on the Marketing of Higher Education, the Web Conference at Penn State, UCDA Design Summit, and others.
And this year we released the third annual findings from the CASE/mStoner/Slover Linett survey of social media in advancement and published a white paper with the findings and case studies.
We also had a record year for blog posts and webinars. mStoner staff posted to our blog 135 times and conducted 11 webinars — covering topics ranging from responsive web design to capital campaign websites to content and video strategy to how college and university presidents use social media.
Quite a few things happened this year that are primarily significant to our own team. We launched a new website in Q2. We worked hard on the visual redesign, moved the site to WordPress, integrated our blog with the site, and introduced new sections for staff bios and our work. The big challenge was moving more than 800 blog posts from our old blog, but, we can say proudly, that all the posts and comments were incorporated on the new site.
In August, our St. Louis team moved into new office space in the vibrant Delmar Loop, on one of the 10 Great Streets in America. This is a big deal: we’d been looking for the right space for a couple of years — now, we can accommodate our project management team, our business and operations staff, and our developers.
It’s really gratifying to me that some of the most talented people who work in communications, marketing, and social media for colleges and universities want to work at mStoner. And we’ve been fortunate in recruiting some top people this year. Our team continued to grow in experience as we brought in talented new people in new positions and to take the place of existing team members who took on different roles in the company. Four new people have external roles:
- Fran Zablocki, who worked at Nazareth College and SUNY-Geneseo, joined us in January as a project manager. In September, we tapped him to lead a new initiative we’ll announce in January.
- Kylie Stanley Larson joined us in April as a project manager. Kylie came to us from Vanderbilt. Aside from her responsibilities with clients, she took over management of our book project in September, to my immense relief and eternal gratitude.
- Chris Decatur freelanced for us for several months and we liked him so much we invited him to join our design team; he began working full-time for us in October.
- Kevin Pastore also came on-board in October. Kevin brings a wealth of experience in Drupal and will lead our growing Drupal practice. He’s already been instrumental in developing the Drupal-based product we’re working on with Buzzr.
- Finally, in December, Sarah Eva Monroe joined us as senior creative director after serving the Obama for America Campaign as senior advertising strategist. Sarah Eva’s role is to reorganize our creative team and deliver even more awesome (and more effective) work for our clients.
Of course, not all our team members work on projects for and with our clients. But that doesn’t mean that they don’t have a big impact on our business. Autumn Pearce joined us in April as office administrator, making sure that our business runs efficiently.
All in all, 2012 is a year we’re celebrating at mStoner. And we’re already looking forward to 2013. We’ll announce news about another talented team member who joins our team later in January. And we’re eager to see what challenges this new year brings.