The Value of Strategy
At mStoner, the strategy phase of a project is the foundation for everything we do. It’s when we get to know you as a client—your strategic goals, your campus culture, your resources and staffing. It’s how we get a sense of place—what students and faculty talk about when they talk about you and how your particular combination of mission, location, and programming meets their particular combination of ambition, ability and personality. It’s how we understand your brand and help you find ways to better communicate that brand. To be honest, we don’t know how you write or design something without some sense of what you’re trying to say, who you’re trying to say it to, and why they should care. Now, that all may sound like the strategy phase makes it easier for us to do our jobs, but it also helps you do your job. Especially when it comes to managing and selling a project internally, the strategy phase has significant benefits for our clients. They include:
Getting a clear sense of expectations:
You may think you know all the things that are wrong with your website. How it looks. How it works (or doesn’t). How it’s maintained. But your hopes and dreams for a new website might not be the same as the head of enrollment’s, or the advancement team’s, or your current students’, or your faculty’s. Getting a comprehensive sense of all of those needs and expectations, and then prioritizing them—let me say that again, “and then prioritizing them”—will ensure your web or print communication project meets as many of those needs as possible.
Getting buy in:
Related to assessing the needs and expectations of your constituents is making those constituents feel like they’ve got a stake in the project, that their voices have been heard and the project is being informed by what they had to say. The conversations that happen during the strategy—whether in face to face focus groups or online surveys—give your constituents that sense of participation and buy-in. That doesn’t mean you have to do every single thing every constituent asks—trying to make everybody happy only results in making most people not too unhappy—but it means you have listened to what people have to say and weighed their considerations. In fact, getting this buy in gives you even more authority NOT to do what everyone says. It puts you in a position to say, “we talked to all of these constituents and made this decision because . . .“
You live your institution and its communication issues every day, and while you may need help coming up with solutions to your web communication problems, you’ve likely already made a diagnosis of what’s wrong. The strategy phase provides you with a second opinion, validating, and often expanding on, the conclusions you’ve already drawn. It lets you measure your own insights and assumptions against those of a team who has done tons of website overhauls and print campaigns. It also provides you with a third party voice to re-iterate concerns you’ve already raised with campus leadership or to call attention to issues that, for political reasons, you can’t raise. We can say things you can’t. And if only because of our outside perspective, our voice carries a weight yours might not. All of those insights come through the strategy part of the mStoner process.
Getting a smart, sustainable solution.
The strategy phase is also where we assess your communication and IT teams and make recommendations regarding staffing and governance. It’s also where we review your technical infrastructure and user needs to make recommendations for content management systems. We also use the strategy process to suggest how to better integrate social media with your other communication efforts. In other words, we help you sort out all the stuff that makes the pretty website that everyone sees actually work.