Let’s ask ourselves: How do people find information about my Extension program? How do they find ways to participate?  Plus the critical follow up: How much do people like the interactions they have with my team?

Doing Extension work well is based on the answers to these fundamental questions. The answers inform how we plan any of our outreach and communication efforts.

To reach answers to the questions, everyone on your team must understand the essence of the experiences your constituents have.

Journey mapping is an exercise we use to shed light on that.

Shine a bright light on any areas where your constituents’ feedback says they have a less-than-perfectly-delightful experience… and your team can make a plan to turn that around!

What is a Constituent Journey Map?

A journey map is a type of diagram. It’s a visual representation of an experience as viewed from the direct perspective of one constituent (or constituent group) with whom your Extension program interacts. The important piece is that everything in the diagram is meant to capture the experience of your constituents themselves. This is not about your program team’s perspective.

While journey maps come in many different forms, commonly it is represented as a timeline of all the touchpoints between a constituent and your program—i.e. what they see from outreach efforts, materials they read, places they go, and people with whom they talk. This timeline contains information about all channels your constituents use to interact with you.

A user journey map template. Image: NNGroup

What are the parts of a journey map?

A journey map facilitates analysis of a journey in elements like:

  • Persona – what are the characteristics of an average program participant or constituent
  • Stages — does the journey proceed through distinct phases of interaction?
  • Incremental steps — such as those that help complete a specific process
  • Touchpoints — how does the person come in contact with your program?
  • Technology used (if any)
  • Amount of effort — is the constituent passively receiving info or filling out a form (or other task), e.g.

What design problems do journey maps help us solve?

Primarily, the goal is to visualize how a constituent interacts with our services and allows program design to occur in a way that takes a constituent’s point of view into account. The approach leads to:

  • Improved services to a specific audience
  • Helping discover ways to align audience’s experience with your program’s strategic priorities
  • Exploring potential problems that may have arisen in surveys or feedback
  • Planning for a transition or change in direction

This fosters a constituent-centric approach to designing our efforts, which ultimately leads to a better experience for them.

Example of a completed constituent journey map

The seven steps to create a journey map

1. Choose scope

The scope of the constituent journey map can vary from the high level showing complete, end-to-end experience to a more detailed map focusing on one particular engagement—for example, registering for a workshop.

2. Create a persona

Who is your constituent? In constituent-centered design and communication planning, personas are profiles of fictional characters created to represent the different types of Oregonians that have similar service needs. A persona should be created based on information you have about your audience(s). Having solid information about an audience will help prevent making false assumptions.

Tips for creating a persona:

  • Collaborate with team members who interact directly with this audience
  • Look for commonalities and patterns among various individuals
  • You may create multiple personas to represent different groups
  • Base your persona characteristics on data you have collected

3. Define the constituent’s expectations

It is important to define what expectations the people in the specified audience may have about the interactions described in the journey map. For example, one scenario may be a person using a Google search to find information pertaining to a workshop. Here, the expectation may be that the workshop’s title will appear in the search results and the link will proceed to a page full of detailed information on the webpage.

Meaning that in some cases, the expectation is fairly simple and straightforward. In other cases, more complexity is involved. The key is to be on the lookout for where things get more complicated. This can lead you to the source of frustration—one of the pain points mentioned below—some will feel when they’re trying to complete a task.

4. List all the touchpoints

Touchpoints are actions taken by the constituent and also interactions they have with your program. It is important to identify all main touchpoints to establish as much empathy as possible for how, where, and when your constituents add to the perception they have of your program and how it communicates out into the world.

5. Take constituent intention into account

What motivates your constituents to engage with your program, to view online content, or to sign up for newsletters? Another way to look at this is to ask what specific problems are people hoping to solve when they decide to reach out to you online? Different segments of your audience will have different reasons for engaging.

Let’s use an average e-commerce website as an example. There is a difference between a shopper who is just browsing through many options and one who wants to arrive to the website to accomplish a specific purchase. The design choices on how to display information or options—such as a “buy now” button—would take the differences into account.

For each journey map, it’s vital to understand:

  • Motivation – why are they trying to do it?
  • Channels – where are interactions taking place
  • Actions – the actual behaviors and steps taken by people
  • Pain points – what challenges arise as people are trying to complete tasks

6. Create a first draft of your journey map

Mark Kindred will work with you, guiding the process of filling in the components of your team’s journey map. Or simply start building your own map. Try to account for all the timeline elements that you can related to your program. This can be a fun exercise, and the idea is the results will have a positive effect on all the various types of communications you have with your audiences.

7. Perform an assessment and refine the map

It is important to point out that journey maps should result in truthful narratives (or as close as you can get).

You should plan to use information from the Extension website’s content analytics dashboard as evidence that your journey map resembles real use cases. Gather and analyze information about your audiences on a regular basis. For example, participant feedback (do you send out online surveys?) is something that can be used to improve your team’s understanding of their experiences.

Your journey map assessment yields:

  • Where are the opportunities to combine separate steps to produce a streamlined experience?
  • Which steps represent pain points people experience and how might those be changed to improve the experience?
  • Which steps require exerting the most effort and how might you reduce the effort?
  • Where do people encounter a “moment of truth” type of event that makes or breaks their experience or leads to different outcomes (perhaps different than intended)?

Conclusion

The most critical thing to remember is that the goal here is to create a journey map that helps everyone share the same vision for your program.

You may start collecting the parts of the map today and share them with your team or colleagues who are familiar with the audience you’re serving. Let them weigh in and make it more and more accurate.

Make it possible for everyone on your team to examine the entire experience from the constituents’ point of view then leverage the information while designing various aspects of your program.

 


About the Navigator digital engagement team. In the coming months, many of you will hear from me as I produce a long-term CRM strategy for OSU Extension. I look forward to talking with you and ensuring the CRM plans are in alignment with the business needs of your unit and the long-term vision of the university. The Navigator team is looking forward to talking with you about how digital engagement is aligned with your work and can provide new benefits.

Extension website updates.

  • The Extension web team is aware of recent incidents of website pages that may load more slowly than normal and is investigating the issue to get it resolved. An important point is slow load times seem to be isolated to Extension employees who are logged in to the website content management system at the time. The web team does not expect average visitors to be impacted by this issue. If you have any questions, please contact us via the support form.
  • Information about Content Teams and Web Groups has been updated on the Content Teams/Web Groups page. Please review the information for a content team or group with which you are involved for accuracy.

“There are clear champions related to the digital strategy,” said Anita Azarenko at a quarterly conversation last summer. “Is there a way to capture that enthusiasm, that energy, to help the web and content strategy team help others? I’m not saying put more on your plate because some of you are already doing this, but how can you help others make this transition?”

At our Extension annual conference in December, our web team saw some champions at work. We observed Extension faculty coaching colleagues on producing peer-reviewed educational content. We heard people talking about how topic pages or journey maps function. And we had full rooms of people at our sessions hoping to learn more and get their questions answered.

We also want to recognize the 50 people who were most active in 2019 to keep the content current. They dove in and put things into the new content management system, so it could show up on the Extension website. Thank you!

Looking forward

As we start the new year, we will look for champions who share their best practices or how-to tips with others. Or, implement new processes as a team. Here are 3 ways you can contribute in 2020 to helping your colleagues:

  1. Convene your group or team to put together a content calendar or make decisions about recurring questions
  2. Subscribe to these blog posts to stay up to date, and share as a regular agenda item at your future meetings
  3. Join others to present a peer-based training or contribute your thoughts in a Navigator blog post

Jen Holt, who coordinates Oregon Master Beekeeper and Oregon Bee Atlas programs, shared her experiences with the transition.

“At first, I was a slightly unwilling participant. I had an established program with an existing website that had served us well for many years,” she explained during the Extension annual conference.

“Yet, once I got started I grew in my understanding and use of the new Extension website. I have been using this website for a year now, and the finished product greatly exceeds what we were using in the past.”

She admits the hardest part is learning the terminology, but that the help docs can be your friend. She likes that new pathways of involvement are now available online:

  • The interactive features for the general public to have their questions answered
  • The ability to highlight a list of their publications and events based on tags
  • A way to tie into the larger OSU and Extension community.

View her slides and notes for her presentation.

Would you like to share your experiences in a future blog post? Contact us to let us know.

Roundup of Web Updates during 2019

If you missed out on reading the posts last year or want a recap, this roundup will get you on track with what we did:
  • Launched new designs for county landing pages, local focus areas and the Extension homepage. We also made it easier to show different style formats.
  • Added many new tools groups can see when logged into the site. You can now see feedback from visitors and analytics dashboards to show their activity. Also, review any revisions notes from EESC copyediting.
  • Answered over 600 support requests from Extension faculty and staff throughout the past year. As a result, we made many iterative changes to existing features to make the site work for different situations.
  • Hired a new Salesforce programmer who has met with different groups. He shared how this new constituent relationship management system can apply to Extension’s work in the future.
  • Held trainings around the state, and taught how to use OSU tools like Box or Beav.es for file and link management. We also created new how-to videos to familiarize you with the website.
  • Outlined everyone’s content management roles, and how to count your web activities in Digital Measures. We also integrated your awards and publications from Digital Measures into your profiles.
  • Shared tips on sprucing up newsletters or catching the attention of web visitors. We also added tools or data-informed recommendations for improving content’s readability, accessibility and findability online.

This month, we released a content analytics dashboard for content groups on the Extension website. Now, the most useful data about your content is in a simplified interface that you can access directly from the Extension website. 

Many thanks and kudos to the EESC web team’s student employee Hawii Boriyo, who implemented the dashboard and helped greatly with it’s planning and design!

How to access the dashboard

When you log in to the Extension website and go to the group content page for one of your groups, you will see a new “Analytics” tab at the top of the page. Clicking on this tab will take you to the dashboard for the content in that group.

On the top of the dashboard, there is a link to “See analytics for all of Extension” that expands the data displayed on the dashboard to include all content on the Extension website, so you can see how your content compares.

In the future, we plan to implement additional dashboard views that can provide data about individual pieces of content as well as all content by a particular author and program area.

Data available on the dashboard

Dashboard screenshot

The dashboard is broken up into several sections:

  • Top content: this section contains information about
    • How often content from the group is viewed (pageviews)
    • How many people visit the group’s content (users)
    • How long on average that people spend viewing the content
    • The most visited pages in the group
  • How visitors find us: this section contains information about\
    • The way that visitors find content produced by the group (see the help text on the right-hand side of the dashboard for definitions)
    • Websites, both internal and external to OSU, that link to the group’s content  

Dashboard screenshot

  • About the visitors: this section contains information about
    • The approximate locations of visitors who view  content from the group
    • The preferred languages of visitors to the group’s content
    • The types of devices used by visitors to access the content
    • How many times visitors visit content in the group
  • Visitor navigation: if you are a member of a program group, you will see this section with information about the first and last pages visitors go to when they visit the group pages
  • What visitors look for: when you look at the dashboard for all content on the Extension website, you will see this section with information about the most common terms visitors enter in the search box on the Extension website. It also shows the most common terms people enter that return no results.

 

How to use the dashboard controls

There are several controls on the dashboard you can use to expand or restrict the data you see. 

  • Date range: at the top of the dashboard there is a dropdown widget where you can select the date range for the data shown on the dashboard.
  • Page title: in the “Top Content” section, there is a widget you can use to see data about only a specific page or set of pages. To do this, type in the title of the page and press enter. If you don’t know the exact name of the page, you can click on the box that says “EQUALS” to reveal a dropdown where you can select “CONTAINS” instead.
  • Search terms: in the “What visitors look for” section on the all Extension dashboard, you can filter to see if the search terms contain a particular word. To do this:
    • Click on “EQUALS” to reveal a dropdown and select “CONTAINS”
    • Type in the word you want to filter by and press enter

How to interpret the data

The content analytics dashboard provides quantitative data about content, meaning that you will need to do some interpretation in order to find actionable takeaways. These dashboards can be useful to see if outreach or content strategies you are trying lead to an intended change. Here are some tips for doing this:

  • Identify gaps and opportunities
    • The “About the Visitors” section may show you audiences that you may not be effectively serving up to this point. Do you have content relevant to the places they are from? Do you have content in the language(s) they prefer?
    • On the flip side, this section may reveal that audiences you have heavily focused on in the past are not using your content as often as you would like. If this is the case, you may need to do some outreach to figure out why this is or reconsider where you are directing your efforts.
    • In the “How visitors find us” section, look at the sites that are linking to your content. Is your content appropriate for people coming from those sites? Are there any sites you know of that you would like to link to you?
    • The “What visitors look for” section may identify topics visitors are interested in that your group has expertise in.
  • Look for trends and outliers
    • In the “Top content” section, look for pages that are more popular than others, pages where people spend more time than average. Then, you can see what about that content  could help to bring the rest of your content up to that level.
      • One way to do this for pages is to look at the feedback on the page.
    • Also look at the pageviews over time graph at the top of the dashboard for times when pageviews spiked. Do you know why the spike happened? Can you make that happen again?
      • If you don’t know where a spike in pageviews came from, try narrowing the date range for the dashboard to only that day and look at the “Where visitors come from” section.

In the new year, we will work to do some online tutorials or webinars to offer more suggestions on analyzing your content data, answer your questions, and hear from you on other analytics that may be useful. 

Web updates

  • If you are filling out your Digital Measures, read this blog post from earlier in the year about how to count your web efforts this year.
  • Events now can add related content. Using the new field, select existing content by title and it will be featured on the bottom of the event page. This can be useful for people to learn more about the topic or presenter.
  • Topic resources pages and search results can now be filtered by audience.
  • When creating an event, there is now the option to hide the address and instead display “Location details will be provided to attendees.”
  • County landing pages can now display up to 5 local focus areas.

If you saw something at the 2019 EAC you found especially interesting and I’m not covering it here… We encourage you to scroll down to the “Leave a reply” section. Please post a comment to describe how we can help.

On behalf of the Navigator team and others in EESC, just a quick “thank you” to all who had conversations with us, stopped by our table, or simply listened in on the exciting ways in which we have been working to empower digital engagement for Extension in 2019.

What is Navigator? Navigator is a customer-focused system to engage Oregonians and deliver information across multiple channels

In case you missed one of our teams’ sessions, or were looking for a way to rekindle some of the excitement building up around what was presented, here are some downloadable presentation materials we think can help you build ideas for digital engagement in your program area or office.

 

1. DIY Extension Marketing

Michele Scheib, Ann Marie Murphy, Chris Branum, Nicole Strong

Creating awareness of the value of Extension and recruiting participants and volunteers is often top of mind and can be a challenge for Extension offices and programs. This session shared tools, ideas and experience to help market Extension in your county and region from a variety of people and perspectives.

Download presentation

From the Extension Website User Guide

 

2. Extension Website Lightning Talks

Bryan Mayjor, Amerie Lommen, Michele Scheib, Jen Holt, Mark Kindred

The Extension website is more powerful than many realize. In this session, we presented short lightning talks on tips and tricks for using the Extension website and related tools, reporting impact (including Digital Measures), best practices and requirements for web content (including accessibility for visitors with disabilities), and news about upcoming milestones in Extension’s digital strategy, including CRM development.

Download presentation

Handouts

 

3. Building a CRM Practice in Extension Programs: the How & the Why

Mark Kindred, Carrie Berger, Daniel Leavell

The Extension Service is scaling up its use of CRM (Constituent Relationship Management) software as a digital tool to increase efficiency and strengthen productivity. For each program across Extension, the scope and scale of a CRM practice will differ. This presentation highlighted the steps undertaken to assess, plan, and implement a CRM practice using Salesforce. Learn what worked, what didn’t, and why this digital solution was necessary for helping the program achieve its goals.

Download presentation

 

 

4. Who Did What? Simple Secrets to Effective Writing

Jim Sloan and Janet Donnelly

This humorous, interactive session described the basic rules for writing for a general audience. We covered how to outline your material, how to structure sentences and paragraphs, and how to develop a writing style that engages and entertains readers. This session is helpful and inspirational to anyone in Extension who writes material for a lay audience.

Download presentation

 

 

5. Extension Efficiency and
Growth Opportunities

Amerie Lommen, Xenia Velasco, Mark Kindred, Jeff Sherman, KJ Knight, Kevin Leahy, Raul Burriel

A panel that helped foster ideas for social resilience and growth mindset, intergenerational marketing, community engagement, sustainable growth, keeping up meeting and event attendance within the community, reaching the next generation, and more!

Download presentation

 


About the Navigator digital engagement team. In the coming months, many of you will hear from me as I produce a long-term CRM strategy for OSU Extension. I look forward to talking with you and ensuring the CRM plans are in alignment with the business needs of your unit and the long-term vision of the university. The Navigator team is looking forward to talking with you about how digital engagement is aligned with your work and can provide new benefits.

Many of us use the Extension website mostly or exclusively for adding and organizing content, so we don’t always know how our audiences use or experience the site. Google Analytics records some quantitative statistics such as the number of visits a page receives, but it’s hard to imagine the actual human beings behind the numbers. When you say that a page got 10,000 pageviews, all that you know is that the page was requested that many times. If you want to actually improve the content on the page, you need to ask more “qualitative” questions such as:

  • Did these visitors find the information they were looking for?
  • What did they do most often on the page? 
  • Were they able to understand the content?

This summer, EESC implemented a few new features on the Extension website that collect qualitative data and answer these kinds of questions.

Collecting audience feedback

The first feature is a “feedback widget” on the right-hand side of every page:

When a visitor clicks on the widget, a small window comes up asking them “Did you find what you were looking for?” They then score a page on a scale of 1-5 (represented by smiley faces). After they score the page, they have the opportunity to leave a comment and, optionally, their email address if they would like a response to the comment.

Another way we are collecting visitor feedback is a “poll” we have set up on all 4-H pages. We can set up similar polls on other pages, but we decided to focus on 4-H for the summer because we knew 4-H members would be using the site heavily for fair season.

This window, asking “Quick question: How can we improve this page? Is anything missing?”, pops up from the bottom of the page after a visitor has had a chance to look around for several seconds. When they comment, they also have the option to leave their email address if they would like a response.

Finally, at the bottom of most pages, visitors see a small form asking “Was this page helpful?” They can select “Yes” or “No” and have an option to leave a (non-public) comment.

So far, through all three tools, feedback has been left 10,126 times. Of these, 8,659 (~86%) were positive. Comments were left along with the rating 1,175 times.

Finding the feedback on your content

Content authors and group members can view feedback on their content directly through the Extension website.  

To view feedback (including comments) for an individual piece of content, go to the content and click the “Feedback” tab under the content’s title. It is near the “Edit” tab.

To see an overview of feedback scores for all content in a group, go to that group’s group content page (the list of content in the group). Then click the “Feedback” tab under the group name. This will take you to a list of all content with feedback in the group. To see the comments left for a particular piece of content, you can click on “Details” in it’s row on this page.

Seeing audience behavior

EESC also has access to a tool to create “heat maps” of individual pages. A heat map is an overlay over the page that shows where visitors to that page click (or just hover) their mouse. Where people click more often (or hover longer), the colored overlay is brighter. For example, here is part of a heat map of a previous version of the home page:

Heat maps are very useful for figuring out what controls on the page people use the most. When you know that, you can prioritize what controls or links should be in these more prominent spots. If you have made changes to a topic page, county page, or program subpage and want to see what people are clicking on or how far they scroll down the page, please contact us and we can work with you using this tool. 

Takeaways and lessons

EESC has been using data from visitor feedback to plan several improvements for the site, including:

  • Several users left comments to the effect that they couldn’t figure out phone/visiting situation with our Portland office, so we are planning to make some small design updates for that page that will make it clearer.
  • We noticed that several visitors who left a comment saying they were unable to submit an Ask an Expert question were all using a particular version of the Android operating system. This gave us a clue about where to start looking for glitches in the system.
  • We used heat maps to help with designs for several program landing pages and the website home page.

Feedback, particularly comments, can also be very useful to content authors. Many times a visitor will ask a follow-up question or request further information that maybe wasn’t originally included, and they can reveal places where the information isn’t clear or is outdated. It’s useful to look at the “feedback” tab when updating your content.

Here are some general tips for improving content based on common visitor feedback:

  • Use high-quality, illustrative images. Many users comment about the images (or lack thereof) that go with an article. Most are asking for images on articles that don’t have any, and others compliment the quality of our existing images.
  • Keep your writing as short and clear as possible. When giving positive feedback about our content, visitors often use words like “succinct”, “concise”, “brief”, “clear” and “quick”. These are qualities that leave a positive impression on readers and make the information easier to understand and use.
  • Put important links on the main page (i.e., not just the sidebar). From heat maps, we know that when visitors first come to a page, they often skip over the sidebar and focus on content on the “main” part of the page. This is especially true on mobile, where the sidebar gets pushed to the top of the page before visitors can get any context. Quick link bars are a great option for highlighting important links, such as links to newsletters, event lists, or active social media profiles.

Sample positive feedback

The Extension website has an overwhelmingly positive rating from visitors, and it is important that everyone who has contributed it hears it. In that spirit, here are just some of the supportive and positive comments left by visitors to the Extension website. You may also want to look at these as examples to get ideas for your own content:

  • 4-H forms and events
    • “I really appreciate the details you have put here for us to have access to on the weekends! Thank you for helping our kids!!” [State 4-H record books pagekudos to the state 4-H team!]
    • “Thank You So Much. We don’t have enough info about Record Books and this helps outs Tremendously!” [Benton County 4-H record books pagekudos to the Benton County 4-H team!]
    • “Great page and really like that you can share the link with others!” [Horse judging and hippology contestkudos to the Clackamas County 4-H team!]
  • Educational articles
    • “Wonderful article! I would love to learn more in a part 2. We just bought a home with highbush blueberries in poor condition and are wondering how to best reclaim these plants.” [How blueberry plants develop and growkudos to Bernadine Strik and the Ag/Berries content team!]
    • “Thanks. Your comments are greatly appreciated. They have given me a new perspective on how to deal with Powdery Mildew early in the season.” [How to deal with a vineyard powdery mildew outbreakkudos to Jay Pscheidt and the Ag/Wine grapes team!]
    • “Thank you very much for the information provided in this article. I am just thinking about pasture and have no experience. This is a great start for northern pasture growers and I hope it will be beneficial to my starting out.” [Pasture and grazing managementkudos to the Ag/Dairy team!]
    • “Lots of information and the pictures really helped thanks.” [What are those worms in my firewood?kudos to the Forestry and Natural Resources team!]
  • Educational collections
    • “Thank you so much for making this information available, and all the work that went into it! I appreciate it very much! And thank you also for making it affordable, this is a huge help to me. Have a great day!” [Native plant gardeningkudos to the Ag/Home Hort team!]
    • “Thank you for making so much of your information easily available! So grateful for it.” [Poultry resources for small farmskudos to the Small Farms team!]
  • Educational videos
    • “I like them. Easy to try out, and following the steps well.” [Basic steppingkudos to the Better Bones and Balance team!]
  • Events
    • “We love the OSU Extension Service. You have provided a wealth of information to us over the years and we are so thankful. You are always gracious and kind and willing to share your knowledge, expertise and tips! Way-to-go, Beavs!!” [Master Gardener Fall Festivalkudos to the Lane County team!]
    • “I am hoping I can go!!! I currently do my own chili meat but have not had any formal education in pressure canning meat. This looks great.” [Pressure canning convenience foods workshopkudos to the Deschutes County team!]
    • “All of the information that I needed was on this page. Great job!” [Thinning and Selective Management in Mature Forestskudos to the Clackamas County team!]
  • Focus areas
    • “Moving in the spring to Salem. Looking forward to starting a new garden. I’ll be back to this site… (and back, and back, and…)” [Community Horticulture, Marion Countykudos to the Marion County team!]
  • Program information
    • “Excellent lessons for seniors! I will use them in my Cooperative Extension Classes in NJ Thank you!” [FCE Lessons, health topicskudos to the Family and Community Educators team!]
    • “I’m new to Oregon and hungry for any information about my new home. I have always wanted to be a Master Gardener and am delighted to have the possibility to combine these two goals. Thank you very much!”’ [Linn/Benton MG, How to joinKudos to the Linn-Benton MG team!]
    • “Thank you! You took the frustration out of finding the info. This was one of the main reasons I wait until the last minute to fill out my forms – to avoid the hassle. Now, it seems it will be easy, so I can and will do it right away in the future!!” [Metro MG 2019 volunteer log sheetkudos to the Metro MG team!]

(Some comments have been edited for readability.)

A trip to the apple orchard this past weekend led to rows of trees available for picking. Fallen apples lay scattered across the ground; low branches held a few ripe pieces in easy reach. This season, the website content is in a similar situation. Fallen apples represent the bushels of content that need to be cleaned up. The low hanging fruit is a handful of easy tasks to get started on.

If we want our visitors engaged and involved with Extension, then we have to be active too in providing relevant and current resources. If our online content becomes outdated, such as an article with crop statistics from 2002, then potential clients may begin to wonder about our advice. It’s easy enough to update, or leave out, time-dated information if it’s not essential to the article.

Updating your web content maintains trust and loyalty with Extension’s audiences. It also helps search engine optimization and builds the confidence of new visitors about our authority on the topics.

Cleaning the content

A year ago, the majority of archived county and program sites on Drupal 6 sites went away for good. The flurry in putting content on the new website meant some content didn’t get thoroughly reviewed. Others got left in Box unless someone asked for it.

Do you have content that needs a second look? Some of the low hanging tasks could include:

  • Look on your groups page, filter by “events” and archive any old events that no longer need to be visible to the public.
  • Ask EESC for a spreadsheet that shows all content for your group listed by publication date. Then start reviewing the oldest among them. If you’re unsure it’s worth updating, search around to see if there’s content that is similar or think about how it could be repurposed.
  • Look at the the Box files or content in your groups folder marked “draft” to see what could still be reviewed and published.

While you need to look for accuracy and completeness of the content, EESC is contributing to this process too.

  • The publishing team is copyediting your published content. Also, they are adding formatting that helps with website readability. They are currently 20% through all the web articles.
  • The web and content strategy team is fixing broken links and changing published content to correct content types. This mostly means changing educational documents to more accessible articles.
  • The administrative team is tagging catalog publications to improve findability. They are also helping with missing photos or image quality.

You can keep track of what we’re doing by looking at the “Revisions” notes tab of your content when logged in. If there are major changes, then we will email you directly with questions. Learn more in the web guide.

Keeping on top of content’s health is best managed when pruned a little each day over the winter months. Set a maintenance plan, and then come spring your resources will be fresh and ready for new growth. This will make our web visitors very happy.


Web updates

In case you missed it, last week’s blog post shared what Salesforce looks like to someone using it. This can help you in better understanding how a CRM (customer relationship management system) works.

Thank you to all the Extension program area leaders for sharing your goals with EESC in October. This will help inform our communications and content strategy over the next year. Stay tuned!

What I thought would be fun is to walk through a few actual screens people see when using the Salesforce CRM.

If you’ve never logged in to Salesforce (or any CRM) and have wondered what it is like to experience that work flow, this will be a brief window into the way this powerful software works.

There is too much to fit in just one post! But it’s worth it to try to reveal some of its features.

And not just any screens… What I will cover today is a few steps in the process of sending emails to Extension partners or constituents from directly inside the CRM and, furthermore, explain why that’s a good idea.

Let’s get started.

For a recap of posts related to Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) …

  1. What exactly is a CRM… and why should I care?
  2. Steps to build CRM capabilities for an Extension program, and how long will it take?
  3. How collaboration across Extension leads to effective use of a CRM

How it all begins…

The benefit of operating in a CRM is it provides the ability to make data-informed decisions. Check out the way this dashboard fills the screen with targeted details about an ongoing set of outreach efforts—emails, text messages, and the like.

With dynamic feedback in front of you, showing how your audience is responding to recent outreach efforts, you can step up the pace of new messages. Or perhaps the better choice may be to switch gears and reach out to folks by phone because their email response rate shows up as lower than everyone else’s.

The CRM provides the info you need to make the best choice on process and timing. Now, let’s review varying levels of email delivery.

A-B-C basics: let the CRM deliver your message

From Salesforce, sending a single email is handled on a screen that, once you take a look, bears a resemblance to any webmail software. You’ll feel right at home crafting all the parts of the message, just Salesforce does the work when you click the Send button.

Options for customizing the email message mean you have added flexibility here. It enables you to communicate with your constituents in ways that align with your team’s plans for providing support.

For instance, the email can be sent from you or from the organization and you can modify this aspect on-the-fly (right before you send). An example: if the person receiving your email chooses to reply, you may need that reply to go to a group mailbox—as it is reviewed by the team, there’s a greater chance of reacting to it right away—so in that case, send out from the team’s group address.

Not only can you customize, but the message is saved as an “event” right in the CRM. Read on to find out more about message tracking.

Step it up! Smart tools for bulk email delivery

We already know there are times when a critical message needs to be sent out to a wider audience. Think of advertising the opening of registration for a new workshop. Or an advisory committee meeting has a new start time and all committee members need to be notified right away.

In the below screen shot, we see a sample Salesforce screen showing a list that has been filtered to reveal five people set to receive your next message. The purpose of this Pending Approvals screen is to restrict the actual delivery of messages until details are fully approved by the right person on your team.

Using a special set of features in the CRM, not only can you quickly send all five people an artfully designed template-based email — a process that from this screen requires exactly two clicks — but, in fact, you can also choose to pause for a moment and add personalized comments of your own.

NOTE: we will cover email templates in more detail in a future post

So, you decide to add a personalized message to one recipient. You would use a screen like the one below. On the left side of the screen, a text box for Introduction above, and an open text box for Conclusion below it, permit personalized comments to appear at the very top and, optionally, bottom of your beautiful, HTML-format message.

Not every email can be handled in this way, but for parts of your communication plan that are incredibly repetitive, this technique can add a lot of efficiency. It’s time I am sure you would like to gain back!

Message tracking — measure the results, improve as we go

Of critical importance to us as the total number of messages we are expected to send and receive shows signs of increasing dramatically, is appropriate analytics we can use to better predict how our outreach efforts will perform.

For example, your team just used the CRM to send a message out to a large group. So far so good.

The first draft was a wall of text, a step-by-step guide instructing each recipient how to carefully negotiate a sign-up process. Your team waits to see if every recipient follows through on the steps. Do they open the email? Will they read it all thoroughly?

Or… you suddenly recall another team member’s brainstorm of placing a visually appealing photo at the top of the message. Nothing compares to a photo of OSU Extension faculty immersed in an engagement with smiling young people, who are excitedly learning about forest ecosystems. So, you wonder, would that have been a better way to engage with this audience?

Thankfully, you have the CRM dashboards you can turn to for answers to these important questions! Check out the sample screen above, offering up an Email Performance report.

This is another reason we use the CRM. Through the power of advanced analytics gathering, it collects up vital details of key performance indicators such as email open ratesclick rates — i.e how many times did the “Read more” button in that third paragraph receive a click — as well as the dreaded unsubscribe rates, which we all agree should never happen, because Extension info is just too fun and interesting!

NOTE: enhancing email message relevance as a means by which to prevent people from unsubscribing from emails is a critically important process. It is based on processes to which we can all contribute. More on this at a later time.

Conclusion and (a little) more to think about

If you are reading this far, I thank you for catching up on the power the CRM brings to managing message delivery and analytics data gathering.

Some related (and intriguing) features we haven’t yet talked about include:

  • The CRM can send SMS text messages. too
  • Pulling up one of your contacts in the CRM displays a history of messages you sent them via the CRM
  • Microsoft Outlook plugins are available to bring some CRM capabilities right into standard emails
  • Instead of manual delivery every time, certain messages can go out automatically, using customization options within the CRM

If you would like to hear more about any of these features, please reach out to me any time for discussion. I’m here to assist.

 


About the Navigator digital engagement team. In the coming months, many of you will hear from me as I produce a long-term CRM strategy for OSU Extension. I look forward to talking with you and ensuring the CRM plans are in alignment with the business needs of your unit and the long-term vision of the university. The Navigator team is looking forward to talking with you about how digital engagement is aligned with your work and can provide new benefits.

1. Reuse events from last year

Events on the Extension website automatically disappear from lists and search results once the date has passed. However, the records still exist in the system, so if an event occurs annually, you can reuse the content from the previous year. This has several benefits:

  • You can save effort now by reusing work from last year. All you need to do is update the dates (and flyer if there is one).
  • Visitors who may have bookmarked last year’s event (or find it through Google) will see current information if they visit the page again.

Instructions:

  1. Go to the group content page for the group that you originally entered the event in.
  2. If you remember the title of the event, you can search for it. Otherwise, you can select “Event” in the “Type” filter above the list of content.
  3. Once you find the previous year’s event, click the “Edit” button next to it and update the dates. This will put it back in event lists and search results.

2. Store files in Box

Box is OSU’s file storage platform. Anyone with an ONID account can store unlimited files on Box and share them with other employees or the public. Box was created specifically for file management and has many useful features, including:

  • File versioning – if the document changes each year, you can easily replace the old file with the new one without changing the link.
  • Privacy settings – you can set files up so anyone (the public) can access them, only people who know a specific password, or only people with an ONID account

Instructions:

  • There is documentation about using Box on OSU’s Box page and our Website user guide.
  • Some tips for effectively setting up files in box:
    • To share a file or folder with the public, click “Share” next to it. Then, turn on the “Enable share link” toggle. It is very important that you set the dropdown below the share link to “Anyone with the link.” Otherwise people will need to log in with an ONID to see the file.
    • There is a link near the share link box for “Link options”. This is where you can set a password to protect the file or get the “direct download” link (which allows visitors to download the file directly without seeing it in Box first).
    • Be sure to set one of your coworkers as a co-owner or editor of the file, in case you leave or otherwise can no longer access it someday.
  • When you have the “share link” for the file, create a program resource and select “External website” as the resource type. This will give you a field to paste the link.

3. Break up long pages

If you have long pages that are difficult to scan, there are options to make it a little easier: page section settings and nested pages.

Page sections:

For most page sections, you can configure:

  • Background color (alternating background colors is a good way to break up the page)
  • List style (you can make lists more condensed by using a “Text list” style, which doesn’t display images with items in the list)
  • Section id (you can use section IDs to create a “table of contents” at the top of the page that links to sections further down)

Instructions:

  1. Edit the page
  2. At the top of where page sections are configured on the edit screen, there are two tabs: “Content” and “Settings”
  3. When you switch to the settings tab, you can configure options for each section

Nested pages:

One of the best ways to help a long page is to break it up into several shorter pages. Then, to prevent the sidebar from getting unwieldy, you can nest the new pages under the original, so they only appear in the sidebar when the parent is selected.

Instructions:

  1. Go to any program page that shows the sidebar and click the “Reorder Pages” button at the bottom.
  2. On the next screen, you can drag the pages into any order you want. To nest one page under another, drag it under and to the right. When you’re done, click “Save order”.

4. Look at peers for ideas

One of the best ways for you to get ideas for your own pages is to look at pages from programs similar to yours. Here are some programs that have been set up with some of the website’s new design features and serve as good examples:

5. Think about all your audiences

Programs produce content for many audiences, including:

  • Prospective members
  • Current members
  • Volunteers/leaders
  • Program faculty/staff

It is, in general, usually best to organize content according to audience, and depending on what audiences your program serves, we may recommend options outside of the Extension website for content (e.g. the Extension Employee Intranet or an OSU WordPress blog).

Another audience that all programs have but that often gets overlooked is the general public. There are many reasons why the public would be interested in content produced by a program, including:

  • They utilize the services provided by program volunteers (e.g. MG plant clinics)
  • They are affected by the program’s outcomes or impacts
  • They want to learn the information taught to program participants, but for whatever reason can’t participate themselves

However, visitors often perceive program pages as being only for active participants in a program. So, if you produce program-related content for the general public, make sure it can be found through topic and county pages, where the general public is more likely to look.

The website brought a lot of content together from all different parts of Extension, created for different purposes, at different times and sometimes published by non-Extension faculty. Everyone has come across an article or two where they wonder “Is this content accurate, useful information for Extension’s audiences?”

Content teams, along with the program area leaders, have started discussions that can help to shape content quality decisions. Questions touch on process and guiding principles, such as:

  • Should we put everything we write on to the website? If not, how do we decide?
  • Who should be involved in the review process, and at what stage in content publishing?
  • How do we determine what makes for “quality content” for our diverse audiences?

An articulated content strategy helps content teams to identify a roadmap to follow.

Step one: establish ownership and roles

Half of Extension faculty and staff can publish content, which is coordinated through content teams or web groups.

Use the content overview tool to search a content title and see what team or group a piece of content belongs to, and contact the team leader or group coordinator if you see questionable content. Your feedback can help them to see other perspectives and their response inform yours.

Roles and responsibilities, outlined earlier in 2019, clarify how people fit into the content development cycle and their relationships to each other.

Among those roles, teams and groups need to discuss who controls the content quality, holding relevant content authors accountable to content guidelines, standards and policies that will be explored in the next steps.

Step two: design and document content processes

Content may be written by author(s) but it is the content teams and program leaders that need to work together to plan, review, publish, and revise the content. It helps to share a common set of tools and expectations in this content process.

Plan

Statewide planning meetings can set the stage for a participatory process. Together you can review audience analytics and determine the content purpose, gaps to fill, and plans for the year. It can also help decide what content isn’t needed based on strategic priorities. Set up a content planning spreadsheet in Box to keep track of content to be created.

Review

A peer review checkbox and name field appears on all articles if your team wants to use this as part of the publishing process. It currently means at least one other colleague looked at it, but does not mean the same level of scrutiny as catalog and journal peer reviews. Content that is questionable can also be put “in review” by the team or group to keep it from public view until the issue addressed.

Publish

A team needs to decide if they will independently upload articles, appoint an uploader on the team, or find program/research assistants or students to support this. These people need to be aware of the guidelines, standards and policies discussed below. An editorial calendar can help schedule content to be published at key times.

Revise

Many are familiar with the EESC directed process to review and update Extension catalog publications more than four years old. Content team leaders need to coordinate a similar process for their team’s articles and educational documents; EESC can help by setting up automated notifications and maintenance reports to use.

Step three: produce supporting documents and tools

Ground rules for doing content right can help to address differences in opinions. EESC has outlined some key recommendations or requirements below. Content teams and groups can adapt and expand on these to establish what makes for “quality” content.

Guidelines that EESC provides and encourage you to use include:

  • Messaging maps to create consistency of voice and tone depending on the audience
  • AP style and plain language guidelines for standard language and format of content
  • Readability formatting for a web page (which is different than a print publication)

Standards mean there’s a correct way to do things, and an expectation this will be followed, such as:

  • Web instructions of what content goes on the Extension website, and how to enter and tag it in the content management system; see the quick start checklists to make this clear
  • OSU and Extension branding requirements

Since these guidelines and standards can be a lot to learn, EESC will help by reviewing content after it is published and making minor changes or suggestions on how to improve. More information is in the content requirements and best practices section of the web guide, or request a specific training.

Policies are critical to follow to be inclusive, ethical, or not put us at risk, this includes things such as:

  • Copyright rules
  • Non-discrimination and accessibility laws
  • Personal data protections

Information about this is in the legal requirements section of our web guide. Also OSU’s Web and Mobile Services is offering “Accessibility Basics for the Web” trainings, including information about the OSU Policy on Information Technology Accessibility. Offered Oct. 3, Dec. 5, 2019 and Feb. 7, April 15 or June 4, 2020.

Destination

Teams and groups need to keep a pulse on what is going on with their online content and scrutinize not only if it is accurate but also if the overall quality meets our expectations.

Keep those discussions going, work with EESC to set up some shared tools and communicate the guidelines, standards and policies to group members working on the website. Then before you know it, you will have arrived at a functional content strategy.


Extension website updates

You can now see all featured questions on a single page.

The “seasonal” tagging field now allows multiple options to be selected for a piece of content.

Minor fixes have been made in the display of phone and email on county landing pages.

Collections now have the formatting options: standard teaser (thumbnail image, title, short description), grid format (3 card size images and descriptions next to each other), and plain list without images. After adding a “collection section” see the settings tab.

Thanks to Joseph Phillips, Content Strategist for the Examined Web, for ideas from his article “A four step roadmap to good content governance” for this blog post.

Salesforce logo

Hello there, everybody. I’m here to share a little more info about basic CRM (Customer Relationship Manager) practices and especially about beginning to use the Salesforce CRM platform.

One of my posts introduced the Salesforce CRM platform.

And another one outlined the steps needed to design and build CRM capabilities for an Extension program, complete with timelines.

But in case you were still wondering, there are many practical (and simple) ways in which your program will derive benefits from the advance to CRM practices. Here are examples of powerful results you can expect from this new tool. Thanks for reading on!

Organize your contacts, see a history of their interactions.

A CRM’s core purpose is managing relationships. Those relationships you have with constituents, clients, agencies, and industry partners are the lifeblood of the work you do. You spend time interacting with them as individuals, other times as groups, and the CRM will help coordinate both.

You will benefit from the sophisticated ways it maintains information about the people with whom you collaborate and get work done.

The system will, yes, provide a simple phone number or email address you need to reach out. But at a glance, you’ll also see when the last time was that you had an interaction with that person and what the outcome was. In case you ring her up to answer a big question and she’s out of the office, not to worry. The CRM’s awareness of relationships between people lets you track down the contact info for her colleague inside that organization who’s also a contributor to the same project — problem solved!

Then type in a summary of that new conversation in the CRM, allowing you to access the details any time.

Likewise for relationships with Extension clients and constituents. Go ahead and pick up the phone for a conversation with someone who’s in the midst of submitting critical paperwork. You’ll have access to an interaction history for that person in the CRM, showing you what steps have already been done and so you are able to advise them about the next step, simply because you pulled up their detailed info before calling.

Send smarter emails.

Let me share this example from an earlier post.

Let’s imagine a class or workshop that just took place. The last hour of the workshop was dominated by a very interesting discussion topic. One idea the instructor can have is to follow up with even more relevant resources to enhance what the group is learning. The steps would look like this:

  1. Login to the CRM immediately after class
    this makes the information timely and helpful
  2. Create a custom email message; fill it with relevant links
    make use of an email layout with attention to branding and readability standards
  3. The new email delivers out to the cohort
    the people from that class—the appropriate audience—see the email and experience the benefit
  4. The cohort may continue the discussion
    include a link to a discussion board where they continue sharing ideas
  5. Afterwards, extend the usefulness of the content
    flag that helpful content so it’s then used in an upcoming enewsletter – broaden the impact on a wider audience

Additionally, the CRM will allow for an increasing reliance on automating certain emails. Automatically deliver messages even for simple things like a note to say “thank you” after a person fills out interest forms on the Extension web site.

Consider the ability to send automated reminders for upcoming project due dates and important events. Has a calendar date come and gone and an important document hasn’t shown up? A well-crafted gentle reminder can make all the difference. Salesforce can be enabled to react to predefined conditions and automatically trigger messages to the appropriate people.

Your partners — relations and support.

Another key point of a CRM is that it is a database. It stores and organizes incredible amounts of information.

Using this data, you will be empowered to manage the many various aspects of working with a program partner.

Your team will want to research prospective new partner organizations. For each prospect, you’ll need awareness of each one’s presence, capabilities, and capacity in the various geographic regions your team serves. Simply record this complex info in the CRM.

As your team’s regional specialists plan outreach efforts, lists appear for them, each one pre-filtered to show relevant information for that region.

Maintain profiles of your partners that are accurate over time. Because your entire team has access to the shared data, their contributions to the system keep up with various changes for that partner. An important piece of the partner relationship is assessing and evaluating the efficacy of the work being done with them and you will save these details in the CRM to inform future efforts.

With established partners, those vigorous periods where the actual work is getting done will lead to new relationship management challenges. Make use of the CRM’s database features to design and manage workflows. Salesforce will be a quick and easy way to manage the sometimes complex communication plans you’ll need to customize for each partner.

Though its true the possibilities are endless, hopefully you’ll agree I have shed light on a few effective examples that will save your team time and energy? I look forward to answering any questions you may have.

 


About the Navigator digital engagement team. In the coming months, many of you will hear from me as I produce a long-term CRM strategy for OSU Extension. I look forward to talking with you and ensuring the CRM plans are in alignment with the business needs of your unit and the long-term vision of the university. The Navigator team is looking forward to talking with you about how digital engagement is aligned with your work and can provide new benefits.

Extension website updates.

  • The OSU Extension homepage looks a little different now. Updates were made based on user data. We are also working on a more comprehensive homepage design to come this fall.
  • Minor feature update: added ability to change list style and anchor id of collection sections
  • We made changes to the main menu based on user feedback. “Find us” is now “Contact us”. We added a link to ‘Ask an Expert’; And the latest website content is now available under ‘About us’.