November 23, 2014

Cooking up a Dynamic Web Presence

Shelley Keith

Shelley Keith

Director of Digital Communications Shelley Keith has come to UMW on a mission: to help the campus community share its stories through an effective and engaging web presence.

Keith, a native of Arkansas, has a background in web design and development, content management, project management, and social media marketing. She started her career as the development director for a small IT company, where she managed external and internal development projects for nearly a decade. Before joining UMW in May 2013, she worked at Southern Arkansas University in various positions, including most recently as manager of web communications and marketing. She is active in the higher education web field and frequently shares her expertise at conferences and workshops, especially her knowledge of WordPress.

In a recent interview, Keith explains her role, her philosophy of the web, and what she sees as the strengths of UMW:

How do you see your role as Director of Digital Communications? What are your main responsibilities?

Essentially, my mandate is to facilitate an “effective web presence” for the university. This goes a great deal beyond providing technology support and keeping the software up to date – we’re here to help departments and individuals tell their part of the UMW story. Our job is supporting efforts and initiatives of campus constituents, be it academic, recruiting, fundraising, etc.

When faculty are doing amazing things in the classroom, or groundbreaking research, or supporting students in ways that are going to change lives…how do we support that work in ways that also support recruiting, retention, grant funding, student success, awareness, and even community involvement? Those are the things I think about constantly. What can I do to make sure these great things aren’t sitting on a shelf somewhere, unknown? How can we go beyond feature stories and press releases to truly utilizing all of the amazing work being done on campus and support that work in more effective ways?

What is your philosophy regarding the Web?

The web is the single most utilized communications tool in the university’s toolbox. We are all caretakers for some portion of the UMW story, the web gives us a platform to tell that story in context to support the mission and goals of the institution, support students, and uplift the community. It’s important we focus on ensuring we’re purposeful, authentic, and responsive to user needs.

As someone relatively new to the university, what do you see as its strengths?

I can’t speak highly enough of the engaged community on this campus. We have a culture here that many schools aspire to! Everyone here cares about the institution, the students, the mission, and contributing to their respective fields. I’ve yet to meet anyone here who “phones it in” so to speak. That’s incredible! For me, it’s a treasure trove. People who are engaged with the institution want to do great work, and, as far as the web is concerned, all I need to do is give them the right perspective, tools, and support to effectively tell their stories as part of the greater UMW community.

What are the areas where there is room for improvement? How do you plan to address those needs?

Think about the website like a kitchen. There are drawers and cabinets and counter space, but those are only helpful if they’re uncluttered and organized. Right now the UMW site is a highly utilized kitchen with some overstuffed drawers. Visitors come in and can find some of what they need if they dig long enough, but it’s not a particularly easy experience.
The goal is to clear out the dead batteries and broken spatulas (and why in the world do we have 3 different incomplete sets of silverware and two broken Foreman grills in here!?) and get back to providing the tools and information users really need in a manner that doesn’t require excessive effort. I’m all about giving our audience what they need where they expect it.

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About Brynn Boyer

Brynn Boyer is assistant director of media and public relations and a 2010 graduate of UMW.

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