Many of us use several different media to send messages to our various constituents, which can include students, alumni, faculty, and staff. Managing a Facebook page, a Twitter account, writing newsletters, sending mass e-mails and a number of other media can be time intensive and difficult to do well, given the wide range of interest and skill when it comes to using online media. I’m going to share an example of how a learning community in Sellery Hall at the University of Wisconsin-Madison is starting to use WordPress as a way to manage content and encourage collaboration with students.
First, let’s talk about what WordPress actually is. WordPress.com is a free online tool that hosts your blog and is an easy and user friendly way to both publish and consume media. For more information on how to set up a new blog and other general tips, check out this guide from the University of Michigan. You’ll want to choose a blog theme that allows for a custom header, this will allow you to add your office or department’s branding to the top of the pages on your blog. The theme Sellery Hall is using is called Untitled by Automattic, but Twenty Twelve by WordPress is a good starter theme.
So now that you’ve got your account and you’ve chosen a theme for your blog, let’s talk about how to make this blog into a content management machine!
- You’ll want to add anyone who will be writing content as a user for the blog. You can always add more people, but it’s good to start with a core group of staff and maybe students or student staff. Each user can have different permissions, so if you want students to write posts that need to be approved before going public you can give them the appropriate permissions. This is a great way to get rich content that your constituents may be more inclined to read.
- Determine what categories you want for your content. If you’re going to be writing about events, that could be a good category to have. Some other ideas might be office updates, staff of the month, highlighting a campus resource, news about your program, etc. These function as a way to easily organize your content for both archiving purposes and for people who just want to read about a certain category. Create the categories in your dashboard and enable the categories widget to make sure they appear on your main page.
- Upload some quality photos to your blog media library so that every user has access to the same images. Using photos in the beginning of your posts will make them more attractive to readers. Again, you can always upload additional photos or upload something random for an individual post, but the idea is that users can find everything they need all in one place.
- Connect your social media accounts to your blog so that each post will automatically be pushed to your other accounts. You’ll want to be signed in to your other accounts before you start this process. You can use this feature with Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and LinkedIn.
- Start writing posts! Train your users on how to write a post and get started creating content. Consider establishing some guidelines for your work, check out some from Butler University and UW-Madison.
You can do a lot more with WordPress, but this should get you started organizing all of your content for distribution in a central location that can be access anytime, anywhere. Please feel free to contact me with questions at firstname.lastname@example.org
Jon Tingley is a Student Affairs professional working in University Housing at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His background is in Residence Life, Student Activities and LGBT Student Services. Learn more about him at jontingley.com.