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Fight the Clock with These Time-Saving Composer Tips
Andrew Martin

The Finalsite Double Diamond Awards introduced at Finalsite University this year recognizes the amazing work our school webmasters put into their websites to create compelling content with Finalsite modules and tools. The awards have also served to inspire school professionals to take their websites in new directions, try new ideas, and explore different ways to use the Finalsite platform. 

The seventh entry in our 10-part series recapping the Double Diamond Awards, the Bang for the Buck Award recognizes schools that used any or all of the Finalsite platform to reduce time spent on tasks to free up time for other important tasks or processes. Nominations included course catalogs, weekly and monthly emails, and even grant recipients. Taking first place by using Forms Manager to add efficiency and value to an internal process for such an essential function as job applications, the first-ever winner for the Bang for the Buck Award was ... Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart

Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart (MD)

Time and resources saved using the Finalsite platform is one thing, but money saved alongside an incredible growth in page views was more than enough for Stone Ridge School to claim the biggest bang for the buck once they moved their job applications to Forms Manager.   

 

“This has been a big bang for the buck,” said Patty Lynch, E-Communications Manager at Stone Ridge. “We put all our job opportunities on this page and created an online application a few years ago. Our Employment page is one of our top 20 visited web pages on our site.”

Stone Ridge’s Employment page was the school’s twelfth most popular page between May 2018 and May 2019 with 12,532 views, of which 10,692 were unique page views. That’s an impressive number of views for a page dedicated to job applications alone. Patty said more than 2,700 job application forms have been filled out since 2012, not counting summer camp or coach applications.

Building their Employment page with Composer, our content management system (CMS), and creating the applications with Forms Manager saved Stone Ridge School the costs of using another third-party job hiring company, cuts down on the number of vendors a school works with, and keeps things internal for streamlined upkeep,” said Client Success Manager Kate Persons. 

“An applicant must be able to fill out this form to get a job interview,” Patty added. “We have cut down on paperwork and save time putting everything online. And with a structured form, it is easier to review the needed information at a quick glance.”

Stone Ridge School Faculty and Staff Application

The school’s Employment page features a simple, yet functional design, with accordions to hide the lengthy job posting information and the forms with their numerous individual required fields. There’s no added flair here, just a well-built page that gets the job done with impressive stats to back up the effectiveness of keeping your job postings on your own Composer website.

Best Practice

Composer includes the ability to assign permissions to multiple staff members to make managing and uploading content to your website(s) a collaborative effort. Your marketing or communications office alone doesn’t need to shoulder the entire burden of maintaining the website. You can establish permissions based on roles or departments so others can help maintain the website and upload content based on pages that make sense for their department.

For example, you can establish permissions to your admissions teams so they can freely edit, upload, and create new pages and content on the school’s application pages, including the permission to create, edit, and upload new application forms built in Forms Manager

Or, you can grant the same permissions to your advancement office so they have the ability to make changes to the donation pages. Divvying out permissions and responsibilities saves your webmaster(s) potentially dozens of hours they can devote to other areas of the website. They can always go back and double check that everything was done correctly. 

Composer includes global permissions that work across the entire website, page-specific permissions that overwrite the global permissions for individual pages and staff members, and module-specific permissions for module like Posts, which allows specific users varying levels of access to upload, edit, and delete within the module. 

Composer Page Settings Permissions menu

“Our Director of Curriculum & Professional Development manages our Employment page and all the applications that come in,” Patty said. “Our Human Resources also gets a copy of every application.”


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Spring Lake Park Schools (MN)

Spring Lake Park Schools, winner of our Portals Double Diamond Award, also secured a nomination for their 2019-2020 Registration Guide built and managed entirely in Posts, added to the page with the Post element, and made easier to navigate and search thanks to the search bar, category filter, and tag filter at the top added through Post Tools elements. 

Spring Lake Park Schools 2019-2020 Registration Guide

Spring Lake used categories to filter courses that were available for each grade with tags to filter by content area. These Posts Tools elements enabled students to find exactly what course they were looking to fill. For example, students could use the filters to only show all math courses available to 11th grade students or all courses with a post-secondary connection (12x12).

“We chose not to use images to keep the page length shorter and we included the entire description on the page so that students wouldn't need to click to read additional information,” said Coley Fehringer, Graphic Design & Communication Specialist at Spring Lake.

“Each year, our communications team spends hours working with the high school admin to develop and design a course catalog that is printed as a booklet and posted on the website as a PDF,” Coley said. “Over the past several years, we've heard that most students don't use this resource while filling out their online registration because it's clunky and difficult to navigate.”

“Moving the catalog online with Posts saved Spring Lake unnecessary printing costs and saved constituents time since they can quickly find the specific courses they’re interested and fill out their registration entirely online in a streamlined process,”Kate said. “It was a win for everyone involved.”

Spring Lake Park Schools registration guide filters

Another benefit was the ability to update or add/delete content within the catalog on the fly. Once the printed catalog is submitted for print, you’re locked in with that content. Any errors, duplications, or courses forgotten during the drafting process will make it into the final product. However, with an online catalog built in Posts, you can continue to tweak course description or add new content whenever needed, and any changes made are automatically reflected live on the website once you hit publish, saving you time and potentially money spent on re-printing catalogs. 

“The online course catalog was received so positively by students and families that we are only going to create an online version next year, saving our communications team hours of work on a printed catalog,” Coley said.

Oregon Episcopal School (OR)

Oregon Episcopal School (OES) streamlined and refined their weekly newsletter with liberal use of dynamic content to automatically populate both their emails and the newsletter archive page on their website with the latest news and events. This saves OES staff tons of time each week that was formerly spent manually creating what they call The Aardvark.

Oregon Episcopal School The Aardvark

“OES used to spend hours putting together emails from stories that had been written throughout the week. Adding stories as they occur now means the content comes dynamically into the newsletter template sent weekly via email, and a page is generated as a web version of the digital newsletter at the same time,” said OES Client Success Manager Sam Lipscomb.

We regularly hear from our schools that dynamic content is one of the biggest time savers for schools that spend too much time building their newsletters. For those unfamiliar with dynamic content or new to Finalsite or the Messages module, dynamic content allows you to set up custom, repeatable configurations to automatically display content pulled in from Athletics ManagerCalendar Manager, and Posts.

Dynamic content is as simple to use as creating the content configurations within the Dynamic Content menu in the Messages module. Then, drag that dynamic content block into the template or message to create a placeholder that will be replaced with live content from the website once the email is sent. You can preview the email to see how it will appear once it’s sent.

Messages module dynamic content

Each piece of dynamic content is incredibly modular, allowing for a wide degree of flexibility when it comes to determining what information to display. You can choose what information you’d like to display for each dynamic content element during the creation process. For example, you can decide how many events will appear, what order they’ll appear in, the date format, the spacing between events, and whether to link the event title back to the default calendar page.

The Aardvark page was built primarily with the Posts element so new content will be automatically display from the newsletters once OES begins sending out their newsletter through Messages. Content is displayed with with an image, title, short description, and a Read More link. Clicking the link opens a pop up panel with the complete story or article and any additional images or videos. 

Older issues of The Aardvark can be found under the accordion menu at the top of the page, displayed through an Enotify Archive element as OES previously used eNotify, our legacy email marketing tool, to send their weekly newsletter. 

The Woods Academy (MD)

Similarly to OES, The Woods Academy found dynamic content within Messages to be a huge time-saver for the one-person team that manages their blog (Window on The Woods), weekly newsletter, and bi-monthly newsletter. 

The Woods Academy Window on The Woods

“This communication solution was a huge time-saver for me,” said Jodie Shoemaker, Director of Marketing Communications and Alumni Relations at The Woods Academy, speaking equally about the school’s weekly and bi-montly newsletters.

“Prior to using Messages, I used to create this communication by copying and pasting content from our website into Mailchimp,” Jodie continued. “Not only did I have to create each and every email, I also had to maintain an entirely separate database of email addresses. Now, with just a few clicks and saves, I can populate, schedule, and send this email communication twice a month without a thought. Plus, I think it looks pretty stylish, too.”

The Woods Academy Window on The Woods email

This Week, the school’s weekly newsletter, uses dynamic content to pull in events from Calendar Manager to form a simple list of upcoming events. A collection of upcoming events displayed in this fashion is a quick and efficient way to ensure that your constituents are always in-the-loop about what’s going on at your school and any important dates they need to take note of.

The Woods Academy This Week newsletter

The Woods Academy was also nominated for the Messages Double Diamond Award, largely due to the direction the school took their bi-monthly E-Folder newsletter. Finalsite Web Solution Developer Kosha Burnett, one of the Messages judges, said the use of Posts dynamic content to populate the newsletter was an excellent decision to both easily add content and save time as long as content is consistently updated in updated in Athletics ManagerCalendar Manager, and Posts

Kosha also liked the use of a personalized introduction that increases the chances that the reader will open and read the email, and the two-column list of colorful icons and text with links to upcoming events and important information parents need to know.

The Woods Academy E-Folder newsletter icon art and titles

Best Practice 

The greatest strength of The Woods Academy’s E-Folder newsletter is their subject-based mailing lists, rather than a constituent-based mailing list (such as a parent or alumni). Kosha said subject-based mailing lists saves time by eliminating long newsletters and duplicated content. Rather than building and sending a newsletter specific to each constituent group, subject-based newsletters can be sent to multiple groups interested in the same subject. There’s no need to send multiple versions of an email when one can accomplish the same task.

Key Takeaway

Admissions teams, communications offices, and webmasters at schools of all sizes often exceed the typical 40-hour work week to get their school’s message out to as many people as possible. In such a fast-paced work environment, it’s easy for these professionals to feel isolated and overwhelmed without a content management system that works around-the-clock for you to make your job easier. 

With Composer and it’s suite of modules, these four schools have found a way to fight back against the clock and reclaim their work day through dynamic content to speed up the email marketing process, online course catalogs to save money and eliminate hours of editing, and online job applications on the school’s website to eliminate unnecessary third-party vendors. We cannot wait to share creative ways schools find to save time and money during our second annual Double Diamond Awards show during Finalsite University 2020 next March in Orlando.


Read our blog about 10 ways Composer saves your school time


Andrew-Martin-Headshot
ABOUT THE AUTHOR

As Finalsite’s Product Marketing Specialist, Andrew writes blogs and creates videos to share information about all the latest and greatest Finalsite products. Andrew has more than 10 years of video production experience and a journalism degree from the University of South Carolina. He has an incredible passion for movies, television, reading, and writing fantasy and science-fiction. 

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