Case Study: UBC Arts Amplifier
As a new initiative within the Faculty of Arts, the UBC Arts Amplifier strived to maximize brand visibility. As the Senior Marketing & Communications Co-op student, I was responsible for developing a comprehensive digital marketing and communications plan, redesigning the program’s website, launching an email newsletter, and creating various legacy items.
UBC Arts Amplifier
4 Months (Co-op)
Senior Marketing & Communications Co-op
The UBC Arts Amplifier is a professional development initiative that launched in mid-2020 – its purpose is to guide UBC Arts graduate students and postdoctoral fellows in transforming their ideas into meaningful work experiences or projects. As the first Senior Marketing and Communications Co-op student – and the only designated marketer on the 5-person team – the brief involved laying the marketing groundwork for this new organization.
Considering that the Arts Amplifier was a new initiative – and thus had no existing digital presence – I was responsible for developing and implementing a variety of essential marketing channels to allow our services to reach our target demographics (i.e., graduate students and postdoctoral fellows within the Faculty of Arts at UBC). My main tasks could be summarized by the following:
- Develop and implement a digital marketing & communications plan with the metrics to track success
- Redesign and reconfigure the program’s website, including manipulating the Information Architecture (IA) and drawing upon the principles of UX/UI design
- Launch a monthly email newsletter utilizing CyberImpact
- Create brand legacy items and templates for future use within the organization
Thus, with these goals in mind in September 2020, I began the planning process.
1. Digital Marketing & Communications Plan
First and foremost, the Arts Amplifier required a digital marketing and communications plan to not only organize their initiatives and campaigns, but to also perform an organizational-level analysis of the brand, the stakeholders, and ensure that our efforts contribute to the overarching goal to connect, engage, and drive our target audience to action.
In partnership with my supervisor, Kathy Ma, who served as the Project Coordinator on the team at the time, we collaborated in developing and implementing a plan over the course of four months. In addition to performing a crucial situational analysis, which included utilizing SWOT tables, we charted the timeline of each individual campaign from September 2020 to April 2021. In the completion of this task, I utilized my skills in organization, attention to detail, and project management in strategizing a realistic timeline for all marketing-related projects under the Arts Amplifier umbrella.
Ultimately, this digital marketing and communications plan helped to keep our team accountable as we conquered our other main tasks.
2. Website Redesign
Before I joined the team, the Arts Amplifier had an existing website – I performed a website audit and found several main pain points that I strived to solve in my redesign. Thus, my main goals in redesigning and reconfiguring the website included the following:
- Navigational ease: I wanted our users to be able to find exactly what they were looking for, and to find it quickly – user experience (UX) was crucial
- Clarity of brand & content: I strived to adapt our messaging to ensure that the target audience understood the Arts Amplifier’s services
- Appealing design: I set the goal to rework each individual page to optimize the user interface (UI) while also complying with UBC’s WordPress CMS limitations
I thus began the process by creating a site map, as well as the Information Architecture (IA) of the website to visualize the relationship between all of the main menu items and their corresponding child pages.
Next, I created low-fidelity wireframes of each primary parent page – this was crucial in eventually developing mockups of each page in Figma. These mockups were instrumental in visualizing the potential of each page and expedited the approval process within our team, as well as with other stakeholders, such as UBC’s Faculty of Arts or the UBC Arts Co-op Program.
At this stage in the process, there were three primary challenges:
- UBC’s limitations within WordPress CMS – to ensure brand consistency within UBC-related departments, I was not able to access the customization tool for the Arts Amplifier website. This did not allow me to manipulate the CSS to the extent that I hoped to
- Learning a new skill – HTML and CSS is a skill that I wasn’t as well-versed in at the time; thus, I needed to learn quickly
- Compressed timeline – I set the goal to complete the website design in two months
Due to the above, I troubleshooted and discovered that the most efficient and effective way to complete the project in two months would be to design mockups and collaborate with UBC Arts Instructional Support & Information Technology (ISIT) to code my proposed pages.
Now that I reworked the navigational experience, as well as the design of each individual page, my next focus was the clarity of the Arts Amplifier brand, as well as the content of the site. During my initial website audit, I noticed room for confusion in the framing of the organization’s services – thus, I combed through each individual page and, in collaboration with the Project Lead, Letitia Henville, Ph.D., wordsmithed and refined the content.
To go beyond reworking the copy, I wanted to also utilize my skills in photography and videography – thus, I scheduled and executed a Production Timeline document in September 2020 to not only take cohesive headshots for our team for the website, but to also direct, shoot, and edit an organization introductory video. Considering our ever-evolving digital world, I hold the firm belief that images and videos can convey information far more quickly (and effectively!) than a body of text – thus, it made sense to create a video to introduce the UBC Arts Amplifier.
Upon completing two phases of the website redesign, I then spearheaded the organization and planning process for a series of UX/UI Focus Groups with graduate students and postdoctoral fellows within the UBC Faculty of Arts. This planning process involved not only designing the focus groups (i.e., drafting questions, outreach to participants, scheduling…) but also orchestrating each session with the participants.
After holding sessions over Zoom, I engaged in data analysis where I took notes of the participants’ responses regarding the three key areas we strived to optimize: navigation, content, and design. I prepared a comprehensive 18-page report for our internal team and presented the results virtually over a Zoom call.
I then utilized the feedback from these sessions to implement minor changes across the website – in the end, I completed the website redesign project at the end of November 2020.
After completing our website redesign and featuring it at our official Arts Amplifier virtual launch over Zoom, our website traffic increased by 335.3%.
3. Newsletter Creation
A vital channel that I needed to establish within the organization was a monthly newsletter template that could be adapted accordingly for various uses. Not only did this template need to be clear and easy to modify, but it also needed to fit UBC and the Faculty of Arts’ preexisting brand rules and guidelines. Our team used CyberImpact as our email marketing software.
My main goals for the newsletters were as follows:
- Increase engagement through clickthroughs via our CTA buttons
- Grow number of subscribers to 50 people at the end of December 2020
- Heighten brand visibility across UBC-affiliated departments, as well as within the student population
With these goals in mind, I utilized CyberImpact to design a template, adapt monthly content into the layout, and successfully launch three newsletters over the course of October-December 2020. The open rate of our first newsletter was 85.7% and the average clickthrough rate of our key CTA buttons was 26.8%.
Screenshots of our November 2020 newsletter can be found below.
At the end of December 2020, the Arts Amplifier exceeded its initial newsletter subscriber goal by 304%.
4. Legacy Items
As I neared the end of my co-op work term, I strived to ensure that the transition process was as smooth as possible as my role was filled. This involved the creation of 10+ legacy items, including the following:
- Branding Style Guide
- Transition Document
- Presentation Templates
- Collateral for hiring
- External Activities Proposal Process
- Design Templates
- Email Outreach Templates
- Three Videos
- Run Sheet Templates
A glimpse into a few of the legacy templates can be found below:
In the creation of the latter item of the list, the run sheet template, I initially proposed it as a tool to streamline and sharpen transparency/communication during our virtual Arts Amplifier launch event. Not only did this item in particular become a legacy item, but it was also adopted by other UBC departments to be used for their own events.
This position absolutely surpassed my expectations in all regards. Being my third co-op work term and having been hired in a Senior co-op student position, I did anticipate a challenge – however, through this challenge, I also underwent an immense amount of growth in a short period of time. Over the course of four months, I progressed immensely in terms of my skill development; notably, I was able to further harness my strengths in project/time management, adaptability, oral/written communication, design, and especially leadership. Truthfully, it was daunting stepping into this role: this was my first time being the only marketing person on a team, especially in a start-up environment of sorts. But not only was I able to accomplish everything I set out to do in a short period of time, but I successfully executed my projects with confidence.
I want to sincerely thank my supervisor, Kathy Ma for her support and guidance throughout my 4-month co-op work term. I also want to thank and acknowledge the three other core members of our team: Letitia Henville, PhD, Carolyn Veldstra, PhD, and Amanda Newlands!