May 2014

School websites: What story do you want to tell?

I read something somewhere on the internet (could I be more vague? No.) that has stuck with me. It said something to this effect:

“Ask yourself how you are different from your competition – and tell that story.”

In the last couple months, Pomegranite has built new websites for three different schools. On the surface, these schools could appear quite similar: they are all reasonably small, private schools within short distances of one another in the northern suburbs of Johannesburg.

Yet, walking into each school, you notice a distinct vibe unique to each institution. The ethos of each school is different – and you can feel it.

The trick is translating this into their respective websites. I am a words person, so, for me, this distinctive storytelling happens predominantly through the content of each site. However, some people are more visual creatures, so it’s equally important that the look and feel of each website paints a picture of the character of each school. Sometimes it’s the functionality that sets a site apart – like image animation, online application forms or online payment facilities. But mostly it’s about understanding the story behind each school, what’s important to them and why – and integrating that into each element of the website.

A school’s online presence is hugely important – particularly these days, when the first thing that new parents (a generation with an affinity with the digital world) are likely to do when considering sending their children to a certain school is to look at that school’s website.

When we started building these websites we explored the online presences of a number of schools in South Africa – and abroad, but, let’s stick to our own shores for now. It seemed to be a general trend that schools created their websites years ago when they first recognised the need to be represented online, and they haven’t given their websites a whole lot of thought since then.

Your website is one of your most – if not the most – important marketing tools. It’s time to start thinking again about the impression that your school website creates. What is the user experience like? Does it accurately convey the level of excellence your school cultivates?

What story would you like your website to tell?

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Feature image source

‘The right to be forgotten’ and your online presence.

When was the last time you Googled yourself? Was it for kicks or was it to see what a potential employer might find?

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My online name twins are writers, events planners, lawyers and psychotherapists. I reckon I got off lightly. Can you imagine sharing a name and a city with a porn star, a fraud or a paedophile? Or worse, what if you’d done something in the past you aren’t proud of and now it’s still out there, sprawled across the internet with YOUR name on it and you have no way of removing it?

The idea of one’s identity online and the right to remove those references has recently come into the spotlight due to a European court of justice ruling saying that Google will have to delete some information from its index. The central division that’s causing a lot of debate is the right to privacy versus the right to freedom of expression. The information might be about you, but it’s in a public domain.

According to the Guardian, the facts of the case are that a Spanish politician had to sell some property in a government-ordered auction to recover social security debts that he owed. A newspaper article published online about the situation has become a prominent search result and González argued that the newspaper and Google should remove the information about the auction because they infringed his right to privacy. The upshot of the ruling is that someone who wants information about them taken out of the index will have to apply to Google, who will then have to weigh up whether it is in the public interest for that information to remain.

Yesterday I had a chat with a friend who described ‘the right to be forgotten’ as the sweetest five words she had ever heard and felt like they were the only thing she’d ever been inclined to use as a tattoo. You see she’s a journalist and she wrote some arbitrary stuff at the beginning of her career that isn’t her best work but she was told to do it so she did. Now, years later, it’s always the top search result for her name and it makes her feel creeped out by the internet in general. Being online is not a happy place for her because of this incident. In fact, she just wants to get off the grid entirely.

But can you ever ‘get off’  the internet? (this article suggests only the powerful will actually benefit from the ‘right to be forgotten’). And is this the best decision if you are a freelancer by trade? After chatting it through, we decided the solution would be to build her a portfolio website. Adding a site to the list of search results might sound counter-intuitive, but perhaps in this case you have to fight fire with fire.

We dreamed up a site that shows off her latest work – pieces she’s proud of – and does so in her own way. Instead of trying to erase herself, she curate a space that’s all her own. In a Google search, alongside old rubbish, there would be a current site where potential clients could find out more about her, see some of her work and get in touch with her.

So what do you find if you Google yourself?

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For your viewing pleasure: The Elizabeth Fletchers of the internet wilds

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How to blog: Content marketing lessons from Coca Cola

In the fast-changing world of digital marketing, search engine optimisation (SEO) and content marketing go hand-in-hand. In order to improve your SEO, you need to consistently produce content that people are interested in – not only do you want them to read it, you want them to share it across social media platforms, driving more traffic to your website and keeping your brand top-of-mind.

There are many pieces of advice on content marketing, and blogging in particular, floating around the internet. Here’s one from one of the biggest brands of all: Coca Cola.

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Partnership, a possum and a flying bulldog

For this month’s Inspiration Day, we decided to get out of the office and get into “the nature”. It was a little chilly for skinny dipping in Silvermine dam so we went for a walk in one of Cape Town’s gems, Deer Park. It’s a tranquil forest nestled at the foot of Table Mountain, just a stone’s throw from the CBD.

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A classic case of a city photo bombing a forest.

We’d just started our stroll when I saw something dash into the brush to our left. It was swift and agile, moving low to the ground – not a rat or a dassie – but it was long and skinny – it definitely wasn’t a squirrel. I stood aghast, filled with the excitement of big game spotting, pointing at it where it was a moment ago, willing Sarah to see the creature but completely unable to find its name. Eventually, I uttered, “possum!” at which point he popped his head out from behind a bush and looked at me as if to say, “Seriously?” and Sarah doubled over laughing. After a few moments, she managed to get out the words, “It’s a mongoose!”. Satisfied that he had been correctly acknowledged, he scampered off again after throwing me a disdainful scowl.

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Sarah, the river sprite.

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Pondering the path of least resistance.

We clambered over some rocks to sit next to a stream in the wintry sun. With some exciting new things happening for Pomegranite very soon, we had the chance to talk about how we wanted our business to work and how we would work together. A guy ran past with a dog trotting behind, obscured but the long grass. Our conversation stopped abruptly when we witnessed a stocky bulldog flying through the air in mid bomb-drop. She landed in the little dam with a glorious splash and I’m pretty sure her flapping cheeks were curled upwards at the edges. Soon enough, she bobbed to the surface, under-bite first and paddled back to her human for more, curly piggy tail wiggling.

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The site of the flying bulldog

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We saw a path striking out from the clearing around the waterway and decided to see where it would go. Once I had got us properly lost and we were wandering around just trying to find our way back to the car park (all romance of the adventure long gone), it struck me how similar getting lost together is to running a business. Both can be tiring and uncomfortable situations where you have to negotiate choices and make decisions. You have to rely on your partner’s skills and trust them. There’s no one else but you and your partner to get through challenges and so you have to stand by him or her and figure it out. Most importantly, you don’t split up. Ever. Because that’s a classic start to a horror movie.