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102AB, Wisconsin Center

Secret Powers of Middle Children: Heroic Websites as a Small Brand Within a Big University

Monday, Oct 14 9:30 - 10:15

Presented by Melissa Van De Werfhorst

For middle brands, such as a college or school at a larger university, getting your website and content projects off the ground means dealing with a unique set of challenges. It’s a bit like being a middle child in a large family; we’re under tremendous pressure but with scarcer resources, a smaller team, and a mere slice of the university brand spotlight. Furthermore, we’re often tasked with honoring our “brand within a brand” and the vision of our own boards or advisory councils, while needing to leverage the larger campus brand for visibility. How do we balance smaller budgets and fewer in-house staff resources with the big tasks of launching our own websites? How can we work effectively with our eldest child siblings (campus collaborators) and network of friends (agency partners) while stuck on middle child island? In this session we’ll explore how to take advantage of the ins and outs of being a big university “middle brand” – resourcefulness, negotiation, and calculated risks – to produce spotlight-worthy websites. In a deeper dive, we will cover a DIY approach to developing your own content models, audience personas, brand messaging pillars, competitive analysis, user research — as well as how to find and keep your rag tag team of collaborators, from central university resources to agency partners. And we’ll do this all within the framework of having a limited budget as well as imperative business goals, such as enrollment targets and brand reputation management.



Melissa Van De Werfhorst

Media Communications Director

Melissa Van De Werfhorst is the Director of Media Communications at the Bren School of Environmental Science and Management at University of California, Santa Barbara. She has 15 years of experience in marketing, including 9 years in higher education where she has led several content strategy and website redesign projects for "middle brands." Despite her session topic, she is an only child who therefore had to learn collaboration and conflict resolution skills later in life. A west coast native hailing from both the Los Angeles and Seattle regions, she currently lives in Santa Barbara, California.