Brand aids

February 25, 2010

Within hours of online publication, the article "'Frankensite' monsters loom as universities lose control of content" (18 February) had attracted a score of impassioned comments concerning the dreaded "B-word" and the thorny issue of governance. Why the furore?

Even the most hardened anti-marketer accepts the critical importance of reputation ("brand") to attracting talent, support and funding at the institutional, faculty and personal level. Similarly, it is self-evident that digital channels, not just official websites, have become key media for sourcing and providing information, managing expectations and influencing perceptions.

Since brand reputation must be managed to achieve shared goals, websites need governing. Content-management systems and social media channels allow authentic content owners to publish and interact. These innovations raise strategically challenging issues concerning risk management, delegated authority and the appropriate balance between central control and local autonomy.

Calling for websites to be better governed is neither a plea for IT investment nor prettification; it is an appeal for universities to ensure that they make the best use of their assets.

Alec Rattray, Senior consultant, Precedent.

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