TitleStaffing for Web and Digital Communications Request Date2012-12-02
DepartmentUniversity Communications
RequestorJake Dolan Phone406-994-5036
Campuses Bozeman Billings Havre Great Falls FSTS Extension MAES
Cross Depts It will benefit all colleges, departments, offices and projects that have a website, mobile Web, social media, email communications and video development.
Proposed Dates Start: As soon as funding is secured. End:  
Web and Digital Communications (WebCom) touches nearly every aspect of the strategic plan and current MSU operations through websites, online video, email, web forms and mobile applications. Demand for WebCom services grows by more than 20 percent annually and now nears 16,000 requests a year -- handled by 1.8 FTE. Meeting these requests inhibits the advancement of the MSUís strategic priorities. Without an investment, WebCom will only be able to make short-term fixes to MSUís existing communication enterprise. Initiatives to develop products that are commonplace at competing universities will stall and MSU will fall behind its peers.
While Web and Digital Communications (WebCom) impacts nearly every aspect of the strategic plan for MSU, its most direct impact is to the objective, ďA.1: Educate more students while maintaining the quality of programs.Ē

WebComís primary functions:
1. Support the recruitment of students by increasing the effectiveness of our digital communications to prospective students.
2. Support the retention of students by increasing awareness and audience engagement with university resources (offices, programs, events, etc.).

The staff requested in this proposal would enable WebCom to increase support to units like Admissions and Student Success while greatly enhancing its ability to better engage and support the colleges and other offices that we currently cannot service in a timely manner. This would also allow WebCom to advance MSUís Web and digital needs to address the goals that have been established in the strategic plan.

Without the staff to focus on the programming, design, content development and videography necessary to support and advance projects, WebCom will be stuck in a support cycle and be unable to act strategically. Balancing ongoing work with the lack of skillsets in its staff, WebCom will not be able to support the university with the services and expertise they require to accomplish their objectives within the strategic plan.
Funding Type: One-Time Only Funding Base (3-yr Recurring) Funding
  FY13 FY14 FY15 Base ($) OTO Startup ($)   FTE;
Salaries       132000      4.0 
Benefits       56681       
Materials & Supplies              
Contracted Services              
Other Operations       8000       
TOTAL 196681    4.0 
Please comment, if necessary, regarding cost and requirements.

1 FTE Web Programmer at $40,000 / year + benefits

1 FTE Web Graphic Designer at $30,000 / year + benefits

1 FTE Web Content Developer and Community Manager at $30,000 / year + benefits

1 FTE Web Multimedia Specialist at $32,000 / year + benefits

$8,000 annual operational budget for equipment, contracted services and professional development.

Describe the Proposal

Web and Digital Communications (WebCom) oversees the Web, email, mobile Web, social media and other digital communications for Montana State University. WebCom is tightly coordinated with marketing and the news service under the umbrella of MSU Communications. Examples of WebCom work includes:

  • Development of the virtual tour of MSU via the Admissions page that includes maps, videos, links and copy for prospective students including a mobile-friendly experience. This was possible through a collaboration between the units of MSU Communications. View at:
  • Maintenance and development of the MSU Facebook page and MSU Twitter feed with regular, strategic postings for the 30,000 fans through Facebook and the 1,800 followers on Twitter. This expands the reach of our branded messages by hundreds of thousands of people each week.
  • Development of numerous administrative online systems, such as the online application system for the strategic investment initiative and the Undergraduate Scholars Program online application system affecting hundreds of students each semester.
  • Development of branded emails from the president’s office (Pure Gold, Monday Morning Memo), executive administrative branches and all email communications reaching external audiences using the MSU Alumni Foundation database.
  • Development of the Calendar of Events which has grown monthly event distribution and visibility by nearly 2,000 percent (Oct 2011 to Oct 2012) and increased the number of events submitted to the calendar by close to 600 percent since its launch in Mar 2012.
  • Development of MSU’s mobile application for smart phones that includes maps, directories, calendars, and application information.
  • Design of the current branding of the entire MSU website and creation of all the templates for college, department, division and other units for website.

WebCom differs from ITC in that it does not work directly on infrastructure issues such as servers, Banner, data security, or other enterprise-level data, software or hardware issues with the notable exception of Web Content Management.

WebCom currently has 1.8 FTE dedicated to advancement and support of the university’s Web domain. In the spring of 2012, WebCom was given funding for a Web Content Management System (WCMS) with an additional 1.0 FTE to train and support the system. When the WCMS is fully implemented and integrated, its costs savings to the university will be spread throughout the university, but it will likely increase the support requirements on WebCom’s staff even with the dedicated 1.0 FTE.

The responsibilities of the WebCom unit have grown from managing the university’s primary websites to:

  • Supporting and overseeing the entire MSU Web domain and its hundreds of thousands of pages
  • Building the university’s social media presence and online community
  • Developing mobile content and strategy
  • Developing and overseeing nearly all email communications to groups of external audiences such as alumni, prospective students and their parents
  • Developing, supporting and distribution of  video

Due to its expanded responsibilities since its formation in 2004, the demand for integrated and strategic digital communications services, expertise and support from WebCom has increased every year by more than 20 percent. This increased demand has stalled WebCom from advancing strategic initiatives and now its operations are primarily reactive to the most immediate needs.

WebCom is at its maximum workload capacity and will be unable to meet new demands on its services without an increase in FTE. This investment is critical to meet its audiences’ expectations in the digital world as MSU works towards its strategic goals.

This proposal is an investment in WebCom to meet the growing needs of the university, while continuing to align and integrate the university’s Web and digital communications efforts with the strategic plan’s objectives and goals. 

Funding for four FTE is requested. While the four positions enhance each other, they fulfill separate needs and are independent of each other should only partial funding be approved. The positions are listed in order of funding priority.

Web Programmer – With a focus on writing code for complex Web development projects for internal and external communications and integrating MSU’s online tools and services with its communications efforts, this highly technical position would facilitate a more in-depth strategy in mobile Web, audience engagement, and user-experience for Web pages across the MSU website.

Web Graphics Designer – With a focus on visual design that makes MSU’s website look polished and professional and with making pages easy to navigate, this position would work closely with the colleges, departments and offices across the university to improve the university’s public face on the Web both aesthetically and for ease of use.

Web Content Developer and Community Manager – With a focus on writing Web content for MSU websites and enhancing engagement through social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, this position would work closely with the colleges, departments and offices across the university to increase the effectiveness of their online communications and develop deeper relationships among the university, students, alumni and the MSU community at large through social media.

Web Multimedia Specialist – The multimedia specialist will play a key role in advancing the university’s mission through use of video, audio and still images for web-based media. The multimedia specialist will shoot, edit and produce video for MSU’s website, social media and all other forms of electronic communication platforms. Current examples of work that would be done by a multimedia specialist include the videos on Admissions virtual tour page at

Describe the broader impacts and benefits of this proposal

If funded, this proposal will provide Web and Digital Communications (WebCom) the staff to broadly support and advance the strategic efforts of the university in recruitment, retention, teaching, research and outreach. This investment is needed to simply remain competitive with other universities. MSU will fall behind its peer universities in digital communications if current funding and staffing remain unchanged.

An expanded WebCom team will work across the university’s Web and digital communications efforts to:

  • Support MSU’s core missions of recruitment, retention, research, teaching and outreach through the Web. An expanded staff will increase WebCom’s ability to work directly with Admissions, Student Success, the colleges, Research, Extension, Extended University, the Alumni Foundation and other key units in building communications that advance the university’s mission and assist in accomplishing the strategic objectives.
  • Expand the reach of MSU through social networks and build stronger ties to the university’s many constituent groups through online social communities. Active development and management of social networks can aid the university in recruitment, retention and alumni and donor relationships. Each week MSU’s current social media efforts reach hundreds of thousands of people through Facebook and directly engage many out-of-state students considering MSU through Twitter.
  • Direct and assess visitor flow through MSU’s website to the greatest benefit of recruitment, retention and engagement at all levels of the university. MSU can markedly improve its public face with improved Web resources and drastically increase the conversion rate of the marketing pipeline. Examples: prospects into students; graduates into engaged alumni; alumni into donors.
  • Develop and implement a mobile-first Web strategy that meets the expectations and needs of prospective and enrolled students. Mobile usage on the MSU website grew 137 percent in 2012 and 246 percent in 2011. Sometime between 2014 and 2016, mobile Web usage will overtake desktop Web usage worldwide.
  • Monitor and engage the online conversations surrounding the university to give a better understanding of how MSU is being perceived. Nearly 450,000 Montanans have a Facebook account providing an opportunity to engage and connect with the university’s key constituents in a new way.
  • Improve MSU’s email communications to its audiences with more resources for design and construction. Email is currently used to engage nearly all of MSU’s audiences and the number of requests for designed HTML email now consumes nearly 10 percent of WebCom’s staff time.
  • Develop and enhance video production and distribution throughout the MSU website through live-streaming of events and video production. YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world and 27 percent of prospective students search for their schools on YouTube. Roughly, 55 percent of prospective students have taken the time to watch videos embedded on the websites of their schools.

In the last year, WebCom responded to nearly 16,000 requests for assistance on fixing Web pages, updating content, building new pages, creating forms, and other Web and digital communications work. Because of the work volume, current staffing only allows WebCom to keep pace with fixing the most urgent problems and small incremental changes. Instead of days or weeks, the average wait time for new development is three to six months.

Without this proposal, there is no excess staff time to advance the university’s digital communications – which in the competitive environment of Web communications; means the university is falling behind. 

Implementation Plan

Phase 1:
Develop position descriptions and proceed with hiring process. This will begin as soon as funding has been approved and will require two months to complete.

Phase 2:
Develop comprehensive Web and digital communications strategic plan for the university that align with and directly support the university’s strategic goals. This phase will take two months running concurrently with Phase 1.

Phase 3:
Execute Web and digital strategic plan. This phase will be ongoing.

Phase 4:
Assess and refine strategic plan from Phase 1 and return to execution. This phase will be ongoing and evaluated as tactics from Phase 3 are completed.

Assessment Plan

Assessment should occur with involvement from the team’s partners and internal stakeholders to assess the success and productivity of the positions.

Critical Success Factors:

  1. Must hire motivated and talented team members.
  2. Must be able to maintain and build working relationships with key departments to focus their online communications.
  3. Must be able to adapt and evolve with emerging technologies and identified needs.


  1. Number of prospective students entering the enrollment pipeline through Web and digital processes.
  2. Number of prospective and current students engaged in university activities and initiatives.
  3. Number of students, alumni and community members engaged in conversation about the university.
  4. Key analytical indicators for primary web resources (measuring usage, effectiveness and engagement).
  5. Overall satisfaction and appeal of university Web and digital communications.
If assessed objectives are not met in the timeframe outlined what is the plan to sunset this proposal?

Should the investment in the Web and digital communications team be evaluated poorly, the strategy to sunset the resources would be to avoid filling vacancies as they arise in the Web and Digital Communications unit. 

Dean/Director: Jake Dolan (
Executive/VP: Thomas Calcagni (