I was honored to be presenting again at this year's NCMPR District 1 conference at the lovely (and HUGE) Gaylord National Harbor Resort and Conference Center.

For those of you who have not yet attended, the NCMPR conferences are a fairly unique experience in that there is an overwhelming sense of support and camaraderie that just seems to be in the very fabric of this group and it's attendees. A large portion of the credit belongs to conference organizers and their team. They do such a wonderful job of setting the tone for a truly supportive, laid back and inspired atmosphere. Kudos guys!

The title of our presentation was How a Simple Website Redesign Sparked a Cultural Shift at a Top Business School and I was happy to be presenting (for the third time) alongside one of VisionPoint's outstanding client partners, Alissa Arford (@AArford) of the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business.

This particular presentation focuses on how important brand is as a driver to not only an institution's general marketing approach, but specifically how brand drives decisions during a website redesign process.

During the presentation we walk the audience through the experience we shared while redesigning the www.rhsmith.und.edu website.

The turning point of the story is when we decided to put the brakes on the website redesign so that we could first help the Robert H. Smith School of Business clearly define their brand. Why would we want to stop a smooth website redesign project? It is EXTREMELY important to understand your brand pillars and brand promise before beginning a website redesign project. Without going into too much detail (you'll have to see the presentation for that) a clearly defined brand SHOULD (although far too often it does not) drive decisions related to information architecture, visual design and content strategy among others.

After the presentation and throughout the rest of the conference, Alissa and I fielded questions - many of which you might expect - about getting leadership support; technology decisions that were made; how long the project took and what it cost; and a few others.

One thing that stood out to me was that I had at least five instances of people who approached me to say: "Man, I wish we knew about this last year before we started our website redesign." It's always bittersweet to hear this. Our ego gets a bit of satisfaction knowing that prospective clients see and appreciate the value we bring. The louder voice in our head says: "We too wish you knew about this earlier because we ABSOLUTELY HATE to see institutions of higher education spend their coveted and, all too often scarce budgets on a product that may not serve them well in the future."

I present often to large and small audiences of higher education professionals. I speak on brand, content strategy, integrated marketing  and a lot about website design and development. I'm kind of known for pushing REALLY hard on the importance of information architecture as being essential to the long and short-term success of any website. After the NCMPR D1 conference last week, I realized that I'll be adding another thing to my sermon: the importance of having a clearly defined brand platform and how that can make or break your websites user experience.

If you'd like to hear me go on a rant about brand, information architecture or anything else related to successful higher ed marketing, please reach out to me anytime. LinkedIn, Twitter, email, take your pick.

If you'd like to learn more about our process and see how we might be able to help, feel free to contact us for more information. Thanks again to NCMPR D1! We'll see you at the national conference in Portland on March 22-24, 2014 and perhaps in Hershey, PA next fall!