Matthew Cunningham is the Chief Marketing and Engagement Officer at Morley College in London. Nathan Monk (Co-founder at SMILE) interviewed Matthew about the recently released Strategic Plan for the college and the inclusion of Google Web Stories. This is something that we recently helped the college to integrate into their website.
In this interview, we dig deeper into how Matthew has found working with content in a new way, and what that means for Morley College.
Matthew Cunningham: Morley’s an interesting organisation, we provide truly lifelong learning for all adults. So that’s from 16-year-olds, right through to 116-year-olds. And that covers 16 to 18 courses, further education, it goes up into higher education, accredited qualifications for adults and also short courses. So things like evening classes in ceramics, textiles, drama, music, that kind of thing. So we’re a hugely varied organisation, and it’s my responsibility to promote that across London. My personal background is: I’ve been in educational communications all my life, and most recently, quite different, at the Royal Academy of Dance, so much more around arts education. But I’ve also worked for UCAS as director of comms there. So I have quite broad experience in education communications.
Nathan Monk: One of the reasons that I’ve kind of asked if you wouldn’t mind having this chat is I was on LinkedIn recently. And obviously, I’m a Morley College follower on LinkedIn and I came across the Strategic Plan (2021-2025) that Morley College has published. And one of the things that I was really delighted to see there was the use of web stories on the website that we had created. One of the pieces of extension work that we’ve done was to integrate Google Web stories into the site. And I thought it was really cool to see that that was in the digital strategy. And in there, that’s all related to the X of Morley, which I think is a great concept. Would you mind telling us about the X of Morley, and how that ties into the wider digital strategy?
Matthew Cunningham: It comes from a number of places, one of them is that I mentioned before this sort of breadth of what Morley does. And that’s great, but it’s also quite a challenge for us as marketing and communications people trying to convey this huge variety from kids who are coming out of school and coming to continue their studies with us, to people who are coming to learn an essential skill (maybe English as a second language), to people who want to come and learn French or German because they want to go on holiday there. So conveying that huge variety is quite a challenge. And so we came up with this concept, the X of Morley, and each time we change the X.
So one week, it might be the specialists of Morley, the next week, it might be the diversity of Morley, the next week, it might be the performance or the creativity of Morley. It’s a kind of umbrella campaign that gives us a lot of agility and flexibility. At any one time, we can promote a particular part or facet of what we do.
And what we’ve done with the technology (Google Web stories), is we’ve been able to quickly compile together resources, perhaps that already exist, and content that we can assemble very quickly and push out there and get our message out in that particular week. And in the first phase of X of Morley (which we’ve completed now), we were literally doing this every week or 10 days. So it gave us a huge amount of agility to be able to suddenly say, “Okay, well next week or in two weeks time, we really want to do a push on Community Learning. So let’s Let’s put together a story that tells the X factor that is the communities of Morley”. So that’s where it comes from really. That need to explain this complex beast that is Morley College London in a way that is accessible to different audiences.
Nathan Monk: I think that’s such a great concept. And I really like how you’ve used Google Web stories, particularly. And talking about yourself as a content creator is something that’s so interesting. Stories are everywhere – I can’t even remember who did it first, maybe Snapchat? It’s such a well-known approach now, but it’s quite new for websites to be doing this sort of stuff – especially in education. And I guess I’m interested in knowing as a content creator, what has your experience been with this new format?
Matthew Cunningham: We’ve used this experimentally ourselves. So we’ve seen this first stage of X of Morley, back in April, and concluded at the end of the academic year in July/August. And we’ll recommission the campaign in the coming months, but we’re taking a pause now while other things have got in our way. So we saw the campaign itself as a bit of a pilot as a bit of an experiment. And we thought that the Google Web Stories technology matched quite well because we can move very quickly with it. So the first four or five stories that we created under the campaign were done by a designer. So we worked with our designers we worked with on a daily basis on our print materials and our advertising. And we asked them to create some web stories, but then what we were able to do was start to adopt the technology ourselves. So we had people in our marketing team, creating the stories instead of sort of outsourcing them. And the next phase I want us to do is to start getting maybe even students or apprentices to create content, working with our different teams. So that’s been our kind of overall approach.
…we’re recognising that some of this communication through storytelling, is going to be particularly relevant to our younger studentsMatthew Cunningham
How have we found using the technology? I mean, I would say it’s a new technology. So it’s got the kind of typical new adopter issues that you come across. Sometimes the back end interface is a bit slow. But it gets there in the end. And as with anything, once you learn the sort of basics, it actually becomes straightforward for us to use. We did use Google Stories, and we have continued to use Google Stories for some of our 16 to 18 course provision, as well. And I think that’s significant because we’re recognising that some of this communication through storytelling, is going to be particularly relevant to our younger students.
Nathan Monk: And the editing experience is all completely within the backend of your website, isn’t it?
Matthew Cunningham: Yeah, it is. And it really is quite straightforward. Learning the basics takes a couple of hours. It’s not anything particularly different from the apps that people use in their daily lives.
Nathan Monk: You’ve spoken there about kind of unexpected benefits as well with your 16 to 18 provision. Were there any other unexpected benefits that you kind of came across when you were beginning to use this?
Matthew Cunningham: Well, I mean, we are very much at the beginning of this journey. So I’m expecting lots more to follow. The biggest one, I would note at this point is the way that we can democratise the creation of content, but still have a level of corporate consistency. So that’s what I’m really excited about. The other benefit that at the moment is a bit assumed (but I want to start measuring it) is the return on the search engine optimisation that comes from using Google technology. It’s a no-brainer, isn’t it? We want to start measuring whether the use of these web stories actually has a really positive impact for us in terms of SEO and people finding their way to the things that we are trying to get them to find their way to.