In Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis argues that the church exists to spread the "good contagion" of the Holy Spirit. And so the question must be asked: Is your seminary's Web site under self-imposed quarantine?
Above all, a Web site offers an opportunity to interact. Until someone sees your online presence, the ideas you seek to convey — and the information you wish to impart — remain inert, a series of silent 0s and 1s. But once an online visitor sees your site, computer code starts communicating right into the mind of the visitor. It's a kind of miracle, arguably a form of intimacy, and, I submit, the true center of a communications strategy that can integrate all the disparate elements of your current outreach.
What if everything you could ever want to say — to anyone interested in any aspect of your school's mission — existed on your site in levels of detail and sophistication that increased as the interested visitor clicked from page to page? And what if designated staff collected new material and updated the site as the new material was created? You would then be in position to send news to your constituents — not raw information that might or might not appeal, but polite, catchy queries in varying forms with just enough information to attract and inform. Truly interested parties could follow up on your site to the exactly appropriate level.
Your various constituents have different levels of interest in what's going on at the school and in the broader world as it affects you.Your site probably already contains areas for news releases, upcoming events, and links to news stories. But instead of relying on visitors coming to the site and finding the info, why not send them an e-mail newsletter that gives the links to go directly to the information that appeals to them at that moment? And better yet, it becomes easy to tailor the content of the newsletter to different constituencies. Alumni might be interested in events that current students won't be. Prospective students would be interested in different things than board members. And rather than going to great lengths to create content specific to all these constituencies, staff merely choose among pieces of the content that already exists on the site, write an engaging intro for the newsletter, and provide a link to the spot on the site where the entirety of the content exists.
Now extend this to communication offline. Obviously, all your print materials provide your site's URL. (If they don't, please fix that soon!) But what if catalogues, brochures, newsletters, minutes — and anything else you can think of — had a spot on your site, and the link to that spot was included in the print material? Not only would you have broader latitude as to how much information you give immediately and how much you save for the truly interested, but you would give your readers a place to return to, to share links to, and to reuse on different platforms.
I can see the communications officers now, throwing up their hands and crying that there's enough on their plates already. And I do sympathize. But the Web will only continue to grow in importance, and an effective strategy that coordinates all your existing elements will only happen with expanded effort. My suggestion is that you start small, with the print newsletter that you already use. Look for ways to get URLs into that text. Offer the option of a PDF-only subscription and an electronic version that links to the text on your site. Finally, once you've got a handle on it, think of parts of your site, or parts you could create, that would appeal to different constituencies.
Humbly, I'd like to offer ours as an example. You can subscribe at www.intrust.org/newsletter.