The following is a recent conversation between Creative State and the marketing and PR manager for a large public school. The conversation covers website design, content management systems, branding and other topics. It has been lightly editied for clarity and readability. 

 

 

CS:

Okay. Just so you know, the grand scheme of things is ... I mentioned earlier that I started this business sixteen years ago. We've done probably I think it's close to fifteen hundred projects now that have literally ranged from hundreds of dollars to over a million dollars.

 

Prospect:

Tell me about Taylor Swift. I have to ask because that's on your website.

 

CS:

Yeah. We worked for about almost ten years with Garth Brooks until recently when he moved back to Nashville. He was living primarily in Owasso. He's a guy who when you work with him, he likes to be able to show up and hang out. When we did his site ... Obviously he is a well-known figure and people look to him. Taylor Swift's record label, which is Big Machine Records, came to us after we did Garth's site. We did multiple sites for Big Machine and some of their artists. That kind of led to doing ... I think we did six or eight different projects with Taylor Swift, none of which oddly enough happened to be her primary website. What we were mainly doing with her was when she would go sign a deal ... One that comes to mind is there used to be ... I don't know if they're still active or not, but there used to be a brand called LEI Jeans. She was a spokesperson for them. We did a site for that particular relationship. That was photography and web development and marketing. There were some radio tie-ins.

 

 

Then she also did a project with one of her albums where in the lead up to releasing the album you could pay some amount ... I don't remember what it was, but you could pay some amount for this kind of VIP package and it included a signed copy of the album when it came out and a poster and then she did this little online mosaic thing where you could upload a photo and when the album was released they launched this interactive mosaic, which was a picture of her in some kind of big ... Looked like a wedding dress really, but it was made up of ten thousand fan photos that you could then search and zoom in on and you could see your photo as part of the mosaic and then the poster was a poster of that mosaic. You knew that you were twentieth row down and tenth row in or whatever and you knew where your little picture was in this poster. Those are two of the big ones we did for her.

 

Prospect:

Okay, cool. I was just curious. I know Union does seem to be the most relatable project I think. Did you guys do their school sites as well or just their district sites?

 

CS:

All of their school sites ... The answer is yes, we did their school sites, but the way they've done it and we've tweaked it even with this version of the site is all of their school sites are housed under the main site, but then they also have their own URL where you can go to unionps.org/ ... I can't think of the name of one. Rosa Parks or something like that, one of their schools, and that school has its own landing page with its own directory and its own events and its own news and video and things that are specific only to that school site.

 

 

Then their back-end, their content management system which we also developed for them to specifically meet what they wanted to do ...They can go in and make changes anywhere on the site including adding things to those individual school sites and then each school has someone on site that's kind of their internal web master or web manager. It's all under one big umbrella.

 

Prospect:

Okay. Do you want me to just kind of start ...?

 

CS:

Yeah, you can ask as many questions as you want and then if I feel like there's something that I would have anticipated you asking that you didn't, I'll take it from there. Answering your questions will work great.

 

Prospect:

Okay. Union's site is one that I've looked at, not necessarily for their homepage layout, although it looks really nice ... I think we're looking for something a little bit different, but their navigation has been really ... Probably more on the school district's site, kind of how they house their information makes a lot of sense. I've taken some ... I don't even know if they noticed, but I've been taking some pages out of their book in terms of trying to plan for where I think our information should be. Last year ... I guess they launched right after I started, so they had been working on this before I worked here, but all of our school's sites launched a new ... They had Google sites to begin with. They were horrendous. Then they ended up getting new sites that mirror the district site. The problem is is I feel like they mirrored sites off an already broken site.

 

 

What we're looking for is ... I think that it makes sense for us, anyway, to keep them separate. We link to them from the district site and make sure that there's access there and they're not necessarily housed on our page. There's just a lot of information that our schools like to promote and put out. Our current CMS is not super easy, but that's not my expertise either. What we have found is with the school sites and with our web masters, they're not updating their webpages. Even though they've been trained, they find it overwhelming.

 

CS:

It's hard. They've got plenty of other hard stuff to do during the day. If it's difficult, they'll just move on to something else. Yeah, I get it.

 

Prospect:

Yeah. I'm curious about the CMS and seeing that. What we're looking for a company to do is to provide a refreshed look. I think our homepage, just the way it's laid out, doesn't work. Of course we can suggest navigation, but in terms of how many tiers and how they expand and all of that. Some guidance on some of that with our vendor. Then we'd love the opportunity to have an intranet. We're not necessarily putting that as a super high priority, but I know some vendors have been able to offer, "Okay, this site can be locked down," so we can actually ...

 

 

Right now we have all of this real estate on our website taken up for staff information. First of all, half of it that's out there isn't even relevant to the public. Two, our staff's link is right at the top. That doesn't make a lot of sense to me. We do have a firewall. It kind of uses our Google account to let us in and then it just takes us to actually a Google site. I'd love the opportunity to be able to have a similar page that's just behind a firewall where we can put all of our benefits and all that stuff.

 

 

Then all the school sites, the refresh of the navigation and kind of look and feel of the district site to be cascaded down into the school sites as well. I think it's kind of a big project, but we're doing a lot on the front and not a lot ... We plan to do some surveys. We've done a little bit of that already, trying to ask some questions of some certain people about what are you looking for, but I'd love to do some focus groups and make sure that I've got some buy-in from people that use the site to make sure that what we end up with makes a lot of sense. I'm not necessarily looking for the vendor to do all that research, but maybe weigh in on what kind of information they need as we work through that process so that we make sure we capture everything that makes sense.

 

 

Also, not necessarily a template design, but something that's flexible. It has to be mobile responsive, which your site is crazy mobile responsive, so I don't think that'd be a problem. I've kind of just thrown out a bunch of stuff. I'm not sure if that's making sense. The calendar function, currently we link with a Google calendar. That's really easy for us to keep updated, but if there's a function that is easier we're interested in that. I'm also interested to know ... For videos and things that we want to highlight, currently we have to upload them to a third party and then use an embed link. Then we're getting into HTML and that's kind of confusing for some of us who don't have that experience. We're like, "That looks familiar. Let's cut and paste that part of the code and see if it works on the page."

 

CS:

That works, right. Yeah.

 

Prospect:

Literally I do that all day. It's like, "Okay, well ..." I'm learning a little bit that way, but it's not ideal when you're trying to get things done quickly.

 

CS:

I can take some of those and just address some of them. Then if you have more questions we can go from there.

 

Prospect:

Sure.

 

CS:

I'll just kind of start in the order of some of the notes that I took while you were talking. When you talk about the navigation and the structure and the fact that you've done some initial research and looked at other sites and talked to people internally, just so you kind of know, using Union as an example here, we've been working with them for a long time. The first site that we did for them was probably I'm going to say seven or eight years ago.

 

 

Prior to that time they had done it internally. They had used kind of interns and college students that were willing to help out for not very much money. It was a mess. It was disorganized because one college intern would leave and somebody else would come in and they'd kind of do it their way for a few months or a year and then they would leave. It just kind of became this big cobbled together mess that was both unorganized from a user standpoint and honestly it was not very secure. I think one of the motivations that ended up making them want to hire somebody out was they had gotten hacked several times. They didn't want that to happen anymore.

 

 

We did a site for them however long ago it's been, six or seven years ago. Every year we would add a new feature. The way they've kind of done it is every year we'll sit down and we'll say, "What can we do to improve the site?" We'll come up with four or five things that either people internally have asked for, we'll come up with a list of things and we'll put a budget together. Sometimes they'll say, "Well, we're only going to do a couple of these for budget reasons," or whatever. Then this past year it was kind of time to completely start from scratch rather than just improving what we had done. It was time to start from scratch for some of the reasons that you said. It needed to be fully responsive.

 

 

Their previous site, we had built a main site and then a separate mobile site, which that was the standard for several years. That's what they had, but it was time for it to be full responsive so that they could ... Video was a big thing for them and they had some of the same issues that you just described. Our CMS actually has an embed feature where you're not having to get the HTML and trying to figure where it goes in the HTML. Is it going to look right? It's just an embed feature. You just click the button, copy and paste the link, like if it's a YouTube link.

 

 

They prefer YouTube, by the way. They have an internal video platform that they use for some internal school news, but for things like sports highlights or ... Most of the stuff that they do that's public facing, that they want parents and students to look at, they like YouTube because they want to also share it on social media easily. They kind of want to have one place where they put it and so that's what they've chosen. Not to say that that's what we're pushing for necessarily, but that's what works for them. We've made it where the embed process is easy and predictable and quick and all those things.

 

 

When you talk about what should the navigation look like, we actually went through a whole process before we launched this new site where we did kind of lead the process. We met with groups. We met with the superintendent and his staff two or three times. We met with principals from different school sites. We asked a lot of questions, we went through the planning process where we took all that information, and then we proposed a site structure. This is before we ever did any of the actual look and feel and the design. We call it wireframes, but it's kind of like the blueprint of the house.

 

 

We put it on paper and said, "This is what we think the site structure should be," and then we met with some of those people again to say, "What do you think of this way of organizing to try to get people to the information that they're trying to get to as quickly and easily as possible?" We talked a lot about what's the most important information and how can we make it more prominent. You used the staff as an example. You would think that that, with the way your current site is, that that's one of the two most important things on your website because it's right at the top, it's big, and it's front and center. If it was the second most important thing, then that's great placement. If it's something where you don't want it to be quite as prominent, it's not good placement.

 

Prospect:

Right. No, that's where I am.

 

CS:

Yeah. We went through that whole process and worked very closely with them to get it right before we jumped into the design and the look and feel of it.

 

Prospect:

Awesome. Okay.

 

CS:

You mentioned calendar. Our CMS has calendar functionality. I wouldn't try to persuade you not to use Google calendar if it's something that's so embedded in your processes that you just love it and want to do that. I wouldn't try to twist your arm, but if you wanted something different, we do have a calendar functionality that has weekly, monthly views, printable views. If you're sorting by school site or even the different sports, you can just do just athletic events or whatever.

 

Prospect:

Oh, really?

 

CS:

You can sign up for alerts for various things. We could include that if that's something that you guys were interested in.

 

Prospect:

Yeah, probably. The way we do it now is we have this Google calendar. I have access, several people have access. You could just get on your regular calendar function and put an appointment in just like you would on your own calendar and then you just pick the right one and then it automatically shows up online and everything. That's been easy, but the problem has been also that every school has their own calendar and then athletics doesn't even have a calendar and then we kind of were like ...

 

 

That's one of the things. I said, "Why do we have fine arts events on our calendar but no athletic events?" We started adding athletic events, but then it creates a pretty busy schedule. I know that you can actually make the calendar ... Say we wanted a spot on our homepage that showed a list of what's happening that day or whatever. I've seen that in a lot of sites. That's something that we're interested in. I don't know that we could accomplish that with a Google calendar, so I'd certainly be interested in that.

 

CS:

Yeah, those third party things are ... When you do something like a Google calendar or anything else for that matter, for better or worse, you have to use the functionality they have. One of the benefits of hiring someone like us and working with us is that because we built the platform, if you call and say, "Hey, we decided we want to do X," or "We need this feature on our calendar and this feature here," there aren't any limitations. The only limitations are how much time does it take and then what's the budget for it. If we can make those two things make sense, over time you just build it exactly the way you need it and you want it.

 

 

Like you said with the homepage, like Union's, you would want something different. I would probably want something different. If I were doing it and it were my school, I might not have done it exactly the way they did, but they had a vision for what they wanted to do and their site reflects that. We would work with you guys to say, "Okay, what do we want this to look and feel like?" Their previous website was somewhat monochromatic. It was their red logo and some of their headlines were red, but everything else was shades of gray and black. This current site is a reaction to that. "We've been looking at something that's not very colorful for six years. We want some color." That's what they wanted to do. Anyway, if we did something for you, it would be a reflection of what you guys want.

 

Prospect:

Okay, yeah. That makes a lot of sense. When we talk about the staff page, what kind of capability do you have there for a firewall private site?

 

CS:

We've done a very similar thing for Union where they have all their time off requests and benefit information and that type of information behind a password. I'm just trying to see where ... Yeah, you can see their little employee login on their site. We have redesigned it. It basically is set up so that they use their same username and password that they use to log in the school network. We actually tied into their directory. It's called active directory on their internal network. When a new teacher is hired and they create an email address for them, it automatically also creates a login for the web-based employee portal and they can use the same username and password for that.

 

 

For a period of time until they changed some of their internal computer networking structure, we actually had it locked down where you could only access the login page for the employee network from within the school network. You actually had to be onsite at the school to do that. It was somewhat problematic because if I'm sick and I want put in a time off request from home, it didn't allow me to do that. That's the way they wanted it for security reasons. They only wanted people to be able to log in from inside their network but that changed within the last year or two.

 

 

Now as long as you have the right username and password you can log into it from anywhere. They manage that from the very same type of CMS that they would manage the rest of the website from. If somebody has admin access to the employee section of the CMS, they can go in and add new content, add new documents, upload whatever resources that they want. They control that just like it's any other webpage.

 

Prospect:

Okay, cool. You also do branding at your firm? Am I seeing that right?

 

CS:

Yep, we do.

 

Prospect:

Can you kind of walk me through a little bit of that process and how ... If you have an example of where you've done a re-brand potentially for a client along with a new website and kind of how that looks as one larger project?

 

CS:

Yep. You'll notice a theme here as I talk about things. When we do branding, we also like to start with planning. We're a little bit different than some firms in that most companies like ours are either owned by a designer or owned by a programmer and I'm not either one of those things. I'm a business guy.

 

Prospect:

You're a musician.

 

CS:

I am a musician as well, but my role in day to day in this company is more strategic where I sit down with businesses or schools or churches or non-profits or whatever and I kind of take their vision of what they're trying to accomplish, put that together into a plan that my team of designers and programmers and photographers can then execute. What that means is if I'm a designer and you say, "Hey, we want to do branding," as a designer, I want to jump into designing a new logo for you as quick as I can because that's what gets my juices flowing. If I'm a programmer and you said, "Hey, we want an intranet," I'm thinking about code and database structure and all of those things right off the bat.

 

 

Whereas I like to take a step back and say, "Okay, if you want to re-brand, what are we trying to accomplish with that? How do we want to be seen in the public? What have we done in the past, from color schemes and mascots? What needs to be taken into consideration? What is sacrosanct? What can't be changed? What parts of it are we open to change?" I try to take all of those things into account before we start doing any design work.

 

 

I was looking at some of our sites and we've done branding on quite a few of these. We did all of the branding. Card Harvest is one. Andrea Garner Designs is one. What all did we do branding for? Tulsa Heaters is one. We've done some branding on a number of these that we feature on the homepage. Kwench Juice Café, we did all of their ... They were a startup and so it wasn't a re-brand, but it was branding from the beginning. We've done branding and signage and menu boards and print ads and trade show booths and a lot of things that go into that.

 

 

Yeah, we try to go through a well thought out process. We then take that information and we do a variety of black and white logos. We don't start with color because we kind of want you to see it in its most simple form, like it might be on a hat or a shirt or whatever that might be. It needs to work in a simple one color flat form. Once we get one that you like, then we start working through color schemes and color palettes. Once the brand is done, we develop brand standards so that once you have it you can publish those so that if you're doing signage or you're doing whatever it is, you can send that document to someone and say, "Hey, don't screw up our logo" basically. "Don't do this and don't do that. Here are our exact colors that we use," so that it's consistent across the board. That's kind of the process that we go through. Then we take it and apply it to everything else that we do, whether it's website or any other type of direct mail or video production or whatever it is.

 

Prospect:

Okay. What questions do people normally ask you that I haven't asked you about?

 

CS:

Two of the big ones that I assume will be there sooner rather than later are how long does it take and how much does it cost.

 

Prospect:

Yeah, that was coming.

 

CS:

Yeah, right. I think you've asked a lot of questions, which is what's the process look like, how do you guys do things, how's your process maybe different from other people and what are your capabilities, what have you done for other people. You've asked a lot of those questions. The only ones that came to mind were the big two of time and money. The short answer to those questions, especially on a project like this, is because we don't have any kind of minimum budget ... Some companies, they'll just tell you up front, "Unless you have a ..." Pick a number. "Hundred thousand dollar budget or twenty thousand dollar budget or whatever it is, we're not going to talk to you." We don't have that. We work with a lot of very small companies and so our process is we try to work with you and say, "Let's develop a plan, like a perfect world plan. Let's pretend like time and money actually weren't big factors. Let's just put together the plan that says, 'This is what we're trying to accomplish.'" It's our job to then put a budget and a timeline together based on that.

 

 

Then one of two things is going to happen. You're either going to say, "That's great, let's go for it. It fits our budget. We're comfortable with that. Let's go," or "That's way outside of our budget," or "It's going to take too long and we need to only do part of that," which is probably ... The first time we did a site for Union, that's probably the way it worked. I think their first year budget, if I remember the first project we did for them a long time ago, was maybe in the fifteen thousand dollar range because that's what they could get approved from the school board. We kind of whittled that perfect world plan down and said, "Okay, if fifteen thousand dollars is the max budget, this is what we can do in phase one," then every year after that there was a few thousand dollars more for features that they wanted to add.

 

 

We built that first site over the course of a few years. This new one, at the time it was before all these crazy budget cuts were affecting everybody like they are now. They had the budget and so they spent what they needed to spend to start from scratch and do it over. We will work with you within whatever limitations you have. If you choose that you want to work with us, we'll figure out a way to make it work.

 

Prospect:

What are the hosting costs? Is that kind of built in? What ongoing costs are there after a site is launched and up and running?

 

CS:

Yep. I'll deal with hosting separately here in a second and continue to use Union as an example. What they do, they do kind of a blanket PO. If we're in a year that we're not doing big major projects, they do a PO. I think in their case ... I think this last time maybe it was five not just crazy amounts of money, but it's a PO that they can use for ongoing maintenance or if there's a little tweak they want to make here or there, they don't have to go back and get board approval every time. They get a few thousand dollars a year that they can use to improve. It's literally just listed as that ongoing website maintenance improvement and that's it.

 

 

They usually have something along those lines every year. If we're doing some kind of fixed fee projects where ... At one point we did some modifications to the way they did their photo galleries. That was a project where they came to us and said, "Here's what we want to do." We said, "It's going to cost X amount of dollars," and they just went and got a PO specifically for that. There might be things along the way that you decide you want to do and that you would need to go back and get money or get approval to do.

 

 

In general there are ... Other than the hosting fee, which can literally range anywhere from fifty bucks a month depending on what traffic and bandwidth you have. I think theirs, the Union, because it is a fairly high traffic ... They do a lot of photography and so they do have a lot of storage and they get a lot of users and engagement on their site, which is a good problem to have. I could be speaking out of turn, I'd have to look.

 

Prospect:

Okay.

 

CS:

Just so you know, that's for everything. I mentioned that all of their school sites are under one umbrella. That's for their entire district. That's not a per location or per site thing. I don't know how that compares with what you guys are doing now, whether it's a lot more or a lot less or whatever, but that's kind of ...

 

Prospect:

It's about the same, yeah. What about in your CMS, do you have ... It seems like everybody does, but the styles where they're kind of preset? I don't know if that's CSS or what that's called specifically, but where we can kind of work to identify, "Okay, all the headlines should be the same and the body copy should be the same"?

 

CS:

Absolutely. Yep, that's part of the design process. After we do all that other planning and wireframes and all that, we'll design a homepage that we'll talk through and get approved. Once that's set, the next big thing that we do is a sample interior page design that includes a lot of the design elements. Headlines, sub-headlines, body copy, bulleting lists, numbered lists, pull quotes, to use a print term, but something you want to highlight within the text. Photo galleries, form fields. That includes basically every type of design style throughout the site because absolutely we want it to be ... One of the problems a lot of sites that are in your situation have is we've got a lot of people who can have their hands on the website and some people like comic sans as their body copy font. I'm saying that because it's my least favorite font in the world.

 

Prospect:

Yeah, I figured.

 

CS:

We want to limit that as best we can. We want to give you as much flexibility as you need and want, but we want to lock that down so that it looks professional regardless of how many people have access to it. The short answer is yes, that would be part of the CMS.

 

Prospect:

Okay. Do you guys offer training for web masters as part of your package or is there a separate fee for that?

 

CS:

We would just build that into whatever the budget that we set. We would include that. In fact, with Union for a couple of years part of that blanket PO included us coming when teachers came for teachers' meetings or professional development or whatever they would do a small group of whoever the site administrators were for each website. We would come in and train them every single year and answer questions. If we need to do that or something like that, that can always be built in to whatever the budget becomes.

 

Prospect:

Okay. What about ongoing ... How do you assign an account rep to your clients? Is it always you or do you have a team that understands the language of everybody?

 

CS:

Yeah. On projects like this, I'm generally ... If you're going to pick up the phone and call somebody, you would pick up the phone and call me. For better or worse, a lot of our clients have my cell phone number and that's just the way we're set up. Sometimes that's really good. Sometimes it's not. It's the way we've worked and it's worked well for us. From a bigger picture standpoint, I do have a team. Let's say you come in and you say, "Hey, this needs to be changed or fixed," or "I have this issue," usually the first thing that you would do is just ... We have a ticket system. You would go to our website and you would submit a support ticket and what that does is when you submit that, it goes to everybody.

 

 

It's a design or a look and feel-related issue, either my designer or my creative director is going to see that ticket come across. It goes to everybody. If they see that it's a design-related thing, they might jump on that and have it fixed before ... Maybe I'm in a meeting or something ... Before I would ever see it. Same with if it's a programming issue where this page isn't doing what it's supposed to do or we want it to do something different. If you submit that and my lead programmer or another programmer sees it ... A lot of times if you follow the eighty/twenty rule, eighty percent of the issues that come in are something that can be fixed within five, ten minutes. That gives them the ability to jump on it and fix it quickly.

 

Prospect:

Okay. All right. Those are really the only questions that I had, all twenty-five of them.

 

CS:

That's okay. You talked about just kind of being in the information gathering stage. In a perfect world, if you could get all the approvals and buy-in you needed, what's your perfect world timeline? Is this something you're thinking, "We'd like to start them next school year with a new site"? Is it six months or a year down the round? What's your perfect world?

 

Prospect:

My perfect world is we have a site in August, but I don't think that's going to happen. I still live in reality. Kind of where we are too is that our district is embarking on kind of a ... Not kind of. I don't know what I said that, but a strategic planning process with our board and our cabinet. I'm involved in that and I've really been trying to make that a dual purpose. I've presented to ...our superintendent, my boss. I'm sorry. I talk to him all day every day. I sat down with him and talked about the challenges that we have in our website and obviously our brand as well, although this is not the year to be asking for money for branding. I still did it. I still asked. The worst they could say is no. He has completely bought in ... He agrees with everything that I've laid out and said, "This would be my recommendation, however I just want ..." I really presented it so he could keep that in mind as we move through the strategic planning process because there's a lot of parallels there.

 

 

Some of their questionnaires and surveys and things that are going to happen, we've already submitted questions for this overall district strategic session and process. I said, "Hey, can we ask some of these questions as well and throw this in there and try to get ...?" I was kind of on a tight deadline to do that, so I didn't have a lot of time to get permission, approval, and get somebody on the board to tell me what questions to ask. I've been through it a few times in previous lives, previous jobs I guess. I knew some of the right things, even though I'm not a branding expert or certainly not a website expert. I think anybody would tell you that. I'm trying to do that.

 

 

I've given him a price range for both independent. I think if we were to be able to do both of them, that'd be great. If we were able to only redo our website, I think that's fine because the website designs we can easily do a ... Change up some colors and the logo and everything later if we have to. I don't know if they're going anywhere. He's like, "Yeah, this is great," but in terms of budget, that's really the big thing. My sense right now is that it will be ... I brought it up in our cabinet meeting and gave the same presentation to our cabinet members. They kind of nodded and said, "Mm-hmm (affirmative), yeah. We all agree. What are we going to do?"

 

CS:

Right.

 

Prospect:

I don't necessarily think buy-in is an issue, it's just cost. At this point I think the sense I'm getting is that we're going to work through the strategic planning process and keep this at the forefront of the discussion. I don't think that we'd be able to get a solid, "Yes, let's move forward," until the beginning stages of that process have been completed. In which case we would kind of work through the rest of it together or something where we can kind of join forces. That's kind of what I expect will happen, but I don't know. In a perfect world, we'd be ready to go in August, but we don't even have our strategic planning sessions until August so that's just pie in the sky. Not going to happen. Christmas break would be great. If not, then maybe it gets pushed to where we're having to do it next summer. My original intent was to see if we could go ahead and get the ball rolling before the summer was upon us so that we could work on it during the summer. That still might happen, but I don't know.

 

CS:

That's why I was going to say, if you need anything from us by way of proposals or details or information, we'd be happy to move as quickly as you want us to, but I'm also not kind of a high pressure guy and so that's kind of why I wanted to get a sense of ... I don't want to bug you if you know that it's something that ... Yeah.

 

Prospect:

No, that's fine.  I think what I would like to do with you guys is if you can going through the questions that I've had and kind of the things that we're interested in ... I don't know if that's enough information for you to put a ballpark estimate together for us and then where we say, "Hey, that's not going to work," or whatnot. That would be great. If you're not necessarily in a position to do that right now because you know that we're not completely ready to pull the trigger, then that's fine too.

 

CS:

I can certainly put something a little bit more generic that could be modified based on more input that you guys have. Kind of like I mentioned with Union, at the first year they kind of knew, "This is where we're going to be." Is it fair to ask you at this stage when you have an idea of what kind of a range that you're thinking of ... We know it needs to be within this ballpark so I don't give you something like, "We're in left field on that."

 

Prospect:

Yeah, I think that's fair. I'm not sure what the right answer is. I can tell you what I put out as a recommendation and it's kind of low but it's thirty as kind of a starting point, just because I know that our current vendor, whether we decide to go that route or not, they will be able to do some of those things for about twenty-five. I wanted to build in, "Okay, well I'd love to have ..." This is outside of the firm, but I'd love to build in some writing. I'm a team of one. I do have an assistant, but she's more of an assisting role and does a lot of ... She helps a whole lot, but she's not a communications background. That's it. She's a total rock star, don't get me wrong. I would enlist some help with writing some feature stories, things that we don't have currently on our site, and having some highlight things done so that we could populate the site with some really good but static content.

 

CS:

We certainly could help with as well ... I don't know how much you looked at our website, but we write a lot of content for our own site. We write a lot of content for client sites. Some clients actually put us on retainer to do blog and/or social media writing for them on a regular basis. If it's something you need help with, we certainly could help with that as well.

 

Prospect:

Yeah. That would be great, but I wouldn't include it in your proposal.

 

CS:

Is that twenty-five or thirty? You mentioned kind of proposing web and branding separately. Would you need to ...?

 

Prospect:

That's just web.

 

CS:

That's just web. Okay. All right.

 

Prospect:

The branding has kind of been in between twelve and twenty, kind of what it's come back as.

 

CS:

Okay. From a budget on the branding side of that, how much of ... Beyond the planning and design, getting the logo done, making sure there's good brand standards in place and delivering that in a format that you can use for other applications, what else for that twelve to twenty are you expecting a company to also ... To design some signage or design other things or is it just the branding and logos and colors and that type of stuff?

 

Prospect:

That's kind of been part of the range, right? If you do the researching colors and logo, then that's usually the lower end, but if you do the templates for all the materials that we use a lot, business cards, letterheads, presentations, some signage guidance, that kind of thing, I'd say that brand guideline document is ... If we were able to do it. We don't have one. It's probably pretty clear if you look at our site. We don't have a guidelines document. It's driving me crazy. I think that because of ... Again, I'm used to working in corporate world where it's not necessarily as much of a discussion in terms of, "Okay, how can we get the ...?" Even that we need approval is just different.

 

 

I think that probably what we'll end up doing is if ... That's a big if. If we do go down the road, is probably having the research, the color, the actual brand, and then the guideline document and a few templates for things that everybody uses. Then that we would actually ... Maybe it would be the letterhead and card. Then we could take the guidelines and do our own for everything else that we would need, so we wouldn't necessarily have to go down the road of ... I don't know, all the other things. How do you handle the subgroups? We've got special services. Currently they have their own logo. Theirs looks nothing like our logo, but they're just a department within the district. Technology services tried to have their own logo and I told them no. They understood, but I was like, "That's not how this works. No, you can't be blue and you can't have your own logo and your own business cards and your own shirts. You look like you don't even work here."

 

 

I think that there's a desire for those groups to kind of stand out a little bit. What would that suggested treatment be for everybody? Is it just they put their department name underneath the logo? If an initiative comes up ... I noticed on Union's they have a Project Learning Academy and their logo wasn't great with it, but you could still tell it was still the Union. It had the U and it had the little solar bars around it or something.

 

CS:

Even with an organization like Union that does have brand standards, it's a big enough organization where you're going to have people that kind of do their own thing. It becomes more of a training issue of, "We want to keep everything as close to this as possible. Should you want to deviate from that, we would like for you to let us see that before it goes out. Anything that has the Union logo on it ..." I know that we did a lot of work with Jenks Public Schools a long time ago as well. They had a school policy that anything that had the school name or school logo on it had to go through ... They had a full-time employee that that's all they did was they approved flyers and they approved t-shirts and logos. If it wasn't approved, you were in trouble. Some people do it differently than others.

 

Prospect:

Yeah, that's kind of what I'm used to working in is that kind of structured strict environment. The schools, we wouldn't necessarily change their identity. Currently our branding forces competition, I feel like, between the two schools because we've got their colors in our logo. Anything you design that's color, unless we ... We actually don't have a black and white version. Crazy. I can gray it out, but it's just ...

 

 

Anyway, all that to say the two high schools, they don't have consistent color palettes for their school. I wouldn't ask for middle or elementary, but the two high schools I think are in desperate need of not a re-brand, but, "Okay, here is your brand. This is how you can use it and here are the different variations." Then they're just kind of weird because their logos don't really line up. A lot of people change it so that it does, and honestly that makes more sense anyway. They don't use the same green ever and they should. They don't really have anything to go off of when they're ask for stuff. They just say, "Yeah, that looks good," and then it gets printed and of course it's not what you saw because it was on a screen. To be able to kind of set some colors for those two high schools would be helpful as well. I think this is my dream big ...

 

CS:

Part of it is if you can solve the really big problems, it gives you more time to then start to address some of those ones that aren't as big because you've got the big one off your plate. I think that if we can set a really strong ... That's the other thing is if you could set a really strong brand at the top that people are clear about and they see, the likelihood of them attaching to that and using it in their stuff in a way that is consistent is higher than if it's something that's not as good or not as clear or whatever. Then they're more likely to just freelance and do their own thing because they don't want to use that, the unclear lower quality brand. I think if we can do something that's really strong, that helps that problem.

 

Prospect:

Yeah, I completely agree. If you could put something together that kind of itemizes those separately, branding from web, because I'm not confident that we'll move forward with branding but ... I'll say this. I'm more confident that we'll move forward with the web design than I am with the branding just because of the economic climate that we're in. That would help. Then when we get to a point where we're like, "Okay, yeah, we know that we're going to be able to move forward and actually select somebody to work with," then we can start to have the more details conversations like, "Okay, show me your CMS. I want to see it. Let's talk a little bit more definitely about the things that we lined out and what the specifics are with each of those and the exact functionality and all that so that we can then start moving forward." Who knows when that'll happen, right?

 

CS:

Yep, yep.

 

Prospect:

I'm pushing it forward.

 

CS:

Yeah, exactly. At least you're going to have a plan.

 

Prospect:

I do have a plan. It's not one that falls off my plate. That's why I keep pursuing it. It is nice to know that there is buy-in here, so that's good.

 

CS:

Yeah. Okay. I'll put together kind of a draft that you and I can maybe look at. I know you said you're going to be gone. When are you back in the office?

 

Prospect:

Hold on. We're going out of the country. Okay, so I come back ... I won't be back in the office until probably really logistically the 13th. I'm back that week of the 6th, but we have meetings. I'll be back, but we have all day meetings that whole week.

 

CS:

You said you're not leaving until whenever, the 23rd, the 26th. Do you want a draft of that before then or do you just want to wait until you get back?

 

Prospect:

If it's realistic, that would be awesome. Yeah, because we still have some of the conversations and it's just good to have that information.

 

CS:

Okay, yeah. I can put together an initial draft before then. I just wanted to see kind of what your thoughts were. I will put that together and if I have questions once I get into it I might call you back to clarify something. I think we've hit the big parts of it, so I'll work on that and get it to you in the next few days.

 

Prospect:

Okay. Thank you sir. I really appreciate it.

 

CS:

Yep, thank you. Yep, bye bye.

 

Prospect:

Okay, bye bye.

 

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