Web communications manager
In a new set of articles profiling staff members, EUI Life interviews Francesco Martino about his new role as web communications manager for the EUI. Francesco heads up the Communications Service’s web team, which consists of four individuals who manage the Institute’s centralised web services, including the corporate web site, individual project sites and blogs as well as social media and many other web tools used for internal and external communications. Francesco has been working on the EUI’s web since the creation of the first EUI web unit in 2008, situated in the Library under the direction of Veerle Deckmyn. He feels that the big transformations the EUI web faces today are an evolution of the process started with the CMS project.
‘The CMS, together with the creation of the web unit, was the first step towards a corporate and centrally-coordinated web presence, which up to then had been fragmented and decentralised,’ he says. ‘A lot has been done since then, and that vision has evolved into a a wider set of web services and tools, offered to the EUI community for internal and external communications’.
Despite initial apprehension about structural and management changes in 2011, when the unit was consolidated within the then-newly created Communications Service, the web unit weathered the transitions, thanks to a continuity in vision shared between Dr Deckmyn and the Director of Communications Stephan Albrechtskirchinger. ‘This vision’, says Francesco, ‘is a vision of innovation, corporate identity, reliability and flexibility of the web services offered and maintained by the web unit for the EUI. A vision for a leading strategy able to guarantee the best possible web communications tools for all the different EUI needs (departments, centres, services and projects) and for the Institute’s main identity and targets’. As web communications manager, it is his role to mediate between those needs and objectives and the technical professionals who develop and implement the technology needed to meet them—and vice versa.
Francesco feels confident in the web team’s experience, and what they have learned building the web services over the years: ‘We have a really solid background where we keep on adding small but important pieces everyday. It’s so important to feel this strong basis, the walls of the Badia, when you work with something which is mainly virtual. Here I’m able to learn every day, and so do all the web team, in an environment which is very demanding, but which at the same time gives you all the tools and the motivation needed to do your best. It’s not just a matter of budgets and tools, it’s really much more. The EUI is a unique research centre, and it’s about its mission, its identity, its European identity magically inserted in the Florentine and European context.’
Identifying strongly with this context, he states ‘As do many people of my generation I have a strong European identity. Through the EUI I’m able to feel that I’m an active part of this ongoing process, the European Integration. I am in my home city, but working with a big and wide-open window on Europe–it’s a really cool combination.’
Francesco observes that ‘the web is going fast, and it’s speeding up every day. So do the needs of the EUI in this modern context, and you see it in the requests that we receive every day. We are working hard to adapt our structure and our organisation to this changing situation. It isn’t just a matter of installing and giving access to the newest and coolest web tool, we also need to provide training and support to make sure that it is used in a coherent, consistent way, compliant with the EUI corporate strategy. We have to ensure that the data in each new tool will be safe, compatible with other EUI services, upgradable and sustainable in a mid to long term plan. And we have to do it fast!”
This means anticipating needs of users as much as two years down the road. ‘Our systems must be scalable flexible and supported for integration update or even migration to eventual new solutions. To get this, we are constantly looking outward and keep us updated on new technologies and solutions, like for example cloud hosting and open source products, but we are also empowering our internal organisation in the EUI context. We have an important population of professionals with web-related working tasks— webmasters, web editors, web coordinators, web designers, and so on. There are nearly a hundred people working on these areas across the Institute. They use our tools, and they know very well what are the specific needs at a local level. Improving the way we work together, the way we communicate and interact each other, means to be able anticipate most of the requests as well as centralise efforts, budgets and be stronger and more solid, with a redundant support system and a wider pool of competences and experiences, from all over the world.’
Francesco also coordinates the social media strategy of the Institute, an important part of the EUI web communications. On top of Facebook and Twitter profiles, the EUI has a Flickr account and YouTube channel with videos from conferences, interviews with academics and advertising campaigns including for next year’s doctoral applications. “The main purpose of social media is to improve and maintain a good identity and reputation on the web. It’s the public face of the EUI for a very wide and growing audience. To have a good profile, regularly updated and maintained gives you a good face to the public on the internet, and offers a powerful alternative way to access important information.”
The EUI launched its Twitter profile just under two years ago, and has received fresh impetus with the arrival of President Weiler. ‘He was surprised we didn’t invest as much effort in getting twitter followers. In Italy it is not as important as in US, but that is changing. We all know now it is very important in academia.’ The new campaign has seen followers on Twitter reach over 5,500 and combined social media followers reach nearly 25,000.
‘We are very happy about it. We have a high rate of conversion from social media to the website and a very relevant audience. On social media you have to invest a lot of time to get a good reputation, but you can lose it in a second, so we are always very careful and think a lot about how we want to use social media.’
‘For the upcoming future I see the role of the Web Unit as the centre of a flexible, adaptable, strong and scalable web working group as wide as the EUI’s ambitions. Innovation through evolution’.