Harvard Institute of Politics

Revamped Web Publishing Platform Helps Harvard's Institute of Politics Amplify its Brand

For nearly five decades, Harvard University’s Institute of Politics has worked to unite and inspire students to pursue careers in public service. The Institute’s influence in political discourse extends far beyond the Cambridge campus with its John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum, research, fellows program and national conferences.

After a competitive review process, the Institute selected ISITE Design to embark on a multi-year project to develop digital strategy, redesign and re-platform its website and launch a revamped video portal for the popular JFK Jr. Forum.   

Unlocking 30-years of rich video & political discourse

A cornerstone of the new IOP digital strategy was to amplify its rich library of video content from the JFK Jr. Forum that hosts significant political figures for discussion and debate seen by more than 650,000 people live since 1978.

The 1,000+ library of long-form videos dating back to 1978 were all but inaccessible in their existing Real Media format. ISITE helped to integrate Kaltura’s Video Platform, which extended the IOP’s reach across multiple form factors and redesigned the JFK Jr. Forum experience to better aggregate and curate its unique collection of political history.

The redesigned video portal was developed and launched in three months, in parallel to planning the IOP’s global online strategy and website.  The project also included piloting the Kaltura platform for live video casting of events and working with the IOP’s media services team to better streamline the process of producing, editing and publishing video content.

Bringing user-centered digital experiences to life

Like many academic institutions the IOP struggled to design experiences built for the needs of its users versus the internal structure of the organization. ISITE led IOP through a user-centered design and visual identify process to identify key personas and tasks while reconciling the diverse needs of students, professionals, media, educators and national political influencers.

This new approach also established a content strategy to organize videos and content by topic and allow IOP staff to more easily curate and feature relevant content, which can change daily based on the 24-hour political news cycle.

Audience-based navigation created pathways into content for both undergraduates and professionals and key research such as the Harvard Public Opinion Project on the political views of millennials.

Re-platforming on an open source CMS

The prior IOP web publishing platform was a considerable bottleneck in preventing content from being published in a timely manner and failing to keep up with the IOP’s increasingly demanding digital needs.

ISITE helped the Institute select and implement Drupal, a popular open source CMS with strong adoption within academia and Harvard. The new CMS was built to manage both the main IOP site and the Forum site, and integrates with the video platform to provide a seamless experience for visitors.

Building a sustainable digital operating model

A key part of the digital strategy was helping the IOP develop a long-term model for the staffing and governance. ISITE helped identify gaps with internal staffing needs, develop job descriptions and assist with helping to find the right team members.

The digital strategy also helped the IOP develop a social media playbook for how to better amplify the news, events and ongoing political discussion happening on and off campus. This included how to orchestrate a social strategy and better plan before, during and after the live events to maximize engagement.

The new strategy, visual identify and CMS has the IOP on solid footing with a platform that will support the organization for many years to come.


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