Website governance is a challenging topic in any large organization, and colleges and universities are no exception. That challenge is only amplified when those who most need to exercise control over a website lack the resources or political support necessary to enforce effective governance policies and procedures.

But that doesn’t have to leave you dead in the water, especially not if Shelley Keith has anything to say about it. Shelley, a higher ed industry veteran and senior strategist at Modern Tribe, has an alternative approach, which she was kind enough to share with us in a recent podcast episode. Here are some of the highlights from our conversation.

Start with Goals

Most people are allergic to losing control, and nothing says loss of control quite like bringing up website governance. Instead, Shelley recommends you start by focusing your conversation around the shared goal of making the website work effectively for the entire institution.

Then, take the time to understand what your stakeholder really wants, whether that’s reducing call volume to their office, drawing more attention to a particular program or generating more applications. Ultimately, if you can find a friction point and demonstrate how the website (and your expert guidance) can help, your stakeholder will be more likely to heed your requests because they’ll see you as an ally who’s got their best interests at heart.

Embrace the Power of Data-Driven Storytelling

Data is an indispensable tool for demonstrating the need for change or showing how a particular approach has started paying off, but if all you do is prattle on about bounce rates and scroll depth on mobile, you’ll probably lose your audience. That’s where effective storytelling can help.

Don’t just firehose numbers. Instead, weave a narrative that explains the story behind the numbers. Pull in relevant research from reputable sources, (Ruffalo Noel Levitz and the Norman Nielsen Group are good starting places for web-related discussions), to show you’ve done your homework and to support your rationale.

Then, show how what you’re seeing in the numbers translates into meaningful impact for the institution. How much high-quality traffic is being lost to a competitor due to poor SEO practices? How many info requests are never completed because your form has 15 unnecessary fields and doesn’t work on Firefox? What kind of financial benefit might the school see if you could reduce online application bailouts by 10%?

Once you start tying the numbers to worthwhile outcomes, the odds of being heard and taken seriously go up exponentially.

Shout Your Successes from the Rooftops

With a little luck and some hard work, your efforts will eventually start to yield little wins here and there. Merchandise the heck out of them. Each little win is an opportunity to build your influence, win more allies and show how your recommendations are making a substantive impact at your school. No, not everyone will share your enthusiasm, but a handful of people will be thrilled that someone’s taking the lead and has something to show for it. Embrace these allies and use their enthusiasm to gradually make headway with the much larger group who’s less engaged but willing to go along with something that seems to be working.

Hungry for More?

Shelley delivered a ton more practical advice during our interview, from how to effectively gather stakeholder feedback to how to build broader ownership for ADA compliance. Check out the interview here.