Staff profiles – who are they for and what do they do?

You might be reading this and thinking that you don’t need to read any further, however, before I lose your attention, just because you already have an ‘awesome’ staff profile, or you don’t have a staff profile doesn’t mean you won’t pick up some hints and tips. 

Last year (July 2018) saw our new web site go live and, as I’m sure you have seen, it is pretty spectacular. The launch of the new website saw everything remodelled and updated, our staff profiles changed and now look better than ever.  

Old style staff profile:

New style staff profile:

As displayed above, our new staff profiles have much more wow factor and look so much more visually appealing. With this in mind, our ‘image style’ changed from a headshot to a shot in action. This displays our staff in their natural environment and gives the profile personality and character.  

Since the launch of the new site and a fresh look on our staff profiles, we have seen an increase in visits to our staff profiles. In the year July 2018 to July 2019, we have had 334,595 visits to all the pages in our staff profile area compared with 229,561 visits to all pages in the staff profile area from July 2017 to July 2018That is an increase of 45.75% and highlights the success of our new look staff profiles (Google Analytics, 2019). 

Furthermore, in the first year that our new website has been live, we have seen a decrease in bounce rate by 5.20% showing that users are interacting better with our new staff profiles. (Google Analytics, 2019) (For those who do not know what a page’s bounce rate is, it is the percentage of visitors who leave our website after viewing that page) 

Why do we need staff profiles? 

Staff profiles are great as they offer a place on the website our academics and support staff can make their own. Its somewhere that can showcase your research, expertise and industry experience but, most importantly, it’s the area of the website where you can show your personality. This is why we want you to write your staff profile in the first person (I am …) so you are talking directly to your audience. 

There is some essential information that we require on our academic staff profiles: 

  • About – this should summarise the main aspects of your job roles and what your focus is (teaching, research, management etc)  
  • Teaching responsibility – this should outline what courses you work on, any particular modules etc 
  • Research interests – this should describe briefly the research topics you are involved in 
  • My qualifications – highlighting what you have achieved 
  • Experience in industry – any experience you have in industry (past or present) 
  • Recent publications – this is where you can list your most recent work in date order 
  • Abstract – every member of staff has to have an abstract on their profile that is a summary of their main roles at the University written in the third person (Callum is …)  

With support staff profiles, you may not have any teaching responsibilities, but we still want you to show a high level of experience and expertise. 

Who looks at our staff profiles?  

We have a couple of two main groups of individuals who look at our staff profiles. 

  • Business and external stakeholders 
  • Current students and prospective students (Google Analytics 2019) 

Business and external stakeholders are looking at staff profiles to identify what research our academics are involved in and to learn more about what our academics achieved here at the University of Derby.  

Prospective students looking at staff profiles will be researching the academic teams on courses they are looking to study. They will be looking to see what research these academic are involved in and what industry experience they have. They are using staff profiles at the beginning of the recruitment cycle when they are looking at where to study, after an Open Day when they have discovered what our University has to offer and have spoken to academics and, finally, before arriving at University in to begin their time studying with us.  

Current student are using staff profiles for getting in contact with staff. They also allow students to discover which academics would be the best to work with when they are looking at research areas for independent studies. 

Which staff profiles were in our top 15 search results?  

  1. Professor Kathryn Mitchell (ViceChancellor) 
  2. Professor Ashiq Anjum (Professor of Distributed Systems) (Engineering and Technology) 
  3. Hari Punchihewa (Deputy Chief Executive and Finance Director)  
  4. Professor Lu Liu (Head of School and Professor of Distributed Computing) (Electronics, Computing and Mathematics) 
  5. Professor Antonio Liotta (Director of Data Science Centre) (Electronics, Computing and Mathematics) 
  6. Michael Sweet (Associate Professor in Aquatic Biology) (Life and Natural Science) 
  7. Professor Tristram Hooley (Professor of Career Education) (International Centre for Guidance Studies) 
  8. Professor Dennis Hayes (Professor of Education) (Arts, Humanities and Education) 
  9. Professor Miles Richardson (Director of core Psychology Programmes) (Life and Natural Science) 
  10. Professor Philp Hodgson (Head of Law, Criminology and Social Science) (Business, Law and Social Science)   
  11. Professor Alex Nunn (Professor of Global Economy) (Business, Law and Social Science) 
  12. Ian Turner (Associate Professor in Learning and Teaching) (Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching) 
  13. Professor Malcom Todd (Provost)  
  14. Professor Judith Lamie (Pro Vice-Chancellor, External Affairs) 
  15.  Dr Ian Bake (Senior Lecture in Psychology) (Life and Natural Science)  

What can you do to improve your staff profile? 

Content is key when it comes to staff profiles. The more that you can put on your staff profile, the more someone can get to know who you are. What you get up to in your research and work is important, so why would you not want to share this? As well as ensuring the right amount of content is on your profile, it is also important to remember to keep your content up to date. If you keep up to date with your content regularly, changes won’t feel like a huge task compared with if you rewrite all of your content every few years.  

Do not forget that we are more than happy to help you out with your staff profiles. We have our online guidance and as a team, we run our a fortnightly digital drop in session, where you can sit down with one of the team to discuss staff profile content, how to structure content on your staff profile or even how to use our content management system (CMS), Terminal Four. 

A blog about using plain English

We need to use plain English. Plain English gets our message across quickly and easily. People understand it the first time they read it. Plain English is efficient. It uses short sentences. Is that plain enough for you?

The challenge we face is balancing plain English with getting across our brand personality and our key messages. We need to be welcoming and approachable. We also need to express our expertise. So we don’t want our English to be plain yet dull and cold. We want it to be warm, engaging and compelling. All this applies whether we are writing for print, the website or email communications.

Academia tends to have a strained relationship with plain English. I had a brief conversation recently with a colleague who has a pretty high level of academic qualification. They admitted that the further up the educational tree/mountain/ladder you climb, the more complicated the language you are encouraged to use.

In other words, Professors are told to talk fancy.


The reason behind all the jargon, complicated sentence structure, academic language and even Latin is to give an impression of high intellect, of expertise. Half the battle, surely? However, if the great idea is hidden behind too many long, complicated words, the meaning will be lost to too many people. It comes across as cleverness for the sake of cleverness.

Here is an interesting point from Gerry McGovern. In the past, when someone read a sentence they didn’t understand, they saw it as their fault: “I must be stupid.” Now, they see it as the fault of the organisation: “They must be stupid.”

So our audience knows that it is our job to make sure they understand the message. And they are right. We want people to understand what we are doing. We want everyone to understand that we are experts in our fields.

Clarity and brevity

And the trick is that other experts in these fields would much prefer us to use simple language. Another colleague shared this little treat with me.

In 2012, research by Christopher Trudeau at the Thomas M Cooley Law School in Michigan into the use of language found that the more educated the person, the more specialist their knowledge, the greater their preference for plain English. They may understand complicated language but they want clarity and brevity. They simply don’t have time for all those long words.

Professor Trudeau also found that the more complex the idea, the greater the need for plain English. This is a big challenge for us. But it is one we need to overcome. It means that all our producers of content need to understand the idea before they can express it in plain (but engaging) language.


And I haven’t even talked about accessibility yet. I’m going to do that now. Our aim is to be the most accessible university in the UK – both physically and online.

Making our content accessible means using language that everyone understands. And everyone includes the potential student, researcher, business partner, business partner’s granny. They could be 15 years old, they could be 83. They could have a PhD in biochemistry or they could have no qualifications at all.

Beyond our stated aim, we also have a legal requirement to make our website content accessible. There are standards we must meet. Many of these are technical. In terms of the language we use, the standard is simple:

  • Make text content readable and understandable

Ideally, text should be written to be easily readable by all levels of ability. If we do feel the need to use technically advanced text, we should provide easy-read alternatives to explain what we mean.

So call a spade a spade. Don’t call it a long-handled slab of sharpened forged steel.

Writing tools

There are a couple of tools you can use to test your language. These tools will judge you on your sentence length and structure, use of passive voice and word choice.

Within Word, you can access readability statistics through File/Options/Proofing. Tick Use readability statistics and OK that. Then use the grammar check (F7). You will have to go through the checks but you will then get a list of statistics. These include Flesch reading ease. You should be aiming for a score between 60 and 70. By complete accident, this blog scores 65.

You can also use Hemingway Editor, which will give you a readability score. This relates to the education level (US grades) required to understand your text. The app judges this blog to be readable by sixth-graders. They are 11 to 12 years old.


For anyone across the University who is producing content for the website, we do offer Writing for the Web training. This gives you an idea of the type of language you should be using. Contact

And the general Style Guide for Writing is available on the Marketing and Student Recruitment page on staff ID Intranet @ Derby (under Professional Services).

There is also a useful piece from the Government Digital Service’s senior writers with ten tips for writing for blog posts, opinion pieces or presentations.

Tickets and tribulations: what happens when you email digital support 

Our Ticketing System

When the website launched in July 2018 we also launched some less obvious systems at the same time. One of these systems was Jira Service Desk, which is fundamentally a ticketing system although it does a lot of other cool functions. We decided to go for Jira for a couple of reasons:

  • IT currently uses it to great effect
  • It was not gratuitously expensive
  • Atlassian, the company who own Jira, have a good reputation for quality software

After looking at the existing system, which was effectively just ordering emails in an outlook inbox, we decided it would be a great opportunity to upgrade our customer support operation. We thought the best time to do this would be when a big change was already happening (a brand new website) and that directing users to a new mail box would be easier to introduce at the same time.

What does Jira Service Desk ACTUALLY do?

Jira is marvellous! I’m not just saying that as the digital systems guy. From a customer service point of view, it’s actually pretty incredible.

I’ve always thought that customer service should be a priority for any team that deals with a large amount of tasks or assignments internally: having the ability to see any information of emails past or present, what conversations happened, the resolution etc.

For the purposes of this blog post, I’m only going to talk about what we use the system for at the moment but, as we explore and introduce new aspects of the service desk, I will hope to write more about them.

What happens when you email us?

Whenever someone emails, it comes through to our Jira Service Desk which everyone on the digital marketing team has an account for. The ticket then sits in our unassigned issues queue until whichever team member is looking after Jira that day assigns it to an appropriate team member.

Please bear in mind that all jobs that require work, ie not just a question, should come through Jira and not been emailed to any one person in the digital team. This so we can accurately manage workloads and that jobs don’t get done before others just because a direct email has been used.

As soon as a ticket is assigned to a user, the clock starts counting down and, depending on the priority of the job (the P column) they have certain service level agreements (SLAs) to progress or complete the job. The priority is set by the person who is distributing tickets which follow the process we introduced:

Highest – Only reserved for the jobs that mean our digital systems are not working or breaching the law. Examples of this would be the website is currently down/incorrect information that could lead to a CMA (Competition and Markets Authority) breach. All other work is put on hold while this is addressed.

High – Reserved for jobs that are urgent and would require to be completed within a working day.  This is communicated verbally with whoever receives this ticket. Examples of this would be incorrect information on the website/social media complaints.

Medium – The majority of jobs that come through sit at medium, which is the standard assigned level. We aim to resolve or progress these jobs within two working days where possible. Examples of this would be general content approvals for key pages or creating a form for an important event coming up.

Low – Low is assigned to non-priority jobs that don’t really have any urgency. We usually look to resolve or progress these within five working days. Examples of these jobs would be staff profile updates/approvals of content on non-key pages on the website.

Lowest – Lowest is for jobs that have no real importance or timescales. We would look to resolve these issues when the team has surplus time available. Examples of this would be a campaign running in a year and preparing photographs well in advance.

To contextualise these priorities, out of the 3,035 tickets we have received since July, I have only ever assigned two at the highest level, that is how rare they are.

Does you putting urgent on a ticket change how it gets assigned in priority?
Nope, after assigning over 3,000 tickets, we look at the content and make an educated choice based on the information and current workload. Everyone’s tasks are urgent to them. We have to look at the university as a whole.

Are there any trick/tips to getting your tickets seen faster?

Yes! For those that have made it this far into this blog post, I will show you a cool trick that has been introduced recently. We have created a portal that allows you to pick what type of job you are submitting.

This allows you to pick exactly what type of job you are submitting and it will be assigned into the relevant queue, which means you don’t have to wait for it to be assigned by whoever is on charge on that day. When you fill in the portal form, it also asks you the questions we know we need  information for, which means we don’t have to go back to you for more information. It’s quicker for everyone!

I know what you’re thinking: ‘Wow that’s great! Is there anything I can do to help you?’

What a generous offer. The main issue we have with tickets on Jira is when they are emailed in and everyone and their uncle are cc’d in. Then, when everyone hits the dreaded reply-all button to give a small contribution to the subject, it raises a new ticket (because it’s a new email) and every time someone does it keeps creating new emails.