Interview: Heather Andrews RMLS

Heather AndrewsHeather Andrew is with the Regional Multiple Listing Service about their use of WordPress. She is a Communication Specialist for Regional Multiple Listing Service (RMLS) in Portland, Or. Specializing in education media, she has worked on content development for museums, textbooks, television, and websites. Some of her past projects can be found at the Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville, Kentucky, Voyagers National Park in International Falls, MN, and Champoeg State Park in St. Paul, Oregon. She holds a master of publishing from Simon Fraser in Vancouver, BC.

Screenshot of RMLS Central website.

Why chose WordPress?

RMLS Central used a WordPress.com site to host a blog before I was hired but it had limitations. My immediate predecessor recommended migrating to a self-hosted WordPress site but wasn’t around long enough to see the project through to completion. After I was hired, I migrated content to the self-hosted site and have been working on content ever since.

They liked WordPress.com because it wouldn’t require any support from our staff as it is pretty user friendly. We have a team of in-house developers but they aren’t necessarily WordPress savvy. Their priorities are on other projects. Another reason was security and constant uptime. In case there was some kind of outage or disaster, WordPress.com is most likely to still be up and active, allowing us to communicate if if our other site was down.

The RMLS Central site is essentially the external-facing communications site for the company. RMLS Central is used to provide information to RMLS members (approximately 12,000 Realtors across Oregon and SW Washington) and includes a blog with educational material, events calendar, online sign-up forms, a lists of RMLS offices around the region, and a few other items.

Do you have experience with other CMS programs?

The RMLS has a SharePoint site for internal-facing (staff) communications, but I don’t know what other CMS programs my predecessors were familiar with.

Is the WordPress site managed as a multiple contributor site?

RMLScentral is primarily my responsibility, both in administration and content creation. There are a few participants from others in the organization. We have a small team who sometimes provides direction for the site, and we have some staff that participate on the blog. In some cases, those staff members log in to RMLScentral and submit content themselves, other cases they supply the content to me. Which I then polish up and publish using their credentials.

WordPress works but just like anything else in the workplace, with some amount of dysfunction. I’d like to see more staff participation in the blog, but it is growing. Approximately 90% of the blog post are done by me.

How are you using WordPress with RMLS Central?

The theme is called Scrollider, available with WooThemes. A decision to purchase this was made before I was hired. They choose it because it was capable of presenting a slide show on the front page even thought they have never used it for this purpose.

I have to admit there have been some small issues with the Theme, largely aesthetic in nature, which I have been able to resolve by contacting WooThemes.

Learning Child Themes was new to me, but a great challenge. Still, the Theme worked from the start and we’ve only made a few modifications to that site and added WordPress Plugins for additional functionality.

Jetpack WordPress Plugin offers a good stats program that is helpful to myself and the staff. I like TablePress for inserting date in an easy-to-read format. Simple Backup is how we back our site up, which i do once a month and then store the files on the company’s internal server. Anti-spam WordPress Plugin has filtered out pretty much all of their spam comments. We use Plugins to build our events calendar. The developer is right here in Portland and they presented recently at a WordPress Meetup in Portland, which helped us learn even more about it.

We have a staff member that likes to print out the posts for editorial purposes so we use PDF and Print and BestWebSoft to add a PDF/print option to the posts. The staff can print posts out with the best layout they want and need.

Some of the staff wanted to experiment with podcasting, so we are experimenting with Seriously Simple Podcasting WordPress Plugin. Our initial podcast is for the staff only at this time, a good way of connecting with our busy people. It has an embedded player so you don’t need to subscribe or use another app to access. Unfortunately, it requires uploading of the file through FTP to the server then copying and pasting the URL into the interface because of a bug in the program, but hopefully that will be resolved soon.

WordPress Plugins are great because they often just get the job done and offer great solutions.

How does WordPress work for your workplace in general?

WordPress works great about 95% of the time and the other 5% is a seriously random issue that often has nothing to do with WordPress. There are always a few things I’ve yet to iron out. Sometimes a different page will load in the browser window then the URL that should have loaded, and image attachments don’t match the blog post. It is often a cache issue, but it is so random. Part of the fun of working with WordPress.

Besides the occasional technical glitch, I love working with WordPress and the site works. When something interesting happens on our site, the stats can be useful. And I love the enthusiasm the staff gets, especially if they are new, when I tell them how many visitors were on the site and read their material.

RMLS gauges audience response by far more than just WordPress, but the site is certainly one component from which we may take information. It’s possible we could get an avalanche of comments on a blog post, we may also receive feedback via staff members who interact directly with subscribers. Many subscribers contact our officers and staff directly, the old fashioned way, by picking up a phone or sending email.

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