You want to get your emails opened, read, and in some cases, replied to. There’s a lot to consider when writing marketing emails on behalf of Michigan Technological University—here are 22 tips for maximizing impact:
We know STEM jobs are in demand. Within the next 25 years, those in the STEM fields must find solutions to some of the world’s most complex and frightening problems, like drought, famine, disease, energy-consumption, and cybersecurity. Today, we have more STEM job vacancies than people to fill them. It’s vital we find new and creative ways to promote a career in STEM.
At Michigan Tech, we understand the importance of demonstrating the ROI of a STEM degree. We also understand the impact of those who choose a career in STEM will have on societies, economies, and the world. Make no mistake; it’s easy to rely on data to tell our story–job-demand, starting salaries, job placements, are all very powerful stuff to promote. Today however, in higher education, the brand power of a university is equally critical.
Simply put, brand power is a result of a strong relationship one has developed with a product, business, or organization. Today it’s not enough for a university to promote what they offer (the product of a quality education).
Data, statistics, and rankings can only empower a message so much.
Now university marketers and communicators must also demonstrate the importance of the relationship one can have with their university as well.
Michigan Tech is a Lifestyle
1980s and 1990s companies targeting skateboarders provided some of the first examples of businesses that made product marketed to embody the culture of their customers. Today, we call them lifestyle brands. Lifestyle brands identify with their audience by embodying and extolling their characteristics to build a relationship. Data can be a powerful tool to demonstrate affinity with STEM enthusiasts–mathematicians love numbers, as an example. However, successful lifestyle brands help to foster a kinship between a brand and an audience. And when done well, it can last a lifetime.
I want the STEM fields to be seen as a lifestyle and I want Michigan Tech to be a lifestyle brand. I want to demonstrate what life is like for a mechanical engineer, a quantum physicist, or a biological scientist at Michigan Tech. I want to focus on the journey and not just the outcomes. I want STEM to not only be seen as necessary and important for our world, but also just plain cool to be a part of. If we can tell this story correctly, not only will it strengthen the Michigan Tech brand, it will also help to fill the current void in STEM jobs for years to come.
Director of Marketing and Communications
Modesty. It’s a quality our parents ingrain in us, right from the start. “Don’t brag about beating your brother in the game!” “Don’t gloat about your new tennis shoes!” “Don’t show off—it’s not nice!”
Break modesty down a bit more and you get: “Limited” “Unassuming” “Plainness”. Surely our brand seeks to be bolder than modest. Continue reading
Forestry students forage in the marshes for edible wild plants. An alumna finds a way to feed her therapy horses after Hurricane Harvey floods their stable. High school boys from inner city Detroit learn to turn lemons into batteries. A biology researcher follows the trail of bilge water microbes through ports around the world, from Singapore to Green Bay. A student puts his EMT training to work and saves his father’s life.
It’s all about the stories—the touching, telling human stories of the struggles and triumphs of students, faculty, staff and alumni—that are the heart of the Michigan Tech brand.
Everyone is captivated by stories. People in every culture tell stories, and they always have. Tales of terror or courage passed down from generation to generation. Myths that that explain what look like miracles. Fables that teach morality or illustrate essential truths. Stories touch our hearts, inform our minds, help us make sense of the world around us.
So what does that have to do with branding? Simply this: Stories are the most effective way to give a voice and a face to our values and beliefs. And brand is all about communicating the values and beliefs that define Michigan Tech. So we do it by telling stories—stories about Michigan Tech people, Michigan Tech programs, Michigan Tech life.
Next time someone asks you about Michigan Tech, tell them a story.
Director of News and Media Relations
When we think of brand ambassadors, we may think of overt product plugs from our favorite Instagram-famous bloggers. On campus, many departments and groups leverage student ambassadors for their authentic voice—students talking to students.
In this last year, as University Marketing and Communications worked to roll out our new brand—developing our look, tone, and message—it got me thinking about another essential ingredient: Us.
A powerful corps of more than 1,000 faculty and staff. What do we say about Michigan Tech? How do we engage with and advocate for Michigan Tech on social media? Our stories impact prospective students and employees, research partners, and alumni.
At Zappos, where new hires are trained in the ins and outs of Twitter, more than 500 employees tweet—for free—on behalf of the company. Employee stories later become a part of Zappos’ annual culture book.
Heineken’s brand ambassadors are a healthy mix of internal and external. When employees reported feeling uninformed about the company’s UEFA Champions League sponsorship, Heineken set out to create an internal game—brand education meets and a little office fun.
Here on campus, students, faculty, and staff are invited to monthly Campus Communicators meetups. Folks who manage social media, websites, and print marketing converge. It’s a great opportunity to ask all sorts of questions—even as simple as, “How do I start a Twitter account?”
Michigan Tech also produces an annual Social Media Field Guide. It serves as both a set of policies and best practices so we can help support more than 80 Michigan Tech-affiliated social media accounts. It’s updated annually, so let us know what’s missing or unclear—email email@example.com.
People—not brands—are the channel. This adage from the authors of The Most Powerful Brand on Earth, Chris Bourdreaux and Susan Emerick. Once you feel confident on social media, having a presence where you regularly share brand content not only helps Michigan Tech, but it establishes you as a thought leader.
- What are the goals of the department?
- How do you welcome new team members?
- What are you working on?
- What’s happening behind-the-scenes? (We know you can’t share everything…)
- What resources might your audience find useful?
- Talk about your outside interests (hiking, skiing, paddling, etc.)
- What opportunities are available in your area? (jobs, scholarships)
- What book are you reading?
- Tell us when you’re headed to a conference.
Nothing profound coming to mind? You can get the latest Michigan Tech news right to your email inbox each Monday morning. Visit mtu.edu/news and click the gold ‘Subscribe’ button. Having all the links in one spot makes it easy to read and share with family, friends, and colleagues on your favorite platform.
Hard work will pays off and deserves to be celebrated—often. A simple kudos or shoutout on social media is virtually free, but pays dividends for you, your colleagues, and our brand.
As you’re out and about social media, mining for great stories to share to our external audiences, don’t forget about one of our most important voices—yours. Real. Authentic. Honest. Just like our brand.
As marketers, we can sometimes feel pressure to be creative and drum up clever ideas. These days, clever ideas from brands are all around us—on our social media and on our chip bag. When we look at the higher-ed landscape, we can feel compelled to play or borrow creative tactics that work for our competitors. This is a good thing! We’re not a national brand like Nike or Pepsi or M&Ms; we don’t necessarily need to be on the frontline of cute and clever across billboards, Super Bowl commercials, or glossy ads.
When a cute or clever idea catches your eye, ask yourself: Does it make sense for Michigan Tech’s brand—and how?
On brand. Off brand. On brand. Off brand. All day long. With my brand stamp. RIGHT?
I have come to learn that successful brand management is nuanced. How we weave brand into our messaging can vary per the project, the editor, the project manager, the department, the audience, the shape and form or each marketing piece.
The most important part is it’s there. We’re mindful of it, always.
Take a director’s letter in an annual report. It should sound like a person, a human, with their unique voice. How they might actually speak. It also should reek of Michigan Tech, with our essence—honest. And it should be true to the specific department or group—a brand within a brand. A dash here. A dash there. Too much of any one ingredient and the letter is off. Tastes funny.
Take a lengthy publication like a catalog. Maybe it was drafted a few years ago and maybe it still works and yields successful metrics. Maybe there is no time or budget for an overhaul. A brand edit can focus on specific, key brand elements like the covers, captions, pull quotes, and sidebars. Active voice. Cut the fluff. Brand is infused where it matters most. The nuts and bolts are left untouched. Maybe in the end the piece is quasi on-brand. Maybe 60 percent. That’s okay. Maybe next year we aim for 75 percent, with on-brand visuals to boot!
This is a brand in a real world.
Social media. If there’s a time and a place to be heavy-handed with brand, it’s on social media. Where else can we quickly and powerfully reach such a large, captive audience. We need to push brand messages there—and push them often.
How about an on-campus poster? It’s just an 8.5 x 11-inch poster, hanging in a few campus buildings. Where does brand come in there? Certainly if it’s only targeting an on-campus audience brand is less imperative. But does it hurt? NEVER! Sprinkle some brand in! Every effort we take to invest in our brand messaging now will pay dividends in years to come.
Whether you’re working on a something requiring 10 percent brand or maybe you’re working on an all-out brand piece, I invite you, too, to think about where brand lives, and how much to pour—or sprinkle—on.
Campus communicators are always on the hunt for a good story. The story can take shape as full-fledged news on mtu.edu/news, it can morph into a tweet, or maybe it grabs attention on a postcard. Editing a story is one thing; finding it is a whole ‘nother. Finding stories that communicate our brand requires building connections and relationships. Listening. Conversations online and in person.
Director of Admissions Allison Carter recently drafted copy for a Statistics postcard. The story was rich—and real. I asked Ali how she came across the juicy bit. Turns out she spoke with the student, Hannah, in 2015, and featured her in a Michigan Tech Night presentation. Hannah graduated in December 2015 to work at Domino’s. Professor Linda Ott led Ali to her.
This is a wonderful example of an on-brand story. It’s a story that will pop off the piece of paper and connect with our audience. Have a look:
All writers take great care in crafting meaningful words. Perhaps none more so than marketing writers, whose jobs it is to say a lot—in a very crowded market (and on a very small postcard).
University Marketing and Communications’ editorial team gets together for a short half-hour each Monday to conduct a group brand edit. We take a small bit of raw copy, and brandify it together. We get to learn from each other and walk away with words we can use. Here’s what we came up with this week:
[Header] Twelve days until Midyear Commencement. Snow is falling. Students are making that final push. It’s busy.
[Intro] I have fond memories of this part of the academic year—the return from Thanksgiving to that combination of exhaustion, excitement, and anticipation of some time at home with family and friends. It seems as if we’re a long way from Orientation Week in August, but time has certainly flown.
[Header] Snow. Commencement. And the Final Push.
[Intro] We’ve returned from Thanksgiving break. There’s excitement, exhaustion, and anticipation in the air. We’re a long way from O-week.
[Header] Twelve days until graduation. It’s snowing. Students making that final push. It’s busy.
[Intro] I think fondly of this time of year—the exhaustion, excitement, and anticipation of some time at home with family and friends. We’re a long way from Orientation Week, but time has flown.
[Header] Snow is falling. Students are cramming. It’s always busy this time of year.
[Intro] The return from Thanksgiving brings exhaustion, excitement, and anticipation of some time at home with family and friends. Orientation week wasn’t too long ago, but time has flown.
[Header] Finals pressure, falling snow, and holiday spirit in the air. And for some Huskies, that moment they’ve been waiting for: Midyear Commencement.
[Intro] Orientation. Wasn’t that yesterday? And now, you just got back from Thanksgiving—and it’s almost time to celebrate more time at home with family and friends.
Then we mashed them all together and came up with a rock-solid, totally branded version we all loved; you’ll read this in the upcoming edition of Tech Alum newsletter!
Snow. Commencement. And the Final Push.
Orientation. Wasn’t that yesterday? Students are back from Thanksgiving break. There’s excitement, exhaustion, and anticipation in the air. And for some Huskies, that moment they’ve been waiting for: Midyear Commencement.
University Communicators and HigherEdWeb 2016
October, it seems, is conference season in higher ed. In the last two weeks, UMCers have traveled to Tennessee, Nevada, and Texas, filling their minds and Twitter feeds with new ideas, concepts, and tactics in web, social media, brand, and science writing. An important part, after all that learning, is distilling and sharing the information applicable to Michigan Tech. Here goes nothing.
Facebook isn’t Dead
Remember when word got out that students didn’t use social media mainstay Facebook. Gasp! How will we reach them now? Well that’s not entirely a clear picture. They may not engage with you, but it’s not to say they aren’t on it. In fact, it was emphasized during #heweb16 that students don’t even really consider Facebook to be a form of social media. It’s just there. It’s part of life as they’ve always known it. And they’ll occasionally pop on much like you occasionally read a newspaper (made of actual, you know, paper). During the University Communicators huddle researcher Adam Peruta of Syracuse University, who studied the Facebook and Twitter analytics of hundreds of higher ed brands, distilled the information down into news-you-can-use for today’s Facebook landscape:
- Become an early adopter of new technologies; there’s less competition.
- When it comes to content, students want Athletics, Student Orgs, Entertainment, News, and Programming info
- Direct/specific call to actions positively impact engagement (e.g. “Freshman, do this…)
- General call to actions negatively impact engagement (e.g. Read this article for…)
- Saturdays and Sundays get the most engagement.
- Most engagement happens early in the day, and there’s less competition.
- 9:00 a.m. is the sweet spot.
- The more you post per day, the less engagement you get.
- 1/1.5 times per day is preferred.
Michigan Tech launched @michigan_tech in September. Snapchat is a natural platform for our brand for several reasons. First, we know prospective students are using the app. And secondly, we know that with thoughtful content planning, the platform offers a real lens at real students doing real things on campus—and around the world. Student Snapchat takeovers may be the closest thing to actually being on campus, meeting students—and unlike Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram—it’s unfiltered and unedited <writers around the world collectively groan.> Now that’s not to say Snapchat is intuitive. If you don’t use it every day personally, it can feel like the most cumbersome one out there, in which cause you may appreciate these sentiments from #heweb16. Give it a chance, we say. Or at the very least download the app and friend us! 🙂
Bridging Social and Real Worlds
Joel Vertin put together this Storify summarizing relevant social and message components of #heweb16, and a common thread that struck me: our audiences want real. They want to see real people who sound like real people. Another common theme—and a real challenge—integrating the work we do on social into our existing traditional marketing and events. Beloit College (see Storify above) is one who’s doing this really well, and it’s yielding an impressive return.
The Bottomline is Brand
There will always be posts you NEED to do and posts you WANT to do. Fun posts and ho-hum posts. Ask yourself: How can you infuse brand into a post about Financial Aid? And that goes for just about anything: always bring it back to brand. UMC is here to help you with the “HOW?!” Among the things we learned and observed from the University Communicators conference last week, few schools have a holistic approach to brand. It tends to be one-sided—logo/visuals. Here at Michigan Tech, we have the added challenge of being thoughtful to the tone of our message. And we argue it’s the most important part of any brand.