Category Archives: Uncategorized

Put Away the Megaphone and Talk to an Audience of One

As marketers and communicators we want crowds. Crowds of students at our events. Crowds of alumni during Reunion. And crowds of fans on social media. Our audiences inspire us to raise the bar—they don’t want to be part of the crowd and they certainly don’t want to feel marketed to. They want to feel unique and valued.

No billboards or blasts here. One by one, we’re interested in creating lasting relationships with real people, conveying our brand essence—honestly. Over time It leads to real impact for Michigan Tech.

Picture your audience in your mind—a single person. It’s more than their interests or age. What are their daily struggles? What does the average day look like for them?

Now have a conversation.

Tell Stories

Humans crave good stories. Telling them in clear, simple, relatable terms naturally elicits a response. Michigan Tech’s brand has thousands of stories to tell—each connecting to the people, experiences, and opportunities here. Amy Karagiannakis with Pavlis Honors College does an incredible job curating brand stories that naturally and holistically communicate Pavlis’ offerings. Amy changes the homepage out frequently to feature a new student story—often they’re just a few sentences long and coupled with a compelling photo (usually provided by the student!).

Think Radio

University Marketing and Communications as a hack for on-brand, written messaging: Think about radio broadcasting. Seems weird, right? But radio DJs or scripts get to the point sooner, use shorter, more casual sentence structure, and are altogether more direct. They begin sentences with “And” and “But. It’s not forced, it’s just how real people talk.

Address a Single Person

What do you want your audience to do? Research proves a more sure-fire way to ensure clicks, opens, and returns is to use a targeted call to action (CTA). Read more. Click here. Apply now. These are generic call to actions used for the masses. Drill it down and craft a powerful CTA that singles out your audience, yet tells them exactly what you want them to do.
“Alumni Huskies—Volunteer for an archaeological dig abroad.”

Provide an Engaging Experience

Social content managers are careful with each post. Which photo? Which link? The right message. The social forecast demands we look at our inbound messages with a similar care.

On Facebook.com/michigantech we often ask targeted questions. Do you remember your Senior Design project? Do you dunk your pasty in ketchup or gravy? It gets our students and alumni talking! And we love to hear their responses. We try to take some time each day to check in, answer any questions folks have, or respond to cool stories. Most times we “sign” each comment with our name, because we’re humans talking to humans.

It takes a little more time. But we think it’s the right style for us. Honest.

–Shannon Rinkinen
Brand Manager


Brand is a Spectrum

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.

–Shannon Rinkinen
Brand Manager


Four Writers, One Paragraph

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:

The Original

[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.

Version 1

[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.  

Version 2

[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.

Version 3

[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.

Version 4

[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!

Published!

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.


–Shannon Rinkinen
Brand Manager


It’s Conference Season, Huskies!

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. 

Snapchat Success

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.

 

–Shannon Rinkinen
Brand Manager