Embrace the Crappy First Draft

As a writer, my job is to get words on paper. And not just any words—good words. Many of us stare at a blank Word doc, hoping letters will magically start to appear, or feel dread when they don’t. What we really need to do is embrace the act of writing and just do it.

That means welcoming a bad rough draft.

For branding, a bad rough draft can feel too rough. Even using our ‘real’ platform with dirty fingernails and rough edges, the end product is like Paul Rudd’s hair—effortless and casual, but somehow poised. That’s because styling and polishing comes after the crappy first draft.

You can’t edit something that doesn’t exist.

Plus, writing and editing activate different parts of the brain, so when you try to craft every. single. word.—it slams your process (like stalling a manual car in third gear).

The solution is simple: take a breath, do a few jumping jacks, grab a cup of coffee—then focus. Be a writer and get words down on paper. Later, let’s talk editing.

Allison Mills
Science and Technology Writer

Brand is Like Your Favorite Radio Station

Brand can feel pie in the sky. But when you sit down at your desk at 8 a.m., needing to crank out an ask letter or a Facebook post, we want brand to feel tangible and accessible to everyone on Michigan Tech’s campus. When I think of brand I often think of it as a radio station.

What Music Belongs on Your Station?

You love your favorite radio station for everything it is—hard rock, heavy metal, punk, classical, or pop—and everything it’s not (talk, commercials, sappy love songs, or Broadway hits).

If Michigan Tech had a station on Sirius/XM it would be Honest Channel.

What words belong? What photos make sense? What would throw your audience off? (Think Celine Dion on Highway Country, Elvis on Hits One). Those are just a few considerations we can make when we think about Michigan Tech’s brand. We play music that makes sense on our station; the music our audience wants to hear.

Shannon Rinkinen
Brand Manager

Be Relentless in Your Message

You know Michigan Tech’s brand essence. You know how your department can plug into the big picture. And you’ve identified your brand stories. Now what?

Go For It

Tell your stories where it matters to your audience. The very same story may take shape as a blog post, a Facebook post, a Tech Today submission, a postcard, an email, a newsletter article, or a recruiter speaking with a prospective student. Don’t be shy here. Once you have a brand story that evokes honesty and resonates with your audience, tell it again and again. (You’ll want to keep hunting for stories, to keep them fresh year after year.)

Here are examples of how one brand story can morph from platform to platform. Here’s the story: First-year Michigan Tech student Jill Poliskey 3-D prints prosthetic hands for children in Nicaragua.

This is your awesome, uniquely yours story. No other higher-ed brand can tout it. What can you do with it? Plenty. Do what works for you, your audience, and the subject—some ideas:

  • Capture Jill on video talking about her work. Put it on social media or maybe your website.
  • Maybe Jill takes over your Twitter feed for a day, illustrating the step-by-step process of turning recycled plastics into a new, working hand.
  • Ask Jill to pen a short blog post, talking about her work and her goals.
  • Invite Jill to speak with a group of future Huskies, sharing her research experience while here at Michigan Tech.
  • Do a Snapchat takeover as Jill packs the hands up, ready to ship them across the globe.
  • When the prosthetic hands reach their new owners, share a picture of the children with Jill.

Don’t Be Afraid of Redundancy

You get the idea. There are dozens of creative ways to tell the same story. It’s unlikely your audience will see every slice of content, so don’t be afraid of a little redundancy.

If you have a gem of a brand story, but aren’t sure how to best capture and tell it, just reach out at brand@mtu.edu

Shannon Rinkinen
Brand Manager

Michigan Tech Through the Lens

Take a camera onto Michigan Tech’s campus. See your environment from your own perspective, and then look through an artificial lens. They’re going to be different, but ideally, we’d like that difference to be as small as possible. Our visuals should portray what people actually experience on our campus. This effectively encompasses the visual brand identity for video: Keep it real. We have plenty of beautiful scenery and stunning natural light, so we want to make the most of what’s all around us and show it like it is. We want to show agility in capturing moments as they happen instead of staging them.

So whenever possible we take the camera off the tripod and let it move in the hand or on the shoulder. It’s not the same as being there, but we’ll keep trying.

Our essence remains the same throughout our brand, but video requires a few unique considerations. Like our overall brand strategy, we use specifics first. In the case of video we also want to hear those details voiced from the source. If that’s a researcher, a student, or a member of our staff, we want to be where they are and let them use their own words to represent their world within Michigan Tech. We want to stick to a single topic and lead the conversation with the punchline because our audience needs to know what they are watching right away. Effective communication takes priority in our approach to marketing—because we make content for people who want it.

Ben Jaszczak

Tell Your Brand Story

In 15 seconds, this Ritz cracker commercial tells a story—one that seemingly has little to do with buttery crackers—but that represents its wholesome brand. This video pulls at heartstrings and hits on a feeling most of us have felt at one time or another.

Ritz’s brand essence is likely ‘rich,’ and it’s the little things in life that add richness.

Your Story Can Be Short

What brand story can you tell that will resonate with our brand essence (honesty) and your unique audience? Keep in mind your story can be short, from beginning to end in as few as 15 seconds.

Shannon Rinkinen
Brand Manager

On-Brand Inspiration

This is On-Brand

This little bit of brand copy came in the mail yesterday. It stopped me in my tracks. No, not because I care about how to fold a blazer, but because Michigan Tech’s brand can use this literal message as inspiration.


  • It’s short and simple.
  • It’s literal; maybe even a little robotic.
  • Because there is no cute and clever headline, the copy actually pops MORE.
  • It leads with answering “why.”
  • There’s a call to action.

For our brand, I could even see something like:

“This is your Orientation guide. Here’s what you do next.” or
“CareerFEST begins this week. Find us in the red tent.”

Short. Simple. Literal. (Even a little robotic!) Let us know if you try this tactic—email brand@mtu.edu.

Shannon Rinkinen
Brand Manager

Brand in the Wild


Andrea Kubicki is a 2015 alumna who is now in medical school. I was fortunate enough to workout and lift weights alongside her during her time as a Michigan Tech student. This post is shared with her permission.

How Huskies Talk about Michigan Tech IS Michigan Tech

Like so many Huskies, Andrea loves to explore nature and travel. So when her recent Facebook post popped in my feed, I got pretty excited. Check out the staccato language she uses—her tone, message, and composition is very on brand! There is no fluff and there’s certainly no doubt what she did during her time in Glacier National Park. Heck, the “sentences” aren’t even complete sentences. And that’s okay in this format . . . it’s a style that works in many forms of marketing including social media.

This is how our students and alumni are naturally communicating. This is also our new brand!

Take Andrea’s lead and find places and ways to use this fresh, choppy style. It doesn’t have to be every where (and shouldn’t be), but it can be very powerful when peppered into our messaging.

Let’s see how you’re using staccato—email brand@mtu.edu.

Shannon Rinkinen
Brand and Social Media Manager

Michigan Tech’s Brand on the Road

This fall, the undergraduate admissions staff will begin to push Michigan Tech’s new brand out to thousands of high school and transfer students, parents, and guidance counselors across the country. As one of the first adopters of our new branding, Admissions eagerly awaits the day we can recycle old materials and usher in publications with a new look and feel.

Embrace Our Middle Name

Why the excitement? For the first time, Michigan Technological University is being loud and proud about our middle name! Letting the world know we are technological will help immensely in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Illinois where “Tech” has a different meaning entirely—think technical college, trade school, welding, and HVAC. We know that variety of “tech” is not who we are, yet it’s the perception many people have. This leads to a battle we face every year, every day, at every event we attend—having to explain to prospective students and parents that no, we do not offer culinary arts or auto body repair.

Beyond the visual look, the brand embodies the essence of who we are as an institution and community. We’re confident the new brand will help us attract students and families to our tables which will give us a chance to educate them about the incredible opportunities and outcomes here, rather than having them mutter, “Oh, a tech school…” as they bee-line to competitor institutions at a college fair.

Share Michigan Tech Stories

From publications and pennants to our fleet of wrapped SUVs, Michigan Tech’s Admissions team will be proud brand ambassadors as we share stories about real people, opportunities, and experiences for the incoming class of 2017 and beyond.

Allison Carter
Director of Admissions, Michigan Technological University