Month: October 2016

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

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

Shannon Rinkinen
Brand Manager