Category Archives: Design

Brand Guide Cheat Sheet

A success higher-ed brand must be a lot of things. It must resonate with a variety of audiences (prospective students, alumni, research partners); it must be nimble, yet everlasting (remember, unlike a campaign, a brand can hold strong for 10 or more years!); and internally across campus, it’s got to be fairly easy to execute. Unlike perhaps in corporate brands, campus communicators don’t all necessarily hail from a brand marketing background. Communicators should be able to articulate brand essense—and taking it a step further—rapidly demonstrate how the brand manifests itself in copy and design. What’s more, brand should ooze from every touchpoint in our audience’s journey.

It’s up to us as brand ambassadors to share practical tools and ideas for brand implement that apply to our every day.

Check Yourself, Check Each Other

See brand through external messaging by focusing on these three things.
Is your marketing communication?

  • Centered on people, opportunities, and/or experiences (If not, we argue, it doesn’t belong in our messaging)
  • Honest in tone
  • Free of jargon, fussy words, and complex sentences

Shannon Rinkinen
University Marketing and Communications, Michigan Tech


On-Brand Imagery in Enrollment Marketing

A photo is worth a thousand words, right? In enrollment marketing to undergraduate students—targeting students as early as their sophomore year—a captivating, on-brand image can say everything to how a prospective student can envision themselves on campus. In fact, more and more, entire spreads in print marketing do not use words, but instead, appeal to students through strong, beautiful photos.

When selecting imagery for enrollment marketing communications at Michigan Tech, here are a few of the things we mindfully do:

  • Look for ways to highlight Michigan Tech. Three students in a lab with colored gloves could be in any lab at any university in the world. Find ways to show it’s Michigan Tech. Think: branded safety glasses (on subjects or sitting on a lab bench) or posters/banners on a wall.
  • Highlight our incredible area. Select photos that show campus, the water, the environment—the things that make us special and different from other colleges. Data indicates that prospective students are really drawn to aerial photography. 
  • Be authentic to your program. Don’t force diversity. Try not to feature the same star student in all your photo shoots.
  • Show students working together. They don’t have to be camera aware. Highlight how they collaborate, function, and (sometimes) get dirty.
  • Involve faculty or staff who normally work with students in a familiar space. Another great opportunity is students and faculty/staff in casual settings—chatting informally in a computer lab or over coffee. If that’s the culture of your department, show it!
  • Mine for user images. Thanks to smartphone technology, images need not always be professional. Perhaps the image was curated from Facebook (get permission, of course). User images may even offer up that gritty, natural feel we’re after.
  • Get a second opinion. Or a third. How do your colleagues interpret an image? Is there anything off-putting about the photo or the piece as a whole? Thousands of copies will be shared with thousands of people—it’s prudent to seek many eyes.
  • Finally, promote Michigan Tech, always. Students should never (ever) wear clothing promoting another school in our marketing communications. They don’t have to be decked out in Tech gear, but they shouldn’t be sporting another school logo.

Allison Carter
Director of Admissions, Michigan Tech


We Need Your Help: Brand Guide Audit

Happy summer!
Hard to believe, but it’s been about a year since we launched our Michigan Tech Brand Guide. And so it’s time to ask: what’s working and what’s not? We’d really like to hear from you, the people using it as a tool just about every day. What’s missing? What doesn’t make sense? Which tactic is working? Other thoughts and ideas? Our brand guide must serve you first, to serve for our brand, too!
Questions and ideas relating to our visual brand (logo, fonts, etc.)? Please email Art Director Jackie Johnson (jabjohns@mtu.edu).
Questions and ideas relating to our messaging (tone, style, etc.)? Please email Brand Manager Shannon Rinkinen (smrinkin@mtu.edu).
Please send your feedback before July 3. 
Thanks in advance for all you to strengthen Michigan Tech’s brand!
–Shannon & Jackie

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