Category Archives: Marketing

Join the Conversation

I think we can all agree social media is here to stay. What’s more, it’s a place many of us spend a lot of our time. Ever have a conversation with a friend about one of their tweets or Instagram posts? It can feel like we live double lives—one offline and one online—with increasingly blurred boundaries.

Because social media is so pervasive, it’s important for institutional accounts to themselves have identities. Social media is evolving toward authentic relationships between accounts and those who follow said accounts. If you haven’t yet, check out the Arby’s Twitter feed—theirs is an excellent example of interacting with their base through pop culture references and genuine conversations.

Michigan Tech’s Marketing and Communications team splits up management of the various institutional social media accounts, and I’m largely responsible for @michigantech on Twitter. We strive to give each different account its own identity, and our Twitter account’s personality is a touch snarky, happy to be helpful, playful, and occasionally irreverent.

Yet despite these different identities, we work to ensure the accounts adhere to brand, just in their own ways. Our brand promise is to keep it real: Real people, real opportunities, real experiences. My personality shines through the Twitter posts because I’m a real person, and as you might have guessed, I’m by nature a touch snarky, happy to be helpful, playful, and occasionally (OK, more than just occasionally) irreverent.

At Michigan Tech, we are honest, hardworking, a little quirky, and crazy smart. Therefore, our Twitter feed is, too. Did you catch the banter back and forth between @lakesuperior and @michigantech a few weeks ago? If not, the thread is definitely worth a read! Funny, and proves that our Michigan Tech community extends far beyond the extent of our campus; many Huskies jumped into the conversation, which centered around which is the best university on Lake Superior (we think there’s a rather obvious answer).

Seeking to authentically engage with a community of people on Twitter has led to a surge in engagement during the past year, and an additional 1,200 followers. By becoming part of conversations and engaging with those who engage with us, we’re making our Twitter feed a place people want to stop by daily to check out the latest news. For us, the analytics tell us how we’re doing, but what truly matters are the opportunities to engage with people and get them excited about Michigan Tech.

Kelley Christensen
Science and Technology Publications Writer

(And the voice of the Michigan Tech Huskies! Oh wait, no, that definitely isn’t right… ahem… and the voice of Michigan Tech’s tiny chunk of the Twitter-sphere! #tenacity)


Brand Guide Cheat Sheet

A successful 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


Good Marketing Problems and How to Have Them

The Pavlis Honors College is redefining what it means to be an honors student at Michigan Tech. Of course, with any big change comes the challenge of communicating the significance and the benefit it brings. Convincing faculty, students, and parents that student success should not be measured by GPA alone has always been an uphill battle.

Increasing enrollment within Pavlis has always been a goal, and we found engaging students before they arrive on campus was key. Working closely with University Marketing and Communications, Pavlis developed materials and digital content to reach out to potential Huskies before most of them had even decided where they would be attending college.

 

Generating messaging that is authentic and honest is at the forefront of every communication.

This included a letter from the dean inviting students to apply for pre-admission to the Honors College, a brochure, a rack card, a landing page on our website, and social media posts. We let actual current students tell the incoming class why they should apply to the Honors College. The brochure designed by UMC shared six, brief student stories from diverse majors and backgrounds. The video showcased on our pre-admission landing page consisted of our students talking informally about what they do and how Pavlis helped them along the way.

The impact? Of the 3,721 students accepted to Michigan Tech that received our mailings, 151 applied to be Pavlis pre-admission students (as of Jan. 2017). This may not seem like a large number, but generally, we average 20-25 applicants a semester. So comparatively, this campaign was incredibly effective!

With this brand and marketing win, we now focus our attention to making sure we have staff to accommodate the influx of students who will begin their Honors seminar courses and pathway in fall 2018.

Not such a bad problem to have.

Amy Karagiannakis
Manager of Marketing and Digital Content, Pavlis Honors College, Michigan Technological University


Customer Service as a Brand Touchpoint

You know it when you get it—and especially when you don’t. Good customer service. Sometimes it can be the littlest thing that delights us. When Sherwin Williams’ staff carries our paint can to the car. When the print shop includes a peppermint candy with an order. A prompt reply to a Facebook direct message. A refund for a faulty product—no questions asked. Sometimes simply doing what we say we are going to do, when we say we are going to do it can be perceived as good customer service. Brand-aligned customer service can make a huge impact. Afterall, one unhappy person may tell 9–15 people about a negative interaction while a happy consumer is likely to tell 4–6 people. Just one positive interaction can make a person brand loyal for a lifetime.
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A Michigan Tech Tale

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.

–Jennifer Donovan
Director of News and Media Relations