Archives—November 2015

Welcome, Campus Communicators!

Hi everyone! We’re moving our content from a Google group to a blog to be a bit more accessible. This blog is a work in progress, so please let me know if there is anything you’d like me to add that would make it more useful to you. I’m rbarnard at

If you’re new: the group meets on the third Thursday of each month and covers an array of timely topics like best times to post on Facebook, how to launch a University-affiliated Twitter account, iPhone photo hacks, how to draft a media release and a lot more.

Not sure if you should join us? You may be a Campus Communicator if you:

  • Update department social media pages
  • Manage or update CMS content
  • Write or send emails and newsletters
  • Plan and advertise events

If you’re interested in joining the group, email Allison Mills to be put on our meeting invitation. And join our Facebook group for interesting links and discussion.

Monthly Meeting Recap – November 2015


Ian Repp

  • We opened the meeting with a discussion of the Yik Yak threat and subsequent response
  • Communicators heard that faculty weren’t always sure what was happening – they received the Safety First emails, but not the emails from Les.
    • Should the distribution list for Les’ emails include faculty and staff? Or at least be open to opt-ins?
  • Kudos to UMC’s Twitter staff for recognizing the threat and immediately reporting it
  • If you ever come across something that you’re not sure about, please don’t hesitate to contact UMC, and they’ll work with you to figure out the next steps

Science Writing

Allison Mills and Jessica Brassard

  • We started with a round of Picture Telephone
    • This activity showed how research stories can change as they’re interpreted and re-interpreted by different people
  • Things to think about in science writing:
    • Visuals: do your visuals accurately represent the story? Are photos of people current (check hair cuts, glasses, etc.)? Are diagrams labeled properly?
    • Marketing vs. science writing: sometimes, the visual you have isn’t compelling. Talk to your faculty to see if another visual can be substituted, or if the communication is going to an audience that will know the context. General rule of thumb: marketing pieces have some leeway. Science writing and writing about research doesn’t.
    • Explanations and analogies: most science articles need to ‘translate’ the science into layman’s terms. If you use analogies to explain the concept, are they accurate?
    • Working with researchers: ask your subject what they think is the most important takeaway.
      • Don’t be afraid to say “Let’s come at this like I don’t know anything,” or “Pretend you’re teaching someone about this.”
      • If researchers aren’t used to coming to you with story ideas, you may have to seek them out. Go to doctoral defenses, look at funding announcements, or just walk around and chat with the people you see.
  • Content strategy
    • It’s hard to get started if you’re not used to this!
    • Jessica made a one-page content strategy guide that will help you define your audience, detail what you want to communicate, and determine your schedule.
  • Next month: part of communication is being creative! We’ll meet for a creative activity that’ll help us relax and rejuvenate before the holiday break.



Monthly Meeting Recap – September 2015

Hi All, 

Very productive meeting today, we talked through a lot and we’ve got a plan ready for the rest of the semester–and more slated for the winter and spring. 
A quick summary:
  • Welcome to the new folks in our group! Looking forward to collaborating with you moving forward. 
  • We voted on priorities for the semester; see attached plan and stay tuned for updates. 
  • Some group members feel the need to check in more regularly. Check out the “Michigan Tech Campus Communicators” Facebook group, join us at 11:30 on Thursdays for the C-Cubed Lunches and reach out to UMC staff for more formal communications strategizing.
  • Talk to your fellow staff, supervisors, faculty and others to figure out what your department/college/organization wants to do with communications. Be honest about how to assign those duties and the time it takes.
  • Suggestion from Hannah: when you hit the computer screen wall and can’t focus, take 15 minutes to walk around your building and talk to people in labs, take pictures and craft a short post for social media
At our next meeting, we’ll start digging into the specifics of these issues. Plan to come away with specific actions to take next month as well as some hands-on training with Facebook and Twitter.

Campus Comm Group

Fall 2015
Sept: Beginning of the academic year check-in
Oct: Michigan Tech’s brand essence, effective content management (i.e. how to get  your work done efficiently and with purpose) and hands-on training with Facebook  and Twitter.
Nov: Science communication training
Dec: end of the semester check-in and creativity boost

Additional chances to engage:

  • Michigan Tech Campus Communicators group on Facebook
  • Weekly informal gatherings 11:30 am C-Cubed Lunches in the MUB
  • Meet with your staff/faculty/deans and UMC staff to talk through department or organization communications efforts

Winter-Spring 2016

More to come (prioritized by vote via meeting and email):
  • Video training
  • Photo training
  • Managing the technical side of social media
  • Dealing with relics, old accounts and outdated pages
  • Audience
    • Growing our platforms
    • Connecting beyond individual departments/groups
    • Coordinating posts in the comm group and beyond
  • Next steps, how to reflect the cutting edge in communications
  • Specific, detailed trainings on different platforms
    • Twitter
    • Facebook
    • LinkedIn
    • Instagram
  • Incorporating analytics in digital media

Monthly Meeting Recap – August 2015

Hi All, 

We had a couple great presentations this morning for the campus communicators group. I’ve attached a couple notes from Jeff and Hannah as well as the powerpoints from Joel and Becky.
Here’s a quick run down (bold is follow up):
Notes on process and how two of our colleagues have been gaining success on their social media accounts:
  • Hannah Abbotts from the School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science shared her new social media process. Key points: she commits to doing posts daily–taking less than an hour to do so–and focused on target audiences (she had great success on her alumni reunion posts on Twitter and Facebook.) Follow @sfres and like ’em at
  • Jeff Lewin from the Department of Biological Science shared how he got a department Twitter up and running. Key points: curate good content from researchers–and encourage them to sign up and post regularly–and know what hashtags to use. Follow @MichiganTechBio and check out my @aw_mills “Michigan Tech Folks” list to see some of our researchers’ Twitter accounts.
During the Q&A, Celine Grace (chemistry) brought up a couple great questions about some Twitter specifics. Never fear, we will cover best practices at a later date for each major platform, send me questions you have or gather them on your own. We’ll cover Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and (maybe) YouTube.
Joel and Becky also gave us GREAT big pictures both nationally and on campus. There’s no way I can condense their work and the stats they gathered, so please check out the attached presentations.
Main points to think on:
  • Traditional media is changing: Press releases and print publications do not have the impact they once did while social media and website use is skyrocketing.
  • We need to know: our audience, our platform, our purpose and our messaging, then we can tailor our storytelling. Nothing replaces good content.
  • In the words of Joel, “What’s the fastest way to learn about us? Google us.” Websites and digital media are crucial because of this.
Thanks again everyone and see you next month!

Monthly Meeting Recap – July 2015

From Allison’s email: 


Hi All,

What a busy couple weeks! I haven’t had much time to sit down and distill our last campus communicators group meeting. And there was a lot of info. So…you’re getting my spiffed up notes from the Paper app. (Note: blue is my day-of notes; yellow is highlights; red is additional thoughts/clarifications) I’ve also attached a nice handout Shannon put together about social media process.
For those of you who cringe at my pdf, here are the main take aways (bold is follow up):
  • We’ve got a campus-wide social media plan in the works. Ian Repp and Scott Balyo are spearheading that with a company called Gray Matter. They’ll be sending out a survey to ourcomm group. Let me know if you want more info.
  • We talked about content strategy and how to establish an efficient social media process. We’re all experimenting (see what we’re trying out at UMC in the pdf) and please use the Facebook group as a space to vet posts and ask for feedback. Way to go, Chris Henderson, for starting with the ASPEN Facebook page!
  • We had an up front conversation about using social media at work: If it’s part of your job then you shouldn’t be embarrassed or penalized for having these pages open. Let’s talk more about this work culture challenge in the Facebook group. Or over coffees.
  • We talked about engagement: The main message is that social media is about connecting with people. If we want people to check out our stuff, then we have to like, share, follow and check out other people’s stuff. And be nice, yo.
Next month we’re switching gears into analytics. Metrics make our communications world go ’round and we’ll have Becky Barnard and Joel Vertin talk to us about how this matters on websites, social media and reports. This will be info you can bring back to your deans/bosses and explain why communications is important.
Then in September we’ll take time to do another meet and greet round table. Hopefully, we’ll have some more people to add to the group at that time, too.
Social Media Marketing Tactics—
things you can do right now to get better
The 5 second rule. 
Who is your target audience?
When is your audience consuming their social media?
How frequently do you post? Length of time between each post?
What is your content trying to do?
inspire? inform? humor?
How do you want to sound?
voice, personality, tone
grammar, spelling, punctuation
trial and error
Create a content calendar and dig in!

Monthly Meeting Recap – April 2015

From Allison’s recap email:

Hi All,


I’ll try to make this short and sweet. I’ll keep with the bold for items to follow up on.


First, it was great getting to place real faces with email addresses. I hope everyone gets a chance to meet in person sometime.


Second, thanks to everyone who posted in the Facebook group. I know I’ve enjoyed getting to learn more about everyone’s work and I hope others see it as a resource as well. Feel free to post on there if you have questions, want to follow up after the meeting or just to share the awesome stuff happening in your office.


Now the meeting itself; here’s the important stuff:

  • The group voted on skill shares (sorry to those who missed out, please email me your thoughts). I used that as the basis for the rough agenda attached in the skillshares doc.
  • We also voted on the best ways to stay in contact; email recaps and monthly meetings won out, Facebook was close behind. So we’ll just keep this format until there’s a call for change.
  • We also generated a list of reasons why we came to the group and why we’d keep coming back. I’ve attached that list, but it’s an ongoing conversation: I’ll post in FB group what folks said at the meeting and comment with your own thoughts. It helps give us all a sense of directions and prioritize the needs of the group.

The next meeting will be May 21st 10 am to 11 am, probably in the same room.  I’ll confirm those details as we get closer. For the May meeting, we’ll focus on the campus news cycle–how UMC does news stories, how Tech Today works, how departments get out news. Jenn, mark and I will also break down what makes news and what doesn’t–and all the gray in between.





Michigan Tech Campus Communicators

Meeting 4/23/15


Goals (why you’re here and why you’d keep coming)

  • Find ways to communicate out on campus more effectively
  • Streamline news stories, especially to department news feed/blog
  • Promote department on social media
  • Working with data collected on Google Forms
  • Find out who to call for what
  • Learn best practices for communication on campus
  • Share/cross-pollinate best communication practices
  • Better integrate communication plans and practices
  • Communicate science such as climate change related issues
  • Direction of news: department to Tech Today and others
  • Better understand who does what and the word out about Superior Ideas
  • How are Michigan Tech news stories chosen
  • UMC branding/marketing standards—how to create and MTU look/feel?
  • Share news stories—10 min. round robin @ each meeting

Monthly Meeting Recap – March 2015

  • One of the items that came up several times is just the difference between all our jobs — and for almost half the group, our newness to Tech or to our positions. Christina and I chatted afterwards and came up with an action item that will hopefully continue to develop our sense of each other’s roles and communication systems. Please head over to our Facebook group (Michigan Tech SciComm) and post a brief description of your job, what kind of communication you do and how much communication work fits into overall duties.
  • Additionally, we talked a lot about calendar issues. This partially stems from our different jobs and how they fit into our departments, colleges and schools. This also reflects a need for a better university-wide calendar. Give me feedback on calendars. We’ll dedicate a meeting to discussing this, but I’m hoping to do some more digging to find out what’s in place and for us to have informed discussion and skillshares.
  •  Another topic that came up: prioritizing and streamlining internal communication (and then on the news side, prioritizing stories that go beyond Tech). This will organically develop as we all get to know each other and our communication processes. Part of this is figuring out how to find information in our own departments/colleges/schools; part is establishing a system to deal with newsletters/Facebook/Tech Today posts/news story pitches; part is having clear expectations for who covers what and when. All that is sticky and may lead to hair-tearing. It’s fine. It’s life. It’s our jobs. And as a group we can tease out better ways to navigate the chaos. Just stew on it.
  • Finally, we got caught in a Twitter rabbit hole. We’ll talk more about social media more in depth at a later meeting. Think about what you want to learn, reservations you have, what platforms you manage for work/personal/volunteer, etc.
Ok, that was a lot of information. It makes me glad we have this group because clearly there’s a need to discuss big picture items. Moving forward, I’m hoping to narrow our focus each meeting so we can build a foundation to address the big picture.
  • The group needs to be inclusive. Find others who might want to join this group. Let’s find our critical mass to make our work effective.
  • With more people coming in, we’re going to focus on introductions and our different roles/duties on campus. I’ll put together some activities to explore this; I may ask some of you to help.
  • Check the Facebook group for our skill share list; I’ll work on coming up with an agenda so we can set dates for everyone to teach.