My Michigan Tech (Student Testimonial) Initiative

We have been busy launching a student testimonial initiative called My Michigan Tech over the past few months. This is really neat project that has allowed us to talk to a bunch of our students and learn about their Michigan Tech experiences.

Project Motivation

In August, an admissions and enrollment consultant came to campus. One great idea shared was to prioritize letting prospective students learn about Michigan Tech through storytelling by our current students. This could be accomplished through quotes and stories in text and video forms.

Storytelling is a powerful marketing tool. More importantly, though, it is a genuine way to share great information about Michigan Tech. Our students are our story, after all. Why not hear from them?

Initial Process

We put together a Google Form asking five basic questions about our students’ experiences. We then put together an email list of student ambassadors that Undergraduate Admissions works with and invited those students to tell their story. We also invited the campus community to refer students directly to our form via a Tech Today announcement.


We used a voluntary approach to collecting these initial testimonials to speed up the process. Student ambassadors are passionate about Michigan Tech making them the perfect students to talk to. Opening the invite to campus via Tech Today made sure no one was left out.

As responses came in, our editorial team started categorizing them. Some were perfect for the web and some perfect for a video testimonial. We blocked a couple dates, times, and locations with our videographer and emailed more than two dozen of the student respondents—explaining the video component of our initiative and inviting them to choose a time slot to be filmed. In total we contacted ~30 students with the goal of filling 12 video time slots.

We used a first-come, first-serve approach to scheduling video to move quickly and efficiently, knowing there was a desire to show immediate progress. We wanted to mature our concept, knowing that a successful product would lead to more interest in helping us down the road.


In total, 60 students voluntarily responded to our initial Google Form. Their stories were truly outstanding. We used those responses to identify more than 200 quotes and stories for our websites. We also created nine testimonial videos.

As of February 12, our My Michigan Tech videos have been viewed more than 2,600 times on our websites and YouTube. Additionally, we are running the videos natively on the various Michigan Tech social media accounts. And, we are using these videos in various UMC-driven digital ad campaigns.

These quotes, stories, and videos have been distributed across the program pages on the Admissions website and extra content has been shared with relevant academic CMS liaisons for use on their own sites. In particular, the School of Business and the various departments within the College of Sciences and Arts have done a great job of getting testimonial content onto the majority of their recruitment webpages.

Future Plans

For the spring semester, we are expanding our My Michigan Tech video series by scheduling seventeen additional recordings. For this round, we are working to create a more well-rounded view of our campus and the programs. We are also finishing processing some footage captured in the fall.

Campus Collaboration

The campus community is invited to share potential testimonial students with UMC by emailing We will continue this series in the summer and fall and will need additional volunteers. We can also use some backups for the spring, in the event that some previously identified students can’t participate. We are excited to work with you!

Create Your Own

You can also model your own testimonial series to match ours by following these tips:

  1. Create a digital questionnaire using Google Docs or Google Forms
  2. Send the questionnaire to your students. Student ambassador lists are a great resource as are learning center coaches, lab supervisors, and student workers.
  3. Edit the quotes and stories for your social media accounts and CMS website. Email if you would like any editing tips.
  4. We can recommend a local video vendor to assist you and can lend you our graphics package. Email for more details.

The Digital Services team is really excited about this project, the progress that we’ve made in a short time, and future stories that we will be capturing. We have such special students. It is exciting to give them an avenue to share their experiences with future Huskies and and we’re thankful for the opportunity to work with them. Feedback on this initiative is welcomed.

Joel Vertin
Director of Digital Services

Improving Our YouTube Channel

Video screenshot example.

We have been working on reorganizing our YouTube channel and reprioritizing the type of video projects that we take on. This process involved benchmarking YouTube channels from over two dozen other universities, creating and updating playlists on our channel, and reorganizing our existing videos.

Our writing team has helped us craft our video titles, descriptions, and, tags. We have started outsourcing closed captions (and open captions where needed). We have explored which videos should be public (triggers a push notification to our subscribers) versus unlisted (great when you need to embed on a website, but don’t need the video to otherwise be publicly available). And UMC’s change in focus has allowed us to pursue high-impact projects.

Through all this, our efforts have been paying off.

What Do the Stats Say?

I pulled stats from our YouTube channel for October 1, 2018-January 18, 2019 and compared to the same time frame from last year—giving an apples-to-apples comparison. Note that these stats do not include any paid ads, so they are not skewed. These stats also only represent engagement on our YouTube channel and don’t take into account our videos natively shared on other platforms, such as Facebook.

During this time, we have been empowered to plan and execute our own video projects on behalf of the University’s reputation and recruitment goals. Our stats show that our new approach and reorganized channel have been successful

Stat Summary

Over the outlined time frame:

  1. Video views and video minutes watched are up 21% and 37% respectively.
    • This is not necessarily surprising given that we also increased our video production volume during the same time frame. By choosing our own video projects, we have been able to reduce product cost and increase production.
  2. Average time watched has increased 13 seconds per video.
    • This shows that our improvements are not just purely from production volume as our quality has also improved significantly. Viewers are spending more time watching our videos now.
  3. We saw a significant increase in views from users organically searching via Google/YouTube.
    • We know that YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world. It is important to improve our video SEO to attract more views and we have put an increased focus on strategic video titles, descriptions, closed captions, tags, and playlist organization. Our efforts are clearly working.
  4. Our net subscriber gain was 189 for the current time frame compared to 130 for the previous time frame.
    • Our content is more attractive and is driving a larger subscriber growth rate.
  5. Our video shares increased from 614 to 1,049 over this time frame compared to the last.
    • The content that we have been choosing to create is more sharable according to our subscribers.

We’re still early in our new focus for campus recruitment and reputation, but I’m thrilled with the early results. We’ll keep an eye on our channel metrics moving forward. I’m looking forward to working through the video projects we have slated for this spring semester.

Joel C. Vertin
Digital Services

Introducing the Digital Services Report and Roadmap

Digital Services Report and Roadmap. Spring 2019.

I’m very excited to share our first ever Digital Services Report and Roadmap. Using this format, it is my plan to share two flavors of information with our campus collaborators:

  • A look back at work completed over the previous semester: sharing completed projects and initiatives, relevant analytics, and successes
  • A roadmap showing what we plan on working on for the upcoming semester

Looking backwards allows us to share our work and inform campus of what we’ve done. Our partners may find inspiration from a project we have previously completed. And it may become more evident why we may have had to turn down other project requests.

Looking forwards helps us to provide transparency of our plans and goals. Our future work will always relate to UMC’s mission and focus and I invite campus to reach out and suggest ways to plug into our projects and initiatives.

I’m excited to produce this document each semester and see it evolve over time and I welcome feedback from our campus community. Thank you all for working with us.

Joel C. Vertin
Director of Digital Services

A Better Footer for All

The Digital Services team is developing an upgraded global footer design for our CMS websites. The upgrade puts a strategic focus on marketing and recruitment in line with our mission to increase enrollment.


We are excited to introduce some new, customizable options. In addition to customizing your contact information, you will now be able to add call-to-action (CTA) buttons and social media icons to your CMS website’s footer. Options include:

  1. No CTA buttons or social media icons (base footer only)
  2. Add social media icons linking to the social media channels of your choice
  3. Add a “Give” button, linking to the giving page of your choice
  4. Add three recruitment buttons, letting users Request Information, Schedule a Visit, or Apply

You can also use any combination of option #2, #3, and #4.

Upgrading Process

The base footer will launch automatically using your existing contact information in the next week. Nothing is required of you. Additions can be used on an opt-in basis. Instructions for enabling the CTA buttons and social media icons will be sent to CMS Liaisons later this month.

Example Footers

Design elements may be still be adjusted slightly by UMC, but the following examples preview the design for our new footer options.

Base Footer (Example #1)

The contact information will continue to be customizable as it is in our current footer design.

Base footer example.

Social Media Icons (Example #2)

You can choose from our standard social media icons and point them to social accounts of your choice.

Footer example with social media icons.

Give Button (Example #3)

You can choose where the giving button links to. We recommend using this button only if your department has it’s own giving webpage, although you could also choose to link to the University’s giving website.

Footer example with giving button.

Recruitment Buttons (Example #4)

You must add all three recruitment buttons together (all or nothing) and they will automatically link to the appropriate University-level webpages for you.

Footer example with recruitment buttons.

Combination Option

You can mix and match between options #2, #3, and #4. Here is one example of a potential combination.

Footer example with all options.


We are very excited about an increased focus on recruitment that matches our University goals. Any feedback, questions, or concerns can be sent to Thank you.

Joel C. Vertin
Director of Digital Services

A New Focus in 2019

As Digital Services gears up for 2019, it is important to acknowledge some leadership changes that have taken place. Through the restructuring within the President’s Council (formerly the Executive Team), University Relations and Enrollment (URE) was elevated and University Marketing and Communications (UMC) has been tasked with boosting the University’s external reputation and recruitment efforts nationally.

Project Mix

What does this mean? Digital Services—the web team and studio team within UMC—has shifted to prioritize external-facing projects—spearheaded by URE—that have a large, external audience(s). Some examples include:

  • digital/online/social media advertising
  • Michigan Tech News and Unscripted
  • Michigan Tech and Research Magazines
  • national recruitment initiatives
  • recruitment/research marketing photography packages
  • research narrative promotions
  • student testimonial and researcher videos
  • TV commercials and brand videos

Recent Project Launches

We have already launched a brand campaign and website and have launched two supporting video campaigns:

  1. My Michigan Tech: our students talking about why they came to Michigan Tech and the experiences that make this place so awesome
  2. Up-Close-and-Personals: faculty, staff, and student researchers showcasing their research in their own words.

Our playlist of videos has been feeding the Tomorrow Needs website, our University social media channels, the undergraduate admissions website, and strategic digital advertisements. This rich content is also available for departmental websites—we have been alerting relevant CMS liaisons when videos are released. Additional videos are in the works and will be launched during the spring semester.

We have also partnered with a video agency to launch a 60 second commercial spot for Michigan Tech. Depending on your market or streaming platform, you may have seen it while watching the GLI. It is outstanding.

We will be pushing our commercial on Tomorrow Needs, YouTube, and over digital ads in the coming weeks and I will be sure to share it out. We are also working on some new versions and some shorter 30 and 15 second cuts for secondary TV markets and digital advertisements.

Campus Projects

As our campus community looks to partner with Digital Services moving forward, we will be taking in your requests and checking the following:

  1. Does your request support our University reputation or recruitment goals?
  2. Is your target audience external?
  3. How big is the reach of your project?

We are committed to meeting these requirements and are working on streamlining our online request forms to better reflect this new mission. Campus can continue to submit requests as they normally would in the mean time.

When requests do not fit our new mission or when our project volume precludes us from helping right away, we will let our clients know and attempt to offer alternatives, including other project ideas, other campus collaboration resources, or outside vendors that can help.

Tomorrow Needs . . .

I am very excited about these changes as it sets up Digital Services to make the biggest impact possible to get our message out nationally. Tomorrow needs Michigan Tech. Seeing the launch of Tomorrow Needs, our 60 second commercial spot, and more than one dozen student testimonial and ‘up-close-and-personal’ research videos provide proof of the work we can do and the impact we can have when empowered to focus on our goals.

I appreciate campus’ support and welcome any feedback on this shift as we move into 2019 and beyond. I also want to thank all the faculty, staff, and students that have helped with our initial projects. We have interviewed dozens of outstanding people and have captured photos, footage, and stories in more than two dozen campus locations in a short timeframe. We would not be able to accomplish this without your help. Thank you for being great collaborators with us!

Joel C. Vertin
Director of Digital Services

Upgrading your Giving Priorities

When we started rolling out CMS websites back in 2007, many of our academic departments wanted some sort of Giving Opportunities webpage on their shiny new website.

Some departments were able to hone in on a few key priorities. Some departments struggled to chose specific priorities, so they kept things very vague. And some departments listed everything fund they had and the kitchen sink.

These pages generally looked the same: an image slideshow, some headings and bullets, and some “Give Now” buttons.

Fast forward to 2017, and we have a new widget available in our new CMS template. Called “Gift Boxes”, this widget has a more modern look and feel and allows you to:

  • show a representative fund/priority image
  • show a fundraising goal for the particular fund/priority
  • show a progress bar indicating how close we are to the goal
    • The progress bar automatically updates overnight
  • provide a short description of the fund/priority
  • provide a link to a longer webpage all about the fund. The full webpage can include:
    • A point of contact
    • Additional descriptions
    • Additional photos
    • Social media sharing icons
    • The ability to comment on the fund via the Facebook commenting platform

You can view a great example of how to use these new gift boxes on the School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science website.

This new widget can help you create a more engaging, powerful, and attractive Giving Opportunities webpage that showcases your priorities.

You can use these boxes to highlight your key priorities and follow them up with more general descriptions, bulleted lists, and/or sliders for your additional opportunities. You can also change the funds/priorities that you feature with these boxes through out the year.

Creating Gift Boxes

In order to create a gift box, you must first have an account number registered with the Michigan Tech Fund. Once you have your account number, you can follow our online documentation and create your own gift boxes on your CMS website.

We happy to provide this new feature to our CMS liaisons. If you have questions, please contact us at

Joel Vertin
Director of Digital Services

Hyphen—or Dash?

Hyphens are a punctuation workhorse. We use a lot of them in online writing. But misuse can lead to a misunderstanding, grammarist’s gall, or typesetter’s tizzy.

There’s help for all of us—en and em dashes. They’ve been around forever. Think small (hyphen), medium (en dash), and large (em dash).

En Dash

The en dash (–) is longer than a hyphen (-) and is most often used for comparisons, ranges, and connections.


The Michigan Tech–Northern Michigan hockey game is Friday.

This is the fall–winter issue of the magazine.

The Houghton–Chicago flight is operated by United Airlines SkyWest.

Em Dash

The em dash (—) is longer than and en dash (–) and is most often used for explaining, separating, and interrupting.


Our last three presidents—Stein, Tompkins, and Mroz—focused on research goals.

Undergraduates collect, catalogue, and examine—they dig in right away.

Wildlife Ecology and Management—BS

She can—she will—pursue an advanced academic degree.

Typing Dashes

These keyboard shortcuts will work in most cases.


En dash: Option­­–Minus

Em dash: Shift–Option–Minus


En dash: ALT + 0150 on the numeric keypad only

Em dash: ALT + 0151 on the numeric keypad only

Fair Warning

Style guides vary on how hyphens and dashes are used. Michigan Tech’s Editorial Guide will show you examples of how we use hyphens and dashes.

Many people consider dashes too fussy and give in to hyphens. Remember the goal is clarity. Write online text that is easy to read. And, when appropriate, give your text a better break.

Gail Sweeting
Digital Content Manager

Meeting Photography Needs

As marketing requests have grown and as an emphasis on visuals through print, social media, and websites have continued to expand, the need for quality photography in our projects has changed over time.

In response to this shifting dynamic, our University photographer, Sarah Bird, has shifted to a marketing photographer role.

Sarah will focus on producing the visuals that bring UMC projects to life. She will capture the people, experiences, and opportunities of Michigan Tech in a way that represents and enhances our brand. She will work with departments, groups, and areas on high-impact, external-facing projects.

Internal Projects and Event Coverage

We understand that there has also been growth in internal requests, including projects that have a smaller scope or which are event oriented. To best use our resources, we would like to explore ways to shape and elevate these projects into a larger marketing initiative. If the request ultimately falls outside our scope, we will offer student interns as their schedules allow.

Additionally, we are working with the student photography club to develop a list of students that departments can hire on a case-by-case or semester basis to get more coverage. This will add an additional layer of support to campus.

Induction and Portrait Coverage

Portrait photography, including during induction ceremonies, are particularly challenging due to the complexity in setup and tear down, the unique skill set and experience needed, and the amount of time required. Because of this, we recommend that departments hire a third-party to cover any events or needs that require portraits or a studio setup.

Our marketing photographer will continue to provide campus with one or two open portrait sessions each year. These open sessions will be advertised in Tech Today.

Making a Request

If your department would like to request a photographer to take photos, you can use our online photo request form. 2-3 weeks notice is preferred to assist with planning and to increase the chances that we can fulfill your request. If a photographer is not available or if your request is outside of our scope, we may suggest a set of existing photos instead and we may provide a list of students that can be hired by your department instead.

If your department would like to request a set of photos already on file within UMC, you can use our online photo search form. Our photo request links are also available on the UMC website.

If you have any questions or concerns about this shift, you are welcome to contact Joel Vertin at 906-487-3635 or

OU Campus: A Better CMS for All

We are excited to begin rolling out our new CMS product, OU Campus, beginning in April. We have created an entirely new printed workbook and corresponding blog posts to help campus learn this new system.

There are many things that are easier to do in OU Campus. Each webpage will have a shortcut link in the footer that you can use to easily access and update content directly in the CMS. The update process will be more visual: no more slotting or creating multiple Highlights before assembling your webpage. You’ll be able to publish your changes instantly, instead of waiting for the next scheduled publish.

New Widgets

Campus has requested many advanced features and template options and we have worked to deliver as many of them as we can. We have added many new widgets within the new CMS template. This includes rollover Image Gos, large responsive images, circle/square touts, new layout and video options, and more. Because these widgets go beyond what a non-web professional would normally be able to create, there are a few specific steps to create them in OU Campus. We have streamlined the creation of these widgets as much as possible while still preserving all the code needed for them to function correctly. As with any product, the more options or customizations offered, the more complex it becomes to use and maintain. We have weighed these tradeoffs carefully and have erred on the side of allowing more flexibility, while still following our University brand and styles.

Dedication to Training and Development

It is important to continue to have a dedicated CMS liaison with at least one backup per department. Although the CMS will be easier to use, there is no replacement for having a defined point person in your department. Any new technology has a learning curve, no matter how easy it is to use. Having someone who consistently uses the system will allow them to become efficient and proficient in using all of the bells and whistles available.


Plan for OU Campus training to take approximately two hours. This will allow for ample time for testing and questions along the way. Smaller or less complex sites may not take as much time. It is important to remember that OU Campus is not magic. You still need to know basic industry standards such as the proper use of headings and bulleted lists. It is also important to learn the best practices for creating and updating content to offer the best user experience. These are principles that no CMS product can replace or make up for.

Professional Development

Continued professional development is still important. Regardless of CMS product, the web is too complex and important to think that it can be managed without time and effort. Please keep an open mind, continue to subscribe to our CMS Learners email list, and attend our Web Marketers meetings. These are valuable resources to continue your training and development.

We are really excited about bringing OU Camps, along with a variety of new CMS widgets to campus. We appreciate your willingness to adjust to and learn a new system and we hope this will make your day-to-day jobs easier. Feedback is welcomed—always let us know where we can do better. Thank you.

Joel Vertin
Digital Services Manager

What is Your Call-to-Action?

Each webpage on your site should have a purpose. Some pages are meant to inform. Some to elicit contact or conversation. And others to have the user perform an action such as requesting more information, applying to Michigan Tech, or placing a donation.

Find Your Purpose

Whether you are creating a new webpage, updating existing content, or auditing your website, you should identify your key pages—the ones that will let or motivate a user to take action. Once these key pages are identified, you should assess whether or not you have clear calls-to-action (CTAs) in place.

What is a Call-to-Action?

HubSpot does a nice job of defining what a call-to-action or CTA is and providing examples. At Michigan Tech, a CTA can take on many different forms. Here are a few common ones:

  • Apply to Michigan Tech
  • Contact an advisor
  • Follow us on Facebook
  • Give to Michigan Tech
  • Request more information

Make Your CTA Stand Out

It is important to make your webpage’s purpose—the call-to-action—stand out. We have a few different methods for doing so:

Contact Information

Web users are used to finding contact information in the footer of a webpage. This is often just general contact information, though. If the goal of your page is to get the user to contact you, it is also good to highlight key contact information at the top of a sidebar. Include a photo if you can. It makes the contact more personal—people like to put a face with a name.

A great example of this is the Giving Opportunities webpage on the Biological Sciences website. Of course, a user can donate online. However, they are more likely to want to talk to someone before making a donation. Here, Bio has provided a contact person with a photo.

Apply Now, Request Information, Sign Up, Etc

We have a number of webpages focused on persuading the user to apply now. Similarly, we have pages that let the user request more information, sign up for an event, update personal information, and a host of other actions.

A great page will give the user multiple ways to complete their action. The “How to Apply” webpage on the Admissions website gives the user three chances to apply. The first option comes in the form of a yellow button in the main navigation. Option number two is a link in the body copy—for users who are dutifully reading through the content. The final opportunity is a yellow rollover button at the bottom of the right sidebar. Using three different linking methods—the navigation, a body copy link, and a sidebar button—gives the user a number of ways to complete their action without overwhelming them. If your webpage is particularly lengthy, it is a good idea to put a CTA towards the top and bottom of your page.

The goal of the Emergency Contact Information website is to let users update their contact information. In this example, we did not repeat the call-to-action in multiple places. Instead, we decided to keep the content fairly simple and to the point and made sure that the important links stood out—by using yellow rollover buttons. This ensures that the user’s eyes catch those links.

The 2016 TechTalks webpage has a lot of information along with various potential actions. In this case, the nomination form is most important—it is a yellow tab in the main navigation and a yellow button in the sidebar. Next most important is the content itself. We did include two other CTAs on the page, both in the form of blue links in the sidebar. They are separated from the main content so they would not get lost, but are not given the same weight as the main CTA on the page.

Other Tips

Keep these additional tips in mind when planning your call-to-action items:

  • Use action words. This will help your user understand what you want them to do.
  • Be strategic and don’t over do it—remember Hick’s Law. If you have seven CTAs on a webpage, the user is going to ignore all of them.
    • It is possible to have a primary and secondary CTA. One may stand out more, such as a rollover button, while the other might be in the form of contact information in a sidebar.
  • Not every CTA needs to be a rollover button. You could also use a link on its own line, such as the “Learn More” and “Register” links in the body on the CH0100 Sign Up webpage. Or, image callouts, such as in this Tuition and Scholarships webpage.


Each of your site’s webpages should have a goal. Sometimes it is as simple as providing information. But, if there is a bigger purpose please help your user out. Let them complete the intended action—apply, donate, contact, attend, request, etc—more easily by providing a clear CTA.

Joel Vertin
Digital Services Manager