Category: Content

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

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

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

Know Your Audience

As we move through 150 CMS websites, upgrading to our latest template, we have been getting a number of disheartening requests for featured homepage content. Because of this, I would like to offer a friendly reminder to know your audience.

Example 1: An Academic or Donation Website?

We had one academic department wish to ask for donations boldly at the top of their homepage. My question is: what is their main mission? I would hope that it is to attract and educate students and not to simply raise money. Obviously, attracting donors, connecting with alumni, and securing sponsored research is important. I get that. However, if I am a 17 year old high school student looking at your program information and I’m asked about donating as my first interaction with your department, do you think I will come to Michigan Tech?

Example 2: Are We on the Internet or an Intranet?

Another academic department recently held a large committee meeting to discuss their new homepage. To my dismay, they repeatedly referred to their homepage as something to serve their faculty and staff. Michigan Tech has more than 7,000 students and less than 500 faculty. I can guarantee you that prospective students make a far larger portion of our 20 million yearly web visitors than internal faculty and staff. If I am a 23 year old prospective graduate student interested in 3D printing and I find internal forms and a staff handbook on your department’s homepage, do you think I’ll keep digging or leave your website?

Moral of the Story

Your website is your most important marketing tool. It is meant to serve external users and is meant to cater to your most important one or two audiences before the others. If I’m a prospective student, my tolerance for trying to find information will be low. A donor with ties to the university will have a bit more tolerance. A faculty member who needs to update their advising information will have more tolerance yet. And a staff member who has to download a form as a part of their job will have the most tolerance. I’m not suggesting to hide your internal information completely. But, it doesn’t necessarily need to be one click off your homepage either. Don’t forget about Hick’s Law.

Can you still put a giving button on your homepage? Sure! Can you still have a link somewhere to your staff handbook or departmental tools and forms? Yes. I understand the need. But, by golly, please do not make these things the focal point of your homepage or even your navigation. A prospective student will not tolerate a terrible user experience. A staff member may grumble about one extra click to find their form, but they will at least be motivated to follow through. A donor who is committed to supporting your department will still give even if there isn’t a donation billboard flashing at them the second they load your website.

Let’s make and keep our websites awesome.

Joel Vertin
Digital Services Manager

Creating a Social Media Content Calendar

“What should I post on social media?” It’s one of the most common questions the social media team at Michigan Technological University hears. Most folks understand a stagnant social media page isn’t favorable, so most people are anxious to regularly produce compelling content that will engage their audience. Here are some things to consider when planning content for your Michigan Tech-affiliated social media pages:

Make a Calendar

Maybe you begin by planning a week out, maybe a month or a whole year. Perhaps your content calendar is a paper or text document, or maybe it’s Excel or Airtable (that’s what we use). Planning your social media out helps you look at the big picture: what is your goal for the page (s), what do you want to communicate, and how regularly? Bonus: A social media content calendar also helps legitimize your social media efforts to your supervisor.

Start Small

Maybe you commit to posting every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Hold yourself accountable with an actionable goal. If you find yourself with more rich content and an engaged audience, expand to other days and times, or even multiple times per day (Michigan Tech averages about two Facebook posts per day).

Get to Know Your Audience

When you’re planning social media content, think about who your audience is and how they might consume their digital media. Share content based around what you know about them. For instance, if your target demographic is working professionals, perhaps they are more likely to read a news blog when they wake at 6 a.m. vs. 1 p.m. Recognize the times your audience is most likely online and the times they are most likely to engage, may differ.

So What Do I Post?

Think about your content as a mix. Categories might include our academics, student and faculty profiles, athletics, research, campus life, the local area (Houghton, Keweenaw), outdoor adventure, diversity, honors and rankings, weather (our alumni love hearing about this!), and outreach. Decide what categories fit your department or area’s goals and how frequently each should be highlighted.

Look for Freebie Posts

Your content calendar should be agile enough to jump on current University news and events. If the main Michigan Tech pages post a research story, consider resharing it. If the Huskies win big, reshare. It’s an easy way to curate more content. Also look for user content, that is, the stuff students and faculty share about #MichiganTech. It might be a neat photo or a blog post. (Just be sure to get permission from the owner first.)

What works for you on social media? Feel free to share:

Shannon Rinkinen
Brand and Social Media Manager

Hick’s Law: Content Overload

Hick’s Law explains: The time it takes to make a decision increases as the number of alternatives increases.

It is important to keep this in mind when you are deciding to add another tab to your navigation, another link under a tab, another paragraph to a webpage, or another link in a sidebar.

Make Things Digestible

Every time you add something to your website, you decrease the importance of the other portions of it. Every time you add to a webpage, you may be “adding noise” that detracts from the most important information. As an example, everyone wants to be linked from the Michigan Tech homepage. Every department. Every academic program. Every initiative or group. However, how would a user ever navigation our website if everyone had a link? People would say that our website is unusable.

Digital Services uses analytics, user interviews, benchmarking, and leadership priorities to shape how we present our websites and the information within our websites. I challenge each individual department to treat their own website in the same way.

You can read more about Hick’s Law and how in applies to web design online:

Joel Vertin
Digital Services Manager