Author Archive for Natalie Johnson

Living the brand

At UW Oshkosh, anticipation and excitement hang in the air at the start of each new academic year. For those of us who work here, the joyful return of students each September reminds us all about why we have chosen to work in higher education.

For the first time this fall, I experienced the process of moving a child into a residence hall at one of our sister UW System schools. It is, indeed, a real transition for the whole family.

It got me thinking—again—about how important it is to be a strong, consistent branded institution dedicated to quality education. It also got me thinking about how crucial it is that all of us who work at UW Oshkosh shouldn’t just talk the talk … we have to walk the walk. We need to strive for excellence and offer opportunity in all we do.

Because I know now what it is like to be on the other side as a parent, I am trying to be extra mindful of how I represent our brand, striving to be helpful and positive in my everyday interactions with students, alumni and their families.

I am truly inspired, though, by how so many of my colleagues here at UWO truly live our brand, both personally and professionally.

UW Oshkosh news in just the last few days highlights that our faculty and staff members are dedicated not only to their own professional development through research and teaching (see all the amazing award winners from Opening Day) but also through their commitment to our students and the community.

We don’t just offer state-of-the-art facilities, like the fabulous new Horizon Village. Many go the extra mile to help move students into the halls over Labor Day weekend and to help make them feel safe and comfortable.

We also are doing our part in the community. Two recent examples show the breadth of our impact. In one effort, we just learned that the EPA is granting UWO $1 million to redesign eight Wisconsin beaches to reduce bacteria levels.

Meanwhile, our own Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Petra Roter is serving as the president of the Oshkosh Area United Way Board of Directors, as it celebrates its 50th year.

Living the brand truly seems to come naturally to the UW Oshkosh community.

Here’s to another awesome school year!

The story (not the devil) is in the details

Every day on our campus, there are a thousand stories to be told.

Students, faculty and staff are learning, studying and creating in a myriad of ways. At the same time, our 80,000 alumni across the globe are making a difference in their careers and their communities.

But to grab the attention of our audience in this media-rich society, we have to find just the right words to convey our compelling UW Oshkosh stories.

As a writer, I often have found that sharing interesting details can be the key to telling a good story.

The details about why new freshmen are choosing to enroll at UW Oshkosh, how professors are delving into their research projects or how alumni are applying what they’ve learned in their professions can set our content apart.

Of course, every story starts with the basics —the who, what and when—but it is the why and the how that fascinate readers.

In a story about UWO art students collaborating with Evergreen Retirement Community of Oshkosh residents, Alex Hummel, IMC associate director of news and public information, wove in a number of striking details that really helped to bring the project to life:

“With UW Oshkosh students as teachers, the residents dabbled in ‘clay postcards.’ They experimented with fused glass. Some Evergreen men, for whom art may have been downplayed as a frivolity a few generations ago, enthusiastically constructed ‘dashboard confessionals,’ or richly illustrated and designed memory books.”

The vivid description helped me to picture what the residents had created and want to learn more about the partnership.

While journalists are often warned to not overwhelm readers with too many facts and figures, I always think a well-placed number can tell a powerful tale.

For example, in a recent story about a UWO alumnus who traveled to India to help fight polio, IMC intern Danielle Beyer ’12, wrote: “They worked with a local construction company to fill a large hole with rocks and cement, and they earned the same amount of money as the local workers–$3.50 per day.”

Reading that striking detail of $3.50 per day made an immediate impression on me about the socioeconomic conditions in India.

The next time you want to bring attention to a new UWO program or an interesting student or faculty member, weave or tuck in some tidbits and watch the audience for your story grow. Or, share the why and the how with the IMC news team, and we’ll help you spread the word.

Keeping a “Constant” eye on e-marketing

As a “word” person, I have never been as intrigued by numbers and statistics as I have been during the past year. I have been pouring over bounce, open and click rates for dozens of targeted marketing emails sent to UW Oshkosh alumni across the nation and around the world.

Since May 2011, the Alumni Relation Office has been keeping a careful eye on our email marketing efforts through the use of the web-based, e-marketing vendor Constant Contact. Email has proven to be a cost-effective way to get the word out about upcoming events and campus updates.

We have learned a lot about this key University audience related to how alumni use and react to email from their alma mater. We’d like to share what we’ve learned so others on the UW Oshkosh campus who communicate with alumni can benefit and keep our graduates engage and informed.

First off, the numbers show that the best day to send out our monthly Alumni News e-newsletter is Friday. That’s the day we see the best open rates (greatest percentage of alumni opening our email messages).

This was not necessarily what we expected based on best practices in other industries that indicate Tuesday and Wednesday mailings yield the best open rates.

For alumni, however, we think that Friday may be the day that folks feel most comfortable opening emails from their alma mater at work. Others may be likely to open their emails from UWO at home on the weekend to follow.

We also have learned that alumni prefer to open emails from us that have straight-forward subject lines. When we start throwing in extra adjectives and exclamation points, our open rates go down. That leads us to believe our alumni respond more positively when we send them no-nonsense, professional email messages.

Another trend we have noticed is that the more targeted our audience is for specific messages, the higher our open rates climb.

For example, our overall open rate is at 16.5 percent. In March and April 2012, our open rates for our alumni newsletter—sent to more than 34,000 alumni and UWO friends and donors for whom we have email addresses—were 17.2 and 16.8 percent, respectively.

But when we target more specific messages to narrower alumni audiences, our open rates soar. Recent emails sent to graduating seniors, theatre alumni and alumni living in the New York City area reached 46.4, 29.9 and 30.3 percent, respectively.

Monitoring our e-marketing analytics has proven to be an invaluable tool for the Alumni Relations Office to get better results from our communication campaigns.

While different University audiences (students, faculty, staff, donors, etc.) may respond differently to email marketing from the University, it’s clear that keeping an eye on the numbers is crucial to delivering our messages effectively.

We’d be happy to exchange information and share more about what we’ve learned with others on campus who use e-marketing as tool to reach their key audiences.

Ready, aim, target your audience

In an editing class in college, my professor instructed us to always define the “reader, purpose and publication,” before breaking out our red pens and marking up our assignments.

By this, he meant that before editing any news or feature story, we should know who is the intended audience or readers of the piece, what is the goal or purpose of the article and where will it be published. His point was that the way the story or message should be conveyed varies depending on these three factors.

Although technology has changed over the years and many of the stories I write and edit now are not necessarily printed in a hard-copy publication, the lesson still rings true.

Before crafting messages to promote UW Oshkosh’s top-notch academic programs; community outreach; and athletic, cultural and educational events, it’s best to take a moment to think about:  Who is the intended audience? What’s the best way (or medium) to reach that audience?

If your message is on target for your audience, you’re more likely to have success reaching your goal (or purpose)—whether it is increasing enrollment for a new class or academic program, making the community aware of the University’s success as a green campus or motivating people to attend a cultural event.

A good example of how this works is to think about how Integrated Marketing, Reeve Memorial Union and Alumni Office staff members work to promote Homecoming to our diverse audiences. We all start with the same basic facts … a week full of Titan events culminating in a football game and an annual theme picked by the students. But from there, our tactics diverge.

To reach the Oshkosh community, we may promote the event on local radio stations, submit a story to the local newspaper and put up posters and yard signs around town that focus on the family-friendly events that citizens are invited to enjoy on campus. To reach students, we may send email announcements and post messages on our University’s social media outlets, encouraging them to come for the free food and to show their school spirit at the game.

Meanwhile, to reach alumni, the message may be delivered both via printed postcards and email invitations and is likely to focus on the nostalgia of meeting up with old classmates to share pride in their alma mater and to check out the changes happening on campus.  All three strategies are employed following the University’s brand guidelines.

So, the next time you get ready to promote a new program, offering or event on campus, think about your reader, your purpose and your mode of publication before even writing down the first word of your message.

And remember, we are here to help you stay on target.

Copyright 2012-2013 The Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System