Archive for the 'Uncategorized' Category

In Wisconsin, we push ourselves toward openness… And that’s good.

Wisconsin is a great place to live and work and not just because of the bucolic landscapes and good people. The state has a tradition of keeping this transparent, and there may be no better example of it than Wisconsin Public Records law.
UW Oshkosh Director of Administrative Computing and Networking Mark Clements and I had an opportunity to, this past month, welcome in colleagues from several different campus departments to an Integrated Marketing and Communications “Champion Chat” – monthly conversations about the work we do and other topics and trends in higher education.

This time around, we zoomed in on public records – what they are, what they aren’t and how everybody can always better understand the standards and, in the process, strive to live by the letter and spirit of the law. Again, in Wisconsin, the provisions are designed to really push keepers of these records to maintain as much access as possible and to be swift in responding to people requesting that access. As Universities are places/resources of open and informed dialogue, so are public records.

The Champion Chat was a unique opportunity for me to – hopefully for the betterment of my modern-day colleagues – reflect a bit on my past career. I was a newspaper journalist for nearly a decade, and the state’s public records law was, and is, a revered tool for that profession. It gives reporters (and anybody, for that matter) the opportunity to examine things like a public institution’s deeper budget data, certain electronic records and even, to an extent, student grades and performance benchmarks (provided we keep personal information out of public view).

Mark provided great insight on an often blurry line. With digital communication and records-production increasing daily, it’s always a bit of a riddle as to what is and isn’t a public record once it washes through, say, our University servers or network. Mark – — is a great resource to help get questions answered when colleagues run into an unclear or gray area about public records. And, since I’m UW Oshkosh’s records custodian, you can also reach out to me when public records requests come in or if you encounter questions:

Bottom line: The law is a powerful tool. And it is one to heed and use with respect.

Some tips:
  • Always best to remember that your electronic communications (both emails and chats) are, in most ways, public records when generated at a public campus.
  • Strive for openness in all things. If you have a question about whether a record will or won’t be public, assume it will be. It’s the right thing to do.
  • Don’t forget to keep the openness ethic part of meetings, too. When applicable, Wisconsin law advises meeting holders within public organizations to keep the invites and doors open. So, do all you can to promote meetings by appropriately publishing notices and sharing them at multiple points around the organization. … It’s not an Open Records provision, but it is the fundamental idea within the state’s Open Meetings law.

There are undoubtedly and understandably folks who didn’t get to make our Champion Chat. So, let me encourage them (and you) to check out the Wisconsin Department of Justice’s Public Records Guide, or “Compliance Outline.

Sounds daunting, but it is actually a very approachable and readable rundown of all-things public records in a state that, responsibly so, treats them like the valuable resources they are.
  • CLICK HERE  to launch over to the state DOJ’s guide.

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.

Being consistent is boring.

I’ll be the first to admit that using the same graphic design for a length of time can get boring. It is so fun to see new and exciting designs for printed pieces and websites. I love to see what creative ways designers come up with to grab attention, get audiences to take action or demonstrate the distinctiveness of a department. The challenge comes when you decide what your identity is going to look like and then sticking with it.

This week we had a Champion Chat on the subject of Design Basics. Sara Mikoulinskii, the IMC Art Director, led a discussion on graphic design best practices. While IMC is available to help anyone that needs design work done, many on campus do need to create printed pieces or web pages but have not had formal training in graphic design. Sara talked through font usage, the need for white space in design, the power of images and messaging working together and the need for consistency.

All too often we hear people asking for new designs or asking if they can change the colors of the logo or wordmark. This provides the opportunity to talk about the importance of a consistent brand. The easiest way to address this subject is to get people to think about the audience they are trying to reach. If you put yourself in the shoes of the prospective student, for example, they do not tire of the same design being sent to them in email, printed pieces or on the website. They do not see UW Oshkosh communications every day the way we do therefore they do not get bored with the design. In fact, the more consistency we have in every communication they receive from us the more likely they will recognize it is from UW Oshkosh and the more likely it is to make an impression. This rule applies to alumni, current students, and members of the community or anyone you are trying to communicate with. This is the fundamental principal of branding.

Consistency builds brand awareness.

It takes strength to stay consistent. It really can get boring. You just need to remind yourself that you are not the target audience and your audience is not bored with the design. If you change it they may not recognize it.

If you missed the Champion Chat this week here is a great resource
Sara provided that gives some basics on design.

If you need help or have questions call the office and we’ll help!  424-2442.

Social Media in an IMC world

A student interviewed me today for his Emerging Media class on the subject of social media in organizations. He asked great questions about how we use social media, how we know it’s effective and if it has replaced traditional communication methods. It gave me a chance to talk about my favorite subject: integrated marketing communications (IMC).

I think many on this campus only know this term as the name of our department. It is so much more. It’s a model of communication this campus adopted and subsequently dubbed our department. This model or practice of communication is essentially looking holistically at all communication methods. Traditionally in organizations, and I worked in a few that operated this way, all communications were not housed in the same department. Public relations professionals were separate from marketing, and web was separate from both and social media didn’t exist. By having all these communication channels operating together we can concentrate on the message and goal of communication then decide on the appropriate channels to get the message out. The practice of IMC has had a tremendous impact on the University and has been instrumental in building our brand.

Questions on social media turn into a discussion of IMC because you can’t look at social media alone. It needs to be a piece of the larger communication whole. I can confidently say that social media is a core tool in our communication strategy and has, without a doubt, broadened our reach, but it has not replaced traditional methods of communication. When a press release is written, for example, it is sent out to campus and the media, published online and also distributed on social media platforms. Our reach is broader because of Twitter and Facebook and complimentary videos placed on YouTube, but there is still a time and place for the press release. We certainly do fewer press releases than we did five years ago, but we have not entirely replaced them with new media.

IMC on the UW Oshkosh campus encompasses online and offline communication for both internal and external audiences. Social media has become a core tool in our organizational communication strategy.

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.

American Marketing Association Webcast

On January 11, 2012 Alex Hummel and I were honored to present an online webinar for the American Marketing Association. The topic was “University Branding on a Decentralized Campus.” We discussed the integrated marketing communications strategy at UW Oshkosh, how we got and how we’ve come to truly unify our brand and messaging. Having been at UW Oshkosh for the large majority of this process it is really nice to discuss and reflect on how far we’ve come. Our campus has truly become a national model in how to effectively structure communication on a campus with an emphasis on collaboration. Alex and I presented on some of the tools we’ve implemented here such as Brand Review and Champion Chats as examples of how we work together at UW Oshkosh to make the most out of our communications efforts.

The most common question asked by attendees of the webinar was “Did we bring in consultants to implement this strategy.” I’m very proud to answer that question with a NO. The initiative began with a charge in 2005 to a task force on campus, they involved additional campus resources to execute extensive research both internally and externally, and it eventually evolved into an fully operational IMC department that continues to drive this strategy forward. We had, and still have, the expertise on campus to build and support this strategy, and most importantly this campus has the collaborative spirit that became the driving force behind its success.

The entire webinar is available to view here:

Following the webinar we were given a list from the AMA of over 100 questions and comments from attendees. Questions ranged from finding out how we interact with specific areas of campus such as Admissions to what project management tools do we use to manage our workflow. People were very interesting in our Account Liaison System and Brand Review process, and also asked very detailed questions such as “Can I see your creative brief.” I would say 90% of attendee questions can be answered by looking at the IMC website, which we try to keep as a functional toolbox for campus to get the resources they need.

Thanks again to the AMA for inviting us to present on what proved to be a very important topic in the higher education community.

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