University of Minnesota
University Relations
Our Brand: How to Convey It

Our Brand: How to Convey It.

October 2009 Archives

Social networking sites rank 13 out of 15 for reaching prospective students. Woa. Is that right? Yup.

Here's an excerpt from the article:
"Last month at NACAC, I got my hands on a copy of the Hobsons Domestic Research Report 2009-2010. It's a fantastic report that every admissions professional should get their hands on, but one set of numbers specifically stood out to me. Hobsons asked sophomores, juniors and seniors about their perceptions of the credibility of college search tools. All you social media cool kids may find the results surprising."
Read more on social network statistics.

Writing to the point - amplify and simplify

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I just received my newsletter from a small local agency called High Point Creative. One of the topics featured is "Writing for the Web" and I thought there were some good nuggets to share. I'm sure you have heard this before about writing tighter, in shorter blurbs, and making copy easy to scan. Nevertheless, I don't think it hurts to repeat the concepts. I know I easily fall into the trap of verboseness and am constantly challenging myself to write succinctly.


P.S. Check out Gerry McGovern's Links are New Yorkers


Business writing, like life, is better kept simple. From web content to sales presentations, the fewer the words, the stronger your message. Today, when people are more likely to scan than read, your words have to pop with purpose. Each well-chosen word has to compel your impatient reader to click or call ... to buy or believe. In short, when you want to amplify, simplify.

Good writing serves your readers well and gets to the point quickly and clearly. But how do you write simply and powerfully? Here are four tips.

1. Jump right in. Take a page from fiction writers - start right where the action is. No need for long explanations and backstory. Instead of, "There is another topic to cover here..." simply go with "Our next topic is year-end revenue projections."

2. Choose your words wisely. Make sure the language fits your audience. If you are writing for doctors or researchers, highly technical words can be the right choice. If you are writing for a general audience, you don't have to dumb it down, but pick shorter or familiar words that get right to the point.

3. Remove the passive voice. Look for sentence construction using "is" and "was." For example, "The employee was acknowledged by her boss for excellent work." Tighten it up by focusing on the people instead of the action. "The boss acknowledged the employee's excellent work."

4. Cut unnecessary words. By removing excessive modifiers like "very," "a lot," "somewhat" or "too," you can streamline your writing. Cut vague words like "area," "thing" or "aspect." And of course, avoid redundancy. "At this point in time" is "now."

And a bonus tip...if you have the time, put your writing aside, then come back to review it later. You'll find it easier to edit with fresh eyes. If you don't have time, ask someone to do a quick review for you.

Unit Key Contacts

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Below is the list of units that have submitted Events Calendar Unit Agreement forms and the key contacts:

- Academic Health Center
  * Brent Engebretson (
  * Jacob Portnoy (
  * Honey VanderVenter (
  * Holly Klinger (
- College of Biological Sciences
  * Sue Martinez (
  * Katie Hoffman (
- College of Design
  * Laura Weber (
  * Lori Mollberg (
- College of Education and Human Development
  * Jeff Abuzzahab (
  * Nathan Kopka (
- College of Liberal Arts -
  * Karen Swoverland (
  * Dan Kunitz (
- College of Pharmacy
  * Amy L. Olson (
  * Amy Leslie (
- Human Resources
  * Wendy Volkman (
  * Caryn Lantz (
- Humphrey Institute
  * Julie Lund (
  * Anne Mason (
- Institute of Technology
  * Peter Riemenschneider (
  * Rhonda Zurn (
- Office of Information Technology
  * KT Cragg (
  * Ben Neeser (
- Office of International Programs
  * Jennifer Schulz (
  * Antonia Lortis (
- Office of the VP for Research
  * John Merritt (
  * Amy Danielson (
- School of Public Health
  * Mark Engebretson (
  * Barb Cook (
- Student Unions
  * Zach Johnson (
  * Collette Litzinger (
- System Academic Administration
  * Peggy Rader (
  * Kris Layon (
- The Graduate School
  * Gayla Marty (
  * Marci Freundschuh (
- University Libraries
  * Marlo Welshons (
  * Timothy Cronin (
- Vice Provost for Faculty & Academic Affairs
  * Jeremy Hernandez (
  * Cynthia Murdoch (

Events calendar ready for launch

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Hello! Just a quick reminder the new events calendar will be launched starting at 8 a.m. on October 29. Please be sure to enter any upcoming events in the new calendar. The current calendar will no longer be available once the new one is launched.

If having old events viewable to the public is important, you may want to consider back-filling events in the new calendar.

Finally, if you are having difficulty setting up users, training staff, or entering in events for the next couple of weeks, please let us know by sending an e-mail to We understand launching a new system can be time-consuming and are here to help.

Send your social networking page links

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University Relations is gathering links to official social networking pages developed by University colleges, departments, centers, and units. Our goal is to provide a single Web page, like a directory, that will allow our visitors to quickly find and link to all the great social networking pages that the U has to offer.

If your unit has developed an official social networking page, please send the name of the page and the link to We will publish this social networking directory page (we're working out just where) and link to it from the newly created social networking standards page on the eCommunication Standards site here:

Tabbed search available as a service (beta)

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The tabbed search application is now available as a beta service offering. The code isn't ready for distribution and other projects have sidelined some cleanup and documentation, but you can give it a try and we welcome all feedback. Three "front ends" are currently in use, and you can search using these front ends from the following sites:

Want to give it a try? We'll setup a front end for you. For a new front end, or if you have comments, suggestions, or other feedback, please write to A few quick notes:

  • Yes, we know about the character encoding issue.
  • The "U of M" tab must always be present for the service, but is last by default.
  • Only the standard Web templates are offered for the service; no customizations.

A front end is a collection search result sets (tabs), and breadcrumbs. Each tab utilizes the Google Search Appliance (GSA) and may be configured independently. Configuration options include:

  • Site (i.e. tc_oit_1help)
  • Collection (i.e. default_collection)
  • Additional query string, not visible by users (i.e.
  • Suppression of keymatches
  • Suppression of cache links
  • Support for additional GET parameters against the GSA (i.e. for meta tag searching)

Tabbed search is offered only as a service during the the beta, but the code will be available for download later. The code requires PHP5. Not every unit has PHP5 available, nor is it common to central, shared hosting, which is why the service is being offered. The service will also ease code updates; when bug fixes need to be deployed, template changes made, or new functionality added, this can be done centrally.

Lyris ListManager availability update: down at 6 p.m. today

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Lyris ListManager will be unavailable for the duration of the IT Outage this weekend, but will become unavailable earlier than initially planned. A change has been scheduled for 6 p.m. tonight, Friday, that will redirect users clicking on tracked links to a general information page and will also prevent administrators from logging in. The information page may be intermittently unavailable before 6 p.m. today due to other work.

Please be sure to log out prior to 6 p.m. If you are sending mailings today, note that the outgoing mail queue may become backed up and result in your message not being sent to all recipients. If you have a mailing to send, please do so sooner than later. This excludes large, internal mailings which generally should not go out before 5 p.m. due to the load it places on central mail servers.

Social Media Revolution

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I just returned from the New Media Research Breakfast hosted by the Institute for New Media Studies. Yoshikazu Suzuki, a School of Journalism and Mass Communication graduate student, shared his perspective on "Seeing the Internet Through the Eyes of a Young Scholar." To simply state -- IT WAS GREAT!

One of the most intriguing parts of his presentation was this video. It is a MUST SEE if you think about social networking, dabble in it online, or consider it one of your main food groups.

Take a moment to look at the Social Media Revolution video at:

Some of the figures are mind-blowing and definitely started my brain to head into overdrive. I'd love to know what you think about the video. Please feel free to comment.

The other extremely mind-blowing topic Yoshi spoke about was Japan's fascination with anime. He shared one example of how computer-generated music spurred real musicians to cover the songs and it resulted in a concert of 50,000+. In addition, Yoshi noted how there's a game in Japan where people develop relationships with avatars and questioned if that could be considered "true love."

While I was sitting there, I couldn't help but ponder the future of interpersonal relationships in the workplace. If the basis of relationships is not with "real" people in face-to-face situations, how will tomorrow's generation deal with conflict resolution, learn to empathize, and compromise with their colleagues?

A lot to think about.

Events Calendar Categories

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We have updated the categories that are used for the new events calendar. The categories are:

  • Arts & Culture
    • - Concerts & Music
    • - Dance, Theatre, Spoken Word & Readings
    • - Exhibits
    • - Movie & Film
    • - Other
  • Conferences, Workshops, & Seminars
    • - Business & Industry
    • - Enegry & Environment
    • - Engineering & Design
    • - Medical & Biosciences
    • - Professional Development & Continuing Ed
    • - Public Policy & Transportation
  • Sports & Recreations
    • - Student Recreation
    • - Gopher Sports
  • Special Events
    • - Commencement/Graduation
    • - Job Fairs
    • - Campus Tours
  • Summer Youth Programs
  • Talks & Lectures

These will be the categories that the events calendar is launched with.

Sneak peek at new interactive campus maps

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We are very close to rolling out the beta version of the new interactive campus maps. If you'd like to see how things are progressing, take a look at these pages:

Keep in mind, we are still working on them, so at times it may be slow to respond.

Questions? Concerns? Comments? We'd love to hear from you!

CSS, the IEs, and browser testing

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We stumbled on this article recently, which itemizes areas of CSS that differ between IE6, IE7, and IE8. We also have the sneaking suspicion that some developers aren't doing much in the way of browser testing, say looking at their sites in IE6. For anyone not dealing with the IEs regularly, it's a worthwhile read. IE6 users represent 12% of home page visitors; IE7 and IE8 add another 40%.

On the subject of browser testing, we've been moving toward YUI Graded Browser Support (GBS), checking content in the A-grade browsers, plus a smattering of other browsers. Although it doesn't agree with GBS (IE6 in XP is considered A-grade), I'm pushing for "aggressive graceful degradation" for IE6.

If you don't think you should be browser testing, visit the eCommunications Standards Web site in IE6, then visit the IE6 No More campaign.

Social networking guidelines now available

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Picture 2.pngAfter reading, exploring, consulting, and meeting (a lot!), we've developed a set of guidelines for University units that want to use social networking as part of their electronic communications strategy.

The guidelines can be found here: Social Networking Guidelines. These guidelines should be considered a moving target as social networking evolves, new opportunities arise, and old systems die.

We are not quite finished with the image component related to the guidelines. We will offer a customizable group of graphics for use with social networking profiles and pages. These graphics, intended for University units and not for personal use, will help users quickly identify your unit and the University. The graphic on the right gives you an idea of some of the designs we're exploring.

As always, please let us know if you have questions about the guidelines or have ideas for improvement. We want to hear your input!

Lyris ListManager planned outage

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Lyris ListManager will be unavailable from 2 a.m. on Saturday, October 24 through 7 a.m. Sunday, October 25. This is due to a planned outage at an Office of Information Technology Data Center. This may affect recipients of your mailings.

Tracked links will not take users to their destination. When Lyris is unavailable, mailings sent with clickthrough tracking enabled will include links that are broken; Lyris cannot collect tracking data nor can it redirect users to their destination. Similarly, Lyris will be unable to process unsubscribe and subscribe requests. For senders using GEL lists, we believe links to opt-out in the Donor Management System will continue to work, so long as they were not tracked. We will provide an update if we learn otherwise.

Lyris users should not track clickthroughs on mailings sent in the few days leading up to the outage, and should strongly consider not tracking clickthroughs at all during the week of October 19.

During this outage, we hope to redirect anyone following a tracked link to a page with information specific to mass e-mail.

Keep an eye on the blog for any additional updates. If we learn that DMS opt-out links will be broken, or that we will be unable to redirect message recipients to an informational page, we will post that information and send e-mail to list administrators.

Additional information:

The call to action

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"Call to action" is a phrase I've been using quite often, particularly in the domain of mass e-mail. For those of you sending messages with a call to action, rather than information-only or longer, more diverse messages, how do you present this to your users?

Written with Web pages in mind, "Call to Action Buttons: Examples and Best Practices" from Smashing Magazine, covers several best practices for the call to action. Each of these can be applied to mass e-mail. Low clickthrough rate got you down? Work on your call to action.

Major hurdle in applying this to e-mail: image blocking. And don't forget your audience that reads the text part of your message and not HTML (pay extra, special attention for internal communications).

Redesign Time!

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Yes, it's that time again. The eCommunication Standards site is bloated and hard to navigate. Time for some cleaning and reorganizing.

You can help! We want to know what you think is good, bad, ugly, or helpful about the site. No survey involved, just comment on this blog post or send an e-mail covertly to

We're going to take a very thoughtful look at what we've got and how we can communicate better. Something like this: :-)

MEUG, October 27, 2009: holdovers from September and a topic TBD

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The next Mass E-mail User Group meeting is Tuesday, October 27 from 1-2:30 p.m. in Morrill Hall 238A.

First up will be presentation and discussion on tips, tricks, and best practices for the plain text part of your message, held over from September. What do you do to format the plain text part of your message? What can you do to make it more usable in Gophermail? How does your writing differ from content in the HTML part?

The second part of the meeting is TBD, and we're looking for input. Here are a few options:

  • More on the text part of messages, including standards and policy.
  • How to use suppression lists and purging to hone audiences.
  • What is success? How do you measure yours?
  • Other. Send an e-mail to, or if you're a list member start a discussion on

If you choose the "other" option, we'll call on you to lead or help lead that part of the discussion. Who better to facilitate than the person who wants to know more?

No need to register or RSVP unless you'll be attending remotely. Audio is done over conference call and screen sharing over UMConnect. Send a note to no later than Monday the 26th if you're interested in attending remotely.

We'll have some sort of afternoon treat, but it is BYOB(everage).

September 29 MEUG meeting notes

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Notes from the last MEUG meeting are now posted and available at The next meeting hasn't been scheduled yet; more to come.