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4 tips to get more people to your event

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  1. Describe what they'll learn
  2. Before your audience commits to attending, they need to be persuaded that this will be worth their time. Does this event answer a need? Spell out how it will--and tell them how they can put what they've learned to work immediately.

  3. "Do I need to RSVP?"
  4. Don't skimp on the details. Is there a fee? Do I need to register? Remember to include who, what, when, where, why, and how.

  5. Promote via multiple channels
  6. One email invitation won't fill the room. Use a mix of methods: Add it to your website. Tweet thought leaders in your subject area about the event. Put it in local newspaper calendar listings. Mail targeted postcards. Spread the word among your colleagues.

    Are you working with a partner? They can help promote the event to their channels.

    Remember the University of Minnesota has powerful brand recognition. Use that brand equity to boost attendance at your event by using branded Extension templates.

  7. Deliver a top-notch event

  8. It costs far more to win new "customers" or attendees than it does to retain them. If your event delivers on what was promised and is a valuable use of time, they'll be back! Maybe next time they'll bring a friend.

- Maggie Frazier, communication writer/editor

30-second template training tip

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Have 30 seconds? Take a look at this tip on using Extension Word templates.

-Katie Gallagher, designer

Stories are the ultimate teaching tool. They entertain us while also helping us understand complex and nuanced information quickly. Most importantly, they can help us communicate the value Extension provides in Minnesota.

How can you identify stories to help describe your Extension work?

1. Find the problem and solution. Stories usually start with a problem/obstacle or something unexpected. They are followed by an "aha!" or a turning point--usually a solution provided by your programming.

2. Look in the everyday. Sometimes we don't recognize our own stories because we think "I'm just doing my job." Step back and remember Extension has a unique and powerful role in our state, and you are doing important work! There is a story to be told. Start with the cousins of stories--examples or anecdotes--and build from there.

3. Practice. Remember you are already telling stories in your everyday life, so start to notice them in all their forms and use them to communicate the value of your Extension programming.

In Extension, pairing stories with evaluation numbers helps us communicate our value.

-Maggie Frazier, writer/editor

Presenting web content properly--whether a blog post, web page, or article/pub--helps ensure your audience will read it. By understanding common web behavior, you are better able to shape your content to suit your audience.

Mistake 1: Long, dense paragraphs

Web users tend to be intimidated by long paragraphs. The same is true for long sentences and articles. Have you ever come to a web page, seen how long it is, and thought "I don't have time for this now" and left?

People scan content. Make your content more scan-able and they may stay to read.

How to repair:
  • Add plenty of paragraph breaks
  • Use bullet points
  • Add sub-headings
  • Break very long articles into a series of mini articles
  • Cut unnecessary words
  • Can you use an image or video to show rather than tell?
Mistake 2: Relying solely on PDFs

PDFs do have their place online. They can be useful for worksheets, articles with complex datasets or extremely long documents.

But PDFs present issues as well:
  • Not as usable or readable (especially on mobile devices)
  • Not as search-engine friendly
  • Not mobile friendly
  • Weaker data on website traffic
How to repair:
Most PDFs can be built as typical web pages. Do you have a PDF online now that you'd rather see as a web page? Let us know--fill out the web update form.

Mistake 3: Forgetting the call to action

Once you have your audience's attention, keep the conversations going. Include a call to action, usually at the end, for next steps they can take.

How to repair:
  • Link to a related article on the topic
  • Recommend a YouTube video or a book
  • Ask them to connect via social media or newsletter sign-up
  • Encourage questions or comments (good for blogs)
  • For events, the call to action can be to register or join in
Have an update to make to your website? We can help! Complete the web update form.

-Maggie Frazier, editor

The anatomy of a press release

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You have newsworthy content to share, but how do you format it to distribute? Write your press release in the inverted pyramid style, which is to present information in descending order of importance. Start with the title and lead.

Keep the title of your press release factual and to the point.
  • Example: "State of Water Conference set for May 1 and 2"
The lead (also known as lede) is the first sentence (or sentences in some cases) that describes the core of your news. A reader should have a firm grasp on what the story is by reading that sentence alone. Folks often have the perception they should start their release with background or context. But in a press release, those things are presented later. It may seem unnatural at first, but it's critical to get to the point immediately. Reporters receive many press releases a day--grab their attention without delay.
  • Example of a lead: "As corn prices declined in the fall of 2013, so did farm incomes for a majority of Minnesota farms, according to a joint analysis conducted by Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) and University of Minnesota Extension."
Frontload your article with the most important information in the story. Subsequent paragraphs can provide supporting information, including quotes. This is known as the inverted pyramid:


Close with a call to action. What should/could they do next? For example, provide a link where they can gather more information or register for a conference.

See examples
For examples of press releases, check out the Extension news blog.

How do you know if your press release was successful? Check out this article for a quick tip to monitor.
-Maggie Frazier, editor

Recent updates to Extension's website template mean the layout automatically adjusts to suit your device. Check out on your smart phone or tablet (or just resize your browser window) and notice how the page changes: fewer images use less data, resized type is easier to read, and a single column minimizes resizing. This is known as responsive design. Now your audiences can easily browse the site, even in the garden or field.

With all of our websites now in a single template, it's easier to adapt our code to current technologies--leaving more time for content.

Katie Gallagher, communications designer

Create a Google Alert of your name

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Set-up takes just seconds, and it provides valuable information on the success of your promotional activities. Was your press release or event notice effective? Which publications picked it up? When you establish a Google Alert, Google will automatically send you an email when your search term appears on news sites, in blogs, or anywhere on the web (depending on settings you choose).


Setting up a Google Alert is easy.

Why use your name? Usually your press release or promotions include your name as a contact. But you can set up countless additional alerts with whatever terms you choose.

You can also select to receive notices immediately as they occur, daily, or weekly. In some cases you may wish to add quotation marks around your name or add additional terms to the same query such as "forestry" or "University of Minnesota Extension."

Take a few seconds now to set up your name as a Google Alert.

Have questions? Try the Google Alert Getting Started Guide or contact me.

-Maggie Frazier, editor

5 tips for better article titles

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Whether your article is read is often determined by the title. Are your titles doing the job?

Create a promise of what they will read.

  • OK: "Downy mildew"

  • BETTER: "Why conditions are right for downy mildew"

Use a number--it's a proven technique to grab attention.

  • OK: "Soil testing"

  • BETTER: "3 reasons to get your soil tested"

Tell the reader how.

  • OK: "Emerald ash borer identification"

  • BETTER: "How to identify emerald ash borer"

Use a call to action. What do you want your reader to do?

  • OK: "Invasive species workshop"

  • BETTER: "Join us for the invasive species workshop"

Ask a question that you will answer.

  • OK: "Nitrogen after the rain"

  • BETTER: "What's happening with my nitrogen after all this rain?"

Try one of these methods!

-Maggie Frazier, editor

Adding video to your programming?

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Extension has pulled together resources, tips, processes, and policies to help you with your video work.

Take a look at:

  • Editable graphics, such as title slides and copyright/closing slides in PowerPoint and PhotoShop formats.

  • Branding and channel recommendations based on the type of video it is (eg: promotional video, educational video, "just in time" short videos, etc.)n

  • Plus planning, production, and sharing tips so you can produce the best possible video and get it seen.

Video is a useful way to communicate educational content to your audience. And now it's easier than ever to create videos. Let's get started!

View this recent Master Gardener video for an example of a good quality and well-branded video.

-Maggie Frazier, communications

Have an event or trade show coming up?

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Request or print these branded resources!
Bookmarks: We have a variety of bookmarks related to agriculture, small farms, gardening, and environment. Bookmarks are great for trade show booths or other events. These are professionally printed--just request how many you need (supplies are limited; the opportunity to print more is available).

Mini brochures: These brochures describe our work in food, agriculture, and natural resources in Extension. They are about four inches square. These are professionally printed--just request how many you need.

Extension display boards: These Extension display boards (21" x 42") adhere to Velcro tri-fold tabletop displays and describe Extension's work across the state. These items are available by request through your Extension Regional Office or Center. Remember Extension tablecloths and retractable banners are also available on request.

Preloaded fact sheets: These are on-demand fact sheets that have content already in them! Just print as many as you need for your event.

Templates: As always, there are customizable Extension templates.

-Katie Gallagher, designer

Consider the price tag

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Dr. Stephen Castleberry's presentation "Marketing in the context of Extension" was a highlight for me from Program Conference last month, particularly the portion on pricing.

The airline video illustrated (entertainingly) the reality that the "social contract" has changed: we expect to be charged for things. With Extension, government funding has decreased so user fees have become applicable in many cases. Castleberry acknowledged that this implementation can be hard for parties from both sides of the equation.

How do we ensure the price tag doesn't scare our audiences away? Consider what Castleberry said about elasticity.

Elasticity = % change in number who will attend/% change in price
Examples (gasoline = .2, clothing = 1.2)
  • If greater than 1, then the price is elastic. "You raised the price? I'm going elsewhere."
  • If less than 1, then it is inelastic. "You raised the price? I can handle that—this is worth it."

Incorporating inelastic components (high-value things that you can't find elsewhere) in your program will help you impress your audience, build revenue, and enhance the brand.

Revisit Stephen's slide deck from Program Conference, which includes four steps to setting a price.

-Maggie Frazier, communications editor

Harness our brand equity to support your work

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Are you familiar with brand equity? It's the value of a brand. It is a major asset of a company or organization, and—like any other asset—it can be used to help you accomplish work. By using the University of Minnesota Extension branding and templates, you can harness the power of the brand to enhance attention to your message. While everyone may not be familiar with your work or event, they are more than likely familiar with the University of Minnesota Extension.

Consider: Would you buy a car without knowing its make and model? And would that knowledge help you establish whether the price is reasonable? The brand is one of the major signals people use to establish quality—and therefore price. Brands also carry an emotional tie. All of these can add up to brand equity. Brands with increased brand equity tend to have greater success because people feel more comfortable with what they know.

Our brand has value, and we all benefit from it. To extract more value in our everyday work, we need to be sure to use it properly and remember to protect it.

For guidelines and templates, click here. Also, Katie Gallagher and myself are available to answer branding questions.

-Maggie Frazier, communications

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