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Member drive

All University of Minnesota employees with communication related job codes should be receiving the Communicators Forum annual member drive email on or near February 5. Please share this email with anyone you think would be interested in joining the Forum. 

Wondering if you need to renew your Communicators Forum membership? We will email you when your membership nears expiration.
Did you know: UMCF isn't just for University of Minnesota employees. That's right. If you are independently employed/outside the University or if you are a student enrolled in a University program, you can become a member. The general membership fee is $40; $20 for students. So if you know of anyone who may be interested, spread the word. 

To register or for more information, please direct people to our website. For full information on the benefits and values of becoming a University of Minnesota Communicators Forum member, check out this page.

Upcoming Programs

Find details and register for upcoming programs.

Wednesday, September 18, 3-4:30 p.m. - Digital Technology Center, 402 Walter Library

Kick off the new year with the UMN Communicators Forum. This event features a reception and networking, plus a presentation from OIT's Matt Nuttall, who will give us a run-down on such IT initiatives as Lyris mass email replacement, drupal, Google sites and more. 
Register here.

UMCF & Web Standards present Health Quest: Story of a UMN iPhone App
Friday, September 20, 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. - 35 Nicholson Hall
Pizza at 11:30 a.m. 
Presentation w/Q+A: Noon to 1 p.m.

This presentation will be available live via Google Hangout and a recording will be provided afterwards.

Do you want to make an app but aren't sure where to start or the commitment involved? Justin Paquette, Patrik Dousa, and David Krewinghaus from Academic Health Center (AHC) Communications will share the story of creating their first iPhone app called Health Quest, a photo scavenger hunt for the Minnesota State Fair. From initial concept, in-house development/design, and approval from Apple, to the hot summer Fair days of cheese curds, Pronto Pups, and the KARE 11 barn, we'll cover:

1. Overview (why an app, how it works)
2. Design and development process
3. Promoting the app
4. Results, lessons learned, and future plans

There will be a Q&A session after the presentation with time for anyone in the audience to share their own experiences with creating an app. This presentation is for a wide range of audiences and will cover both technical and general aspects of this app project.

RSVP by Wednesday, September 18.

Communicators Forum Monthly Mixer
Thursday, September 26, 3:30-5:30 p.m. - Campus Club (4th floor, Coffman Union) - reserved area

There's a new opportunity to connect with colleagues for a professional, social, networking fun good time: introducing the Communicators Forum Monthly Mixer at the Campus Club. You know that time in between sessions at conference or at the start/end of a program where you get into a good conversation with a colleague but need to break it off? This is all about those informal but extremely helpful conversations.

- Anyone welcome -- stop in whenever and bring a friend, even if they aren't a member
- Nachos provided! (Drinks and other items on your own)
- Attendees will be entered into a raffle to win a free lunch at the Campus Club.

This is the launch of a monthly event held the first Thursday of the month (except this one). The next one and (first actual first Thursday) will be November 7.

Please RSVP if you think you might attend (to help with planning, you can still attend if you haven't RSVP'd).

The Enterprise Portal: Your Future BFF
Thursday, October 24, 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. - 102 Fraser 

Have you heard about the Enterprise Systems Upgrade Program (ESUP)? Did you know about the new Portal? Come to this brown bag to learn all about it and how communicators will play a crucial role in its success!

Check back here later for more details (including RSVP form); or find us on Facebook or Twitter!

Save the Date: Annual Communicators Forum Conference
June 19, 2014 - Carlson School of Management
Keynote speaker: Ellen Lupton

The Internet of Things

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By now, you may have heard rumblings about the "Internet of Things" and depending on the context, it can be defined in many different ways. Everyone, however, agrees that the emerging "Internet of Things" (IoT) will link everyday physical products to each other via the web. This will be (and currently) is done by embedding technology in an object in order for it to communicate with other connected devices. This will essentially create a giant digital information system. The experts at Harbor Research suggest that the Internet of Things will have a bigger impact on our daily lives than either the internet or social media combined, radically shifting the way that we think, act, and connect with each other.

"We are creating a connected world with entirely different touch points," said Glen Allmendinger, president of technology and business development consulting firm Harbor Research. "In the past, a company would sell a product, and it would disappear into a black hole. There was no way to know what anyone did with it or what other marketing opportunities existed. Today, it's possible to see how a customer uses a device and discover all sorts of opportunities."

Recent articles point to the IoT as the interaction and exchange of data between machines and objects, and now there are product definitions reflecting the same concept. Nike has been utilizing this technology for a few years now, with their Nike Fuel band that tracks and monitors your fitness levels, suggests ways to conserve energy, and connects you with a community of Fuel Band users.

There is almost no limit to the possibilities that the IoT will bring and it's no secret that marketing will be at the center of that universe. The Blake Project's Derrick Daye believes that the IoT will change branding in a monumental way. "It can deliver the brand promise at every point of customer contact and deliver a more meaningful relationship. It can help a company create a greater brand alignment across devices, screens and experiences."

Needless to say, the Internet of Things is here to stay. I'm anxious to see how the University of Minnesota will start integrating this technology into the different experiences that they offer. What will this mean in terms of recruitment, retention or giving? Marketing and branding? Only time will tell.

U Relations | Here to Help

Today I went to the UMCF program, Beginner's Circle: Working with University Relations, and discovered a pocket of resources for us as communicators. I am fairly new (one and half years at the U) and have had veterans tell me that you are not a real U employee until you have been here for ten. It was nice to hear that for some people that were closer to the ten-year mark, this was good information all around. So, whether you are new to the University or have been here for years, there was a little something for everyone.

The panelists were: Ann Aronson, responsible for marketing and branding; Laura Johnson, responsible for creative services; Chuck Tombarge, responsible for the news service; and Jay Weiner, the presidents speechwriter.

Here are some of the resources they provide:

New Service: ( Will work with you on a press release or connecting you to local reporters. Provide media training for faculty and staff. Provide council on social media strategy. Write a column from the president in your department/units newsletter.

There are four staff members, broken into beats that they cover:

  • Julie Christensen covers public affairs, access, engagement, philanthropy and diversity.
  • Steve Henneberry covers liberal arts, humanities, and video.
  • Matt Hodson covers STEM, research, science to industry, business, and agriculture.
  • Patty Mattern covers administration, athletics, crisis, and efficiency.

Creative Services and Marketing Communications: ( Provides consulting in collaboration with marketing and branding for marketing strategies, electronic communications, shared media, design, writing, editing, multimedia, and photography. The U Story on the homepage is also handled through creative services and ideas can be submitted to

The overall focus for University Relations this year is President Kaler's priorities that can be found here:

Do you have other resources that would be helpful for navigating communications at the U?

I am also looking forward to the next program, Expert Insights: Dave Pyle, Former bureau chief of the MN/WI Associated Press on December 5.

Get to know the UMCF Marketing & Promotions Committee

Editor's Note: Our Marketing & Promotions Committee keeps you informed of the Communicators Forum's goings-on through promotions, tabling events, social media, and more. Get to know the M&P Committee with today's brief member profiles. We asked them the following questions:

1.) What is your job title and department here at the U? How long have you worked there?
2.) Favorite part of your workday?
3.) Why are you part of the Forum?
4.) Where do you find creative inspiration?

Here's what they had to say:

Erin Kober, Marketing & Promotions Committee Co-Chair

1.) Marketing Manager at Student Unions & Activities. I have worked at Student Unions & Activities for just over a year.
2.) Brainstorming! I love finding new and creative ways to get our message to students.

3.) To network across the University and get new ideas from people across all University departments.

4.) A variety of blogs, and of course, Pinterest!

Katie Covey, Marketing & Promotions Committee Co-Chair

1.) Program and Project Specialist at the Weisman Art Museum. I started working at WAM as a sophomore in college but have been a full time staff member for two years.
2.) Planning programming with our student group, WAM Collective. They keep me connected to student life!
3.) To make connections and learn from my colleagues across campus.
4.) The Weisman's galleries, tumblr, nature, and everyone's guilty pleasure - Pinterest!

Amanda Aranowski, Marketing & Promotions Committee Member

1.) Communications Coordinator at the Institute for Mathematics and its Applications. I began working at the U a little over a year ago.

2.) Editing! I am a total nerd, and when I get to sit with my stack and a red pen, well, nothing makes me happier.

3.) To learn about the best and greatest in communications and to get to know other fabulous communicators on campus.

4.) Other campaigns, advertising, blogs, and, of course, from all of YOU.
Monique Dubos, Marketing & Promotions Committee Member

1.) Business Operations Supervisor, Housing & Residential Life for 7 years

2.) Favorite part of my workday is working on projects for committees such as this one. One of the committees I serve on is our HRL sustainability committee. Last year I developed, edited and contributed to a newsletter highlighting our accomplishments from the year.

3.) I'm part of the forum because, through this and other committees, I've discovered a knack for project leadership and development that allows me to use my writing, editing, photography, and social media skills. I joined UMCF to meet communications professionals on campus, learn from them, and add to my experience that will hopefully lead to a communications job one day (soon, I hope!).

4.) I find inspiration in the people I work with - at work and on outside projects. I'm also inspired by the beauty of everyday life - I'm rarely without my camera!

Katie Evans, Marketing & Promotions Committee Member

1.) Lead Events Coordinator, Institute for Global Studies. I have been in my current position for six months. Prior to that, I worked for two and a half years as Program Specialist at the Center for German & European Studies.

2.) Attending the events that I have been preparing for and making sure everything is running smoothly.

3.) I hope the forum will help me become more aware of university wide resources that are available as well as connect to other motivated and talented people in communication positions. Also, my position involves a fair amount of communication and marketing and I hope to be inspired by the forum.

4.) I love collaborating and communicating with my colleagues. People have such diverse experiences and I find that by talking with them, I often get new and fresh ideas through conversation. Also, working so often with events, I find that attending them and seeing different styles also stimulates new ideas that I can apply to my current position.

Kristin Trautman, Marketing & Promotions Committee Member

1.) Events and Communications Coordinator at the Technological Leadership Institute in the College of Science and Engineering. I began working at the University a little over a year ago.

2.) Designing something! Whether it's marketing materials, a website or a PowerPoint presentation I enjoy coming up with an interesting way to layout and display information.

3.) To take in (and hopefully add to!) the best of the communications community here on campus. I joined the forum earlier this year and have already been inspired and learned a great deal.

4.) I am constantly perusing marketing and technology websites and blogs for ideas. I also like to attend events here on campus and around town.

Editor's Note: How would YOU answer these questions? Where do you find inspiration? What prompted you to join the Forum?

Faculty's First Press Release

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Check out this blog post by Emily Peters, a post-doc in I on E. She has some great "lessons learned" about working with the media including:

University communicators are there to help you. Get these communication experts involved as soon as you suspect your research may draw media attention. These people not only are trained journalists, but also work with scientists all the time. They understand how hard it can be to translate years of complicated research into a few sound bites or sentences. They truly want to help you tell your story in the most interesting, accessible and accurate way possible. They also serve as a point of contact and filter to the outside media world. Let them do their job and help you through this process.

Go for the Maroon and Gold: Training Tip

Email marketing. It's a quick and direct way to communicate with your audience. But, when should it be used and what's the messaging like? Integrating email marketing with a broader communications plan (probably including both traditional and new media) is often key to its success. Also, writing engaging and relevant messages is a must for standing out in the flurry of emails.

Check out ten best practices for email marketing.  And, plan to attend the UMCF conference session on email marketing, "Having a Blast: Making Mass Email Work for You," with U of M University Relations' electronic communications specialist Pete Wiringa.

Learn about the conference agenda and session topics. Register by April 23 for the discounted rate.

Go for the Maroon and Gold: Training Tip

Social media is a constantly changing suite of tools. While each platform offers communicators valuable ways to engage with their audience and deliver key messages, managing all of them can be a challenge. That's why developing a social media strategy is crucial to posting successful updates.

Learn how to build a social media strategy in three steps and plan to attend the UMCF conference session on developing social media strategy. Rita Greenberg, interactive media specialist at Gillette Children's Specialty Healthcare, will present.

To register for the conference, click here. If you register by April 23, you'll pay the discounted rate of $120. Go for the Maroon and Gold!

Valentine's Day & Branding

A few marketing communication lessons, in the form of a link round-up, surrounding Valentine's Day and branding.

The brand of your business is just a word until people come along and give it meaning.

Real brand love, like in life, is reserved for a special level of brand engagement and emotional impact.

Creating an emotional appeal with storytelling makes messages stronger.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Throwing your work into the ether: measuring value

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Everyone likes validation. Validation is tangible evidence that what you do is valuable. For those in a creative field it's essential, if only because for most of us the money isn't validation enough (because it's not enough money). Social media is a shining example of the power of validation. The Facebook "like" button is founded on the principle. Twitter's retweet is the same. Digg is a popularity contest. Everyone wants to go viral on YouTube. Measurement tools, metrics, and analytics are just another way to ask, 'Do people like us (me)?" In a way, it feels very much like an extension of high school. The hormones of it all are quite frankly making me breakout.

Let's assume for a second that when, for example, I write a story, it's not about me getting any sort of personal feedback--that it's about who or what I'm writing about. Now get rid of that notion. It is about me, dammit. How long would any of us keep doing something without once-in-awhile hearing an "attaboy?" Say what you will about writers having low self-esteem (it's true), but sometimes you gotta hear "good job" to believe it.

I asked a friend in a similar field about this, and, like me, he wasn't afraid to admit his deepest insecurity about self/work-efficacy. He said, "Sure, you're promoting events people might attend, making someone aware of research. They might or might not take action. But that's just too far removed...too hypothetical." His despair is my aggravation. And so, as in every situation, I first ask myself, "who can I blame?"

Assigning blame
First, I blame inadequate metrics. Metrics for online media simply aren't yet where they need to be unless you're selling something (and someone is buying). If your video of an intoxicated squirrel gets 7 million views, what does it really mean (other than being absolutely friggin' hilarious)? Who does it touch? What difference did it make in a life?

For this conversation, I reference a fantastic article on ClickZ about measuring marketing success (related), which says all I might hope to say. Suffice to say, metrics are and will continue to evolve until one day we all have high self-esteem.

Second, I blame you. And I blame me. Because it's not enough anymore to drop your work into the series of tubes (minute 2:12) that make up the internet, hearing only a "whoosh" and then...nothing...into the ether.

Solution: "Good job!"
When is the last time any of us read something wonderful and sent a note to the writer, or photographer? Why doesn't this happen? If someone sat down and told you a story in person, or showed you a slideshow, and you just sat there and didn't say anything afterwards, it would be...a very weird and awkward silence. Direct feedback can't be beat. Most of us, I'd wager, would trade 1,000 "impressions" for a direct comment any day. So next time you read something you like, send a note to say so*.

So, what are some solutions here, and how are you getting your fix? Do comments on Facebook do it for you (certainly more meaningful than "likes")? Is a retweet enough? Should the author always include a byline with an email address? Let us know in the poll.

*The irony here is that most of the time, if someone takes time to send a comment, it's negative. Nothing motivates quite like displeasure. Let's try to change the tone.

P.S. The Comm Forum does a nice job of filling this void with its yearly conference and Maroon & Gold awards program. And members are known to give the occasional shout out. But no one should need to fill out an application in order to receive positive feedback.

The drive behind the Driven to Discover student campaign

Guest blogger: Drew Swain, U Relations marketing coordinator, manages the University's overall brand and assists in the development of the yearly Driven to Discover campaigns. Swain says the focus of this phase of the campaign is on students, and gives some insight at how that came about, and what's coming next.

Here's Drew:

You've seen professors explain mind control. Professors growing hearts. Professors teaching classes from the Arctic. Professors even lecturing on what makes Superman faster than bullets. So what about the students? Where do they fit into the University's mission to discover?

That's the focus of the new iteration Driven to Discover, the Driven to Discover Student Campaign, which was just released. You might have already seen some of the TV spots.

The inception of the campaign was really a confluence of factors. We wanted to take an uncharted path to further the Driven to Discover brand and one of President Kaler's incoming initiatives centered on students. Meanwhile, the U of M Foundation was starting its new scholarship drive. It was a natural fit to make students the campaign's "heroes."

As higher education communications pros, when you look at Discover Student, you should notice its unique approach. While student related campaigns of other schools are direct recruiting tools, we're telling our audiences how the student experience at the U is unbeatable. There's nowhere else in the state and most of the region where students can be paired up with elite faculty like Andy Van de Ven, one of the world's top minds in managing innovation. Nowhere they have such an array of opportunities to discover their passion and profession through partnerships like the Guthrie BFA Program. And nowhere they can be exposed to such distinct student-related experiences (hello, Sheep, Goat, and Lama Club).

The next step in the student campaign will make it even more focused on students, when it asks them to directly participate in a scholarship video contest. Students will be asked to submit 30-second videos of themselves explaining what they have discovered at the U. Winners will be chosen based on "Likes" on the U's Facebook page, so stay tuned in mid-December when voting begins!

JFalk.jpgJeff Falk (the handsome fellow to the left, in full professional regalia), assistant director of the U's News Service, has some helpful advice today on getting University research and researchers in the news. First step: making sure faculty see the value of media relations. That's where you (we all) come in. Here's Falk's post:

"If your research is stale, if your classroom is boring, if your community engagement is ineffective, you must reinvent yourself, or, frankly, you must step aside," President Kaler implored faculty in his Sept. 22 inauguration ceremony address. "As you expect me to deliver on my job, I expect you to deliver on yours."

Here at the University News Service, we believe there are few better and simpler ways to highlight the value of faculty research and expertise than through focused and strategic media relations. Here are some suggested talking points to emphasize with faculty when discussing the importance of media relations:

--News stories on University of Minnesota research and expertise are read by state legislators, the governor, and Minnesota's Congressional delegation as well as citizens, donors and, when there is national publicity, people at federal funding agencies.

--Research results can help inform decisions on important public issues.

grant applications require public outreach and education, and there certainly is a need to improve public appreciation of science and how research benefits society.

--Popular press coverage makes it more likely research will be seen and cited by other scientists

--Announcements about grants, appointments, and awards rarely get more coverage than brief mentions in local newspapers. This is why it is important to focus on publicizing research findings and faculty expertise.

--Finally, popular press coverage of research often results in valuable contacts with potential collaborators. Most national and international publicity about the U comes from coverage of peer-reviewed research findings.

As faculty have been charged to push the envelope, we as communicators need to take advantage of this opportunity and help them understand the value and impact of telling their stories.

--Jeff Falk ( jfalk at )

Communicators have an uncanny ability to get to know people across varied disciplines and familiarize themselves with many professional niches. At the U, for example, communicators are tucked away in their colleges becoming experts on vastly different topics--from veterinary medicine to cultural studies, or whatever discipline it may be.

Although spread far and wide, it's apparent there is a thread running through our group that knits us together. Communicators relish in swapping stories, sharing information, and making connections. And we do just that at the U--especially those who participate in the Communicators Forum.

It's easy to forget that this inherent attribute is a skill that many people do not possess. As connectors, we have access to people that others may not. Using that opportunity to relay important messages is an interesting concept--think of the impact that could be made by stepping outside our traditional roles.

To me, it makes sense that making a difference in my profession and making a difference in the lives of others requires both excellent communications skills and the ability to project my knowledge to others confidently. So, complimenting my people skills with leadership skills seems like a no-brainer.  

Here's an edition of link roundup on leadership, career success, verbal communication style, and more.

  1. Steve Jobs and the Seven Rules of Success
  2. The Hazards of Confidence
  3. Optimism Scores the Extra Point
  4. The Conversationalist: Talking Without Technology
  5. Networking is a PR Mandate
  6. 10 Must-Read Public Relations And Marketing Books

Content for today's web

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At MinneWebCon this morning, Luke Wroblewski's keynote address focused designing for today's web--which now, more than ever, means designing for mobile use. He discussed online trends in mobile vs. PC use, projections into the future, and showed examples of how to do it well and not so well...

But, in my opinion, by far the best takeaway was Luke's emphasis on content strategy--thinking about the audience and how they are using the information on each specific device, be it a pc or phone.

It's no secret that people use mobile devices in a different way than they use their home laptop or tablet. So, it makes sense that the information provided on a mobile site should be different from what's available on a standard website. For some businesses and academic departments, landing on a solid mobile content strategy may be easier than others.

One example I was able to find from the U is the new Gopher Athletics mobile site, It's not as comprehensive as their main website, but seems to give the relevant information that people would most likely be seeking from their phone.

Are any of you working on a mobile site? Does anyone have another mobile site to share or insight on mobile content strategy?

Where did all the communicators go?

What is it about communicators that make them seem so expendable to others? I mean, sometimes these communication specialists perform tirelessly to say the right thing at the right time to the right people. Yet, when it comes down to it, some people seem to think that, even without experience, they can do just as well. Not this person!

A good communicator has to convey something to some audience at a certain time and date in an exact way so that the message is clear, concise and appropriate. Not an easy task, if you ask me. People with degrees in communications and the like pursued them because of their passion for it, have a natural gift or both. They have honed their craft through years of training on how best to share any given message in any given circumstance. They use the right colors and graphics. Their words are chosen ever so carefully. Their sentence structure is impeccable. The message is clear. All combine to form a message that all can understand.

I marveled at a recent debate of late which was the discontinuation of the University Style Guide. I followed the discussion closely, respecting both sides of the argument. Frankly, I had never heard of this manual, but was impressed at the knowledge held by the professionals and their differing, but clear way of conveying each side of the debate. Please remember here that I am an Office Manager with a Bachelors of Music degree. I can chime in when motets, contrapuntal lines or Baroque is the topic. When it comes to the U Style Manual vs. AP vs. Chicago, I defer to the experts!

All debates aside, where do these people go when they are no longer deemed necessary? Who can adequately convey the message in their stead? I guess you can say this about any profession... career... trade that, hopefully, there are individuals around who were able to glean some skill set from the expert. After all, hasn't this been done for millennia? It's called apprenticeship. I wonder, though, if the communicators of old had interns at their disposal like carpenters, blacksmiths and seamstresses. Although, if the phrase "don't kill the messenger" is any indication of a communicator's fate, no wonder they were hard-pressed to find replacements!

I digress. Sorry. Having never been formally trained in writing or graphic design or communication, for that matter, I don't know if there is a term for my way of writing. I'm sure there is a fancy phrase that includes such words as "rambling" and "nonsense" and ...

Again, I digress. I guess that's what you get when I write at 2:00 a.m.

Being on the Communicators Forum board this past year has been so rewarding and enjoyable. I have marveled at how well everything seems to come together because, as communicators, everyone on the board and committees has this great passion for communicating effectively. As such, (most of the time), everyone involved in any given part of the program knows exactly what his or her part is! Remember, these are professional communicators! They COMMUNICATE!

I applaud each and every OFFICIAL communicator who continues to convey what needs to be said in the most appropriate of ways. Not being an official communicator, I still need to communicate both internally and externally. I have learned so much from the membership and board. Though I am not an apprentice, I only hope that I have gained some knowledge and developed some insight into what it takes to perform these all-important tasks of making sure people know what is going on and when!

I am proud to be a Communicators Forum member and encourage people - official communicators and not - to consider joining. For $40 per year, the value is unsurpassed. Programs, information sharing, networking... It's great!

I do not claim to be a communicator. I humbly and proudly defer to the experts. Thank you for your continued guidance.

Respectfully, The one and only Non-Official Communicator on the Communicators Forum Board

Making the case for communicators

The preliminary details released about the University's economic impact on the state illustrates the important role that the University plays from a broad perspective. With shrinking budgets and economic uncertainty, making the case for the U has never been more important.

But beyond making the case for the University, communicators should look at how they can "make the case" for the important role that they play.

Think about all that communicators make possible... We expand the public's knowledge of important issues and engage audiences--alumni, students, the public, etc...--to support our respective causes. We raise awareness and in many cases, help raise funds as well.

Many communicators seek to make the case for their work through data gathered in readership surveys and web analytics. How have you illustrated your impact as a communicator? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.

You will see this "making the case" theme carried through our May conference programming. Stay tuned for more in the coming months!

Social media: Put a ring on it

Anyone who has managed a social media presence knows that you have to roll with the punches and accept that sometimes you will have no control over what happens. Oftentimes you can only control your response to issues that arise.

But committing to social media strategy can make inevitable challenges easier to deal with and give you the opportunity to have more strategic responses.

So, to quote Beyonce: Put a ring on it.

For example, sometimes a cranky "friend" will dis a professor on your department's Facebook page--this can present an opportunity to engage students on what the department can do better and hopefully cause others to chime in about what they like about the department now.

Or, let's say someone hacks into your account and spams everyone. While that can be embarrassing, it also provides you with an opportunity to show some humor with your audience when notifying them that you are not, in fact, a princess from a small foreign nation looking for help in managing your vast fortune.

This article gives a helpful snapshot of how to establish a successful social media strategy and plan for the unexpected:

Email testing: Which call to action is best?

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Email analytics are a beautiful thing. They tell us how many people opened or viewed a message, as well as how many people clicked on different links within the email. This helps inform us, as content creators, on what stories get the most the most attention, guiding future content creation.

For an upcoming email newsletter I'm considering doing some A/B testing--trying out two different versions of the email newsletter, one with a strong giving message "Donate now!" and one with a more passive giving message. I'm hoping that email analytics can advise me on which version is the most effective with my audience.

Here is an example of a similar email "call to action" test.

Has anyone else tried email testing? I'd love to hear what others have found effective.

University Branding/Marketing Campaigns Face Criticism Everywhere

Inside HigherEd has an interesting article about recent marketing campaigns by American University, Purdue, Drake and others. 

Duluth Forum program hit the mark

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by Karen Kloser, program associate, Institute for New Media Studies.

After four years working for the Institute for New Media Studies research center in the U's School of Journalism, I have yet to meet someone who understands all the social media tools and is maximizing all the platforms and their potential.
Over the years I have looked to the Forum programs to expose me to the missing pieces.

The Forum's first program of the year, held in Duluth, did just that with guest speaker Marty Weintraub, the frenetic owner of AimClear. Weintraub, along with one of his bright, young staffers and blogger Manny Rivas for Search Engine Watch wowed attendees with their energy and command of social media and especially their work in search engine optimization (SEO).

My interest in attending this program was piqued when I read the words "reputation monitoring" in the promotion copy. Straight up, there was so much to cover in one hour that Weintraub didn't even touch upon this topic. However, I was not disappointed.

He opened the presentation with the apropos analogy comparing their agency's online marketing efforts to an ecosystem: Like nature, all social media is intertwined and interdependent, with Google as mother earth. Although Rivas was careful to remind us that YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world.

Weintraub also delineated online marketing into two types: free (or organic) and paid. It sounds simple enough. But as he dove deeper into their practice and strategy for search engine ranking, driving traffic, creating content, engaging communities, and harvesting high quality inbound links, I knew he was way over my head.

I didn't expect to come away from the program as a social media scholar; however, I did pick up a few tidbits to share:

  • Social media dovetails nicely with customer service
  • There is stunning micro-demographic diversity in FaceBook, Twitter, YouTube to be mined
  • Play with Facebook's amazing advertising reach-- add some off the wall likes and interests, or change your political or religious views, and watch what appears in that right hand column of ads on your page
  • Don't rule out B2B marketing, there are tons of Facebook social segments in it
  • Try Facebook advertising.

Finally, the best part of Forum programs is the networking. Afterwards, Weintraub and Rivas mingled with us during the reception. Weintraub may be a wiz at what he does, but he was very approachable and came across as just a regular Midwesterner.

Swimming in Lake Superior with the Communicators Forum

Not long ago I was reading a story in the New York Times about some hardy folks up north that do not shy away, evidently, from icicles in their beards. This summer, it seems, according the the U's Minnesota Sea Grant project, Lake Superior is on track for possibly its warmest waters on record. So grab your swimming suit and take advantage, and while you're there, recruit other Forum members who will be attending the Sept. 17 Forum event, "Effective Outreach to Target Audiences." It's an opportunity to learn all about internet marketing success, ice beards not included. More details below:

Effective Outreach to Target Audiences
Friday, September 17, 2010

3 p.m. Program, Weber Music Hall:

Marty Weintraub, founder of aimClear, and Manny Rivas, aimClear SEO account manager, will explain the tools that build internet marketing success: pay per click, search engine optimization, online marketing, using social media, technical audits, reputation monitoring, and driving traffic. What works, what doesn't and why? Marty Weintraub is in demand as a speaker on this subject and we are grateful to UMCF member Cheryl Reitan of UMD for arranging this program.  aimClear is an Internet-focused advertising agency with a national client base and is located in Duluth, Minnesota. It offers clients a full service array of state-of the-art services and best-in-class demographic research capabilities. Their practice centers around online marketing and their client list includes well known US publishers and household brands.

This program is co-sponsored by the UMCF, UMD Labovitz School of Business and Economics, UMD Communicators Counci,l and The American Advertising Federation.

4 p.m. Refreshments and networking with the Ad Fed, UMD communicators, and Labovitz School students

6 p.m. Drinks at Zeitgeist Arts Café

7 p.m. Dinner at Zeitgeist Arts Café

The Suites Hotel at Waterfront Plaza (Canal Park) is holding rooms at $85 (studio king suite, sleeps 2-4), $90 (studio double suite, sleeps 2-4), and $100 (one bedroom king suite, sleeps 2-6) for Friday, September 17. Reserve by phone and mention the UMD Communicators Forum. 325 Lake Ave South, Duluth 55802, 218-727-4663, Booking deadline is August 17.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

9:45 a.m. Free tour of Glensheen Historic Mansion for UMCF members courtesy of UMD

Register online for the program. Book your accommodation directly with the hotel. We will contact registered members for dinner and Glensheen tour bookings. Carpooling is encouraged.

Tiger Woods and crisis management: Is he doing the right thing?

As communicators, we are all faced with the potential task of dealing with crisis management. Today, Tiger Woods finally made an attempt to repair his image by speaking publicly (kind of). Everyone seems to have an opinion about whether or not he's approaching crisis management in the most strategic way.

Monday link roundup, new year edition


Ok fine, early January: you win. Here is the obligatory Best of 2009 post (with some decade wrapup thrown in).

What do you think of these lists? What would you change? Do you have other year-end lists to recommend? And was 2006 really the year of ironic mustaches?

Image / / enimal

Event Planning Online: 14 Essential Social Media Tools

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Here's a cool posting from Mashable about using social media for event planning--from managing the planning of your event to invitations, marketing to enhancing the guests' experience.

Event Planning Online: 14 Essential Social Media Tools

Here's an interesting article in the Chronicle of Higher Education  on how college and university presidents are communicating more, and differently, during bad economic times. They are using varying strategies to talk about uncertainty and cutbacks.


Monday Link Roundup, 10-26-09

I feel lucky that my work in the College of Liberal Arts allows me to dig into current issues in the arts, humanities and social sciences. In particular, I get to interact with faculty working in ethnic studies, human rights and global cultural literacy, among many others. Therefore, I try to keep up on higher ed issues that intersect with the lives and work of our faculty. Some picks:

The Academy Speaks: Current Affairs and Issues in Higher Education and its partner Web site, Diverse Issues in Higher Education

I also like to follow blogs that connect me to media and public relations practitioners, with an eye to both best and worst practices. Being a typical snarky Gen Xer, I especially enjoy Bad Pitch.

And writing! It's true when they say in order to get better you just have to keep doing it. I think these are great:

You better be reading Writing Matters! We've had Leslie O'Flahavan of E-Write here for our conference, and we loved her!

Copyblogger: Copywriting tips for online marketing success

10,000 Words: Where Journalism and Technology Meet

Are you getting through to your audience?

Is my publication worth the money we spend on it? Measuring the effectiveness of communications products is both an art and a science. Our September program, the first of the 09-10 year, was about tools and resources that can be used in this search for information, and the experience of one communicator who recently went through this process.

Rhonda Zurn of the Institute of Technology wanted to find out whether her college's print magazine was doing its job of reaching out to alumni. She was prepared for the answer to be no, but a thorough, well conducted survey determined that it was.

Andy Merrill of the U's Office of Measurement Services talked about his office's ability to conduct research into the effectiveness of websites, print pieces and other communications efforts at a discount to outside firms. OMS has a unique perspective on University-wide communications efforts and how each project fits in. In case you missed the program, you may view the recording below.

In October, don't miss our program on Web 2.0: When is it worth doing? Watch for details, coming on this blog soon.

Monday link roundup, 9.21.09

Every Monday we'll post a roundup of interesting communications news and articles from the past week. What have you been reading? Add a comment or suggest a link for next week.

Now that students and faculty are back in action, do you feel overwhelmed and overburdened? Don't let the demands of your work day get the better of you. Use your time at work more efficiently.

Does branding pay off for Colleges? Harvard thinks so.

Do you think Kayne's outburst at the VMAs was a publicity stunt? This expert does.

Social media

Brands are strengthened (or damaged) based on the experiences they provide. And in an increasingly social world, those experiences are no longer created for people but with them. On this blog you will find articles and insights about the opportunities and challenges created by rapidly growing and evolving Social Media.

Twin Cities Twitter (Shout out to Jessica Franken, our rockin' Blog editor) for sending this my way.)

Graphic Design
Looking for Photoshop and Illustrator Tips/Tricks? Check out Pixel Perfect on Revision 3. You can download episodes via ITunes or watch right on the Revision 3 Web site. Side note: Revision 3 is an amazing resource for all things technology. Check out Tekzilla if you are a geek like me!

Fun stuff
Myna is sort of like Garage Band in your web browser.

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