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Have you taken our survey? The UMCF Programs Committee wants to know what kind of programming you would like for 2013-2014. Take our survey today! 

Social media: More work or play?

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5 steps to maximize your membership

The Communicators Forum board recently sent this email inviting members to make it your communications year and take advantage of membership benefits and value.

UMCF email banner.Here are five steps to maximize your membership.

STEP 1: Complete this brief member survey by Friday, November 16.

STEP 2: Save the date for these signature events:
  • Member Appreciation Event - May 29, 2013, 4:30-6:30 p.m., Weisman Art Museum, Minneapolis
  • Annual Conference - June 25, 2013, all day, Carlson School of Management, Minneapolis
STEP 3: Plan to enter your best work in this year's Maroon and Gold Awards, entries due February or March 2013 for work done anytime in 2012.

STEP 4: Attend a program. The next two are:
  • November 15, 12-1:30 p.m., 100 Murphy Hall - Beginner's Circle: Working with University Relations (panel discussion)
  • December 5, 12-1:30 p.m., 2-233 Carlson School of Management - Expert Insights with Dave Pyle, former bureau chief of the Minnesota/Wisconsin Associated Press
STEP 5: Give yourself a creative reboot and try something new.
What would you guess is the personality type of a communicator? Probably extrovert, right? But there are many of us in varying job functions, from graphic design to PR. Let's see how it shakes out:

A poll on surveys

survey.pngThanks to Christina Frazier from the Office of Planning and Analysis for sharing lots of helpful information about U of M survey policy and tools on Wednesday. It was interesting to hear about planning for the new U survey tool. The event had me wondering how many people are currently using UMSurvey and other survey tools.

Superbowl Ads

T-minus 2 days and 5 hours until Superbowl XLVI. Are you excited for the Giants v. Patriots rematch, or are you like me, and more excited to see the new ads? I love seeing what creative advertisements companies pay millions for - sometimes the ads are great and sometimes they, well, aren't great.

Get a sneak peek at some of the Superbowl ads by going to the following link:

Happy Superbowl Weekend Forum Members!

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.

What Does Your Unit Do Best?

Poll: Paying for online content

The Star Tribune recently announced that they will start charging for their online content. The New York Times did the same earlier this year with much media coverage and public debate. MinnPost operates on a reader-supported model.

As more and more communications channels are moving to a paid-service model, we're curious: do you pay for online content?

Poll: Revisiting ebooks

A year ago we asked, "Do you use a portable device like the iPad or Kindle for reading books?" Results:eread.jpg we're wondering what you're using:

How does the Forum benefit you?

Are you a specialist or a generalist?

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During Amy Phenix's talk at our September 15 program, she asked the audience if they felt they were generalists or specialists. The majority raised their hand for generalist.

Query: Your favorite online tools

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Have you tried It's a fun and helpful online application that lets you preview words with the fonts installed on your computer. Definitely a time saver when you're trying to choose an appropriate font.

What about your favorite online tools? Have you recently come across any great online resources like this?

Poll: Do you read e-books?

Who should be our keynote speaker?

Planning is under way for 21st annual Communicators Forum conference! Last year, we thoroughly enjoyed our keynote speaker, Dennis Cass. We found Dennis because of you, our wonderful members! So, who do you want to see at this year's conference? Post a comment with your recommendations.

Thinking about academic freedom

I've been busy at work this month on coordinating our October program on academic freedom, and I'm excited about the discussion. Thanks to Kelly for recently posting our exact policy on academic freedom last month. There's still so much to cover for the program, which got me thinking... we know the what of the policy, but what about the who? So I thought I'd ask you what you thought.

Average open rates for communications at the U

I received a question from the Forum's chair elect Kelly O'Brien, who recently began a new CLA newsletter for faculty, staff, and student workers (mostly grad students, I believe) as to what are the average open rates (unique opens) for regular email updates/newsletters here at the U. I told her that for Brief, the number varies between 20-25% and has seen 30% on some occasions.

Matt Sumera in University Relations gave me stats on some recent high-profile emails, and those seem to average unique open rates of around 18%.

An interesting analysis on open rates by list size can be found at open rates by size.

For those of you who track your open rates, where do you fare?

Do we need FAQs?

In a recent post, E-WRITE's Before listing FAQs on your website, there are some helpful points here to think about.

Poll: Web site or website?

I've been slow getting this poll up, so by now I'm sure you've all heard about the AP Stylebook's decision to change Web site to website.

AP twitter announcement

Do you think they made the right decision? Please vote in the poll below!

*"Televisionshow" comment hat tip to @nprmonkeysee.

Poll: March Holiday: Wasteful, or Awesome?

Every year when March rolls around, I look at the calendar and remember that we get the Friday of Spring Break as a University day off. Some years I curse the randomness of having that day off, and wish I could use that holiday for something useful, like my birthday...or the day after my birthday. This year, I'm actually excited about having a random Friday off! Since it's not a holiday that the rest of the world shares, places like restaurants, malls, and museums are open, and I can take advantage of a relatively quite day of errand running, or perhaps plan a little 3 day trip.

So, what do you think of our March floating holiday?

Super success or super risk?

Last Sunday night was the "most watched sporting event." Did you tune in? Actually, the title "most watched sporting event" stirs up quite a controversy, depending on your parameters.

It may be the most watched sporting event in the US, but the most watched sporting event in the world? Hmm... many FIFA fans would argue. Given the World Cup is in Africa this year, I imagine the numbers for that final game will significantly pass the numbers for the 2010 Super Bowl. Just a hunch.

Being the savvy communicators you are, perhaps many of you tuned in just for the commercials. I thought the absence of Pepsi Co., usually a perennial advertiser for the Super Bowl, was interesting. Instead of paying for a 15- or 30-second spot during the game, Pepsi has diverted their funds to the Refresh Project (

What do you think? Is Pepsi brilliant for their innovative campaign? Or, is this the wrong way to create awareness? Did Pepsi dodge a bullet by not advertising in a group of rather non-memorable ads? (Our apologies to Betty White who was the memorable exception.)

Poll: Did you make any New Year's resolutions?

Though New Year's resolutions may be doomed to failure, many people use the new year to reassess and recommit. What about you?

Invasion of the pie charts

I thought it would be fun to revisit your responses to the Friday polls with the help of a few trusty pie charts (based on responses received up to last night). Enjoy these completely unscientific insights into the Forum membership.


Query: What are you cooking?

121809.jpgNo matter your religious or non-religious leanings, chances are there is a lot of food around you lately.

I am not a prolific cook, so to any given event I'll probably bring one of three things I know I'm good at: chocolate chip and oatmeal cookies, black bean dip, or dill and soy burgers.

What are your potluck specialties? Can you share a favorite recipe?

Poll: Do you feel secure in your job?

Poll: How's your inbox looking?

Are you a searcher or a sorter? Does everything stay in your inbox, or do messages go to folders as soon as possible? I believe e-mail management to be an impressive talent. If you have a good method, leave it in the comments. In the meantime:

Poll: How do you get to work?

Poll: When did you join Twitter?

Life before the U-where did you work?

Staying connected on vacation

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I've been known to sneak a peek at my email while I'm on vacation, what about you?

Poll: How many browser tabs do you have open?

I used to think I used a lot of tabs, but I've since met some truly epic tab users. So, no cheating:

Query: How do you relieve stress?

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100909.jpgA quick pulse check on campus tells me that this is a busy time for communicators and students alike. A quick look in the mirror tells me I have not escaped this stressful week unscathed.

So, are you feeling stressed? What do you do to relieve it?

Poll: How Networked Are You?

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We've been discussing the importance of social networking related to work, but I'm curious how networked you are personally?  How important is your online social community to you?  Have you made friendships that started online, but now exist in "real life"?

This week's poll

Is your unit actively employing social media (Facebook, Twitter, blog, etc.)?

Query: Is multitasking unethical?

091809b.jpgIt's tempting to try to do everything at once. Multitasking was all the rage for a while, but its effectiveness is increasingly being questioned by research (see NPR and BBC). A recent article in BusinessWeek went even further, arguing that since "multitasking interferes with the ability to do one's job well," it can be considered unethical.

What are your thoughts on multitasking? Do you aim for it or try to avoid it? Do you think it's something that is valued and expected of you at work?

Query: What jargon bothers you the most?

09102009c.jpgNext week is national Plain English Week...well, in New Zealand. To celebrate, take a moment to vent about your least favorite corporatese, academese or other convoluted speak.

For me, low hanging fruit is like nails on a chalkboard.

What about you? What jargon drives you crazy?

Poll: Did you major in communications?

I love what I do. I get to shape messages and tell stories. I care deeply about finding just the right image for an article and scouring copy for typos. When I know I've written a great brochure header, I feel genuine joy.

That said, ten years ago I didn't image myself in this profession. As an English major, it wasn't a giant leap, but I imagine some of you came to this field from far more exotic majors.

Did you major in bassoon performance? Biology? Classical studies? Or were you already on a communications track as an undergrad? If you did not get an undergrad degree, I'm interested in that too. Vote in the poll and discuss in the comments.

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