Rolling out a new president


Over the course of the last week I have been “heads down” as I like to say in a project. I ignored twitter, articles piled up in my Google reader, and some of my on campus constituents heard “we’ll get to that next week”.

Last week I had an opportunity that doesn’t come around every year for a marketing professional in higher education. On Friday Gettysburg College trustees unanimously named Janet Morgan Riggs ’77 our 14th president. It was one of the most interesting and quite frankly fun professional experiences of my career.

Since Dr. Riggs had been presented to campus the week before as a sole finalist we had a about a week to prepare for the announcement roll out but we wanted to think outside the box and incorporate our Web 2.0 and Social Media strategy. We had a detailed plan for the week with assignments so everything was all set to go come Friday morning and all we had to do was push the buttons. (It never quite works out as you plan but Friday was pretty close)

Shortly after the board voted the announcement was made in the following ways:

  • News release posted on website (also pushed to RSS feed and twitter account) Included within the news release was a short video (also posted to YouTube) of  Dr. Riggs which outlined her vision for Gettysburg’s future as well as a flicker photo gallery. Since she graduated from Gettysburg we were able to find historical shots from her yearbooks.
  • Large flash banner on the college homepage changed to reflect the announcement
  • On-campus email
  • Alumni and parent email
  • Text message to those who had signed up
  • Facebook update to fans as well as the fan page photo was updated to reflect the announcement
  • Gettysburg College Linkedin group had the news release posted

We attempted to keep things current throughout the day as well.

  • By around 3:00 pm we had posted a video interview with the chair of the search committee that was done that morning around 7:30 am.
  • We also posted to our flicker photo gallery photos from the different campus events and receptions throughout the day
  • The President’s website was completely updated by the end of the day.

Since we had enabled comments on our news releases in November and sent an update to fans on Facebook we have had quite a response to the announcement. We have received over 30 comments from alumni, parents, and friends on the news story and an additional 5 or 6 posts on the fan page.

As I said at the top of this post this experience the most interesting of my career. How did we do? Could we have taken advantage of Web 2.0 and Social Media tools in different ways? Could we have engaged our audiences better?

Let me know.

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6 Responses to Rolling out a new president

  1. Congratulations on what sounds like a terrific rollout. You and your team used all of the major social media tools and got good saturation. Judging from the number of comments you received on the news site, you must have driven plenty of alumni and other constituents to the official announcement. Your analytics will show the full story, but I’d say you did a nice job of engaging alumni with this announcement. Apparently the president and/or her staff was heavily involved in working with you and the Gettysburg communications team to orchestrate the announcement. That’s terrific, and an example more universities should follow. Again, congrats on a well coordinated announcement.

  2. Ron says:

    Sounds like a very good full court press of the bases on this one. Excellent work, I say. An interesting experience to be part of and good heads up thinking to take the opportunity to engage the various audiences on what’s huge news. Thanks for sharing the experience.

  3. Aren’t you glad you have comments enabled on your news site now? This shows your community will take the time to interact and this was a great forum for them. I’d be curious to hear if you had similar conversation in Facebook and LinkedIn. Great work!

  4. Paul Redfern says:

    Ron and Andy thanks for your comments. Todd to answer your question … in a word yes. We had a debate at our Web Task Force and President’s Council last year about enabling comments on the site and what the value added might be. As of this morning we had an additional 7 comments on Facebook. No one has commented on LinkedIn.

  5. Paul Redfern says:

    I forgot to mention that Andrew is correct and the President’s Office as well as several members of our Board of Trustees worked very closely with my staff and the communications staff to execute the plan. I probably can not point out enough how much of a team effort Friday’s roll out was.

  6. […] Feb. 6, Gettysburg announced the appointment of a new president, Janet Morgan Riggs. And based on Paul’s description of how Gettysburg announced the appointment. it was close to a textbook case for using social media […]

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