August is a good time for lunch

August 3, 2009

Over the years I have made it a habit to use the month of August to have lunch with a handful of people on campus. Usually I target the directors of the Career Development, Off-Campus studies, and the Center for Public Service. Each year these lunches have yielded at least one or two really good projects including student stories, travel blogs, or web enhancements.

Lunch on campus seems to work well because it strikes the right balance between informality and a meeting. I start by asking about what might be happening in the year ahead or what programs the person is most excited about in the coming year. Then I just sit back and take good notes.

August always works well too for a number of reasons. Most people (especially those in student affairs) are back from vacation since they are preparing for the arrival of the first year class. Additionally by august most divisions and departments have completed their goal setting and planning for the year. By August the directors of these key areas have a sense for what programs and people will have an exciting and interesting story to tell.

So since August is here my advice is pick up the phone and have lunch.

How University Vice President of Communications And Content Strategy Leadership Roles Are Likely To Change

August 1, 2009

I found a blog post that I thought was so good it was worth sharing here.

How University Vice President of Communications And Content Strategy Leadership Roles Are Likely To Change

The post by David Dalka who is presently a search engine marketing and content strategy management consultant talks about the role of the VP for Communications and what skills will be needed in the future for the position. I am interested to see what people think of his ideas. He lists a number of attributes the Vice President of the future will have at the end of the post. I thought they were all good but a few in particular popped out to me:

  • Person Will Understand How to Create Unified Content Strategy
  • Individual Should Be Passionate About Enabling Student and Alumni Personal Branding
  • Individual Has Experience Driving Change in Data Models, Technology and Process Standardization
  • Person Should Have Passion For Effective Spending and Budget Reform
  • Individual Should Desire to Make Education More Accessible To All
  • Person Should Embrace New Technology Like Mobile and Digital Signage
  • To give proper credit I originally found this post via Andrew Careaga’s blog higher ed marketing.

    What makes a good academic department website?

    February 20, 2009

    Boy if I knew the answer to that question I wouldn’t be writing on this blog huh. I feel like it’s the million dollar question of higher ed websites. Academics is one of the largest and most critical components of a college website. The department websites are at the center of that but it’s one of the sections that is hardest to manage at least at my institution.

    At Gettysburg we are actually in the process of a major redesign of our academic department pages. With the help of our consultant Todd Bennett from decimal 152 we have been working to give departments

    • more flexibility for content depending on the department
    • Design that gives departments more of a homepage feel as opposed to the bodypage of the Gettysburg site
    • Tie the content about academic programs, requirements, and polices more closely to the catalog.

    During the project we have looked at a number of different institutions varying in size and scope as examples for department sites. Until this week I had not come across a college that did academic department sites well. I happened to run across the ES department at UVA –

    Of course this design and template does not carry throughout every department at UVA but I thought it was a good  model for dept sites. Clean design. Easy navigation across the top that gets their key messages across. Interesting photos and 2 “drivers” for you to meet the faculty. The news even had an RSS feed with it – which was great.

    What do you think makes a good academic department website? Any others out there you would suggest looking at?


    February 17, 2009

    Last week Mikey Ames made a comment on a post I made about cost benefit analysis who is minding the web

    “A simple strategy, with basic, task-oriented tactics, can be effective in the early going. If your goal is eventually to get to donors and dollars, social media needs to be embraced as the cultivation line item of the development cycle.

    The tactic you choose can vary widely…but if it is an alumni association that you are cultivating, it had better be a simple strategy the serves the alumni community. Staying away from treating social media like another direct marketing distribution channel is a key fundamental first step.

    Good questions.”

    This got me thinking on my way to work this morning about execution. It’s a word I have used a lot in the last 2 years. It’s actually the title of a book Execution The Discipline of Getting things done by Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan.

    My basic take away from the book (one caveat here is that I read it a couple of years ago so it’s not fresh in my head)  is that you need cut through all of the other distractions at your job, figure out what you can do well, and then execute strategies that you know you can do well. By focusing on these things you create multiple success stories.

    Mikey’s comments reminded me of this focus. It can apply to social media, web work, videos, emails or publications. As a leader we need to figure out what we can execute well and then put plans and people into place to do that.

    • One example from Gettysburg would be photo galleries. Our first attempt at photo galleries looked like many other peoples. Photos on a page. If we were lucky captions. (I actually looked for an example on my site and thank god I couldn’t find one)
    • In the last year we with the addition of a new staff member in web communications we have started to take advantage of the ease and integrated approach of flickr photo galleries.

    All of these approaches were fine at the time we were using them because we were figuring out what we could execute well and what we could support.

    2 very different ideas about print newspapers

    February 12, 2009

    I was struck this week by 2 things that I saw about newspapers and how they should proceed in this “web era”

    The first was the other night on the daily show. Walter Isaacson was on talking about a time magazine cover story about how to save newspapers.

    Today as I was eating lunch at my desk and reviewing past tweets I noticed@colB had posted the following tweet

    which provided a link to a blog where the argument was made Why newspapers should manage more like Twitter and less like GM <!– commented out for now


    2 very different approaches – what do you think?

    Rolling out a new president

    February 8, 2009

    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.

    Original Thought

    January 7, 2009

    The other night I was relaxing and watching the movie Good Will Hunting. I hope you have seen it and if not go rent it today. The bar scence (dipicted below on a you tube clip) has  line wher Will is talking to a Harvard Student and makes the point of asking “do you have any original thoughts of your own?”

    For some reason this resonated with me that night. I feel like some many times in higher ed marketing we look to others, research competitors, and don’t want to stretch ourselves too far out of the box. Just look at any number of .edu websites and you can find similar navigation items and layouts.

    I challenge higher ed web marketers in 2009 to have an original thought. Think outside the box. Do something different. Take a risk.