Monday, October 26, 2009

Halloween in Higher Ed

Every year, our faculty support office holds a Halloween party complete with costume and pumpkin decorating contests. It's a blast to observe, though it usually appears that there is only 10-15% participation in the costume contest (and I'm not in that group).

In a law school where professionalism is paramount, it's easy to see why the holiday isn't widely observed during office hours. Our dean has been known to visit offices with treats (God bless her!), but our communications office has remained firmly in the no-costume camp. One year, I tried to go as our events coordinator since people frequently mixed us up, but alas, our campus was hosting a moot court competition that day and she wouldn't let me borrow her name tag.

For those of you who are considering dressing up for work (or perhaps managing the fall-out by others who do), here are some interesting resources:
  • What costumes might breed fear in the hearts of faculty? Check out what the staff at Inside Higher Ed compiled a few years ago from academics across the nation.

  • The Society for Human Resource Management recommends that organizations set costume guidelines, enforce dress codes and discipline when necessary for costumes that are too revealing or offensive.

  • What better way to celebrate Halloween at work than by using it as an excuse to preach your brand? Last year, D.W. of the Old College Try blog dressed as her school's official color, Pantone 281. I'm considering printing sandwich-board-sized versions of our incorrect inverse logo (aka "Halloween tower") to educate the campus on what not to do.

  • Author/blogger Michael Stelzner offers three simple marketing lessons from Halloween:
    1) if you want someone knocking on your door, turn on the light, 2) be prepared to give something away, and 3) engage visitors and they will love you. His readers offer some other great takeaways in the comments section.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Social Media and Faculty Publicity

Faculty stars. You know who they are, and so do they. They may be prolific authors, influential activists, professional leaders or international speakers. Their achievements are frequent and important within their spheres of influence.

And these stars want you to magnify their shine through publicity.

Not too long ago, there weren't many options for handling stellar, PR-happy faculty. You could give into their requests for publicity in the few channels available (namely news releases or institutional publications), featuring them with such frequency that other quieter professors become obscured. The other option was to draw a line in the sand and say no, offending the well-regarded faculty member. Needless to say, both options had significant drawbacks.

Enter the social Web to the rescue!

With a flexible and well-designed Web site and social media presence, higher ed communicators now have a broad range of tools at their disposal for promoting faculty achievements. Instead of saying "no, we can't write another news release about you" to a prestigious professor, we can now respond with "congratulations, we've already posted your news to your department Web page and our college's Twitter feed." Here is our new range of options:
  • College/university magazine article
  • News release
  • Home page spotlight
  • Lower-level Web site features (i.e., departmental home pages)
  • Facebook update (reserved for accomplishments that reflect more widely on the institution)
  • Twitter update
  • Flickr/YouTube (if media available)
  • "Faculty applause" or "Faculty in the news" Web pages
  • Testimonial quotes/features in marketing materials
  • E-newsletter profile

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Environmentally Friendly Marketing

In honor of Blog Action Day 2009, here are my tips for reducing your marketing department's environmental impact:
  • Integrate print and online communications. Print and online media each have their own strengths and weaknesses. By blending both through integrated campaigns, you not only increase your effectiveness; you can reduce publication page counts and the economic and environmental costs associated with them. One of our favorite tactics: instead of using larger direct-mail pieces, we prefer designing oversized postcards directing audiences to the Web.
  • Take another look at your print vendors. The printing industry has discovered that the market demands more environmentally conscious alternatives, and many companies have responded with cost-effective means of meeting the need. Even if there isn't an FSC-certified printer in your area, find out what your vendors (and their competitors) are doing to reduce their environmental impact.
  • Examine paper choices throughout your college. There is a wide variety of green-certified papers available. Think beyond publication printing, and also consider your institution's choices in letterhead and copier paper stock.
  • Don't forget everyday decisions. Print electronic documents only when absolutely necessary. Keep a recycle bin next to your office trash can. Reuse office supplies when possible. Optimize your computer's energy settings.

Friday, October 9, 2009

How many higher ed rankings can you name?

A member of the CASE Communications listserv asked an interesting question this week: how many organizations are ranking IHEs? Here is the list so far:

Overall higher-ed rankings
Best Value
Sciences
Green Schools/Sustainability
Miscellaneous
And my personal favorite...rankings of college rankings
I'm sure there are more...please comment to share!
Edited 10/13/09 to add Fiske and Leiter.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Five Surefire Ways to Lose a Higher Ed Client

There are lots of ways that consultants, printers and other vendors can lose a client (or a prospective one). Many are understandable–differences in philosophy, budget changes, etc. Other reasons for losing a client should be obvious. Here are the top five gaffes that companies have made in trying to get—or keep—my institution's business:
  • #5: Botch the first project. While all companies should give their all to every client, no project is more important than the first one. Screw that one up, and you won't get repeat business.
  • #4: Unnecessary gifts. It's one thing to give a branded set of pens or notepads to a client; it's another thing to offer them a $100 gift card. Most institutions have policies against it, and you're putting the recipient in the annoying and awkward position of sending it back. Let your work speak for itself, and if it can't, don't expect me or my colleagues to discard ethics and standards because of a gift.
  • #3: Insist that the client is wrong. An owner of a printing company once made an unauthorized change on press that altered the design from the approved proof. When I complained to the rep, she relayed my frustrations to the owner, who then—not once, but twice—tried to "improve" the situation by telling me I was wrong despite all documented evidence to the contrary. The owner's attempt at saving his ego (in addition to other errors on the same project) ultimately cost the company a client of six years.
  • #2: Go behind the decision maker's back to their boss. I've seen both advertising reps and high-priced consultants make this mistake. They don't get the answers they want from their main liaison, so they go over their head without consultation. Do these people not realize that the supervisor will immediately speak to their employee who has the everyday responsibility for working with that vendor? (Just to be clear—I'm not referring to specific project problems or unprofessional conduct—I'm referring to appeals for more business.)
  • #1: Try to start an incident. The incident that inspired this post happened yesterday. A vendor who violated #5 a few years ago sent a letter to one of our student environmentalists, telling her that my institution should be using environmentally responsible printers and papers (even though we already do—just not with that vendor). Thankfully, I was able to clear the record with the student, but I'm still shocked that any sales rep could possibly think that they could try to use political pressure to gain business.
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