Sunday, November 29, 2009

Holiday gift guide for your favorite creative coworkers

Since many of us are still recovering from long weekends filled with food and shopping, I thought I'd continue with another light-hearted post. Here is your Cyber Monday list of quirky gift ideas for your favorite colleagues:
Or, if you prefer to shop based on office personalities:
Disclaimer: I have not personally ordered items from most of these sites, so I cannot vouch for their service or reliability. None of my actual coworkers will be receiving items from this list (or at least not this year), otherwise I'd be spoiling their surprises.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Need a laugh?

I'm not a big fan of e-mail forwards, but marketing-related spoofs always make me smile. Here are a few chuckles for your holiday weekend!
  • Name that Campaign: Ever get the feeling that fundraising campaigns seem formulaic? Save some trouble when branding your next campaign and visit the North Charles Street Design Organization's "Name that Campaign" tool to mix and match classic clichés.

  • Make My Logo Bigger Cream: Who needs designers? This infomercial advertises "a clinically proven logo-enhancing formula, now in an easy-to-apply cream." But wait! There's more! Find out all of the design tools YOU can get for only three easy payments of $29.99!

  • Fake AP Stylebook: This Twitter feed provides all kinds of politically incorrect advice for journalists. One "useful" tweet for us grad school editors:
    When referring to someone with a Ph.D. as "doctor" immediately follow it with "but, you know, not a REAL doctor.
  • Web Site Story: For those of you who often ponder the degree of how heavily the Web has infiltrated our lives (or those of our target audiences), watch this College Humor video to see it lived as a Broadway musical.
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Marketing gems from #amahighered

There are many great conferences I'd like to attend, but personal responsibilities have kept me from traveling the past few years. Thankfully, I can live vicariously through colleagues tweeting with conference hashtags. Here are some gems from today's American Marketing Association Higher Education Conference:
  • @Zehno: If you offer your alumni mag for sale, would anyone buy it? It's about audience, not institution.
  • @lynseystruthers: "Kids on Facebook live below the fold. The fold is dead." -- Fritz McDonald
  • @admmlr: Don't be a social media butterfly. Pick a couple of providers that work with your audience and do them well.
  • @amahighered: 68% never go beyond page one of a website - SCARY
  • @admmlr: Don't hide your blog behind a portal - Google can't find it! Lost SEO opp.
  • @davidpoteet Can't forget that the 'social' in social media means audience particip. Seek influence, not control." -- @melissarichards
  • @donschindler: press release you write today and push out can still be working for you a decade from now
  • @ideasemerge If you're afraid to let people speak about your brand, you must not be fulfilling your brand promise.
  • @francisrizzo3 Unless they simplify it, Google Wave will never be the new anything.
  • @johntlawlor #10: Online is everyone's job. [Make sure you at least have an internal content strategy & a reaffirmation of core values]
Hopefully I'll be tweeting from one of these conferences in the next year!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Thinking practically about social media

Who says you need a full-time professional staffer dedicated solely to social media before you can build an institutional presence?

If you follow many Web marketing blogs, you might get the impression that implementing a social media strategy is a time-consuming commitment of staff and/or funding. However like most graduate and professional schools, my law school has a fairly small communications staff. We are generalists by necessity, and we work hard to make the most of our limited resources.

Two recent higher ed blog posts feature a more practical perspective on integrating social media into an existing communications workflow. Michael Stoner's "Small staff, smart choices yield social media success for Baylor School" shares the story of an independent school communications director's foray into social media, one that closely mirrors my own. Andrew Careaga's "I, (not) Robot: Or, how I learned to stop worrying and love the Borg," discusses the advantages of using technology to distribute official communications into social networks.

Here are other factors my office considers before adding to our social media mix:
  • Audience involvement: Are active prospective students or alumni already using the social media site? How would an institutional voice fit into the conversation?
  • Channel credibility: Is the site mainstream (yet)? What is the culture of the channel? Are other graduate or professional schools establishing an official presence there?
  • Office utility: Can we tweak or repurpose existing content for the site? Can the site help us streamline our current processes? Can we save institutional resources by shifting to a social media site?
Sure, it would be nice to be on the leading edge of every development in the social media revolution. But even a small daily investment in social media, when done strategically, can yield great rewards.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Low-cost creative productivity tool #2: Mind-mapping software

Problem: High volume of disorganized information and thoughts.
Solution: Mind-mapping software.

Once upon a time (18 months ago), our site architecture needed a complete overhaul. Hundreds of links had to be sorted out into new categories, some needed to be deleted, and other pages needed to be researched and created. Papers, charts and lists were spread over my desk.

If only I knew then about mind-mapping software (thanks to a Get-It-Done Guy podcast). By creating an organizational tree with branches and nodes that can be opened and collapsed, moved, color-coded and deleted, it is much easier to visually identify themes and eliminate weak or redundant ideas.

I first tried it out a few months ago when re-organizing our H1N1 site from a chronological series of lengthy e-mail messages to a more sensible resource site with sections on our institution's response, what to do if H1N1 affects you personally, and information on the virus itself from other organizations. Mind-mapping software allowed me to simplify the content and present it in a more complete, user-friendly manner.

Now I'm hooked—there is potential for organizing lengthy articles, presentations, publication design and other creative materials. I use FreeMind, which is available Mac and Windows versions, but there are many of free and low-cost options out there.

Previously in this series: Low-cost creative productivity tool #1: Google Docs

Monday, November 2, 2009

Twitter lists for higher ed

Coming soon to a Twitter feed near you...lists!

I was slow to get into social media, but quick to get into Twitter. The editor in me loves how the 140-character limit forces people to get to the point. My PR side loves the networking value. The journalist in me loves having a place to broadcast. My inner information hound loves the sheer volume of content.

The folks at Twitter are now in the process of adding the simple, but valuable functionality of lists, which can be made public or private. Here are a few basic ideas for higher ed institution accounts:
  • Alumni list - help alumni followers of your list identify and find each other through an alumni list.
  • Profession list - separate those you follow who are leaders or employers in the profession.
  • Peer list - connect with fellow institutional Twitterers from other colleges and universities.
  • University list - highlight other accounts from your institution, possibly including faculty or top administrators.
How are you considering on using Twitter lists for your institutional accounts? Are there any drawbacks we should watch out for?