Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Tips for managing branded trinkets

Few tasks drive me more crazy than trinket orders. Those doggone, end-of-fiscal-year-and-we-still-have-money-left, let's-fit-30-words-and-a-logo-on-a-pen trinket orders from departments across campus.

Here are some things to consider when managing marketing giveaways:
  • First and foremost, remember your big-picture brand. The same rules that apply in any other medium also apply here. Unless you're recruiting for a master's program in adult entertainment, you probably shouldn't be imprinting your logo onto shot glasses or garters. (Yes, I've seen both.) Consider the quality of the products as well: placing your logo onto something that's dollar-store quality might not reflect well on your institution either.
  • As always, think about your audience. When possible, ask members of your target audience what they like. Prospective or admitted students will like different tchotchkes than alumni or employers. Make sure the giveaway has some practical value. Save the stuffed animals for alumni-baby gifts. Depending on the audience, there may be special ethical obligations to consider (i.e., reporters or judges).
  • Decide on your objective. Are you looking to remind the recipient of your institution? To thank them for their service? To grab their attention, or someone else's? Make sure that whatever giveaways you order help accomplish that objective.
  • Last but not least, carefully consider the imprint. Only once you've answered the above questions should you start the design work. Your imprinted message should be clear and brief. Never cut corners on your institution's brand standards, and don't try to pack too much information. If the imprint space available is insufficient for advancing your goals, pick something else. Be aware of the limitations of each medium: engraved, embroidered or silkscreened graphics will appear quite differently from how they look on your monitor or printout.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Fun with emergency contact info

Looking for a creative way to get more emergency contact info on your students? The Medical College of Georgia has developed a fun video for its ICE (In Case of Emergency) campaign, available at

It's a great use of humor to drive home a serious point on a topic many choose not to think about. Kudos to the communications team and administration at MCG!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Creative gone wrong

My crazy-busy streak has continued, and I've decided that a silly post is now in order. Here are some recent discoveries for creative amusement:
  • Photoshop Disasters: The blog all about awful, commercial photo editing.
  • The Bad Pitch Blog: Not just bad news media pitches, but good PR advice as well.
  • Tales from Redesignland: I first discovered this higher ed blog during our own redesign in 2008. This week's post: really bad quotations from real Web redesign consulting proposals.
And if you're considering the lighter side of font selection, check out this handy "How to pick a typeface" flowchart or the CollegeHumor video, "Font Conference."

Note: If you haven't noticed, I'm cutting back my blog frequency to every other week for the summer. I'll return to weekly posts once school is back in session!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

I want a new website for my department. Now what?

It's an increasingly rare request: to start a new website from scratch for a department. Redesigns, yes. Website expansions, all the time. New landing pages for marketing, of course. But creating a new site for a department or program that has lived without one for the past 15 years since the World Wide Web went mainstream? Not so much.

Yet as I've recently began the thought process for educating a program director on how to build a good website, it has become a good refresher on the foundational concepts that we all should be considering when working on any Web project:
  1. What do you want your website to do, and who do you want it to serve? Go no further until you can answer these questions. Every other decision streams from knowing what goals you want your site to accomplish and for whom.
  2. What content should the site include? Since most websites serve first as informational resources to outside audiences, it's good to assess what you're already publishing for these groups. Do you have print brochures, news releases, advertisements or information on other websites about your program? For example, an academic program might not already have its own stand-alone site, but the program's faculty may already have their own biographical sites. If there are frequently asked questions that your program receives via phone, that information may also help guide the content of the site. Do remember to include a description of what the department/program does, the main contact information, and the physical location.
  3. What information or functions are most important? Use the answers to #1 and #2 to develop the information architecture of the page. A good website sets priorities and communicates them to the user. Trying to clutter too many links on a program's home page confuses users and ultimately will make your entire site less effective.
  4. Once you build it, who will maintain it? Building a website creates the responsibility for keeping its information current and accurate. Who will handle that responsibility? Will they be trained in maintaining the information themselves, or will they need to work with someone who already has that knowledge? How often should the site's information be reviewed and updated? A department that has survived this long without a website may not appreciate the long-term commitment they represent. Websites are not one-time projects that season as they age; their owners must preserve their content lest they rot.