2012 Coverage of the College Media Conference

Just about a month ago, Danielle and I, and about 250 higher ed communication heroes made their way to the palatial Fairmont Hotel in D.C., for what turned out to be, according to participants, CMC’s most interactive and engaging conference yet!

If you didn’t get a chance to make the pre-conference program, “Crafting Your Digital Strategy: Social Media and Beyond,” oh man, you missed a series of sessions that were worth their weight in gold. The pre-conference speakers did a fantastic job of presenting concepts and strategies that you could take back to your institution and apply immediately.

I was able to attend three out of four concurrent sessions, here are the actionable highlights from session speakers:

Kristina Halvorson, CEO of Brain Traffic, she’s a self-proclaimed “content therapist,” that recommended institutions to create a sustainable infrastructure to support your content strategy.

Melanie Moran, associate director of Vanderbilt University’s office of news and communications, tackled the challenges of having tons of content in a de-centralized environment, sound familiar? Her solution, “Create multiple doors to the same repository of content.”

Tom Evelyn, vice president for communications at St. Lawrence University & Mount Mercy University’s, Assistant Vice President for Communications and Marketing, Fritz McDonald, dialed down the formality with a conversation style session, but turned up the heat by asking folks if they’ve experienced the “social media revolution on their campus.” Some words of wisdom from Tom and Fritz: 1) strategy should drive choices, 2) condense your media channels, 3) kill the Pinterest buzz, and 4) try new ways of pitching stories, e.g., tweet-a-pitch to the media.

Michael Stoner, president of mStoner, gave a pointed word to the wise, “…the web is about content, not color.”

CMC 2012 Tag Team Champions, Mike Petroff, digital content strategist at Harvard University and Executive Creative Director at North Carolina State University, Tim Jones, did a deep-dive, case study-style, and here are some takeaways:

  • If you get one thing out of this session, it would be to look into using Storify!
  • Create relationships with current students; let them be your brand champions.
  • Messaging architecture that takes your institution’s name out of the headline will get you more attention!
  • Tim Jones gave social media a little jab when he said, “I’ll take a placement over a +1 any day.”
  • Communication isn’t about communicating; it’s about influencing outcomes.
  • This is a link to their awesome presentation!

Some trend alerts from Wednesday’s pre-conference include: condense, refine, and distill your social media channels and web pages, include photos in your communications, they rank high & get picked up, create a goal oriented strategy to drive any communications initiatives, and try to always think of ways to repurpose content.

Danielle and I interviewed session speakers and attendees, gathering their thoughts on this year’s conference. The videos below cover participants opinions on session tracks and we even got some great advice from session speakers, like David Jarmul, assistant vice president for News and Communications at Duke and Melanie Moran, associate director of university news and communications, that we want to share with you.

Session speakers on blending traditional PR and social media

Participants talk about their favorite sessions

Overall thoughts

That pretty much sums it up; we can’t wait to see everyone next year!

P.S. Check back with this post on Monday afternoon, I’m adding a video interview of Laura Wilcox, director of CMC, as she shares with us what to expect in from CMC in 2013.

readabout.me: A Student’s Perspective

Marissa DeAngelis
Marist College

As a soon-to-be-grad of Marist College in Poughkeepsie, NY (Yikes!), I can honestly say that the next few months will be very bittersweet. As I walk around campus for my last 30 days as a Marist student, I look at it through a retrospective lens. I’ve accomplished so much here, and I’m ready to conquer the field of public relations. I have truly learned so much about myself academically, socially, and professionally through achievements at Marist, and I’m happy that I can celebrate them online with readabout.me. As a member of the class of 2012, I know we’re only at the infancy of learning more about the importance of building a positive online reputation, and the ability to display college achievements are the perfect way to begin.

When I first returned to Marist’s campus after a semester abroad in January 2011, I was encouraged by professors, classmates, and advisors to explore new social media networks, a dynamic that I was isolated from while in Europe. During this time, I considered myself “technologically incompetent,” as I was not knowledgeable about digital or online media. However, once I began discovering social media’s potential and its relevance to the positive career opportunities, I became so intrigued that I could not stop exploring.

When I develop a passion for something, I desire to share its benefits with others. This excitement prompted me to host and coordinate Marist’s first TweetUp. As I began to discuss the TweetUp through tweets to Marist social media users, I was stunned by their enthusiasm towards the event that would assist the community in effectively utilizing social media, and introduce them to the benefits of a strong online presence.

The TweetUp was not only a break through for me, but also for the Marist online community. Social media helped me to arrive at my first moment where I felt that I had something important to contribute, and I could make a difference. I was overwhelmed by support I received from classmates and Twitter followers. When Marist’s former chief public affairs officer approached me to become the Marist’s readMedia Student Ambassador, I jumped on the opportunity to help students celebrate their achievements and share accomplishments with future employers.

readMedia’s achievement platform gives me this same good feeling. I’m happy to know that my achievements are still recognized by Marist College, even after I’m gone. The badges are like an “I was here” stamp, and a chance to show perspective students what they can do too. I’m so proud to be a member of the Marist College community, and adding the readabout.me link to my other social media sites, like Facebook and Twitter, is a great way to share my pride with family, friends, and perspective employers.

Philip Pascuzzo: The Face Behind the readabout.me Badges

readMedia had the opportunity to sit down and chat with designer and illustrator, Philip Pascuzzo about his inspiration behind the readabout.me badge designs. Philip is the designer of the original Twitter bird logo and has created more than 300 book covers.

What were some of  your inspirations for the readabout.me badge design
I wanted the badges to be immediately readable and iconic. My research lead me to Otl Aicher’s smart and elegant pictograms for the 1972 Olympics in Munich. The simplicity of these are very attractive and stand out among other Olympic pictogram designs. I was inspired by the colorful work of Lance Wyman’s pictograms for the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City. So the problem was making the read about.me badges colorful, fun and still very simple.

What is your favorite readabout.me badge and why?
The visual and performance arts badge has a sort of mid-century charm that I love. It was difficult at first to solve the problem of visually representing both of these activities on one badge. I’m glad I thought of an eye icon because it says a lot without being complicated at all. Adding human elements, emotion, and a sense of humor to these badges is what makes them work.

What was the most challenging badge topic to come up with a design for?
I think that the “Who’s Who” badge was the most challenging for me. I
presented some options that included a question mark at first. That approach
wasn’t working making it even more difficult. The final design is the
cleanest one out of the batch and I feel works great. Often the simplest
solution is the best, you just may need to get complicated before finding

How do you think you would react If you were still a student and your
school published one of your achievements online using a readabout.me badge,
considering your perspective as an artist/designer?
I would love it! I could probably convince my mom to buy me skateboard
equipment for every badge I receive. This almost game-like incentive is very
attractive and fun. Seeing the badges together is like a pretty mosaic of
your achievements. This sure beats the black and white piece of paper stuck
to the fridge with a magnet.

In your opinion, do you think there will be more of a demand for badges
in the graphic design world?
I really do since users love customizing and interacting with the internet
now more and more. People have always collected rewards for their
achievements. So a badge with a strong design should be a great little
motivational incentive.

Julie Peterson’s Communications Planning Advice #rMche

Sometimes the best laid plans go awry.

For the past year, I’ve been interviewing top communicators in higher education as part of “Leadership Lessons“, a monthly live webcast series in partnership with PRSA Counselors to Higher Education. It’s been great fun and I’ve met fantastic professionals from colleges large and small, and gotten to talk with them about topics from crisis communications to branding to social media and more.

Julie Peterson, University of ChicagoSo it’s perhaps ironic that despite all the planning I do ahead of time to prepare these webcast, my interview with University of Chicago’s Julie Peterson, on the topic of communications planning, went terribly awry. Just as the interview was starting, the program that streams the audio portion of the interview crashed. I didn’t realize it until a few minutes in, and then I was unable to get things going again on the fly.

I had an incredible interview with Julie, but no one was able to hear it!

The only consolation to Leadership Lessons viewers is that I was able to take down a few notes. At the end of the interview, Julie shared her three bits of advice for higher ed communications professionals who are looking for ways to make more structured planning a part of their communications strategies. Here’s what she shared:

1. Really understand what the goals are for the client or entity that you work with.

Whether it’s the president of the university, a department head, or a special program or institute on campus, you can’t put together an effective communications plan without first understanding with they are trying to achieve. Make sure that the communications program you recommend can get them there. If you do that consistently, you won’t be an afterthought. Instead, you’ll be a strategic partner and invited into the process at early stages, when you can really create communications plans that make a difference.

2. Don’t be afraid to offer strong advice.

YOU are the communications expert. So often, people approach communications staff with a pre-baked solution (even though it may not be the right one). You need to shape the plan by knowing when to lead strategy in another direction, in a constructive way. Julie noted that early on in her career, she learned to say “Instead of…. why don’t we….” as a way to reframe conversations.

3. Try stuff!

Don’t be afraid to test things out. Learn from your experience. If something works, use it as a baseline for the next communications plan and improve on it. Get input by being open to new suggestions and new methods. Propose creative solutions.

University of Chicago Booth Logo

When the University of Chicago’s school of business announced its record $300 million gift, Julie and her team put together a comprehensive plan for how to announce it. They were able to provide strategic counsel to the business school and come up with some creative ideas that helped navigate key opportunities surrounding the announcement. Because the gift announcement coincided with the 2008 presidential election and they knew they’d be unable to grab media attention during election week, Julie’s team pre-pitched the Wall Street Journal under embargo. They created a heavy focus on events to drive community and generate on-campus excitement surrounding the gift — the communications plan called for a large event/reception, and they created flyers and emails to business school students, alumni and faculty inviting them to a special event featuring a major announcement that would be transformational to the school. Their communication plan was designed to create a lot of excitement and buzz and foster the sense of community around the gift, the branding/naming of the school, and the implications of the gift on the future of the college.

Julie shared that communications plans aren’t just about big, overarching, institutional plans that cover a long time period. Even smaller projects can and should have communications plans — mini-plans, she called them. Whether your institution is making a big gift announcement, launching a new degree program, or taking a stance on a controversial issue, you should have a communications plan in place. That means understanding the goals, defining the key audiences and stakeholders and determining or outlining specific communications tactics and timelines. When a plan is in place, it’s much easier to keep things on track. Internal colleagues and stakeholders know what’s expected and through vetting and agreeing on a plan, are establishing their early buy-in.

PRSA CHE = Expertise

These were just a few pearls of wisdom Julie shared during her interview. Her level of expertise and openness is characteristic of what you’ll find across most members of the PRSA Counselors to Higher Education section: strategic thinkers who are among the best in their profession, and who are always willing to share their experiences with others. If you’re not currently a member of PRSA CHE, I encourage you to get involved and attend the Senior Summit every April in Washington, DC.

And I do hope you’ll join me for next month’s Leadership Lessons episode — which I intend to make issue-free!

Three Questions With Karlyn Marissette, Southern New Hampshire University

Karlyn Morissette is the Director of Social Media at Southern New Hampshire University and staff  writer for .eduGuru

DV: What was your biggest social media challenge at SNU this year?

KM: Live streaming. The challenge for us was that we had been doing all of our live streaming on an internal server; there were no social features. Politics on campus also made it difficult to change.

Jon Huntsman was our commencement speaker this year, and we really wanted to take advantage of this. It was his first big speech in New Hampshire, so we needed to make sure that we could live stream everything. We also had a lot of international and online students who couldn’t make it to commencement, so we wanted to live stream for them.

Basically, we ended up working some magic on internal politics and switched over to USTREAM. We brought in Seth Odell to handle live streaming for us. We took over the homepage and built a splash page with live photo uploads and a Twitter stream.

It was a lot of leg-work and politics, but it got done.

DV: Where do you think higher ed will be in 10 years?

KM: I really like the idea of taking customized classes and creating your own program. I think that online education is just taking off. It’s an effective medium that makes sense as a delivery method, and It’s really not all that much different from being in class. They’re also a lot cheaper for schools and have a much longer shelf life. I think for-profit colleges are going to have a really hard time, we’re going to see them take a back seat to what traditional colleges are going to put forward.

DV: What is your social media strategy?

KM: The first thing you have to do is listen to what students are saying — they’re all out there. Take the time to personally respond to students, it’s important to them and creates a relationship.

What I’m trying to do at SNU is to build one-on-one relationships with influential bloggers in different industries. Old school PR is sending out a press release and hoping as many papers pick it up as possible. When we have a news item, I’m not just going to send them a press release. I’m going to pick up the phone or send a personal email to pitch my story.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.