eduWeb higher education marketing conference Fri, 02 Apr 2021 12:31:38 +0000 en-US hourly 1 eduWeb 32 32 Highlights from eduWeb Spring Showcase Thu, 01 Apr 2021 16:23:44 +0000

From content strategy during a crisis to data analytics to the future of higher ed, the eduWeb Spring Showcase sessions offer not-to-be-missed insight that will shape higher education work long-term. Meet the speakers and sign up for live or pre-recorded sessions on the event website. Follow on Twitter: #EduWebShowcase

Here are highlights from the first day of the showcase:

What Will the Higher Education Industry Look Like in the Next 5, 10, or Even 20 Years?

Moderated by education marketing expert Seth Odell and featuring panelists Beau Brooks, Dr. Cherron Hoppes, and Dr. Adrian Haugabrook, this action-packed-panel dove into the future of higher ed.

Student needs have changed drastically over the past years, and universities have a hard time catching up. “We lost sight of being student-centric” Dr. Hoppes said – it is crucial to fully understand who our learners are, to really listen and respond to their needs and expectations. The coming student generation wants to be more involved, have individualized classes and shape their own experience. 

The pressure is on! Universities will have to adjust conventional degree models with flexible formats like boot camps, stacked credentials and shorter certification courses to stay relevant. Innovation is hindered by budget constraints and employer demands, who often still require traditional degrees. To stay relevant, learning institutions have to return to their core, define their program strengths and highlight what they do exceptionally well. We need world-class instructional design to deliver student-centric quality experiences that are relevant to the job market. Private/public partnerships can provide new ideas and opportunities.

The university’s marketing department is essential in this development: proactive staff can give the leadership a sense of what’s happening outside the institution, and see how learners respond to messaging and experimental programs:  Seth Odell concludes the session saying “It has never been harder to be a marketer in higher ed, but it has never been more valuable either. We have never been more needed.”

How to Build and Grow a UX Community on Campus

With the goal of breaking down UX silos at the University of Arizona, Rebecca Blakiston, User Experience Librarian and Strategist, introduces the UX@UA grassroots learning community. Grown from an effort to bring together students, staff, faculty and community experts, monthly in-person meetups were initiated (now virtual, of course). Here, participants can learn about UX topics and strategize user research together. The cross-departmental team of organizers quickly built a community of more than 380 people who meet, discuss topics on Slack and consult at the university. Free tools like the UX cookbook are shared on the website, and users can sign up as study participants. Since March 2020, virtual events allow even more participants and speakers to join UX@UA, now the largest community for user experience learners and professionals in Southern Arizona.

How to Position Your Brand When the Media Spotlight Turns to You

Since Kamala Harris’ was announced to run as the 49th Vice President of the United States, the media attention also turned onto her alma mater, Howard University. Alonda Thomas, Director of Public Relations, shares how the university seized the historical opportunity to highlight Vice President Harris’ time at Howard and feature former and current students’ stories and experiences.

Thanks to her offices’ intensive research and preparation, international media was able to share personal interviews with Harris’ alumnae sorority sisters and University President Dr. Wayne A. I. Frederick. Stories about the Showtime Marching Band who escorted Kamala Harris and Joe Biden in the 59th Inauguration parade captivated the audience. In January 2021 alone, 140+ interviews totaled in 763+ million media impressions. The popular social media campaign #HU2WH yielded over 4.1 million impressions, and reached more than 1.5 million individuals.

Showcase Session and eduSnack Talks

How Well Do You Know Your Audience? Modeling Inclusive Language

Dr. Alan Mueller, Assistant Dean of Students at Salem College gives a fantastic overview of how diverse audiences receive messaging through their varied lenses. He delves into clear definitions of race and gender as examples of the social constructs that influence the way we communicate. Racism and genderism can show up in language, symbols and messaging and can deeply affect the relationship between the university telling a story and the audience receiving the same story. Always be aware of intersectionality when you communicate, and adjust your style guides which are often built around Euro-centric communication norms and still considered “correct” although they can be inherently harmful. Ableist terms like “standing meetings” or talking about what people will “see” or “hear” can alienate people with varying abilities. Rethink your language to be truly inclusive and model the ability to constantly learn.

Up next was eduSnacks, three 8-minute “bite-sized” presentations full of nutritious, actionable takeaways. This new format allows attendees to get a quick overview of relevant tools and strategies with immediate takeaways.

  • Optimizing Your Email Campaigns for Conversion (Daniela Hyuh)
      • Collect accurate data, segment your email marketing list, make your emails more impactful with A/B testing
  • An Eight-Minute Data Dashboard (Kris Hardy)
      • Comprehensive overview of Google Data Studio
  • Sparking Joy with Adobe: A Brief Overview of Adobe Spark Video (Mary McLeod)
    • Overview of Adobe Spark Video for easy design of video content

Using Your Analytics to Guide Your Web Structure

Aaron Baker, Associate Director for Content Strategy, Harvard University describes the research and outcomes in building the new structure for

OHO Interactive was hired to help with the initial research phase and determined the main goal of the redesign to establish an effective navigation, refocusing it around engaging storytelling with inspiring and inclusive messaging. To break down silos across university departments, the marketing team aimed for a consistent collaborative approach to content creation. 

With the help of Modern Tribe, a new design system and WordPress theme was built, aiming to be a model of accessibility with an intuitive navigation that enables effective wayfinding. Then it was up to the content strategy team to determine the right use of data: “Data is never going to suggest trying something new, your data just shows what you already have.” Baker says. The tension between quantitative data and qualitative insights exemplified the disconnect between user expectations and current content. Looking at data from user flows, event tracking (scroll depth, multimedia interaction, click paths), and on-site search, the team used analytics to see how users react to new design strategies. Future testing is part of the strategy to ensure continuous improvement.

PADS: Higher Ed’s Starter Guide to Measuring Recruitment Marketing Right

Corynn Myers, Strategist at Convince & Convert opens her presentation with her quote “I get unreasonably mad when looking at social reports with no context for the data or metrics that tie into business goals.” Learning from her previous industry position, she shows how to effectively determine and measure deliverables in the prospective student journey.

He higher ed acronym PADS (People, Agreement, Data, Strategy) smoothes the way of understanding how to break down silos and own the enrollment funnel.

  • People: Create an anti-silo! Admissions, marketing and university decision makers should join the same table to define a common goal.
  • Agreement: It is vital to agree on what success looks like, and determine SMART goals, objectives and KPIs together, as well as hash out the (often complicated) student journey, outline responsibilities and reporting deliverables along the way. This includes a shared terminology, the kind of reports, ways of delivery and how often they are shared.
  • Data: Historical data is essential to understanding the student experience as well as gut-checking KPIs and goals. Teams should openly share data with each other and determine benchmarks to fully understand budget needs.
  • Strategy: Reporting deliverables do not measure themselves, so at the beginning of each campaign, a comprehensive tracking and measuring strategy has to be implemented.

Highlights from Day 2:

Onboarding early-career team members in a fast-paced environment

Emily Gaylord communications and engagement director at the Center for EcoTechnology, has hired several young professionals recently, and outlined her onboarding and training process for integrating that talent to a high-functioning team. 

  • Gaylord crafted a program for a two-week orientation that is held in person or remote, during which the fellows meet the marketing team, receive key software training, establish their professional goals, iron out HR logistics and learn all about the voice, tone and brand guidelines for social media, blog content and video production.  
  • New student employees build sample posts for social media, proof blog content by checking for correct use of branding and editorial directions, and create and deliver a presentation on a topic of their choice to the marketing staff.
  • Whenever there is “downtime”, they follow a task list they can work on when there is nothing else to do: audit the website, watch existing videos, follow relevant social media channels, examine the org chart, learn office basics by sharing their calendars, scheduling meetings, setting up their email signature or quizzing each other about what they have learnt.
  • The learning doesn’t stop after the orientation: professional development is highly encouraged! Consistent education gives fellows a foundation to build soft and hard skills, network successfully and gain experiences that help them thrive.

Channel Your Inner Time Lord: Regenerate Your Storytelling Potential

Ravi Jain, senior associate director of digital media and web development at Boston College, is fascinated by the transactional communication between storyteller and recipient. 

  • That neural connection is made when listening, processing and reacting. In fact, brain patterns synch between narrator and listener, creating a unique connection between individuals.
  • What often happens in higher ed however, is what Jain calls the “Groundhog Day experience,” in which it’s the same stories about commencement, move-in day, finals week, graduation, etc. that are being told over and over again. 
  • Rather than telling the same old tale in the same old format, Jain advocates for experimentation: finding new, creative and exploratory ways to share stories across various platforms.
  • To be successful, you don’t just have to know your demographic and how the audience accesses your content, but know your organization, be secure with who your university is and what it stands for. 
  • Jain shows how an organization can share authentic, charming stories that share legitimate information in new, more effective ways. 
  • Examples include “Fresh Takes”, instagram stories featuring unedited student interviews, TikTok scavenger hunts, 360 videos that show spaces and allow viewers to change angles and shape their own experience. He encourages us to start trying new things and lean more fully into creative storytelling that creates engaging stories. 

Why storytelling matters more than ever

The value of higher ed has declined in public perception. “This is our problem,” says Andy Fuller, director of strategic content at the University of Notre Dame. That’s why it’s imperative that higher ed marcomm demonstrate the importance of higher ed. The secret sauce to being effective is good storytelling:

  • Be intentional and interesting, building stories with the classic elements of characters (i.e.faculty, staff, students), setting (the campus, engineering lab, etc.), conflict (real-world context), plot (what problem are we trying to solve through knowledge) and resolution (which actions have been taken). 
  • To make the most of it, content should be produced once and used in multiple formats.
  • However, Fuller says, “a news release, Twitter thread, campus beauty montage, letters from the Dean, Mission Statement will never be storytelling,” because these almost always fail to evoke emotion. 
  • To find that emotion, identify work that matters, topics that give the audience an understanding of the university they didn’t have before, layered with storytelling elements: “We inform with facts, we influence with emotion.”

Create content that comes alive

Sydnee Logan, senior social media & digital content specialist at the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing presented a jam-packed session full of practical tips for creating the best content. 

  • First and foremost, as many of us are teams of one, we have to set and manage realistic expectations. 
  • Think ahead and schedule a calendar of promotional content across the year like choosing awareness days that align with organizational priorities and community interest; love it or hate it, Canva allows you to quickly create templates and professional designs.
  • Find stories by following top-performing themes on social media and around the web, tell the stories that you’ve heard about that are still unwritten and build meaningful relationships with others. 
  • Embrace user-generated content: Reach out to schools or individuals for photo submissions or accomplishments, try social media takeovers, submit blog posts or even consider giving them a series. If you find something people are excited about, they will participate and share their pride in your organization or program.

The most “aligned” content features a good story, resonates with the community and highlights a campus program or initiative like the article Advice from Black Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioners that Syndee published during Black History Month.

Community Corner: March 2021 Thu, 01 Apr 2021 16:18:33 +0000 Graphic showing Jason Boucher in a face mask and the eduWeb logo and text Community Corner with Jason Boucher

Welcome back to the eduWeb Community Corner, where we talk directly with those in the higher education community doing great things all over North America! I’m your host, Jason Boucher and this month we chatted with Kimberly Stern and Ashley Schroeder from Colorado State University. Together, they run the social and digital media teams and are responsible for A Ram’s Life, a YouTube student takeover series that allows viewers to get a glance of campus life from the student perspective.

Kimberly Stern

Kimberly Stern, Director of Social and Digital Media, University Communications, Colorado State University

Jason: First off, we hope everyone at CSU is staying safe and healthy, but we’d like to know how COVID has affected Colorado State University’s in-person classes and student activities? 

Kimberly Stern & Ashley Schroeder: The student experience has no doubt been impacted by COVID but we are very proud of our community for working together to keep the transmission of the virus low on campus enabling the university to offer in-person, hybrid and online classes for the fall 2020 and spring 2021 semesters. Through weekly saliva screenings, wastewater detection and a commitment to slow the spread of COVID-19, our community has shown what it means to take care and to take action. With the rollout of vaccinations across the nation and world, we’re hopeful for what the fall semester will bring. 

JB: Many institutions have takeovers on Instagram and Snapchat but you’re doing it with YouTube, which I find fascinating! Could you tell us more about A Ram’s Life on YouTube and how it all began? 

KS & AS: Our Social and Digital Media team began exploring the idea of a student-run vlog in 2019 when The Chronicle of Higher Education posted an article titled, “Want to learn how the world sees your college? Look on YouTube.” The year prior, the Pew Research Center found that 85% of American teens use YouTube. When it comes to what online platforms Gen Z used most often, YouTube came in second. 

When Gen Zers want to learn something, they go to YouTube. This includes learning about colleges they’re interested in attending. While CSU has had an active YouTube channel since 2009, the content wasn’t necessarily what prospective students were looking for. They’re seeking out authentic examples of student life on campus.

Ashley Schroeder

Ashley Schroeder, Assistant Director of Social and Digital Media, Colorado State University

Every university student follows a unique path in deciding which college suits them best. At times, the decision can be easy based on the reputation of a specific program or the location of the campus. For some, it’s not easy at all, and their final decision is based on one major factor — which institution made them feel most at home.

We wanted to take college campus video tours and online information to the next level in order to help prospective students see CSU as their home. In order to get the attention of Gen Zers applying for colleges, we recognized we couldn’t rely on the same old tactics to do the job. So, we hired three student vloggers to roam around Fort Collins, camera in tow, and document life as a student at CSU to give teens around the world a glimpse into what being a CSU Ram was really like. Our objective to use the vlog as a recruitment marketing tool came during a time when universities across the country were seeing a slow decline in student enrollment. Though we didn’t know at the time, the A Ram’s Life vlog would become even more important in 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic forced high school students to do even more of their college research online.

JB: How do you select students for the YouTube takeovers?

KS & AS: When we created the vlog, we knew three things

First, we wanted the vlog to be student-run, with as few content restrictions as possible to ensure the content shared was authentic, but also in line with CSU’s brand. We didn’t want students to watch the videos and hear the university talking back at them. We wanted them to hear from their peers and see the entire college experience: the successes, the fails, the fun moments and the hardships. 

Second, we wanted to have consistent vloggers, rather than different students posting videos in a “takeover” style that’s popular on Instagram. Filming your daily life on a regular basis is a lot like writing in your diary and publishing it on the web for everyone to read. It’s a personal form of communication that lets viewers live life vicariously through the creator’s experiences, which often results in a strong sense of attachment from the viewer toward the producer. A key to a vlogger’s success is to create a pseudo-friendship with their viewers, revealing intimate details of their own life while referring to their audience in the second person. This develops a sense of familiarity that keeps audience members coming back for more, even though the video creator knows no details of the individual members’ existence. This para-social relationship is the foundational core that leads to a vlogger’s success. 

Last, we wanted the vlog to live on its own YouTube channel separate from CSU’s YouTube channel, with its own branding, and have its own style. A Ram’s Life features vibrant colors, based on CSU’s secondary and tertiary color palette. Rather than the same traditional CSU green and gold, the alfalfa green and Aggie orange provide a more relaxed and youthful appearance, while still fitting within CSU’s brand. Video thumbnails fall in line with vlogger-styled graphics, and the video titles and descriptions follow the same laid-back approach.

Once A Ram’s Life was created, we put a call out for auditions through CSU’s Instagram and Twitter accounts, and the CSU Social blog in the summer of 2019. We asked interested applicants to provide an audition video detailing why they wanted to be a CSU vlogger and describe what type of content they would share. Interestingly, the majority of audition videos were submitted by incoming students — students who had not yet taken their first class at CSU but knew the importance of YouTube based on their own experience researching universities.

Our three vloggers — Jamie, Grace and Ryan — began creating content in 2019, posting once a week. From move-in to the first day of classes to cooking mac and cheese to getting a tattoo, the students shared everything about their college experience with viewers.

JB: How do you promote, or share A Ram’s Life? 

KS & AS: To get the word out about the vlog, we promote the vlog on CSU’s social media accounts, and have each vlogger host an Instagram Story takeover on CSU’s Instagram account from time-to-time. Our Office of Admissions includes the videos in their emails to prospective students and created targeted social media campaigns to reach prospective students.

JB: Has A Ram’s Life been successful? How do you measure success and what is the goal of the video takeover series?

KS & AS: When we launched A Ram’s Life, CSU was one of the only universities with its own vlog run by students. The vlog was an experiment that we hoped would be successful and provide a deeper and authentic view of student life at CSU. 

Since launching the vlog in 2019, A Ram’s Life has gained more than 12,000 subscribers, has 2.1 million video views and nearly 19 million impressions. The Denver Post featured CSU’s vlog in a 2019 article, sharing our strategy and process, and the importance of vlogging and YouTube in higher education.

The best results, however, came from the videos that have connected with prospective students to help them make the big decision to come to CSU. Countless viewers have reached out to the vloggers to learn more about CSU, others have committed to CSU, and one (that we know of) even transferred from her New York college to CSU.

When CSU moved to distance learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic last year, campus tours and college visits were canceled, and CSU turned to digital marketing more than ever to not only share the CSU experience with prospective students, but to also explain what student-life was like during the pandemic. Jamie, Grace and Ryan continued vlogging through it all, providing an unfiltered view of their experiences. Jamie and Grace, who were living in the residence hall, were finishing their first year back at home with their parents. Ryan, a senior, was wrapping up his college education from his apartment off campus. During a time when prospective students couldn’t visit campus due to COVID-19, our vloggers gave an inside look at what student life was like.

Our vloggers — Jamie, Grace, Ryan and now Alex — have shared some of the most intimate moments of their college experience in order to help future Rams find their home at CSU. The experiment worked.

JB: Do you have student interns, or employees that assist with this YouTube campaign? 

KS & AS: Our three vloggers are paid student interns on our team, and they really steer the ship, so to speak. They’ve done a great job connecting with their audience and coming up with new and authentic content. We review every video before it’s published to ensure their videos follow the guidelines we’ve set, like no vlogging and driving. Safety first! We meet once or twice a semester to brainstorm new content ideas and talk about how we can improve the channel. But the vloggers are truly the main reason why the vlog is so successful.

JB: How do you plan to keep A Ram’s Life going forward? Do you see any changes needed?

KS & AS:  We hope Grace, Jamie and Alex continue vlogging for the duration of their college careers. From moving into residence halls to living off-campus for the first time to landing that first job after college, every year in college is so different. We would love to see how each of the vloggers change and grow over their four years at CSU. Hiring more student vloggers with diverse backgrounds and identities is definitely a goal for our team. Wouldn’t it be cool to see the college experience from an international student’s perspective? 

As the channel gains more subscribers, we’ll probably need to determine a process for community management and responding to comments and questions. CSU’s Office of Admissions does a great job keeping an eye out for opportunities to answer questions or provide more information about CSU to prospective students. The vloggers often receive questions from viewers on their personal social media accounts, which has worked out well so far, but could become overwhelming if the quantity and frequency of questions increase over time.

As new generations come along, they’ll each use different social media platforms to connect with each other and brands. We hope to stay nimble and meet our audience wherever they are (or go)!


With 15 years of experience in strategic digital communications, Kimberly Stern leads Colorado State University’s award-winning Social and Digital Media team. Her team is responsible for setting the strategy and stewarding Colorado State University’s brand and reputation in the social and digital media space. She helped create a distinct voice for the institution that fans have come to trust and engage. She loves the challenge of blending the art and science of creating dynamic and engaging digital content. Under her leadership, CSU’s social media presence has blossomed into an internationally recognized powerhouse. The CSU Social and Digital Media team won a Webby Award (aka “Oscars of the Internet”) and is a Shorty Awards honoree (honoring the best in social media). Kimberly was recognized as an outstanding young leader and named to BizWest’s 2015 40 Under Forty, and in 2017 she was recognized as the PRSA Colorado Mentor of the Year. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Technical Communications and an MBA from Colorado State University.


Ashley is the assistant director of social and digital media at Colorado State University. She has worked on CSU’s award-winning Social and Digital Media team since 2013, and aids in executing the social media strategy for the university and elevating CSU’s brand and reputation on eight social media platforms. She enjoys creating unique and meaningful interactions with social media communities, work that has helped the team win a Webby Award and become a Shorty Awards honoree. Ashley earned her bachelor’s degree from CSU in Journalism and Technical Communications and her master’s degree in Communications and Media Management in 2020. 


Jason Boucher is the director of social media and a digital content strategist at The University of New Hampshire. Jason has been involved with eduWeb since 2015 as a track chair, marketing & communications co-leader, and he’s also involved with community engagement. Jason’s free time is mostly taken up by his weekly radio show, walks in the woods, and taking orders from his two cats. 


Community Corner: February 2021 Fri, 26 Feb 2021 08:00:30 +0000 Graphic showing Jason Boucher in a face mask and the eduWeb logo and text Community Corner with Jason Boucher

Welcome to the eduWeb Community Corner, where we talk directly to those in the higher education community doing great things! I’m your host, Jason Boucher. This month, for our inaugural segment, we chatted with Jamie Lewis. Jamie is a social media coordinator at the University of Georgia. We discussed COVID testing and how social media, along with student ambassadors, have helped increase testing on campus. 

Photo of Jamie LewisJason: How has COVID affected the in-person classes and activities at the University of Georgia this academic year?

Jamie: Classes are currently offered in a mix of in-person (with social distancing and masks), hybrid and online formats. All on-campus classes and activities require social distancing measures that are currently in place following CDC and Georgia Department of Public Health guidance. Per the University System of Georgia, all individuals must wear a face covering in campus buildings.

Jason: Tell us about your digital campaign to help make students aware of COVID and how they can get tested on campus.

Jamie: During the fall semester, our COVID surveillance testing program exclusively used the nasal swab test, alongside a few pop-up testing sites that used a saliva-based test that required 30 minutes of fasting prior to testing. This spring, we have moved to a new saliva-based testing model developed by our College of Veterinary Medicine, which does not have the same fasting limitations as the previous version and requires less saliva. We knew these changes would need to be communicated to the campus community, particularly to students, as the semester kicked off and wanted to make sure everyone knew what to expect when walking into surveillance testing, especially since we’d be utilizing a new testing process. We do not currently mandate COVID testing and knew that many found the nasal swab invasive, which may have discouraged them from participating in testing in the fall, so it was our hope that moving to the new saliva-based test would encourage more people to participate. 

Jason: What tools and platforms did you use to reach and educate students?

Jamie: With the student audience in mind as our primary target, we decided to create a short, informational video following a student through the new testing process, which was rolled at the start of the semester. The video was shared on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram (specifically IGTV) and TikTok.

Jason: Do you have student interns that assist with the campaign and its content?

Jamie: Our video team did not use interns to create or produce the video, but we did utilize a student named Eshan, one of our Digital Dawgs (our social media ambassador program), as the “talent” in the video. We often turn to our Digital Dawgs and offer them chances to volunteer to be in our videos as a perk of the program. Eshan is well-liked among his peers and we knew he’d bring good energy to the video and his peers would enjoy seeing a familiar face.

Jason: Was the campaign successful?

Jamie: Yes! Across the four platforms where we’ve shared the video, views are around 48,000 with the most views (19.3k) on [Instagram] IGTV. Feedback on the video was overwhelmingly positive, which stood out in contrast to some of the other COVID related content we have shared this year. All in all, we were really pleased with the final video and its reception across our social media platforms. 

Jason: How will you keep this relevant as the spring semester continues?

Jamie: Unless the testing process changes at any point during the semester, which I don’t anticipate, we’ll continue to re-up this video periodically (primarily on Instagram Stories and Twitter) to continue encouraging the campus community to sign up for and participate in COVID surveillance testing. 

– – –


Jamie Lewis is a social media coordinator at the University of Georgia working in the Division of Marketing and Communications. She joined the team in April 2018 after 4 years with the Division of Development and Alumni Relations. As social media coordinator, Jamie helps manage the university’s flagship social accounts, oversees a team of 30 student social media ambassadors, and assists with issues of crisis management. You can find her tweeting about young adult books, cats, Adam Driver, and sometimes even higher education, at @jlew8


Jason Boucher is the director of social media and digital content strategist at The University of New Hampshire. Jason has been involved with eduWeb since 2015 as a track chair, marketing & communications volunteer, and he’s also involved with community engagement. His free time is taken up by his weekly radio show, walks in the woods, and taking orders from his cats. 

EduWebinar Recap: Temperature Rising: A robust, collaborative digital communications project from Cal State Fullerton Tue, 26 Jan 2021 14:59:32 +0000 A screenshot of a website. A young black man stands in the center of a crowd with a closed fist raised in protest. Behind him is a large, diverse group of people including one protester who holds a cell phone. The copy on the image reads: “ Temperature Rising: CSUF Experts Examine Racism, Social Justice, and Police Reform Amid COVID-19.”

The Homepage of the Temperature Rising Microsite

As temperatures rose around topics of racial injustice in the nation and on college campuses, the Strategic Communications Team from California State University, Fullerton (CSUF) knew that platitudes would serve little purpose. Beyond sharing a statement from their president or changing their profile picture as part of a social justice campaign, they sought to amplify diverse stories via a robust microsite that combined videos, photos from protests, animation, stock photography, and even historical archive footage. The team, comprised of Michael Mahi, Matthew Gush, Jillian Boyd, Christopher Min, and others, shared their project experience and lessons learned with the eduWeb community this January.

“A vehicle for change”

Matthew Gush, the Assistant Director of Digital Media at CSUF, attended protests in 2020 after work to capture the moment with his camera. He returned to campus moved to understand the anger but also reflect the diversity of the cross-section of individuals and communities coming together to protest the injustices that were happening.

CSUF Strategic Communications started brainstorming how to communicate this moment in time and provide content within context. Gush reflected, “We wanted, as a team, to connect this moment in history to CSUF. How do we take current issues and bring them home to Cal State Fullerton and lend our expertise? We wanted to reimagine this. Why don’t we take faculty experts and bring them into this conversation?”

CSUF sought to engage faculty experts to examine racism, social justice, and police reform, amid COVID-19. “ We knew we wanted to create a vehicle for change,” said Michael Mahi, the Senior Director of Digital Media at CSUF.

From Disparate Parts to Storytelling

For the initial round of interviews, CSUF Strategic Communications leveraged an initial list of faculty that included their media relations faculty experts. They then refocused this list after feedback from editorial teams and evolved other faculty experts as the conversation developed and interviews were conducted. The team started with designated questions, but even that evolved as the story took on a life of its own. 

As the team filmed professors via Zoom, the story began to unveil different areas of expertise and overlap between topics such as police reform and criminal justice, public health, and social justice. As they amplified different voices, the team discovered different intersections of experience and facets that could be added to the microsite. “The result of this project is greater than the sum of its parts,” said Christopher Min, the Media Production Specialist at CSUF. “This draws people in and the narrative develops among disparate parts.”

Microsite Design

The microsite was built using a custom CSS. Video interviews led the narrative, supplemented with animations, visual elements, and photography. “The project was so wide and deepfrom bubonic plague to slavery, we had to raid public use historical archives and stock photography, then had to leverage continuity across platformsmicrosite, social media, “ Gush stated. 

A screenshot of a website with a header of the Roots of Racism. On the left hand side of the screen is copy that reads: Chapter 2 - The Roots of Racism. On the right hand side of the screen is a video that is a historical depiction of slavery.

Chapter 2 – The Roots of Racism – CSUF Temperature Rising Microsite highlights the roots of racism with historical context and content.

With its chapter book design, the microsite feels almost like a digital textbook. Each chapter has a central topic relevant to the overall theme. Chapter 1 examines pandemics throughout history. Chapter 2 focuses on roots of racism in the United States, while chapter 3 investigates citizen journalism and body cam footage. Chapter 4 reflects on the protest movement. Each chapter of the microsite leverages text, animated graphics, video content, animations and photos taken from protests in 2020, and stock as well as historical photographs.

To add value for their audience and educate the community, the team included an extensive list of resources as part of the microsite design to share more campus-based, academic, and source material.

A black and white globe is in the center of the screen against a black backdrop. This is an animated visual representation of the spread of coronavirus and the inequities of confirmed cases by country globally. The number of cases for each country is called out in red text.

An animated, visual representation of the inequities of the coronavirus reflecting confirmed cases by country, globally.

From Planning to Production

The pandemic posed a hurdle to content development and creation. Creatively, it was difficult to use Zoom interviews with the platform’s technological limitations. Despite this, CSF was able to leverage different resources to offset the limitations of the Zoom-produced collateral. One take away for the team: When conducted with intent, Zoom interviews can be poignant and impactful, and can position faculty experts in a great, personal light.

Social Media Integration 

Once the microsite was complete with robust resources, Jillian Boyd, the Social Media Specialist at CSUF, was tasked with strategically releasing this content across CSUF social media platforms. Jillian asked herself, “How do we share content when our users are exhausted and we want to optimize content?” CSUF leveraged a dynamic social media strategy by posting a chapter every other day for three weeks, releasing 5 chapters in that time. 

Social collateral included looped 15-second teaser videos for each chapter shared, with full length video posted on Instagram and Vimeo. “We tried to optimize this across social media at every single stop, recognizing the social media platform, and leading people back to the mission and values of our university focused on equity, diversity, and inclusion,” Boyd stated. 

The results speak for themselves: 70,000 impressions, 1,022 click-throughs to the microsite for the first chapter alone.

Planning for Discourse and Comments   

CSUF recognized the potential for discourse and diverging viewpoints on social media. They adopted a strategy to let the content speak for itself and monitor conversation within their community. “We recognized that these are polarizing issues. We want to ensure that in crafting these messages, [we are also] maintaining balance and holding space for discourse,” Gush stated. 

Additional Take-Aways and Lessons Learned 

  • Administrative Buy-In: “It starts with knowing your leadership. Don’t surprise them. They should know every development. We kept communication open.” from Michael Mah, Director, Senior Director of Digital Media. 
  • Be Open to the Evolution of a Project: “Where we started is very different from what manifested. Being open to the evolution of the project and being able to pivot the project was surprising and fascinating. This started as a photography project and really developed into a cohesive whole.” from Matthew Gush, Assistant Director of Digital Media. 
  • Evolve Your Storytelling and Content Acquisition: “Let the story tell you what it wants to be. When you make an editorial cut, there is a predatory component to content acquisition. Thinking through how you acquire content is important.” from Christopher Min, Media Production Specialist

What’s next for Cal State Fullerton? 

The microsite has been incorporated into on-campus workshops, on the main university website, and has been one of the most viewed news microsites created by the CSUF team. CSUF Human Resources even leveraged the resources provided by the microsite.

“This opened up a realm of storytelling for the digital team. This takes current, relevant subject matter and showcases our faculty in a new light. It showcased the work we do here, what our students get with their education, and how we can seek change together. We are working on more content to evolve the Temperature Rising microsite and continuing to learn from this project as we apply lessons learned.“ Mahi concluded. 

By Katy Spencer Johnson, EduWeb Summit Community Ambassador, Educator, Consultant, and Content Strategist

#eduWebinar Recap: Unprecedented Support During An Unprecedented Time Tue, 15 Dec 2020 15:40:38 +0000 2020 has upended our lives as we face the stress, anxieties and hardships that come with living through a pandemic. We transitioned to working from home, lost social support systems due to physical distancing and made more and more use of Zoom for everything from meetings to happy hours.

Students on college campuses, if they were able to return to them, found themselves in the middle of this uncharted territory as they navigated health and safety regulations that prevented them from living the “normal” college experience, and added pandemic stress to the usual anxieties of class projects, midterms, finals and grades.

Social media managers in higher ed had a front row view to their student’s feelings, often getting caught in the crossfire as the students let off steam with quick, angry tweets or memes critiquing their institutions. It left many of us sitting back and brainstorming new ways to connect with students and help allay their fears and worries.

Rebekah Tilley, Director of Communications at the Tippie College of Business at the University of Iowa, found a way to do so.



In October, she and her team used Instagram Stories to do a mental health check-in with their students asking simply, “How is your mental health?” Included with the question was a slider that allowed students to choose from 0 to 100. The goal wasn’t clicks or engagement—it was helping their students.

In that 24-hour period, Rebekah’s team responded to more than 100 students who rated their mental health poorly by offering to help make an appointment with a counselor, sharing mental health resources available on campus, and listening to their students’ stories.

Here are five key takeaways from that project as shared on the December 14 #eduWebinar:


  1. Make it your own

    The #HESM community is a great source of inspiration, whether it’s BYU’s Instagram stories addressing sexual assault resources on campus (which was one inspiration for Rebekah’s project) or Dartmouth’s COVID-related informational stories (which I screen shot frequently and which were the subject of April 2020’s #eduWebinar on Community Building in a Crisis), but we can’t just drag and drop other people’s projects onto our own social media accounts.Every one of our audiences is different and we must plan for their unique response to topics and execution.For Iowa, a focus on mental health has been baked into their strategy for years and Tippie College of Business even has a mental health psychologist on staff for enrolled business students. This mental health check-in aligned with their audience who already trust the accounts as engaged and invested in their mental health.

  2. Plan accordingly 

    As Rebekah said, “The best social media happens at the right time.” When deciding when to launch this project, the Iowa team made a calculated decision based on what they knew of normal semesters and their added insights of COVID stressors.October generally brings anxiety and worry for students as they face midterms with an increased workload due to studying and large projects being due. Midterms week also coincides with the usual turn to winter weather in Iowa as the days get cooler and nights get longer. While this can add to feelings of lethargy, during COVID it also means less time and activities spent safely outdoors with friends.The timing seemed ripe to check in with students and provide some much needed support during a long semester.

  3. Invest in social

    This is a two-pronged takeaway.Firstly, successful projects like these don’t happen overnight and they don’t happen in a vacuum. Iowa has a strong collaborative atmosphere with a focus on social media. They have spent years building trust amongst their audience on these platforms across the institution. As Rebekah said, “Day in, day out, week by week we do the work—why is it important? It’s for moments like this when you can step into a place and positively impact people’s lives.”Secondly, Rebekah has five student interns in her office that she uses as the “first and best” focus groups for ideas for social campaigns and projects. One of the interns actually came up with the mental health check-in and saw the whole project come to life!

    Don’t worry if you’re a team of one, though. While interns are a great sounding board for ideas, you also know your audience through and through and are spending the time becoming that trusted place for your students.

  4. Prepare for all scenarios

    Instagram Stories are ephemeral, but require hands on attention if you’re choosing to do an interactive story like this. Iowa sent more than 100 direct messages to students (and even one alumnus) who indicated that their mental health was at a zero on the slider. That takes time, energy and knowing that you have the right people in the room or on speed dial for any scenario.A student intern offered mental health resources during the initial outreach. While most responses were positive, a staff member stepped in for the responses that required supervision or immediate attention.Rebekah has suicide prevention training and knew who to turn to if anyone appeared to be in immediate crisis. She also sought answers to some more in-depth questions about mental health services for students who weren’t on campus for the semester and dialogued with people who had concerns about the semester more broadly.

  5. Manage expectations

    A project like this won’t succeed in a silo with an institutional account doing all of the heavy lifting. Your counseling center and campus psychologists should be looped in before launching to make sure they know you may be calling on them throughout the day with immediate concerns, and that you will be sending a lot of students their way to hopefully improve their mental health.The mental health professionals on your own campus can also help you navigate whether you need language regarding Informed Consent on a project like this.Similarly, while this project was a mental health check-in, Rebekah said to make it very clear that the Instagram account is not and should not be a crisis line. Most often, the social media managers responding to students are not trained to be crisis managers nor is it their job to be. What we CAN do is be a conduit to help connect students with resources that are already in place.

Liz Harter is the Social Media Manager at the University of Notre Dame.

Holding Social Media Space During A Pandemic Thu, 23 Apr 2020 18:17:18 +0000 communication

Across higher education, as Marketing professionals, in good times, we speak toward being genuine, being real, and communicating with transparency. In troubling times, even the most agile organization can find genuine, real, and transparent communication stunted and tentative. We search for the right words and open transparency for our communities of staff, students, and faculty; writing Marketing and Communications missives in a world of editorial by committee.

Instability, fear, uncertainty become part of our dialect even as we strive to avoid triggering words, voicing concerns suddenly challenging.

Now more than ever, social media, marketing, and communications should be brought to the table as a front line resource.

Let me be clear, your marketing and communication team has always been front line, holding space, fielding questions, working remotely on social media and across different technologies. We get the 2am questions about financial aid, the seemingly endless requests for free t-shirts, and the requests for help, connection, and campus services when someone is struggling.

How can you hold space, support your community, and impress upon your college the importance of social media during a pandemic?


Within your Organization

  • Create a Social Media Strategy and allow it to evolve alongside your Emergency Communications Plan.
  • Educate and Remind. Your Leadership may not understand the value of social media. They have HUGE, complex issues they are trying to solve. Frankly, they may have forgotten about your social media. Don’t take it personally. Remind them that social media, especially in light of a pandemic is a huge ally in combating misinformation, can be an asset navigating uncertain times, and smoothing a transition to remote learning.
    • We recommend the Campus Sonar Higher Education Industry Briefing — a weekly update on higher education and social media listening related to Coronavirus compiled by Campus Sonar. Provide an executive summary, don’t expect to hear back, but be ready to move when the organization is ready to move.
  • Guide virtually events and leverage your skillsets. Not every event will be virtual, of course. There will be growing pains and challenging conversations. Start with a shared vocabulary, ask questions, and make the best recommendations you can.
  • Above all, go forth with empathy and patience. We are all tired. This crisis is massive and ever changing. What was relevant as a communication is literally irrelevant with the next press conference or media update. As a social media strategist, digital marketer, you can only move as fast as your organization allows.


On Social

  • Keep Communicating but don’t contribute noise. This is a fine line we tread as Marketers even when we aren’t facing a global crisis. You want to be visible, be available, and provide value. Listen to your community, understand the tone and tenure of conversations, and then brainstorm ways in which you can help others, not only providing facts, figures, or campus updates. Do NOT contribute to the noise, tap into your cold email lists, or contacts providing support when they do not expect to or want to hear from you.
  • Pause your Marketing and review your communications plans with a lens of who is this helping, who may this social media post hurting. Tread carefully as you swing back into frequent social media updates. You do not want to launch a giving campaign when your community is facing job loss, food insecurity, and financial hardship.
  • Explore ways you can provide support if your organization allows you to do so. This is your chance to be human, to acknowledge the zeitgeist and to continue to educate, provide value, and be visible as a resource. You don’t have to go dark fully but you will want to employ sensitivity and transparency.
  • Don’t forget to empower your advocates. Your department staff are ready to do their jobs. Your students can help build content and provide context. They can help you uplift your community — tap into Student Services, Student Life, even Campus Security if you can to do some remote, social media content while employing social isolation tactics.
  • Find the Helpers. Mister Rogers Fans will recognize this sentiment but look for the people in your community who are at the heart of good stories. They will help you as a social media manager find the good and they will uplift your community.
  • Above all, go forth with empathy. Be human first, be the voice of your organization second. Soften your responses.

A pandemic is not business as usual. We now know this viscerally. While some of us work remote and others are asked to come to campus, remember that social media will continue to hold space for your community of staff, students, faculty, alumni, stakeholders, and even the towns in which we work and live. Stay safe, healthy, and engaged.

Build a Culture of Experimentation and Actionable Data Tue, 25 Feb 2020 21:45:08 +0000

Today’s marketing technology offers us access to vast swaths of data that can provide us with valuable insights into our audiences, campaign performance, and key opportunities to pursue. But all of this information is only useful if we know how to arrange, analyze, and act in accordance with the metrics we’re collecting; oftentimes, we struggle to determine what data points we need, how to examine them, and what story emerges once they’re arranged. If we want our work to be fueled by data-driven decisions, we need to know what we have and how to use it.

If this resonates with you, I invite you to join me for my Master Class at the 2020 eduWeb Digital Summit, held August 3 – 5 at the Snowbird Resort. This year’s course is designed to provide you with the resources you need to leverage your data in ways that make a real, measurable difference. In this interactive workshop, we’ll collaborate to create the paths that fuel a data-first mentality for our departments and teams. You’ll learn how to integrate experimentation into all of your campaigns, web designs, and segmented emails, and then you’ll utilize that data as the foundation for informed change. And along the way, we’ll use Google Data Studio to create dashboards so that everything you’re collecting is consumable and informs campus-wide efforts.

You’ll leave this Master Class with:

  • A clear vision of what experimentation is and how it can be integrated into our marketing and communications
  • Hands-on experience with Google Data Studio and how we connect it to our various data sources
  • Confidence in our ability to present the right data points to the right people in order to empower our institutions to make more informed decisions
  • A roadmap for implementing the data-centered mindset we need to transform our work and our teams

This Master Class is open to higher education marketers in all roles, at all levels (or those aspiring to higher ed marketing). No previous experience with Google Data Studio is required; you only need a Google account in order to participate. Want to join me? Register for the 2020 eduWeb Digital Summit; you’ll see the option to include our Master Class when you sign up. And if you’ve already registered, you can easily add the Master Class to your registration. Space is limited and this class will sell out, so don’t wait!

About our presenter: Will Patch is the Enrollment Marketing Leader at Niche, where he aids clients in building and implementing their enrollment strategies and digital outreach. He also shares insights and research on the Enrollment Insights blog, podcast, through webinars, and a monthly newsletter. Prior to joining Niche in the summer of 2019, he served Manchester University for 9 years in roles including Digital Strategist, Social Media Coordinator, and Associate Director for Admissions Operations. Outside of Niche, Will also coordinates the #EMChat community on Twitter, with weekly chats Thursdays at 9:00 PM Eastern.

Stop Holding Yourself Back: Building a Structure That Supports Your Marketing Technology Mon, 24 Feb 2020 22:16:30 +0000

In my day job, I work with schools to optimize their use of CRM technology. One of the key questions I ask my clients is how they will engage with the end-user experience, assess and approve requests to modify the system, and ensure that their institution is using their technology to its full potential. Far too often, the answer is, “We haven’t really thought about that.”

When we begin using new marketing tools, we’re generally focused on learning how various features work and what the system is capable of. But our technology is only as good as the processes that surround it, and we must guide and protect our tools and data with solid business practices. How do we ensure we aren’t getting in our own way in our use of enterprise marketing technology? We build a framework of governance that permeates everything.

Start with Your Stakeholders

To develop the policies and procedures that will serve as your foundation, begin by determining who needs to be in the room. I recommend that you create the appropriate committees to facilitate communication, collaboration, and ongoing training:

  • Frontline power users (representing the range of functional areas utilizing your technology) should meet weekly to discuss current challenges, raise up change requests, and be updated on revisions that have been implemented or are forthcoming.
  • Department heads should connect monthly to set priorities for the opportunities identified by your power users, assess how requests align with larger goals, determine the appropriate division of resources, and identify the broader impact that any changes will have.
  • Finally, divisional leadership should receive formal updates quarterly on how your technology is performing, whether there are opportunities that need a greater resource allocation, and the current priorities to optimize the system.

Equip Everyone

An organizational structure is essential, but from there, it needs to scale so that all users know how to execute on the plans you’ve created. Those at your institution who interface with your technology on any level need to be trained, supported, and heard. This manifests in a variety of ways:

  • Education: End-user training can’t just happen when you first implement or hire a new staff member; it needs to be embedded in your culture. Provide regular refreshers on your operations, and always reconnect with your team when things are modified. Ensure that everyone has a clear understanding of not just what is changing, but also how to engage with these changes.
  • Documentation: Document everything. All systemic processes need to be written down and accessible to those who need it. This means providing detailed instructions in some sort of shared drive or wiki, being as clear and detailed as possible. Not only will this serve as a valuable resource for those with whom you work, but it will create a solid foundation of business continuity.
  • Communication: It should go without saying, but for goodness sake, have open dialogue about how you use your marketing tools. Provide regular updates on decisions being made about your systems to ensure that “I didn’t know that had changed” isn’t a phrase used in your workplace. And on the other side, provide a space for all staff members to lift up their needs and ideas as well.

Prepare to Pivot

Finally, remember that the only constant is change, and you need to assess what works and what doesn’t. This means that your governance framework needs to include regular audits of your business processes and system. Create space to cast a critical eye on how work is done and how effectively it achieves the team’s objectives. Annually, host a larger conversation articulating what has changed over the past year, the biggest current challenges, and key priorities for the next year.

And know when to raise your hand and ask for help. If you find yourself at an impasse, reach out to your larger network of users at other schools. Identify if and when professional services are needed or whether a consultant may be best equipped to speak to your current situation. Leverage the external resources that exist in order to maximize what you have.


At its core, governance is a framework that allows for iterative, effective change. Your school has invested significant resources in the course of procuring your marketing technology, and that shouldn’t go to waste. When your school develops and adheres to a system that fosters dialogue and accountability, you’re creating an insurance policy against the need to correct bad business practices or poor system design down the road. No one wants to do unnecessary work, or face uncertainty regarding their tasks, or feel like they’re uninformed on how everything operates. So let your structure prevent these barriers from arising, then watch as your teams are able to work with the confidence and clarity that drives sustainable, meaningful progress.

Lean On Your Network Mon, 24 Feb 2020 22:08:08 +0000

This is one of my favorite times of the school year. The new year has started, we are halfway through the higher ed calendar, and we can start to see how our strategies have worked out. We are starting to get the hang of new tactics, strategies, and platforms. We also see where we have succeeded and failed, what has worked and what hasn’t.

Every year I see how our expertise in web, marketing, writing, and content creation is used to tell the story and the unique value proposition of our institutions. I see the tough issues that we are being asked to solve. The times where we go viral and the times where our Instagram account is mysteriously switched from a business account to a personal account.

We are asked to do more and more with less and less each year, which can be a challenge each day. Where do we go for support? Where can we find people that know what we are going through? Our colleagues sometimes know, and there might be a few other folks nearby, but most of us go to our industry network. As you think about what professional development you will prioritize this year, you are making an important choice about how to further your professional growth and build your network. One of the things that I have been so proud of over the past 4+ years working with the eduWeb Digital Summit is helping to build a community that people want to be a part of. A community that supports each other year-round, helps answer those tough questions you are struggling with, and helps you deal with that tough situation that you’re facing for the first time.

So when you decide to attend eduWeb Digital Summit this year, you become a part of a network, a community, a new family of amazing people that have an incredible amount of knowledge they are willing to share.

But this year, we’ll be adding a new element to this community: a remarkably different physical space. This year we’ll be coming together at a location like very few in the world: Snowbird, Utah, a mountain top ski resort just half an hour from Salt Lake City.

We will have the whole top of the mountain to connect. We will have unique opportunities to bond over campfires (maybe we can find the fixings for S’mores), on mountain hikes, or from the comfort of the rooftop pool. Come experience something new with us. We promise you that we will have fantastic opportunities for professional growth at a conference like no other.

Don’t Feed the Trolls Wed, 19 Feb 2020 16:32:51 +0000

Social media professionals hear this advice all the time. Viewing constant negativity is bad for our health – it can lead to trauma, stress, anxiety, even depression. It’s one of the top reasons for burnout in our industry and it can be hard to overcome. That’s why it’s important to establish boundaries. Ignoring your institution’s social media after hours is easier said than done, because the Internet simply doesn’t close at 5pm. Monitoring, listening, responding, and posting happens 24/7 and it takes a toll on all of us.

Here are some ways to combat negativity and social media fatigue while keeping your chin up.

  1. Work with your manager to construct rules for after hours. Create a plan where you only check-in after the workday for emergencies, or only during special events each semester. This can help lower your stress level and give you more peace of mind.
  2. Turn off notifications. This can be tricky, as some of my fellow eduWeb friends have experienced. You might want the notifications on during the workday, but at night it’s a different story. Look through all your notifications and decide what’s important and what you can live without. Alternatively, you can also set up ‘do not disturb’ time on your mobile device.
  3. Use social media management software. Tools like Hootsuite, Sprout Social, Sprinklr, Falcon, or Buffer can change your job as a social media manager. They can help automate some of your work and allow you to schedule posts after hours and assist with alerts or keywords. This gives you more free time after the workday to relax and less time posting or scheduling in the evening hours.
  4. Create automated responses for Facebook Messenger. Use the bot feature. This is another time-saver and you don’t have to worry about your Facebook response rating. Creating a bot can give people the answers they’re looking for, or at least allow you 24 hours to respond if you choose to incorporate that language into your newly created Messenger bot.
  5. Hire awesome interns. Internships can create opportunities for students looking to work in the field after graduation, but a well-trained intern can also be a life saver and provide after-hours coverage, which can give you more time to enjoy dinner, or go see the latest Marvel film or a concert.
  6. Stay positive. According to Pew Research, 45% of Americans think it’s more important to allow people to speak freely on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media outlets, but 53% of Americans feel it is more important for everyone to feel welcome and safe when using social media. When you see trolls commenting on your social media posts, remember they don’t know you, and many times they also don’t know the university you represent — it’s not personal no matter what they share. I know it can still be extremely hard to absorb or understand how another human being could say such things, but remember they’re hiding for a reason. On the positive side, there are many stakeholders (students, alumni, staff, faculty) who help self-police comments and come to your aid. Of course, if it gets way out of hand and you need to assemble your crisis communication team, there are more actions you can take.

Bottom line, don’t feed the trolls and don’t let them get you down. Help make the Internet and the social media world shine by infecting others with positivity. It can be hard, but we need to have each other’s back on this. Our health and our livelihood depend on it.