Social@UMW: A Social Media User’s Group

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Last year, I had a revelation – if we really wanted to be effective at social media on a university level, we needed to talk to each other. Not just a quick “hey” in the hallway or passing “how are you,” but real, honest discussions about the big stuff – strategy, goals, and challenges. This wasn’t my idea. In fact, social media user’s groups have been cropping up at campuses all over the country in recent years. We needed a forum where staff from across campus could come together to brainstorm ideas, learn best practices, and serve as a support network to each other. The solution for us was Social@UMW. Here are our takeaways from the process: Make sure you can articulate the reason(s) and purpose for the group. For us, it was providing a space for brainstorming, sharing best practices, and providing support. Do your homework – I talked with colleagues at other institutions in Virginia and D.C. (thanks, Georgetown and William & Mary) to learn about how they structured … [Read more...]

Let the Tweeting Commence!

We displayed tweets on the Jumbotron before Commencement.
Photo from @uofmarywashington (Instagram).

Though other universities have been incorporating social media into graduation ceremonies for years, 2014 marked the first year that the social media stars aligned at University of Mary Washington’s Commencement. We wanted to establish a dedicated hashtag for UMW Commencement – we went with #UMW2014 – and promote “live tweeting” on the Jumbotron prior to the undergraduate ceremony. Our goals and overall strategy: engagement of parents and students prior to the ceremony generation of user generated content to populate our Commencement website in the future engagement of family members and alumni who couldn’t be present for the ceremony itself This year was in effect a pilot project for us. We had very little funding available and very little time to pull our plans together. We also had to negotiate between several different offices at every juncture. After researching companies and talking with our colleagues at other institutions, we settled on TweetWall. We … [Read more...]

April Fools!

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April Fools! Gotcha, didn’t we?! No – Sam D. Eagle is NOT the new face of UMW, no matter how nimble he is! (But…it does make for an intriguing viewbook cover, doesn’t it?) In University Relations we often get questions about how we come up with our ads and branded photos, which are showing up in more and more places. And we realize that it seems to some of you that we just threw them together with no thought behind them. Not true! It all starts with our organized photo shoots, which we usually have twice a year. Maria Schultz, our assistant director of design services, coordinates these shoots. And they are a process, as she explains below. Step 1. Recruit! This year, we created a webpage through which students interested in serving as models could submit an application. We pushed out the casting call via social media and a few old-fashioned print flyers. With one posting on social media we had more than 60 applicants! (And no – Sam D. Eagle did not apply. … [Read more...]

What’s in a Name? Changing the Username of a University Social Media Account

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When it comes to names, Shakespeare and I can agree to disagree. To me, names are important. They signal for us what is at the core of an object or thing. For people, our name can become part of our personal brand. And for universities, names are central to recognition and loyalty. Sometimes, objects outgrow their original names. In our case, our central university account, @UMWnews, needed a virtual name makeover. But first, a little background. UMW first created a Twitter presence in October 2009 (eight months after joining Facebook), primarily as one more platform to disseminate information about news and events on campus. The name @UMWnews fit at the time. Nearly five years later, after reflecting on the purpose of the account and about our larger social media strategy – think meaningful engagement with all of our university audiences – we decided that @UMWnews no longer was the best fit. Why we changed the name: to better speak to our audience (our followers are … [Read more...]

Dorothy, It’s a Twister: Communicating in a Crisis

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Just as the skies outside our office building in Eagle Village were turning ominous, the alerts sounded: Fredericksburg was under a tornado warning and a severe thunderstorm warning until 3:30 p.m. We understood the seriousness of the warnings – that the threat of a tornado was imminent – and knew we needed to take precautions. We grabbed our laptops, cell phones and purses and headed to what we considered to be the safest place to ride out severe weather – the concrete stairwell of the building. The Emergency Management team sent out notifications to the UMW community through the AlertUMW system, while we posted to the UMW website and to social media. As the wind whistled outside, the rain pounded the building, and the temperature rose to more than 90 degrees, we hoped our students, faculty and staff had heard the warnings and had decided to heed them. Within half an hour, we received the “all clear” and relayed the good news through our channels. Thankfully, a tornado … [Read more...]

Keeping Your Brand Alive

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Your brand is living. The graphics on a page are not. The content on your website or in your brochure aren’t alive either. They cannot react to criticism, respond to negativity with a positive attitude, or exhibit your brand personality traits through a silent action. Nonetheless, your brand is alive through you, and every person in your organization. You are the brand, your team is the messenger, and your actions can either make or break your brand. Ever been to a Disney park? Exactly. Every person employed by Disney must go through their brand training, because if they do not put the brand into action, then it is disposed of as quickly as a park brochure is thrown into the garbage can. Working in the relations and communications department of a public university brings a myriad of challenges. If your purpose is to be the central point of all internal and external communications, but nobody sees you as the central communicator then… well… you aren’t. We are met with criticism … [Read more...]

University Relations. What does that mean?

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The name of our office – UREL for short – means different things, depending on who you are. If you are an outsider to the University of Mary Washington, we relate to you on various levels and through various means: Facebook, billboards, a magazine, admissions materials, the web, a Great Lives program, press releases, the Philharmonic, media advisories, or sponsorship of an event. If you are part of the Mary Washington community, we are in a relationship with you. We provide information via all of the above means, but also through EagleEye, digital signage, emails, posters, videos, etc. We also strive to meet all your communication needs – publicizing your conference, attracting prospective students, pitching your stories to the media, designing the commencement program, drawing people to campus, and promoting your programs. You can remember us because we are a: Unifying Resource for Enlightening and Lauding This blog is for you. We are in the PR business but we don’t do a … [Read more...]