CASE ASAP District IV Conference @ OSU: #LetsGetDigital

I recently had the pleasure of speaking on a digital marketing panel for the CASE ASAP District 4 Conference at Oklahoma State University. Matthew Morgan from the OSU Foundation invited me to speak alongside Chase Carter, director of communications for the OSU Alumni Association.

I wanted to use the #TeamWebComm blog to cover a lot of what I shared in the panel. And hopefully Matthew can send this blog post out to conference attendees and they can see examples of what we were talking about (they were chowing down on some really delicious-looking barbecue while we were speaking, so note-taking, tweeting and Googling kind of took a backseat — can’t blame ’em.)

Here are a few questions Matthew provided me that should pretty much cover what was said on the panel Saturday!

Why is it important to have a digital strategy?

There’s an adage I’ve been hearing quite a lot in digital marketing, and that’s: What gets measured gets improved. Your digital strategy should help keep you and your organization accountable and provide a clear roadmap to the goals you’ve set.

A digital strategy, for the most part, and for the sake of how WE use it, takes the guesswork out of what we do. After working at OU for about two years, I have a pretty good idea of what kind of content works for us or what kind of content resonates with our audience. So when I think about our digital strategy, I want to make sure I’m leaning on those types of content that are tried and true, but also looking at content from a different angle and trying new things. And those new things, if they work out, can be part of our go-to plan next time. And if they don’t work out, we definitely know what to avoid in the future.

Tell me about a successful campaign you were a part of?

This is way too simple to really be called an official “campaign,” but I will never forget when we made it onto MacRumors.com for our “6 Ways Apple Pay Totally Pays Off for OU Students.” I had originally written a press release about Apple Pay being available campus wide, and we wanted to get some buzz going around that. But the press release I originally wrote definitely did not have that “wow factor.” We switched gears and I created a playbuzz listicle detailing all the reasons why having Apple Pay at the University of Oklahoma is so awesome. MacRumors.com picked it up and so did AppleInsider.com, and I got a very aggressive high-five from our associate VP Erin Yarbrough. I was basically the hero of my office that day. Best feeling.

Another favorite success story is the Pride of Oklahoma and the work we did with them in 2015. The Pride directors came to WebComm and asked if we could help them with band promotions and possibly boost their tryout numbers. They made it pretty easy for us because they had a couple really cool initiatives up their sleeve. First, they had just gotten these beautiful new uniforms, and for marching bands, that doesn’t happen quite as frequently as you’d think. And they launched an iPad program in which all the band members got free iPads and learned their music and formations on those.

How did you carry it out? 

What we ended up doing for them was a campaign around both things. For the new uniforms, we put together this really snappy video to create some buzz and ask for donations to help cover the cost.

I wrote a story about the new uniforms and interviewed this gentleman whose family has been making band uniforms across the country for years. Then I worked with an artist to create these old-school paper dolls that you could dress up in the new uniforms.

Pride of Oklahoma paper dolls Screen Shot 2016-03-07 at 4.11.46 PM

We shared the dolls on OU.edu and gave people access to PDF pages that they could print. And meanwhile, they were sharing these through whatever communications they do, which might have included email to students and alumni. And with the iPad program, I did a Q&A with the drum major and our video team put together another cool video.

What were the results?

The paper dolls landed us in The Lost Ogle, which is typically pretty mean spirited, but they actually praised us (it was a real miracle). I also saw them on KFOR. So yeah, we had lots of people talking … And all our efforts did seem to make a difference among those who were interested in trying out for the band. The Pride’s tryout numbers increased by 15 PERCENT, which they were super happy about!

Why do you think it was successful?

We really came at it from all angles. We did the YouTube videos, the written story about the iPads, the story about our drum major, the story about the new uniforms, paper dolls you can print out … We didn’t give people any choice but to notice that amazing things were happening with the marching band. And we weren’t afraid to try something new and unexpected with the paper dolls.

Even after that big push, we continued to promote the band during football season, including writing a feature story on the OU Twirler. It really became a year-long campaign that we will keep revisiting.

What did you learn?

For me it was really helpful to see how we could tie our marketing not just to branding, but to a quantifiable goal like increasing the number of students who are trying out for the marching band. And that’s pushed me to set measurable goals for my content that go beyond page views, but how can I actually get people to go a step further and take action in real life? How do I get someone through the door, to buy something, to try out … Even though we are a branding office, I love to see those goals that you can really wrap your mind around, and if we help other departments on campus market an event, I’m more likely now to inquire about how successful it was. Because my online content can go viral, and that’s great, but if I can’t get someone to take action, what was the point?

How do you or does your department work with campus?

Several months ago my teammate Candace Timmons and I started what we called “Editorial Calendar Meetings.” Because we’re the overarching marketing arm of the university, it just made sense for us to try to get all the marketing and PR people together once a month to see what everyone is focusing on, what needs promoted and what’s coming down the pike for next month. Candace and I would go over what we were planning for the month with a really informal presentation, then we open the floor up for others to share what they’ve got going on. And it really was amazing to see these connections being made right before your eyes. We get a lot of people who are like “Oh, the museum is promoting that? That would actually be a great thing for MY department to jump on board with.” And you see these people partner up on their own to make their marketing even more powerful.

We also communicate a lot of what we want the other departments to know by using our Twitter account @OUWebComm and by putting important information on our #TeamWebComm blog.

And just generally HOW we work with campus … We have a video team, web developers, a CMS migrations manager, a photographer, a social media manager, a content manager … So we really act as a resource for our co-workers across campus and provide helping hands where needed. People will ask us to take on certain projects for them, collaborate with them on projects or just brainstorm ideas with them.

What are some new platforms or features that you have used recently?

It’s by no means new, but it’s fairly new to my web marketing team, and that’s reddit. We’ve used reddit twice now to host AMAs, or these “Ask Me Anything” sessions. The last one was really awesome. Candace and I were helping the College of Arts & Sciences and the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History promote the arrival of Shakespeare’s First Folio to OU. The First Folio is really neat — it was compiled after Shakespeare’s death by two of his buddies, and without it we wouldn’t have 18 of Shakespeare’s plays, like “Macbeth,” “Julius Caesar” and “Twelfth Night.” Needless to say, we really wanted to get the word out about this. We had this great brainstorming session with the two other departments and it really was like, “What can we do online that’s going to translate into more human beings coming through the door to see the First Folio?”

We created this digital marketing strategy that centered on fun and playful Shakespeare content. We made a Shakespearean insult generator for the OU vs. Texas game where these Vine videos with different Shakespearean words or phrases circled through and you had to click on them to get them to stop. Then you string the words together to create the insult. We created Shakespearean-inspired Mad Libs and called them “Bard Libs.” Elyssa Mann from Sam Noble used Playbuzz to highlight some dark and death-y Shakespeare quotes for OU Dead Week. And we used Playbuzz once more to create another interactive quiz challenging you to match modern movies to their Shakespearean roots.

But the one piece of content I thought was the most fun was our reddit AMA with this brilliant English professor who knew absolutely everything there is to know about Shakespeare.

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We had the College of Arts & Sciences find him for us, then he came in to WebComm and first we did a Twitter takeover where people on Twitter asked him whatever they wanted. Then we had him in again to do the reddit AMA in the Shakespeare subreddit and this way, he was nowhere near as constricted as the 140-character limit on Twitter. He went nuts. He had such elaborate and FUNNY responses to people. We ended the AMA with 83 comments total. And he had never been on reddit before. I signed him up for an account, set up the AMA, gave him the login information and just let him go crazy. It was great exposure for us because we were reaching redditors, or people who aren’t just from Norman, Oklahoma, and who might not know anything about OU. Redditors are extremely analytical, bright people, so these types of AMAs where we’re feeding them historical facts and figures and Shakespearean quotes is right up their alley.

What are some things that you are hoping to utilize more in the future?

I try to take our social media posts and others’ posts — or user-generated content — and turn it into content that we can repurpose and share. That’s really what I’m doing when I use Storify to round up Instagram photos and tweets. Or I try to build content around a pre-existing hashtag — like the Storify our intern Ryan Williamson created around #OUBound. Our newly admitted students love posting photos on Instagram and Twitter with their OU pennants that come in their admittance packets. Every year we see these awesome selfies and now we have a nice piece of content that shows them off.

I didn’t mention this at the conference, but I saw my friend Amanda Harnocz had a brilliant social media-inspired post the other day. She works for Cleveland.com, the online presence of the Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper, and she posted “17 Recipes that Use Guinness for St. Patrick’s Day March 17.” She wrote a few paragraphs as an intro, and then she embedded a Cleveland.com Pinterest board that housed those 17 recipes that she had rounded up. And sure enough, I go to my Pinterest page and in the setting there’s the option to make a widget. I had NO idea. So yeah, I think I would like to play around with Pinterest and experiment there, maybe see if we can increase our Pinterest following by creating fun and playful content around our boards.

That pretty much wraps up my contribution to the CASE ASAP District 4 Conference for the “Let’s Get Digital” panel. Big thanks to Matthew Morgan for the invite and thank you to the attendees for their attention and participation!

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