Archive for the ‘Winter 2012’ Category

SEEN AND NOTED

Seen and Noted

Monday, January 30th, 2012

Is your campus a best-kept secret? Then what’s the secret and why aren’t you telling people about it? Cram Quarterly is here with ideas that will help you become a destination instead of a hidden treasure.

SEEN AND NOTED

Seen and Noted

Monday, January 30th, 2012

The clerk texting on his cell phone at a magazine kiosk in Rome is a symbol of the uncertainty facing today’s alumni magazines. Recent surveys find that the majority of alumni still prefer the printed magazine over the electronic version. What will the future hold? We predict it will be a combination of the two.

REAL WORLD MARKETING

Miscellaneous observations from an educational communicator’s perspective

Field experience

Monday, January 30th, 2012

Field experience On a recent visit to Chicago, we joined a queue of shoppers waiting to pose for photos in front of the Marshall Field sign on State Street. Sadly, the store is no more. It was bought by Macy’s in 2005 and has been operating as a Macy’s store since September 2006. Field’s may be gone, but it is certainly not forgotten. A survey taken in September 2011 reported that 4 out of 5 Chicagoans still prefer Field’s to Macy’s. There have been protests every year in front of the store, and several customers have crashed shareholders meetings to confront Macy’s CEO. All of this is evidence of the enduring popularity of the Marshall Field brand. Brand loyalty is not reserved for retail businesses—ask any college or university PR director who has been through an institutional name change. The key to making a smooth transition is to move slowly and involve as many people as possible in the rebranding process. Students, alumni, faculty, and community leaders need to be heard. If you move forward without hearing from them, you may be facing some serious post-name-change damage control.

Contributed by Domenica

REAL WORLD MARKETING

Miscellaneous observations from an educational communicator’s perspective

Amazon’s new cutthroat practices

Monday, January 30th, 2012

Amazon’s new cutthroat practices Amazon.com has begun using brick-and-mortar stores as a showcase for products it sells online through its Price Check app. Consumers are encouraged to scan the barcode on a product or take a picture of it, then leave the store and buy the item from Amazon—at a 5% discount. The website lets customers have their cake and eat it, too, by giving them a product they can touch and feel, at a discount price that competitors can’t match. Amazon does not seem interested in the idea that this campaign could drive local retailers out of business. Ultimately the consumer is the biggest loser—fewer jobs in the community and fewer choices in the marketplace.

Contributed by Domenica

REAL WORLD MARKETING

Miscellaneous observations from an educational communicator’s perspective

Making the call

Monday, January 30th, 2012

Making the call Last fall, during the annual NACAC conference, high school seniors and college freshmen provided insight into how they prefer to be contacted by colleges during the admissions process. The students explained that they do not always appreciate institutions’ social media efforts. Even though the “millennial generation” has been raised on technology, they prefer personal reach-out methods, like the old-fashioned phone call, over texts and Facebook posts. While it’s beneficial for institutions to maintain a social media presence, when it comes to the nerve-wracking admissions process, hearing a human voice may help ease fears and build prospective students’ confidence in their college choice.

Contributed by Katie

REAL WORLD MARKETING

Miscellaneous observations from an educational communicator’s perspective

Competing with the big boys

Monday, January 30th, 2012

Competing with the big boys Samsung’s new Galaxy SII is taking on the Goliaths (Apple and Android) who currently dominate the smartphone industry. In recent ads like the one shown above, Samsung pokes fun at blindly loyal Apple customers waiting in line to buy the latest iPhone without considering other options. We applaud Samsung’s approach, which calls attention to how their phones are different from Apple’s: a larger screen, 4G speed, thinner profile, longer battery life. HP similarly distinguishes its tablets from iPads in its advertising. Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but the most effective form of marketing is to demonstrate how your product or service is different from the competition.

Contributed by Theresa

REAL WORLD MARKETING

Miscellaneous observations from an educational communicator’s perspective

Technology and the disappearance of objects

Monday, January 30th, 2012

Technology and the disappearance of objects The Chicago Tribune, self-styled as “The World’s Greatest Newspaper,” filed for bankruptcy in 2008, and the fate of its venerable building on Michigan Avenue (shown above) is uncertain. As more of us turn to tablets and e-readers, will papers like the Trib end up in the Museum of Obsolete Objects? Recent data show an overall increase in digital newspaper subscriptions, which will help keep journalist enterprises afloat. But the thin pages and rub-off ink of the newspaper might go the way of the rotary phone, the typewriter, and the pocket calculator.

Contributed by Domenica

REAL WORLD MARKETING

Miscellaneous observations from an educational communicator’s perspective

Would this sign save your life?

Monday, January 30th, 2012

Would this sign save your life? Shown above is an “instructional” sign I saw on a bus. It’s supposed to show you how to open the window in an emergency, but it is completely confusing. The two diagrams look the same, yet one has a red “x” over it. Why is one right and the other wrong? Let’s not wait for a life or death situation to be sure what we say is what we mean.

Contributed by Domenica

FEATURE : Highway 61 (and 66, 41, 30, and more) revisited

Highway 61 (and 66, 41, 30, and more) revisited

Monday, January 30th, 2012
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Jean Bevier is a graphic designer with a passion for language, typography, and the open road. Last summer, she bought a new Honda Civic and spent half a year cruising around America’s network of secondary roads. From the Lincoln Highway to the Dixie Beeline, she photographed the fading signage that marks the motor courts, drive-in theaters, service stations, roadside stands, and coffee shops of small-town America. Her photographic odyssey has resulted in a series of gorgeous images that chronicle the remnants of our country’s original highway culture. Alarmingly, many of the signs are so weathered and dilapidated that before long they will be gone forever. Also vanishing is the proud connection to place that spurred the roadside signage boom of the 1930s through the 1960s.

Jean explains that the U.S. highway system was originally designed to connect one town with another across the country. Roadside signage helped each town brand its unique persona and entice motorists to stop for a closer look. Today, however, the goal of the interstate system is to bypass towns so that travelers can move from point A to point B in the shortest possible time. This diametric shift cut off the oxygen to countless towns, hastening their economic collapse. Motorists now stop at generic chain hotels and fast food joints clustered at the interstate exit ramps. In essence, we have found a quicker way to get to Nowhere in Particular.

The decline of America’s secondary roads is a cautionary tale for educational communicators. New technologies are like the super highways of communication. Faster, more efficient technology should not replace brand strategy, but instead help us reinforce it.

Click on photos to enlarge, click again to close photos.

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Photo series above by Jean Bevier. Click here to see more of Jean’s American signage series.

Jean Bevier is an assistant professor of graphic design at Dominican University in River Forest, Illinois. Jean’s work explores language and typography through a variety of media. Jean is an emeritus member of the University & College Designers Association (UCDA), having served on its Board of Directors as well as co-chairing two national conferences for design educators. She has been a UCDA member since 1990 and currently serves on the UCDA Foundation Board of Directors.

FEATURE : Case magazine webinar Q&A

Case magazine webinar Q&A

Monday, January 30th, 2012

On December 7, 2011, Brenda led a CASE Online Speaker Series called “Get Real, Get Read: Producing a Magazine Your Alumni Will Read” with Dale Keiger, University Publications, Johns Hopkins University, and Betsy Winter-Hall, Executive Director, Alumni & Development Communications, Temple Magazine. The webinar was so well attended that our panel was unable to answer all of the audience questions in the allotted time. Below is a selection of questions answered after the webinar by Brenda, Betsy, Tina Hay, Editor of The Penn Stater magazine, and Michael B. Shavelson, Editor in Chief of Columbia Magazine.

1. What are some specific things that you can do in a print magazine that you can’t do otherwise?
Betsy: You can control the layout—placement of the elements in relation to one another, fonts, etc. This is something HTML is not good at, as its formatting is so browser-specific. And attempts to fully control online design—PDF, Flash—really undermine the strengths of the web, which are access and information. Also, part of the relationship with readers is being in their home, in their hands. That tangibility is very powerful.

Tina: The print version is portable, easier on the eye, and does more justice to the design than an online version would.

Brenda: Print magazines also allow for more focus. If a an online reader links to another article, they move away from your magazine and can easily get lost on another site, never to return.

2. What are your thoughts on putting paid advertising in the magazine?
Betsy: I think it can serve several good functions; in addition to offsetting costs, it is legitimizing (it makes the publication feel more like a consumer magazine) and it highlights places and products relating to the university and our readers’ experience of it. My aim is for Temple magazine to contain paid advertising within a couple of years. The challenges, of course, are staffing and postage (we currently mail at nonprofit rate, which would not be permitted with paid ads).

Tina: We’ve done it for many years—probably 20 or more. It helps fund some of the magazine’s expenses, but it does not completely underwrite the cost of the magazine.

Michael: I strongly endorse paid advertising, although selling print advertising has become more and more difficult. Ad revenue helps the bottom line, of course, and that might promote greater independence for the magazine. Paid ads also make the magazine look more serious.

3. What tools do you use to gauge readership?
Tina: We participated in the CASE readership survey, which I highly recommend, and we also do a small survey after every single issue of the magazine. The sample size on the latter is very small, but over time—and we’ve been doing it for 14 years, I think—we’ve amassed a lot of data. The trends are unmistakable and very informative for us. I’d be happy to share a PDF explaining this every-issue survey; just send me an email at tinahay@psu.edu.

Michael: Focus groups, letters to the editor, and a survey of readers conducted by an outside research firm have all been helpful to us.

Brenda: Find out more about the CASE national readership survey here (CASE log-in required).

4. Can you provide some examples of compelling stories that will draw in readers? What content is the most engaging and attractive to readers of alumni magazines?
Betsy: Answered broadly, people like reading about things they see as relevant—to themselves and to the larger world. We find that our readers like knowing about the institution’s role in activities that are meaningful or tangible to them—such as laser research at Temple that could change how common surgeries are performed, and a nonprofit run by alumni that works to exonerate wrongfully convicted people.

Tina: I could talk about this for days! In general I think readers are drawn more to stories, i.e., to strong storytelling with good narratives, some human interest, some emotion, etc., and less to news releases. They’re more interested in the personal than the institutional.

Michael: The magic is in the mix. The content needs to be varied. Knowing your audience is the great art of editing a magazine. Sports coverage is of no interest to some alumni groups, but essential reading to others. Fiction to some audiences is a welcome treat and probably of no appeal to others.

5. How do you convince administration to take risks with magazine content and design?
Tina: That’s a very common challenge in our business, isn’t it? I could talk about that for hours too! Around here we talk about being “reader centric,” about competing (with newsstand magazines and all the other media out there) for people’s attention, etc. You might also try baby steps … making small incremental changes. Very short answer to a big dilemma, I realize.

Michael: Tell your boss, “We need to respect our readers.”

Brenda: Risk means stretching your boundaries, going into new, unexpected territory. A publication that is willing to take those steps will find readers piling on for the ride. If everything is “safe,” why bother leaving home?

I like Jeff Lott’s suggestion of volunteering for committees outside your department. This will help others develop a level of respect for the work you do. If you have their respect they will give you the opportunity to take more risk.

6. How much should fundraising appeals be a part of the magazine?
Michael: There should be a firewall between fundraising and editorial. When development wants to run an ad, development pays for the ad. On the other hand, some development stories are of legitimate editorial interest. The largest-ever gift a college has ever received should certainly be a lead news story. Or, an engaging story about how a new gift enabled 10 low-income students to attend gratis, or a piece about how another gift permitted a new clinic to be built can be of great interest, as long as what the gift does is more important than the gift itself.

FEATURE : Georgetown University McDonough School Investors Report

Georgetown University McDonough School Investors Report

Monday, January 30th, 2012

GCF created an Investors Report for Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business as a thank-you to donors for their support. Not only does the report thank donors, but it also uses engaging infographics to showcase what their donations made possible.

NOTEWORTHY

The scavenger hunt goes high-tech

Monday, January 30th, 2012

The scavenger hunt goes high-tech Colleges have started using SCVNGR as a fun way to engage prospective students and alumni on campus. Players complete tasks, such as scanning a QR code at a particular location, and earn points for each challenge they complete. Some schools are using SCVNGR to give visitors something to do while waiting for a scheduled event or in place of a guided campus tour.

NOTEWORTHY

Pin-up URL

Monday, January 30th, 2012

Pin-up URL A new online community, Pinterest, provides users with a free virtual pinboard where they can save images of things found on the Internet. Users can come back to their pins later, organize pins into categories (known as boards), share with “followers” or their friends on Facebook, and see what others are pinning. Oberlin College, for example, has its own Pinterest, which reflects the culture of its campus community.

NOTEWORTHY

Mirror, mirror, on the wall

Monday, January 30th, 2012

Mirror, mirror, on the wall The New York Times Company R&D department created a prototype mirror/tablet that helps you incorporate digital information into your daily routine. If made commercially available, the device would allow you to check the weather while you’re brushing your teeth, for example. The mirror responds to voice commands so you can have your hands free. I wonder how many people would actually use a “smart mirror” and how many would resent the intrusion of information into one of the few rest rooms left in the house.

NOTEWORTHY

RFID: Contrived or cutting edge?

Monday, January 30th, 2012

RFID: Contrived or cutting edge? Radio frequency identification (RFID) is another new location-based technology that people can use to share their experiences through social media. Here’s how it works: let’s say you’re visiting a college. You get a wristband embedded with RFID technology, which you can then swipe at various locations around campus, and you automatically update your Facebook status—no computers or smartphones needed. I can’t help but wonder if students would see this as a gimmick. Today’s freshmen are technology savvy and accustomed to marketing tactics. Are harried administrators—who jump on new technology to keep their institutions on the cutting edge—going to be disappointed as users stop allowing themselves to be tracked?

COOL TOOLS

Cool tools

Monday, January 30th, 2012

Hold the phone Made to plug into your iPhone’s headphone jack, these old-school receivers bring back memories of corded telephones.

Four resources for infographic creators Get your data from Google Public Data Explorer, or incorporate your own data. Then, use Hohli to make customized scatter plots, Venn diagrams, bar graphs, and other charts. Need something less linear? Wordle generates colorful word clouds from text or a website, and Visual.ly is a site where you can create graphics that tell a story without all the numbers.

Inspiring minds If you’re a designer looking for visual inspiration, check out Designspiration to view images that others have found invigorating.

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Monday, January 30th, 2012

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FEEDBACK

Do you have comments, questions, or story ideas that you’d like us to cover in an upcoming issue of the Cram Quarterly? If so, email Brenda or call her at 410-467-4672.

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