What’s Your Story? Using Text-Based Video Marketing (guest post by Amanda Greenhoe of Calvin College)

August 24, 2012

Recently, my team set out to tailor a marketing piece to a primary audience (donors), while still engaging other facets of our school’s constituents. To do this, we told a story that touches them all.

Great things are happening where I work, at Calvin College. It’s a 4,000-student, Christian liberal arts college in Grand Rapids, Michigan. And whether or not you have heard of it, students here are being prepared to serve around the corner and across the globe. Our grads are humble, not timid. They’re principled, not closed-minded. They’re deep thinkers, not surface skimmers.

That’s why our donors give. So, in order to tell them the story of Calvin’s 2011–12 academic and fiscal year, we needed to tell the story of our students. But while our recently-released year-in-review video is first and foremost a gift of gratitude to our supporters, it reaches beyond its primary audience.

After watching the video, students feel privileged to be here. Prospective students want to check this place out. Emeriti, faculty and staff are reminded of their impact. Parents are reminded of the school’s value. The public takes notice. And it’s all because we told a story.

Now, not all storytelling is a home run. This video was effectively distributed to donors via a thank-you email and mail piece that directed them to view the video online. It also gave a voice to many areas of the college, which fostered institutional buy-in.

Let’s not forget that this video is also successful because of its format. It combines engaging text and well done typography with fun, high-quality animation, which makes it watchable and shareable (and re-watchable and re-shareable!) While text-based videos do not offer the immediate visual connection that a photo of a student can bring, these types of videos will not be rendered outdated due to graduated students or updated buildings. Text-based videos bring a visual variety in a marketing field filled with videos of talking heads and those that rely too heavily on voice-overs.

The freelancer we worked with used Adobe After Effects to animate our script. If you are considering using a text-based video, I recommend writing your script in-house and relying on the animator for graphics and music. By writing the script in-house, we saved valuable resources. In terms of writing style, the script is short and to the point, which is key for this type of video.

For these reasons, members of the Calvin community are sharing this video via social media, and thereby spreading the word about the ways Calvin is inspiring students to live fully and faithfully.

Is it time for your school to do some storytelling? Know your story, know your audiences, and tell your narrative well.

How are you sharing your institution’s story and encouraging your students to contribute? Please share your comments below. All who comment will be entered into a raffle to win a Calvin College t-shirt and a copy of the book Okay for Now by Calvin professor Gary D. Schmidt.

Amanda Greenhoe serves as Coordinator for Development Communications and Marketing at Calvin College and as a freelance copywriter. She worked for a magazine, a newspaper, and a publishing house before finding her home in higher ed. She loves talking all things marketing and communications. Contact her via email, Twitter, LinkedIn, or her blog, Reach and Rally.


Using Social Media for Student Learning

April 19, 2012

Being able to maximize college students’ use of social media toward learning is going to be a skill higher education professionals will need to master in order to effectively engage our students. Unfortunately, many university faculty and administrators see social media as a mere waste of time and antithetical to the goals and mission of higher education. On Friday, April 20, 2012 at 2:00pm (EST), I presented a webinar titled Using Social Media to Enhance Student Learning Outcomes as hosted by StudentAffairs.com.

The webinar covered strategies for using social media to develop student learning outcomes as well as how to formulate a plan to assess learning outcomes using such social media platforms as Facebook, Twitter, and WordPress. Here is a small sample of social media learning strategies that was covered during the webinar:

Blogging Learning Strategies:

  • Use WordPress as a platform to publish educational information
  • Mine blog comments as qualitative and quantitative data

Twitter Learning Strategies:

  • Utilize unique hashtags for specific classes and programs
  • Employ the “One Minute Paper”: Students will tweet the most important item learned and one remaining question they have
  • Teach “Back Channel” discussion so students can summarize lessons learned from the class or program

Facebook Learning Strategies:

  • “Piggyback” efforts using blogging, YouTube, and Twitter to post educational links and videos on your Facebook page
  • Use “Surveys” and “Likes” as a means to acquire data

This webinar, using CAS standards to develop learning outcomes, demonstrates how college and university student affairs administrators can harness the power of social media as a vehicle for developing, enhancing, and assessing student learning outcomes.

I encourage you and your department colleagues to attend this affordable webinar. Please click HERE to see more details and to register for the replay of this webinar. 


5 Ways to Give on Valentine’s Day

February 14, 2012

Valentine’s Day is that one special day each year to express love and friendship with the people in your life.  This is also a perfect opportunity for your campus organization to spread love and friendship in your community through volunteering, donating, and participating in charity work.

1. Organize or attend a V-Day Event. V-Day is a world-wide movement created to end violence against all women and girls. Click here to read more about V-Day. See how the University of Cincinnati has organized their V-Day Event this year.

2. Collect new and / or unopened perfume, bubble bath, lotions, and make-up. Any kind of feminine luxury item that a person in crisis could find comforting will do. Donate these items to a women’s shelter. “College Feminist Connect” posted an article describing their call to Action: Break-up to Make-up.

3. Maybe your closet is overflowing with Valentine Teddy Bears or other stuffed animals given to you by all of your admirers. Organize a “Teddy Bear and Friends” stuffed animal drive. Donate the assortment to a homeless or women’s shelter where there are bound to be children that can take comfort in a cuddly toy during a time of need. Here is how Connecticut College and Amherst joined forces in their Teddy Bear Drive to benefit a local Children’s Hospital.

4. If you have creative flare, you can make Valentine cards and centerpieces to take to a senior care facility. Here are several links with great craft ideas: Family Fun, Kaboose, Martha Stewart, All Free CraftsOrigami, Candy Free Cards, Valentine’s Day Messages. Talk to coordinators at the senior care facility to work out specific needs at the facility. For instance, candy may be off limits do to dietary regulations.

5. Many hall councils and other campus organizations sell some kind of flowers, candy-grams, or Valentine wishes. Here is a social media take on a traditional idea: Sell Facebook-grams or Twitter-grams on your organizations page or account. For a nominal fee (like $1.00) students can place orders prior to the holiday. Post or tweet the Valentine wishes and donate the money raised to an animal shelter like the ASPCA. Here are some examples of Valentine SMS.

What are some ways your campus organization gives back to the community on Valentine’s Day or any day during the year?  Our readers want to know. Please share your comments below!

Happy Valentine’s Day 2012 from StudentLifeGuru.com.
We LOVE our readers!
@studentlifeguru @reslifesynergy @mhelfrich98


10 Reasons to Blog in Student Affairs

July 26, 2011

No matter if you are an administrator or student leader, your department or organization should have a blog. Listed below are 10 reasons your student affairs organization should have a blog.

1. Connection: Blogs extend your reach. Students are attracted to the way blogs disseminate information. They can quickly scan and get the information they need. Students can also “Like” or “Tweet” information, pictures, videos, or web links posted to your blog to all the people they are connected with. This sharing of your groups information really helps to extend your mission to a larger audience. Don’t forget PARENTS! Your parents will also find your organizational blog a beneficial way to stay connected.

2. Current Information: By blogging you are getting your students the most current information instantly.  There is plenty of information you need to get your students quickly that could be educational, informative, imperative, or just plain fun.

Flood or loss of power? Post procedures and links to campus and town safety resources. Program this week? Post details to publicize and generate excitement. Afterwards, summarize the program and allow for extended learning and discussion. Your Greek Organization is volunteering? Post your blog reminders and updates. Take video or pictures during the event and post on your blog after the event.

3. Support:  Through your blog your students will have access to helpful information 24/7.  One part of your blog is the blog itself. There is also a “website” portion where you can add pages just like you would to a traditional website. Your pages contain your permanent information such as links to campus website, off-campus resources, student code of conduct, check in/out procedures, how to’s, do’s and don’ts, staff pictures and bios, and much more. Standard information that students need access to can be posted to the mainly static pages and the new, timely information will post to your blog on a regular basis. Blogs also allow for comments. This is another way that a student can approach your organization for assistance.  Just be certain to return comments in a timely manner.

4. Engagement: Blogs are interactive and engaging to your students!  Your blog can be full of pictures, videos, polls, comments, twitter feed, web links, and posting buttons for other types of social media (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn).

5. Exchange: Blogs are very useful in soliciting feedback. Blog comments and polls are very valuable in extending conversation between staff and students, students and students, or your organization and its broader world audience.

Of course kudos and positive comments are always welcome. The challenging and most beneficial comments can be those that are contrary, critical, or unfounded. If you take things too personally you might consider these to be “bad” comments.  But there are no bad comments, just good conversation.  Often a “bad” comment can come from a student that has a need or may feel slighted in some way. The way a blogger replies to comments can help shape opinions, educate, and diffuse situations.  Opportunities can spawn from blog comments like connections made, problems solved, face-to-face interactions created, and educational moments.

6. Scheduling: A blog that is updated with events, calendars, agendas, contests, and promotions will keep your students informed of what is going on in your residence hall, department, club or organization.

7. Predictability: When you update your blog daily, weekly, or on a routine basis, your students will know how and when to expect information.

8. Human Touch: Your blog will bring a personal nature to your technological web presence. Blogs are conversational and less formal in how information is presented. There can be a sense of fun with a blog, and it provides a “human touch” to an increasingly technologically-oriented student.

9. Assessment: Your organizational blog is an informal tool to assess what your students are learning, what goals are being met, and what changes you need to make. You can use comments and quick polls to gauge what students are learning from programs or other educational initiatives. If you use a free WordPress blog format such as this one, (StudentLifeGuru.com) you can track the effectiveness of your blog through statistics, track backs, and search terms.

10. Eco-Friendly:  Yes, it is time to kiss that monthly paper newsletter good-bye! Go green! Save some trees and start a blog for your organization.


Are you already blogging for your organization? What suggestions would you add to this top ten list to encourage others to begin a blog for their area? Have you received similar results from your blogging experiences?


Guest post for TheSABloggers.org: Content Rules (Social Media Book Review)

January 5, 2011

 I have written a new post for The Student Affairs Collaborative regarding a newly published (2011) book titled Content Rules: How to Create Killer Blogs, Podcasts, Videos, Ebooks, Webinars (and More) that Engage Customers and Ignite Your Business by Ann Handley (@MarketingProfs) and C. C. Chapman (@cc_chapman). Although the book is primarily written for entrepeneurs, the 282 page book would definitely benefit student affairs professionals and student leaders alike who are looking to develop and market educational and social program initiatives on campus.

Click HERE to read the entire article.


10 Resourceful Leadership Tweeps You Should Follow

November 12, 2010

Twitter has established itself as a critical and useful social media tool.  Simply by using the # (hash sign) coupled with your choice topic, you can tune into a global conversation with immediate results. As student leaders, graduate assistants, and higher education professionals, your interest in leadership and getting the most up-to-date and best leadership content is paramount to your work. 

@Studentlifeguru has been following #Leadership for nearly a year.  Below is a listing of the Top 10 Tweeters of quality leadership resources:

1. @LeadershipNow – Michael McKinney from Pasadena, CA posts great leadership insight, quotes, articles and resources. Profile: Lead From Where You Are. LeadershipNow works to build leaders at all levels and in all contexts. http://www.leadershipnow.com

2. @TheLeaderLab – With over 10,000 followers, LeaderLab prides itself in the advancement of leadership theory and practice. Profile: LeaderLab is a community of resources dedicated to the advancement of leadership theory. http://theleaderlab.org

3. @LeaderInfluence – LeaderInfluence is hosting an online event by posting video of 30 influential leaders for you to view for free. Profile: LEADERSHIP & INFLUENCE SUMMIT. A free online event. 30+ Leading Experts Share Strategies on How To Maximize Leadership and Influence Effectiveness. http://www.LeadershipAndInfluenceSummit.com

4. @LeadershipFreak – Dan Rockwell is the face behind LeadershipFreak and hosts a comprehensive blog that covers leadership topics ranging from conflict resolution to personal growth. Profile: Blogger, committed to helping leaders reach higher in 300 words or less. Connecting, listening, learning. MBA-Happily married. http://www.leadershipfreak.wordpress.com

5. @DrJohnMcGinn – Dr. John McGinn publishes a free newsletter, and as an incentive for signing up for his newsletter, you can receive a free e-book entitled “How to Build Self-Esteem.” Profile: Executive Coach, Leadership Consultant: Helping others achieve a more compelling, goal-oriented life, filled with significance and success. http://drjohnmcginn.com

6. @JohnCMaxwell – John C. Maxwell is one of foremost authorites on leadership on the globe. He is most well-known for his books, including The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You and The 360 Degree Leader: Developing Your Influence from Anywhere in the Organization. Profile: Bestselling author & speaker on leadership. Christian. Blogger. World traveler. Assisted here by Stephanie Wetzel (SW) admin@johnmaxwellonleadership.com http://johnmaxwellonleadership.com

7. @LeaderTalk – LeaderTalk is an awesome leadership blog  hosted by Mountain State University’s School of Leadership & Professional Development in Beckley, WV. They offer advice and free resources that you’ll find helpful! Profile: Mountain State University’s leadership blog. http://leadertalk.mountainstate.edu

8. @simonsinek – Simon Sinek hails from New York and offers insightful nuggets of information that are thought-provoking and useful in working with and leading people. Profile: To run and jump and laugh and cry and love and hope and imagine…to experience as much as I can all for one purpose: to inspire. http://www.simonsinek.com

9. @BrianKDodd – Brian Dodd is from Woodstock, GA and has an interesting and neat spin on leadership with a religious flair and a penchant for sports and pop culture. Profile: Brian Dodd is a church stewardship & leadership consultant. http://www.briandoddonleadership.com

10. @Nunavut_Teacher – Our friend from the Great White North (Nunavut, Canada) is a dedicated educator. I contend that leaders are teachers, and Brian offers great Tweets that any leader can benefit from! Profile: Grade9Teacher, thinker, change advocate, idea man, guitar man, technology guy, self directed learner, adding creativity into everything I do. http://nunavutteacher.blogspot.com/

Feel free to comment to this post, and let us know who you follow that offers great leadership advice, resources, and inspiration.


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