A Unique Way to Celebrate College Football Season

Georgia Tech mascot
When I travel, I like to scope out college campuses. At the very least, I like to take a peek at a campus from the roadways on the edge of campus. It’s interesting how different and how similar campuses can be.

On my latest trip, which took me to areas near Atlanta, Georgia, I saw a unique way to celebrate colleges and their football teams: topiaries of SEC mascots from the region. These topiaries were on display at the Callaway Gardens Sibley Horticultural Center in Pine Mountain, Georgia. Here are a few of the topiary mascots:

Alabama topiary

University of Alabama

LSU mascot

LSU

Auburn mascot

Auburn University

Florida mascot topiary

University of Florida

 


About Dana’s Creative Services

Dana’s Creative Services is a writing and editing services company that helps businesses, including colleges and universities, communicate better with their target audiences. Dana McCullough, owner of Dana’s Creative Services, writes and edits copy for brochures, newsletters, websites, marketing e-mails, blogs, magazines, and books. She frequently writes and edits copy on higher education, genealogy/family history, health, and business topics. Twitter: @DanasCreative

Using LinkedIn to Generate Alumni Stories: Part 2

In my last blog post, I provided tips on how to find alumni information via LinkedIn to generate alumni story ideas. Today, I’ve got step-by-step details on how to find alumni employment data to use in your higher education communications and marketing materials.

FINDING ALUMNI EMPLOYMENT INFO ON LINKEDIN

LinkedIn

LinkedIn college alumni employment data

Step 1: Go to your college’s LinkedIn page. (If you don’t know your school’s LinkedIn URL, do a Google search for your college name and the word LinkedIn.)

Step 2: At the top of the page, two graphs will appear that show employment data. The data is based on information in LinkedIn profiles of your alumni. One graph shows company names of the top four companies where your alumni work. The other graph shows the top four most popular job titles for your alumni. (Note: If this data doesn’t appear right away, click on the Home tab under your college’s name.)

Step 3: Click the More link under either graph of data. This will take you to a page with one additional category: Where They Live. It also will show you expanded data so you can see more than the top four most popular places where alumni work and job titles that alumni have.

Step 4: Use the arrows by the graph results to see even more data, including where they studied (so you can see what, if any, graduate schools your alums have attended) and what alumni are skilled at.

Step 5: Use the data you find in marketing pieces. For example, use information on where alums have studied to show which prestigious graduate schools your alums have gone on to attend. Or, use information on where they work in recruitment brochures to say our alumni are employed at X, Y, and Z companies.


About Dana’s Creative Services

Dana’s Creative Services is a writing and editing services company that helps businesses communicate better with their target audiences. Dana McCullough, owner of Dana’s Creative Services, writes and edits copy for brochures, newsletters, websites, blogs, magazines, and books. Her clients include universities, nonprofit organizations, magazine publishers, and book publishers nationwide. Dana has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and frequently writes and edits copy on higher education, genealogy/family history, health, and business topics. Twitter: @DanasCreative

 

Using LinkedIn to Generate Alumni Story Ideas: Part 1

Finding alumni success stories to share in alumni magazines, online news stories, and recruitment marketing materials can sometimes seem like a daunting task for college communications professionals. But with all the social media tools at your disposal, it’s never been easier to find out what alumni are doing.

The next time you’re asked to find alumni story ideas turn to LinkedIn first. On LinkedIn, you can see aggregate data on companies that hire the most alumni from your school, and you can search by your college name to find alums and check out what they’re doing today. Here’s how.

FINDING COLLEGE ALUMNI ON LINKEDIN

LinkedIn

LinkedIn alumni search results

Step 1: Log in to LinkedIn and click on Advanced Search. The Advanced Search box will give you several options of information to enter. In the School box, enter your college’s name.

Step 2: The default results will show you people from your school who share your connections. To search all of LinkedIn for alumni (not just your connections), check the All box under the Relationship section to the left of your results.

Step 3: To review results, click on each page of results or the Next button. If you’re looking for a specific type of alum (such as a recent alum who’s been in the workforce less than 5 years, or an alum working in the financial services or hospital/health care industry), you can narrow results using the categories on the left: Current Company, Industry, Past Company, School, Years of Experience, Function, Seniority Level, etc.

Step 4: Before you use information you find here, contact the alumnus or alumna to confirm the information is up-to-date. If one alum’s job or company sounds interesting, contact him or her to schedule an interview so you can learn more and get a story for your website or alumni magazine, or get a quote for a recruitment marketing brochure.

In my next blog post, I’ll cover how to find alumni employment data on LinkedIn.


About Dana’s Creative Services

Dana’s Creative Services is a writing and editing services company that helps businesses communicate better with their target audiences. Dana McCullough, owner of Dana’s Creative Services, writes and edits copy for brochures, newsletters, websites, blogs, magazines, and books. Her clients include universities, nonprofit organizations, magazine publishers, and book publishers nationwide. Dana has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and frequently writes and edits copy on higher education, genealogy/family history, health, and business topics. Twitter: @DanasCreative

5 Ways to Save Costs on University Marketing Mailings

Marketing BudgetCollege and university marketing budgets are tight. Budgets may not increase as paper, postage, and printing costs increase, but direct mail is still an important part of an integrated marketing campaign.

Over the years I spent working in higher education communications, I learned a few tricks to cut costs of direct mail pieces. Here are a few of those tricks that may help you cut costs, too.

Paper weight
Each printer usually has a standard sheet they use on most projects. Ask your printer what its standard sheet is. Is it an 80# gloss text? A 70# matte text? If you typically print your tri-fold marketing brochure on a 100# gloss text sheet, and the printer’s standard sheet is 80# gloss text, consider making a change.

In most cases, adjusting the paper weight won’t produce a noticeably different result. If you use the sheet the printer uses the most of, you may be able to get a price break.

Paper size
Find out from your printer what the largest sheet size is for the paper you’re using. The less paper sheets you use, the lower the cost. If you’re creating a postcard and the largest sheet for the postcard paper is 11×17, you can do the math to figure out what size to design your postcards in order to maximize the space on a single sheet. This way you might be able to get six postcards, rather than four, from a single sheet, thus reducing your costs.

You can do this on all projects—from marketing postcards and trifold brochures to alumni newsletters and magazines.

Folding
Folding came in handy to save money on an alumni newsletter I created several years ago. Having the printer fold our 12-page newsletter to mail saved us big bucks in postage. The reason was that by folding the newsletter in half, it could mail at letter prices rather than as a flat.

If you really need to save some cash to balance your budget, consider folding a newsletter-style piece. In addition to saving money, it also helped prevent it from being torn up in the mail.

Quality of your mailing list
This is important, especially on large mailings. For every mailing you do, you should get your mailing list NCOA (National Change of Address) certified. NCOA certification compares your mailing list with change of address information provided to the U.S. Postal Service in the last four years.

The printing and/or mailing house you use should be familiar with this. Running your list through NCOA certification may cost a small fee, but it will be well worth it if you don’t waste money sending to incorrect addresses. Plus, you may be able to reduce your print run (and your printing costs) if a large chunk of the addresses on your list end up being removed via the certification process.

Bundling printing and mailing projects
As you plan deadlines and mailing dates for marketing pieces, consider which items can be bundled for printing and mailing. For example, if you need to create three postcards, and all go to different audiences but can be dropped in the mail at the same time, bundle these together. If the postcards are all the same size, you can save money because you’ll be buying in bulk.


About Dana’s Creative Services

Dana’s Creative Services is a writing and editing services company that helps businesses communicate better with their target audiences. Dana McCullough, owner of Dana’s Creative Services, writes and edits copy for brochures, newsletters, websites, blogs, magazines, and books. Her clients include universities, nonprofit organizations, magazine publishers, and book publishers nationwide. Dana has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and frequently writes and edits copy on higher education, genealogy/family history, health, and business topics. Twitter: @DanasCreative

The Most Overused Terms in College Marketing

frequently used wordsOver the years, I’ve seen numerous lists of words overused in press releases or other marketing materials. Today, I’ve come up with my own list of terms I see overused in college recruitment marketing brochures, advertisements, and websites.

If you really want to set your school apart from others, avoid using these words and phrases that others use.

  1. Small class sizes (most overused!)
  2. Hands-on (often used in phrases like hands-on research, hands-on experience, hands-on education)
  3. State-of-the art
  4. Cutting-edge
  5. Unique
  6. Innovative
  7. Personal attention (also personalized attention)
  8. Rigorous academics
  9. Award-winning (usually pertains to faculty or the overall university)
  10. Conveniently located
  11. Quality education

In most cases, adjusting the copy slightly can help you avoid these overused terms.

Give concrete examples of the “hands-on” work students do in a laboratory or classroom. Tell me what supercomputer or specific top-of-the-line microscope you have instead of telling me you have “state-of-the-art” facilities or labs. Provide examples, quotes, or anecdotes that show experiences that differentiate your college’s offerings from other colleges, rather than just calling your services or offerings “unique.”

Additionally, if you’re looking for words to replace these overused ones, check out Rhyme Zone, an excellent free online thesaurus that provides not only synonyms, but also related words. Even if you don’t use any of the words they suggest, it may help you brainstorm and provide the creative inspiration you need.

How do you avoid using overused terms in your marketing materials? Leave a comment on this post or tweet me @DanasCreative on Twitter.

Image credit: Created courtesy of Wordle.net


About Dana’s Creative Services

Dana’s Creative Services is a writing and editing services company that helps businesses communicate better with their target audiences. Dana McCullough, owner of Dana’s Creative Services, writes and edits copy for brochures, newsletters, websites, blogs, magazines, and books. Her clients include universities, nonprofit organizations, magazine publishers, and book publishers nationwide. Dana has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and frequently writes and edits copy on higher education, genealogy/family history, health, and business topics. Twitter: @DanasCreative

College Marketing: Finding a Voice That Speaks to Today’s Teens

Teen voiceBefore a recent campus visit at a small liberal arts college campus for a copywriting project, a colleague of mine and I discussed how to find the right voice to speak to prospective students in high school.

She confided in me that she recently went to a local bookstore and picked up stacks of magazines, including Seventeen for girls and, for lack of a better option, a skateboarding magazine for boys. In the past, I had done a similar thing: looking to magazines that targeted at teens to discover catchphrases and study the tone of voice used.

When we met with a group of current college students—mainly freshmen and sophomores—of the campus, our eyes were opened when we asked them what magazines they read.

Magazines?” they said. “I don’t really read magazines. But I do go to a lot of websites.”

Of course this would be their answer. These students are part of the new crop of Generation Z students: the digital natives. Their answer reminded me that those magazines targeting teens are written by “old folks” like me, too, who are trying to be the voice students want to read.

So how do you capture a voice that high school students want to hear? Read what teens are reading. Go to websites where teens go. And find content written for teens, by teens.

According to Niche, Inc., which had high school students in the Class of 2014 rank the websites they use most often, a few of the most popular websites among teens are:

Other studies show video-sharing site Vine and photo-sharing site Flickr increasing in usage among teens.

If you’re not familiar with these sites, check them out. You may learn something about the teenage audience and their interests—and you can then adjust the voice and style of your copy to better speak to them. It also could inform your decisions on where to spend your online marketing dollars.

Image credit: Courtesy of imagerymajestic/FreeDigitalPhotos.net


About Dana’s Creative Services

Dana’s Creative Services is a writing and editing services company that helps businesses communicate better with their target audiences. Dana McCullough, owner of Dana’s Creative Services, writes and edits copy for brochures, newsletters, websites, blogs, magazines, and books. Her clients include universities, nonprofit organizations, magazine publishers, and book publishers nationwide. Dana has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and frequently writes and edits copy on higher education, genealogy/family history, health, and business topics. Twitter: @DanasCreative

Importance of Packaging for College Recruitment Materials

College and university marketers can take a lesson from Newegg.com in how to package their recruitment and admissions materials.

Just look at the packaging on a recent item my husband received from Newegg.com:

creative packaging

In case you can’t read it, the package says: “May contain awesome. Take it from a geek.”

Newegg.com knows its customers—and the packaging shows it. Because of these eight words printed on the box, it creates even more excitement for the person receiving the package to open it.

How much excitement do the envelopes that enclose your recruitment marketing materials create? If your envelopes simply have your university’s logo and return address, I’m guessing not much. That level of excitement—or lack thereof—may impact the reach of your materials. We all know we’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but we all do.

How does your packaging show you know your audience? As shown in the Newegg.com example, a little copy, plus a little design can go a long way. It can show (rather than tell) your prospects (and/or their parents) that you understand them. And it may set your materials apart from the piles of materials they’re getting from other colleges.

Distinguishing yourself from the others via your packaging can mean the difference between your piece being tossed in a recycling bin or being opened.

Does your university use a creative packaging to deliver your materials to prospective students? Please leave a comment or tweet @DanasCreative on Twitter. I’d love to see the creative ways you’re packaging recruitment marketing materials.


About Dana’s Creative Services

Dana’s Creative Services is a writing and editing services company that helps businesses communicate better with their target audiences. Dana McCullough, owner of Dana’s Creative Services, writes and edits copy for brochures, newsletters, websites, blogs, magazines, and books. Her clients include universities, nonprofit organizations, magazine publishers, and book publishers nationwide. Dana has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and frequently writes and edits copy on higher education, genealogy/family history, health, and business topics. Twitter: @DanasCreative

Best Blogs for Freelance Writing Newbies

Freelance BlogsWhen I first started freelancing I turned to blogs of men and women who had “been there, done that” to get advice on starting my freelance business. Today, I continue to read many of these blogs to stay inspired and to be up-to-date on the conversations others in my field are having.

If you’re a newbie freelancer, here are a few blogs I have found useful and you may, too:

1. Make a Living Writing. This blog by Carol Tice was a great help when I was first starting out, especially her posts about setting freelance rates, what different markets pay, and transitioning to a career as a full-time freelancer.

2. The Renegade Writer. When I was a summer editorial intern at Family Circle magazine, I remember fact-checking articles written by Linda Formichelli. I enjoyed her articles, and afterward I started seeing her byline in tons of places. I wanted to write for magazines like she did. When I was considering quitting my day job and becoming a full-time freelancer, I read Linda’s books The Renegade Writer and Query Letters That Rock (both co-written with Diana Burrell). I started reading Linda’s blog, too, which has even more practical advice for freelance newbies.

3. The Well-Fed Writer. Peter Bowerman’s The Well-Fed Writer was another book I read before getting the courage to make the leap to full-time freelancing. The book is kind of a no-nonsense guide of how to land copywriting work, and the freelance rate information in here was yet another super-helpful resource in helping me to determine my freelance rates. His blog has equally great advice.

4. MediaBistro. This site has lots of blogs, based on your interests in the media world, but what I found even more helpful than the blogs here were the site’s How to Pitch articles for tips on pitching story ideas to different magazines. It helped me land an article assignment from a magazine I hadn’t written for before. In my opinion, the MediaBistro subscription fee is well worth it.


About Dana’s Creative Services

Dana’s Creative Services is a writing and editing services company that helps businesses communicate better with their target audiences. Dana McCullough, owner of Dana’s Creative Services, writes and edits copy for brochures, newsletters, websites, blogs, magazines, and books. Her clients include universities, nonprofit organizations, magazine publishers, and book publishers nationwide. Dana has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and frequently writes and edits copy on higher education, genealogy/family history, health, and business topics.

Photo Coaster Family History Craft Project

Family Photo CoastersWhile writing an article on family history craft projects for Family Tree Magazine, I came across several awesome examples of how to create tile photo coasters to display family photos. After being inspired by The Frugal Girls and Oopsey Daisey blog posts, I decided to create my own set of photo tile coasters—and they turned out great, if I do say so myself.

With my cousin’s wedding coming up, I used old family wedding photos on the coasters to create a unique, personalized wedding gift.

Below is a step-by-step guide to how I created these photo tile coasters, but to get started, here’s a list of the supplies I used:

Family History Photo Coasters

Project supplies

  • photo paper
  • a paper cutter
  • 4×4 white tiles (obtained from the home improvement store)
  • a foam brush
  • Mod Podge
  • adhesive felt circles
  • a skinny felt-tip pen
  • a clear, glossy sealer

Step 1. Gather and edit photos. I knew my aunt, who is interested in genealogy, had several old family photos. I asked her for copies, and she scanned them using her Flip-Pal mobile scanner to create digital files. I took the digital files she provided and used Adobe Photoshop to convert them to grayscale (black-and-white) images. I also adjusted the levels and contrast, so the images wouldn’t print too dark.

Step 2. Print and cut the photos. Once I had edited the photos, I used a desktop publishing program (I used Adobe InDesign, but you could also use Microsoft Publisher), to place the pictures in 4×4-inch boxes. I then adjusted the image to center it in the frame.

Next, I printed the images on photo paper using my home printer. Finally, I used my scrapbooking paper cutter to cut out the images.

Family Photo Coasters

Apply Mod Podge before and after placing the photo on the tile.

Step 3. Apply photo to the tile. Before applying a photo to the tile, I set the photo on the tile to ensure it was the right size and to see how it lined up. If it was a little large, I trimmed the photo with scissors. I then wrote the name of the wedding couple along the bottom of the tile, and allowed the ink to dry.

Next, I used a foam brush to coat the tile with Mod Podge, and then pressed the photo on the tile. After allowing this to dry thoroughly, I put three coats of Mod Podge on the top, allowing each coat to dry thoroughly before applying the next.

Family Photo Coaster

Sealer to use on top of the photo

Step 4. Apply sealing coat. To ensure the photo would be sealed and water-resistant when drinks are set on it, I used a water-based sealer I already had on hand from a different project: Minwax’s Polycrylic clear gloss, water-based protective finish.

I applied three layers of this sealer, allowing each layer to dry thoroughly before applying the next. (Note: Other bloggers have used other materials like a clear acrylic spray or resin to seal their photo coaster projects.)

Family History Craft Project

Close-up of final photo coaster project

Step 5: Adhere felt backing. To create a soft surface on the back of the tiles that won’t scratch a coffee table, I adhered four adhesive felt circles to the back of each tile. I placed the felt circles in each corner of the tile.

For more family history craft and holiday gift ideas, check out Family Tree Magazine.


About Dana’s Creative Services

Dana’s Creative Services is a writing and editing services company that helps businesses communicate better with their target audiences. Dana McCullough, owner of Dana’s Creative Services, writes and edits copy for brochures, newsletters, websites, blogs, magazines, and books. Her clients include universities, nonprofit organizations, magazine publishers, and book publishers nationwide. Dana has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and frequently writes and edits copy on higher education, genealogy/family history, health, and business topics.

College Marketing: New Insights on Student and Parent Digital Communication Expectations

Digital CommunicationHave you seen the latest Noel-Levitz E-Expectations survey results? The results were very insightful. Here are three findings that surprised (and pleased) me:

1. Nearly all high school seniors and their parents will open an e-mail from a campus they are considering. As a former college recruitment marketing professional, I often wondered if the e-mails we carefully and strategically crafted each year had an impact. It appears students and parents do at least look at the e-mails, as long as the student is already considering your school.

This is good news and validates all the time and attention spent on crafting these e-mails. And it reinforces the importance of e-mail communication with students and parents who have not only inquired, but also who have applied and been accepted to your college.

2. Nearly 40 percent of high school seniors use Twitter. Just a couple of years ago, I heard much debate on college campuses on whether it was time for the recruitment offices to jump on the Twitter bandwagon. At the time, only a small number of teenagers were on Twitter, and at smaller colleges (with smaller communication and marketing staffs) they wanted to make sure they put their resources where they would reach the most potential students.

This new stat means that if your college isn’t on Twitter, now’s the time to jump in. And if the recruitment and admissions team isn’t involved in your college’s social media, now’s the time to get them into the fold.

3. More than half of students and parents are willing to receive text messages from campuses. As smartphones have become commonplace (90 percent of high school seniors and 80 percent of parents have access to a mobile device, according to the survey), it seems students and parents are becoming more receptive to receiving communication from colleges on their personal mobile devices.

This finding is contrary to a commonly held notion that teens think of their device as “their space” and don’t want colleges or marketers to infringe on that space by texting them. It appears texting is becoming a more widely accepted method for colleges to communicate with students. If your marketing team hasn’t yet considered incorporating texting as part of your recruitment communication flow, now may be the time to start exploring it.

Did anything surprise you in the Noel-Levitz survey? Leave a reply here or message me on Twitter @DanasCreative.

Image credit: Kromkrathog/FreeDigitalPhotos.net


About Dana’s Creative Services

Dana’s Creative Services is a writing and editing services company that helps businesses communicate better with their target audiences. Dana McCullough, owner of Dana’s Creative Services, writes and edits copy for brochures, newsletters, websites, blogs, magazines, and books. Her clients include universities, nonprofit organizations, magazine publishers, and book publishers nationwide. Dana has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and frequently writes and edits copy on higher education, genealogy/family history, health, and business topics.