Category Archives: Uncategorized

Billboards: The Good, The Bad & the Sales Reps

I’ve used billboards for our institution for about 25 years.  They’re effective if the message is simple in a dynamic design.  But there are many other things to consider, which I know from good and bad experience.

Do not buy a board unless you know these things:

Its location.  If it’s on the left side of the road you’re traveling, it’s probably a waste.  It’s too far away from the traveler, and most of us don’t look to the left when driving unless we’re quick-checking scenery.

If it’s on the right and too far away, it will be glanced at and not processed.

Even with a board in a good location on a highway, you’re traveling 55-65  miles an hour.  You have 4-6 seconds to see and process it.  The image has to be grabbing and the message has to be brief and dynamic.

If you have too many words it won’t be read at all (a standard rule for anything but really important for billboards).

Do not give complete faith to billboard sales reps.  They’re under pressure to fill the blank space. A sales rep I’ve dealt with for years  pushed a board on an interstate. Great deal.   I asked him to send me a photo of it.  He did.  It appeared to be close to the right side of the highway with a long visual reach.

I bought it.  My graphic artist created a dynamic design.

A colleague drove by and took a picture of it.  Turns out it was actually down over a bank and was visible for a second or two.  The company photographer had walked down the bank and taken a picture of it, making it look like it was next to the highway.

It also turned out that  our president also saw it and was outraged at the rip-off.  My credibility with him was damaged.

My rep claimed he knew nothing about how it was presented to us.

A second board was presented in the same way.  It was smaller but closer to the road.  The problem: the board was behind a small hill and what appeared to have a seven second view was actually about two seconds.

For the most part, sales reps are not trustworthy.  Boards in prime locations go for top dollar.  If a rep tells you he can give you a good deal on a board, it’s because it’s in a bad location and not selling well.

The reps are under pressure to keep the board filled just as radio and TV needs to fill “inventory” and web sites need to sell “real estate” or whatever the latest term is.

With billboards, you need to scout the location yourself if possible.  If you’re doing something out of your area, you need a guarantee that the board is in a good location, and I don’t know how you do this.  We bought a board out of the area where the rep figured we would never see it.  It just happened that an employee was a native of that area and drove by it.  The board  was in a field so far away that the message was barely visible.

For billboards, the message and design is your responsibility.  The rest is up to the reps and with them I give a nod to the X Files:

Trust No One.



Assessment Time

It’s been nearly a year since I initiated this blog. 

I remember sitting in my office on a frigid February evening with my Jedi Web Geek, Jared, filling out the required WordPress entries, then spending the following Saturday creating my first post.

My goal was to write about stumbling around the Web 2.0 world, sharing thoughts, discoveries and other blogs that I find interesting.  For the most part I’ve done that with occasional wanderings.

Checking my WordPress stats, the most popular blog is Lonely Girl 15—Sex, Mystery and Web 2.0.

I suspect it’s being hit by a lot of young males who are disappointed once they begin reading it.  I’ll admit I put the S word in the title by design as an experiment.   But I won’t do it again.  I’m not interested in numbers as much as I am in an audience who cares about the subjects I write about.

Google Communicates with the Dead  and Dead Part 2 and Google Maps Heaven and Hell have been visited continually since I posted them .  I wrote them as a satire, but with all the progress ubiquitous Google makes they just might try it and they just might pull it off.  If that’s the case you can write to that French professor who failed you and tell him you’re glad he’s in Hell.

I’ve written nearly 100 posts and now it’s time for assessment.  Is the higher ed marketing blog helpful?  Entertaining?   Does it contain useful information?

Are there things you’d like me to explore and write about? 

I need to hear from you. 

2007 Top Tens

It’s a warm gray Sunday morning.  Light rain is melting the 10 inches of snow.  Hours are collecting into days that are quietly trudging toward the end of the year.  Al Gore was one of the few bright spots in another year cluttered with drug-dumb entertainers, lawmakers  who aren’t gay and never have been, baby battles and and Paris Hilton.  (I have never seen her on TV, listened to her or watched her have sex.)

The  final days of 2007 are a frenzy of Top 10 lists.  I read them, recognizing or understanding maybe half of the listings.  I always wonder:  why 10?  But it doesn’t matter.  It’s an encapsulation of our collective year.  I’m gong to search  the Net and share as many top 10 lists as I can.  As PR and marketing folks we need to understand the fast-shifting culture we’re in whether we agree with it or not.

First top 10: Simon Dumenco’s Epic Media Meltdowns from the Dec. 17, Ad Age on Line.

Second: John Rash’s Most Watched Shows of 2007.

Both are from 

Reality check:  We’re hawking Socrates while the media is serving up Britney.

Okay.  I’m off to find more top 10s.

Dance Your Job

In my last post I mentioned playing with our dogs and how their play is meaningful, energetic, in the moment and graceful. Wouldn’t it be nice if we all could combine seriousness with playfulness and turn our jobs into art as the dancing cop does?

Surgeon’s Knife, Time, Revelation

I’m standing at the counter at home finally writing  a new blog after some minor surgery which is taking a long time to heal.  (Several friends and associates have reminded me that there is no minor surgery.  I now believe them).  Up to this point, I’d  gotten through life with no surgery.  (I had 24 stitches in my leg after a chain saw accident, but that was local anesthetic and out the emergency room door when finished, so it didn’t count)
For the first time in my life I’ve forced to stop all regular activities.

As I lay on the couch watching movies, listening to healing music tapes, reading Journey of Souls, Firefox for Dummies, and playing with my Mac, I’m finding this:  There are more important things than college presidents,  (and I love my president).  There’s more in life than the latest technology, the fact that Web advertising will out pace radio advertising in 2008, and on and on.
For the first time in my life I’m unable to drive, sit or move fast.  I have entire days and nights with no appointments or deadlines.  I have to create my own life within the parameters of my physical limitations.  While I believe that we do, for the most part, create our own reality, now it is before me with no distractions  It is morning, the day is ahead, how do I want to fill it?  It was all up to me.
I find myself watching movies that had lounged on my shelves for years.  I read books I’d been meaning to for a long time.  I’m forced into a pace I’m not used to.
And as I get used to it, it feels good.
For the first time I appreciated how frenetic my life had become — news releases, publications, podcasts, blogs, speaking engagements, special projects and meetings.  I was counting my life out in minutes, and the problem was I knew it.
The real revelation?
I’m not alone.  Just about all of us in higher ed or any profession, are experiencing the same thing.
I know it’s easy to say we have to slow down, but now that I’ve experienced a slower pace, I can say it with authority.
We’ve allowed  time and technology speed us up to such a degree that we delete art, entertainment, culture, education and contemplation because they take too long.
I’m not kidding myself.  When I’m back on my feet, I’ll probably get sucked back into the fast pace.  But right now, moving very slowly and playing with our three dogs outside and watching their grace, energy and total commitment to play, reminds me that there’s more to life than the professional rush.
If you have kids, they grow up too fast and every moment you don’t spend with them is a moment gone forever.  The moments you do spend with them are eternal.
If your kids are grown, there’s your spouse, the ever-changing art of clouds, the glorious living mathematics of nature.
I love my profession.  It uplifting, challenging and a continual learning experience.
But there’s more.
A one-hour surgery has kept me down for more than a week, a week of introspection, relaxation (okay, a little painful) and quiet enlightenment.
If you want to see what I actually did for more than a week, see my personal blog.
Meanwhile,  just for the heck of it, fill in the blank below, send it to me and share it with others. We’ll all benefit.
There’s more to life than ____________________________

There’s ________________________________

The Gift

I gave a presentation on podcasting recently.  The host was a small private college.  As a thank you gift, the PR director gave me a lovely spiral bound book with the college name and seal embossed in gold on the cover. Inside was a  pen. 

The pages were blank .  Given the beauty of the book, I took it that it was to be used as a diary.

I thought about that gift a lot.  Because I spent many years writing daily notes in tons of notebooks, it really hurt to throw the book away.   I don’t mean any disrespect to the PR director. I suspect thousands of PR, alumni and development folks are giving out things like these.

And I bet no one uses them.  Certainly few people under the age of, say, 50, are making notes with a pen in a spiral bound notebook.   Even grandparents have migrated to computers to exchange emails and photos with their children and grandchildren.

The notebook drove home the realization that the days of holding a pen in your hand and physically creating words on paper are pretty much over.  That’s not an insight that’s going to rattle anyone’s brain but holding something so regal, expensive and useless made me realize again how much our  culture and way of doing business has changed.

If you give out gifts like this, you should rethink how you’re spending your money.

I kept the pen for my post-it notes.

Yahoo!Kickstart Great Site for Colleges

I recently discovered Yahoo! Kickstart, a new (yes! Another!) social site, but this  one has a lot of potential.  Kickstart is a professional network with the goal of connecting college students, recent graduates, professionals and alumni of an individual school.  Students can search for internships or jobs.  They can get career advice and mentorship. 

It’s a great example of niche marketing.  Yahoo! has identified a need, an audience, and found what I think is a simple, effective way to meet that need.

We all know that networking is one of the best ways of starting a career or changing jobs.  Kickstart, if it takes off, will enable alumni to help fellow alumni, especially, (but not limited to), younger alumni or students.  It’s a  new way for alumni to give back to the university in the form of helping fellow alumni.

The site is pretty bare bones right now.  You create a professional profile, including a photo and (for me at least) start recruiting other alumni. 

I’ve corresponded with  Scott Gatz who is heading the project, who says Yahoo! Will be adding more features and growing the site according the suggestions from users.  Sounds good to me.

In a smooth marketing move, Yahoo! will donate $25,000 to the alumni association with the most profiles by Dec. 31, 2007.

If you’ve seen the new site, I’d like your thoughts.  I’d also like to share ideas on how this site can grow and be even more useful to individual colleges and universities.  Mansfield University has more than 20,000 alumni.  If we could sign up even half, what a useful organization this could be to alumni of all ages.  I would think it could be a vehicle for news  dissemination and for announcements of upcoming events.

I have other thoughts but I’ll save them for a future blog.

Check it out at

Send me your thoughts.