Tag Archives: communications

The Successful Message: Sincere & Relevant

Our president, Fran Hendricks, is a retired Air Force brigadier general and a 1979 graduate of our university .
A sincere Veterans Day message from him seemed like it would be appreciated by veterans and non-veterans alike. We wrote a script and he edited it. We shot it with a single camera in his office with the U.S. and Pennsylvania flags behind him. These were not props. They’re part of his office.
He speaks straight into the camera. We cut to B-roll of photos of MU graduates and area veterans from all branches.
It ends with him saying: “Veterans, thank you,” and a salute. We fade to an image of  raising the flag on Iwo Jima.
The music carrying it is “America the Beautiful.”
I had put a lot of thought behind this before we even started. We did not want him in uniform. He is a university president. But after serving the country for 33-years, Fran Hendricks is very much a soldier, and always will be. It’s a source of pride to him, faculty, students, staff, alumni and area residents.
Hendricks is a humble man and I knew that a “message from the president” would not pass muster. He’s a service-oriented person and the university is the greater body that he now serves. The message would be from Mansfield University.
Most importantly, there was no sales pitch. I repeat for all of you PR folks who need reinforcement for your superiors: no sales pitch. No website at the end telling veterans or potential students to check us out. It is a message, pure and simple, of appreciation to veterans and current service people.
The results were heartwarming, inspiring and revealing. We posted it on YouTube, Vimeo, Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook. Our ultra-savvy web person, John Maslar, targeted veterans and bases in a five-state circumference, as well as alumni and students
His stats show show that in a five day period, the video:
-was seen by 125,000 Facebook/Twitter users;
-was shared on Facebook 75 times;
-earned more than 700 likes;
-was retweeted 8 times
-Between likes/views/shares/retweets/clicks, we had about 2,500 interactions.
As John points out: “that’s 18 cents per person who took the time to read and interact with the message.”
The video worked for several reasons:
-It is succinct (1:12);
-Hendricks is straightforward and sincere;
-the message is simple and direct;
-There is no “extra message.”
It gained us appreciation from students, alumni, staff, faculty, constituents and introduced us to new audiences.
Yes, you can count on one hand the number of colleges who have a retired general as a president, but every college has a special person who can convey a relevant message on an appropriate occasion.
Just be clear, concise and don’t pollute it. A clean message has its own halo effect that lasts for years.

In other words, make the salute sincere.


CUPRAP Conference Highlight

The definite highlight of this year’s CUPRAP conference in Hershey, PA was the duo of Karine Joly of collegewebeditor.com and and Mike Richwalsky, assistant director of Public Affairs at Allegheny College.
Karine’s presentation was titled “It’s The Community Stupid! 7 Step Plan to Raise & Nurture any Community Online.”
She kicked off by noting that RSS and podcasting were new/hot in 2005. In 2006 it was blogs with video being the mover in 2007 and social networking and Twitter in 2008.
She also offered several messages building upon Marshall McLuhan’s “The medium is the message.”
In 2008 she mused that “The conversation is the message.” Later in the year she offered that “The conversation is killing the messenger, the message and the recipient.”
During the CUPRAP conference she debuted: “The message is dead, the conversation — diluted on a multitude of social media –is almost impossible to follow.”
How do you catch up and keep up? She asked. The answer: “You don’t.”
You need to define what’s important to you and your create your goals.
Her seven step plan includes:
-Finding your audience’s needs
-Defining your goals
-Participatory design
-Including exclusive, invaluable content in your conversation
-Listen, identify, empower
-Cross promote
-Treat your audience as stakeholders

We’re in a relationship building business and conversations build those relationships.
It’s a masterful distillation of a process that takes shared vision, discipline and a lot of participation.

Here’s the full Powerpoint and videos.

I saw people nodding their heads as Karine reassuring us that we can’t do everything and that we’re on communication overload.  The room full of PR, publications, Web and design people sighed in relief as Karine told us to stop, breathe and think.

Yes, somebody understood and was telling us to slow down.

Then Mike came on and deftly made us sit up, pay attention, take notes, and for God’s sakes, think.

More in the next post.