Talking Points: Encourage an environment where self-starters will thrive

Managers don’t need to touch everything

  • Give self-starters a sense of ownership
  • Help develop a trust-based relationship
  • Don’t compete or attempt to be better than your staff
  • Give self-starters access to leadership

Celebrate successes, never dwell on failures

  • Nothing kills self-starters’ attitudes like harping on missteps
  • The best innovations were always preceded by failures
  • Not everything is a home run, small things count too
  • Do not just show up when thing go wrong

Allow for space

  • Never allow the words “we’ve always done it this way” stand
  • Let self-starters challenge the status quo
  • Don’t let self-starters cut themselves off from the group by being too rigid
  • Look for opportunities to launch a career rather than keeping butts-in-seats

Ask more questions

  • Rather than making statements, ask questions
  • Set clear expectations and then step back

How are you running staff meetings?

  • Do you always talk first?
  • Is there space on the agenda for others?
  • Don’t list the meetings you will attend, focus on the why
  • Never have a meeting to justify existence

Call projects “beta” or “demos”

  • Self-starters want to be able to try new things
  • If something didn’t work, be willing to kill it off; self-starters may have trouble letting it go
  • Try an agile approach if possible; more small goals, sprint to get something done and out into the world

Broadcast email and the marketing mix: 5 things to remember

1. Real value is calculated

I can show you how email drives traffic to websites, but translating that into actionable data that can be used to create priorities, budgets, and employee focus is another matter entirely. Email isn’t sexy, it just works. And of course it works, it wouldn’t have lasted this long if it didn’t work. But we must spend the time to justify resources for this old medium. University Communications has plans to implement an email testing and analytics platform later this year to dig further into the value of sending email. I will share our learning back out to the community quickly, but we can’t stop there.

The current untested theory is that Ohio State sends too much email to our constituents. However, the platform drives significant traffic to our websites. Surveys, focus groups and one-on-one conversations this fall and winter will help determine both how our constituents are consuming online services and tools, and what products are connecting and keeping them engaged in the life of the university.

This coming year you should determine what your email campaigns should be doing, how to test them for success, and when to implement change based on your learning.

2. First place you notice an offering. So what’s the call-to-action?

Yes, the digital world is changing our lives, and new tools replace old tools. But some paths remain well worn for a reason. Email is how LinkedIn signals to you that a colleague wants to connect. It’s how Twitter chooses to share with you that you have new followers, and suggest other people to follow. Most social media services have reminder emails associated with their service. Many people first get wind of an event, opportunity, news story or highpoint by browsing a well crafted email message. OSU Today has maintained between an 8,000 and 11,000 open rate throughout its history.

So if this is how people are reminded to connect with a service, how are you using the medium to make sure the content creates the right call-to-action? What are the lessons social media and other markets can teach us about using a well-crafted call-to-action? Test out ideas and segment your audience to try new things. Try placing events at the top of the message and more internal news at the bottom. Create special landing pages within your website just for email traffic and match the call to action and tone of the e-news with your landing page.

No one solution will work for everyone, but attempting new tactics will get you more data to analyze.

3. This has got to work on a phone

Mobile email use chartSo you aren’t a designer, let alone an email designer. Not a problem. University Communications will release mobile friendly, branded email templates later this year based on what we learn from increased analytics and testing. This is no longer a nice-to-have marketing resource. It has become a must-have. While we are relying on general industry statistics rather than our own numbers to begin heading down this path, mobile first is now a major force in all we produce in the digital space for Ohio State.

Check back with me in the fall and I will have more to say on this matter.

4. Personalized doesn’t mean leading with a name

If your target audience lives in a certain area of the country, surprise them with content that would only make sense for someone who lives there. If your audience are all degree holders of a specific academic area, surprise them with news about current student success within that area. This is true personalization. Adding a user’s name to the greeting of an email will more likely increase the creepy factor. Try making your audience feel connected to your area of Ohio State through the strategic placement of content.

5. Must move to an opt-in model

I know you have access to your alumni email addresses, I know that faculty, staff, and students have email addresses stored in PeopleSoft, and my area is just as guilty as everyone else in sending out unsolicited email messages… but there is a better way. When e-newsletters are opt-in the click through rates are doubled, and sometimes triple that of unsolicited messages. If your content isn’t good enough for people to want to opt-in, start improving your content. Once you have that going well, a  call-to-action within your e-news should  register new users and ask loyal ones to share through email forwarding and posting to their personal social media.


Digital Strategy + Case Studies

Ohio State’s Big Digital Idea
Ohio State constituents, just like the rest of modern society, are actively using digital, social media and mobile services and tools. The university must offer equally compelling services and content in this space to engage, excite, motivate, and inform our audiences. We must transform our approach to how we offer digital experiences. We must be faster to adopt industry best practices, and we must share data about and for our audiences throughout all Ohio State digital applications for the benefit of user experience. We must adopt a Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA) approach to every digital experience we construct – independent of any vendor, product or technology. By moving quickly and reacting to new opportunities, we will keep Ohio State constituents engaged. We will surprise, educate and motivate our audiences by offering personalized and relevant online experiences.

Ohio State’s Digital Strategy – Draft – 

  • Deliver digital services that absorb the complexity of Ohio State on behalf of all users.
  • Make available, and continually improve priority user-centered services for mobile use.
  • Decouple data, presentation and end-point delivery.
  • Measure performance and user satisfaction to improve services.
  • Foster collaboration through encouragement and support from a digital services advisory group.

Deliver digital services that absorb the complexity of Ohio State on behalf of all users.
Ohio State’s constituents should not have to seek out department after department to get a full picture of what Ohio State has to offer. Our user-centered approach means that we will make it easy for them to find and share the information they need and to accomplish tasks.

Case Study – Media Magnet
George, an Ohio State alumnus in chemistry, receives the e-newsletter Connect, and follows a link to an interesting story about recent research advances in his field of study. While on the research feature page, the alumnus looks for more information about other advances related to chemistry. However, because there is currently no way to communally tag content across departments and units, the only content George sees are others items from the e-newsletter.

With the proposed Media Magnet project (contact to learn more), all Ohio State units and departments can participate in an aggregation service that will solve George’s problem. When content is tagged and shared in a common, predictable way, web applications can be built to take advantage of new content without human intervention.

Media Magnet

Make available, and improve priority user-centered services for mobile use.
Make priority information and services available on demand and on any device. Doing this work creates the opportunities for sharing data, pulling from common data resources, and making experiences consistent across a multitude of devices and platforms. This involves identifying the highest-priority services to optimize for mobile use.

Case Study – OSU Mobile Grades
OSU Mobile (iPhone/Android) has been a wonderful addition to Ohio State’s digital landscape. Not only are students able to check their final course grades using a mobile device, but with the most recent version, students are able to log in and see Carmen quiz and test grades. This new section of OSU Mobile is called “My OSU.”

Debra, an Ohio State alumna, is interested in continuing her education. If her account was activated, she could log in using OSU Mobile and see her grades from past quarters/semesters. She could order her transcripts directly from the same screen. Capabilities like this turn into engagement opportunities for continuing education, mentoring or volunteer opportunities, and more. A possible engagement tactic would be to provide Debra volunteer messages with strong calls-to-action alongside her personalized experience on OSU Mobile. Creating opportunities where the mobile experience continues through the life cycle of an Ohio State constituent is a major key to keeping alumna like Debra engaged in the university beyond the student years.

Grades on OSU Mobile

Decouple data, presentation and end-point delivery.
A college or unit’s website is not the only destination for the content and services offered through their business functions. Content, data, transactions, services, and profiles will be shared using a web services model. Applications can be built to personalize and customize content and services for individual users.

Case Study – Ohio State “portal”
As a recent alumnus, Tess would like to apply for graduate school. Since Tess has been out of school for two years, her account is no longer active. In fact, Ohio State messaging has directed her to create a new account in the TAS system. She is now online, trying to apply using her TAS credentials. Tess is getting frustrated with her online experience.

Ohio State needs a common portal for alumni, students, prospective students, faculty, staff and donors.  This web and mobile interface would follow alumni like Tess through the entire relationship life cycle. To make this digital relationship worthwhile for users like Tess, all units at Ohio State need to participate. If data is available about Tess’ relationship with Ohio State, it should be shared – with all security measures enabled – to create a robust user experience.


Measure performance and user satisfaction to improve services.
Develop objective performance measures and identify tools to measure performance and satisfaction with digital services. Create benchmarks and use analytics and surveys to constantly review user satisfaction with our digital services and content.

Case Study – A social digital partnership
Social media extends conversations beyond the traditional boundaries associated with marketing. Hashtags, direct responses, encouraging input, and other tactics create communities around topics in the digital space. Ohio State must use these, and other tactics, to engage and then direct our constituents to new opportunities – career development, volunteerism, event attendance and ultimately giving to the university.

Lucia graduated from Ohio State’s College of Business before it was named Fisher College. She has a great affinity for Ohio State, but has not given volunteering for Ohio State much thought. By placing messages in our e-newsletter products, social media channels, and traditional websites all directing Lucia to return to Ohio State digitally to re-engage through volunteerism, we create an opportunity to bring Lucia back into a meaningful relationship with her alma mater.

Tactics likes these are highly measurable. Ohio State must begin to put values onto Lucia’s interactions so that baselines can be created, and growth over time can be measured.


Foster collaboration through encouragement and support from a digital services advisory group.
In combination with units and colleges, an advisory group is needed to excite and activate our Ohio State digital developer and communications community. A core group of leaders will identify opportunities for sharing content, create policies where necessary, and establish best practice models. Led by a “Big Idea,” the advisory group will empower supporters and allow teams to form where inspiration and innovative opportunity meet. Overarching principles must be agreed to in order to get this off the ground. A core majority of the organization must be bought-in, and a “get-to” environment needs to be established to motivate volunteers. People must be inspired by the new opportunities, and invited and encouraged to participate through many small acts of leadership and recognizing successes.

Case Study –
Tony is a developer in University Communications. He’s worked at Ohio State for seven years – mostly at the college level providing web support and development to faculty members and department chairs. Tony has a long history with needing to recreate services because he has no data access to an authoritative source. He and other talented university developers launched a new service called the University Code Repository (UCR). UCR is a software repository management platform using git. UCR was created as a tool to provide a university-wide resource for code management, code review, and general collaboration for software projects at Ohio State.

Through encouragement from his peers and manager, Tony became excited about the UCR project because he saw a need, he saw how his skills and talents could influence the future direction of Ohio State. This type of staff engagement and involvement largely goes undocumented, and is not widely known about outside of very specific communities. This type of staff engagement is how the future digital Ohio State experience will be constructed.




What Social Media Knows That Broadcast Email Must Figure Out

Conversation Clip Art
©Clay Sinclair

Social Media is the digital equivalent of having a really smart and cocky younger sibling. Everything he does seems to overshadow the rest of the family… and it’s all stuff the older kids did (maybe half as well) years and years ago. The older kids, in this overly extended metaphor, are of course the Web and Broadcast Email.

The oldest child is of course the Web. Producing a website takes writing skills, a tremendous amount of design skill, and if you are lucky, a large chunk of coding skill (although coding seems to be the least invested in). The web has to be “rebuilt’ every 3-5 years, and someone needs to own a long term vision for how it will be received by not only end users, but internal stakeholders, peers, bosses, business partners, and the list goes on and on.  Running a university’s website is a full time job for three or more people, and to do it well you need five or more.

The middle child, in this scenario, is Broadcast Email (we don’t call them Blasts because that’s tacky). Building, curating, cultivating, and data mining lists is the difficult background work, and it largely goes undone. It’s just plain easier to send everyone everything. Segmentation is possible, but the more segmentation the more extra work is created, and a disincentive springs up around innovation and creativity. Most Broadcast Email strategies are centered around speaking loudly in one direction to fill the business needs of a unit or program. Users are almost never considered during planning – other than how they can become ticket buyers, donors, participants.

Social media on the other hand, has decided to start having conversations with audiences (Novel, I know). And so much like a younger sibling, most social media managers don’t have a long history of trying, and failing and trying all over again at technical and design tasks that, at times, seem as large as painting the ocean. I’m thinking pre-CMS, pre-CSS… No, instead they have dashboards, vendor tools, built in analytics and reporting. No grinding of teeth to get something to align 255 pixels right of center.

So sure, social media get’s picked on. But most of what social is doing (timely posts, audience interaction, measuring ROI in near real time) are things both Web and Broadcast Email can learn a lot from.

Like listening and responding to an audience. Does your email strategy include answering every question generated by your last email send? Are you soliciting a two-way conversation directly within the copy and designs you send out? Are you trying to generate engagement *and* awareness? Your social media manager is. And social media is eating your lunch broadcast email. You better hurry up and figure out how to create relevancy before the your audience tunes you out for good.

This blog post came out of planning for a lunch and learn being held at University Communications’ South Campus Gateway offices later this month. If it goes well, and is well received, i.e. adds value for folks, I’ll turn it into a UC Academy session.

Embracing failure?

A Marketplace story that aired this morning on my way to work got me thinking about failure. The story was about the website, and it’s current status as a zombie website. A zombie site is one that still functions as if it were competitive, active, and relevant, but will never break out from its minuscule user-base.

Is it okay to embrace failure? Or should lack of success be viewed as something to always avoid?

Sectors of the tech industry consider failure a “badge of honor,” to be celebrated as risk-taking adventure. Blazing new trails often leads to failure. According to the Wall Street Journal, three out of four startups fail.

The question for Advancement/Communications is whether this same ratio is applicable for projects within our larger organization? Do three out of four projects fail? Is this an acceptable rate? If we are batting higher than .250 are we taking on enough risk to be innovative? Are we trying enough new things to approach this 1/4 rate of failure? And should this be something we are aiming for?

The tech industry and venture capital may tussle over the correct way to celebrate or punish startup failure, but here in higher education Advancement/Communications failure is seen as a bit more taboo.

What is your tolerance for failure?

Segmenting and streaming user experience

Segmenting and streaming user experience

Trying new things can be both a luxury and a headache. But status quo rarely moves us forward. In the long run, the new things we try become go-to tactics that move our work into alignment with goals and strategies.

One place where Ohio State has potential to engage our alumni, donors and friends? Streaming live events on the Web.

Live web streaming plays directly into the Advancement goal of enhancing audience segmentation and analytics to deliver the right messages to the right people. There are two parts to this goal: measurement and analysis, and content creation and personalization. Streaming is rich media content, and each online event is an opportunity to measure and analyze how users interact with us. Do our audiences watch the event live, follow on social media or view the archived version at a later date? Or do they ignore the event entirely?

Web streaming isn’t cheap, but when it is promoted and tracked accurately, it can deliver stimulating, relevant content to the right audience. Engaged audiences help Advancement staff learn new things about what users want in the digital space.

The recent “Symposium on the University President” was a chance to share strategic, high-quality content while tracking audience interest in Ohio State’s online offerings.

The symposium–an August panel of current and former university presidents from across the country, convened by the Board of Trustees–helped frame Ohio State’s search for a new president. Streaming the event live on the Web gave us an opportunity to try new tactics. A variety of channels were used to get the word out, but one of the most effective and trackable turned out to be a reliable standby: broadcast email.

To track who was most interested, we divided our alumni/donor email distribution lists into six categories based on work Edelman Consulting did with Advancement in 2011. We then used those lists to measure specific audience segments’ interest in this type of programming. Each email message to each segment contained the same content, and was sent out at the same time of day, but used different links created specifically for each group. These links synced up with Google Analytics, the online link tracking and measurement tool. This approach allowed us to see that alumni identified as Life-Learners were most interested in the symposium, followed by Enthusiasts and Connectors.

As we continue to identify opportunities to learn more about what our audiences are interested in, we can send them more relevant opportunities, thereby increasing engagement with our alumni and friends.

It’s Social, It’s Local, It’s Yammer

[Originally posted on Digital Union Blog]
By TED HATTEMER | Published: OCTOBER 27, 2010
Quick. What is the most popular social media platform within Fortune 500 companies?

If you said Facebook, you’d be wrong. Private enterprise-level social networks are the up-and-coming way for employees to share knowledge, collaborate, and keep projects moving forward. While Facebook and Twitter are sometimes seen as distractions in the workplace, platforms like Yammer,, and Sales Force’s Chatter add value by limiting the social conversations to coworkers and focusing the power of social networking on solving organizational issues.

At their core, social media networks are both microblogging and push notification systems. Microblogging is the regularly updated nuggets of information submitted by users of the network. Collected over time and focused on areas of expertise, these “status updates” and “quick hit FYIs” have the potential to create a bottom-up searchable resource or knowledge base. Push notification, either through email or text messages, remind users to return to the platform for updates and information sharing. Other features recently rolled out on the Yammer platform are surveys and polls, events, and questions–all intended to help manage the knowledge within an organization.

Ohio State’s Yammer platform is two years old this month. There are more than 4,000 posts by 860 members and 37 groups. People are participating in what’s turned out to be a free-for-all experiment. No one is leading the mission or goals of this platform other than the users who populate it with content day after day. At some point our relationship with Yammer may need to become more formal; policies and procedure will probably need to be implemented. Currently Ohio State doesn’t “own” the data being input into the Yammer platform. We would need to pay a monthly licensing fee for that privilege. While that’s not a big deal for a fledgling technology, over time the university may want to archive and protect content produced by its faculty and staff. For the time being, this information sharing is happening organically, bottom up, and is growing by word of mouth.

The question that lingers for me as a frequent Yammer contributor is, “How will the university formalize this platform and keep it vibrant at the same time?” It remains to be seen. In the meantime, forward-thinking colleagues all over the university are online and using social media at work. What they are talking about in this new space just happens to be… work.