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Colleges & Universities: Internal Comms & External Emailing

Lately I've been speaking with a lot of universities about internal communications (IC)versus external marketing. When talking about one, it almost always leads into discussion about the other, and we end up discussing the pain-points found in both.

Internal email [marketing] communications priorities can be very similar to external: send only relevant information, be reliable/predicatbale in your scheduling, have a preference center to opt-out of non mission-critical emails, provide video content to express key messages, and provide access to internal authors an easy measurement of engagement results - with actionable analytics.

To stay on topic with universities' need for an internal com's provider, I wanted to head to the front of the classroom for a moment.

Strategy:

Take this opportunity to hit the RESET button on your current approach. Something isn't working, likely many things aren't. And sometimes, you're working with one hand tied behind your back due to time, money and/ or tech restraints. Step back and start at the end: What does the perfect system look like? How easy is your job now? Is it dead-simple to target your content to the right people and is it easy to tell what's working and what's not?

Actionable information:
Targeting- either by profile field (faculty, staff, coach, birthdate, grad date, etc.) or by separate databases for each. There's also behavioral targeting: when did they last open, did not open, filled out a survey, clicked a link, clicked a specific link, etc.
Content Calendar (examples)- Tuesday Updates (at 9am every week), Monthly Newsletter (First Friday of every month at an exact time, every time), Quarterly "Message from the President" VIDEO, Stories From Every Corner- Meet Your Fellow Staff, or a Monthly Charity Function on Campus article in every monthly newsletter (make these last two a preference setting, perhaps).

"The best way to predict the future is to create it." - Abraham Lincoln

Content:

In amongst your newsletters will be 'extra content,' stuff that isn't mandatory and frankly could be made an email preference. This allows those who have a bad taste in their mouth about IC -due to [potentially your] bad internal email practices or elsewhere- to only want to receive what they HAVE to. Others might want to hear about local events, news, new staff members, health and wellness, so give employees the option to get both or only mandatory- no option to 'unsubscribe' from email, just tweak it to fit their preferences. A lack of content should never be an issue at a college or university- you have thousands of walking stories on campus every day.

Yes, there is mandatory content that must be emailed out. But chances are, it can wait until your weekly/ monthly/ bi-monthly newsletter instead of blasting everyone randomly. Obviously there are exceptions to every rule- just be aware that having the ability to email the entire staff whenever is a power to be used judiciously. 

Actionable information:
Approval processes: Email goes out for edits on the easy stuff; then send a proof or test email to 'approvers,' who are NOT high-level. Remember, the voice of the employee matters here. Do not let the email content tone 'creep' into a 'talking down to' tone. Have content written a week prior, set a schedule flow with the approvers so they know when to expect a proof and return it no later than- this time. PLAN as much as possible. 

"With great power comes great responsibility." - Voltaire (or to some, Peter Parker's uncle)

Engage:

Don't simply throw content at your employees- allow them to participate in what they get; not only via the preference center mentioned above, but also with surveys and polls asking for feedback. Then listen and TAKE ACTION.

Also, be careful with the language you use. Don't talk down or use management-talk, use the voice of the employee to really send a strong message. Try to envoke emotions, prior alumni will have happy memories of their time at college- tap into that nostalgia and pride.

Make the important interesting: Have an employee tell a story. Show employees WHY something is important, with images and video. Frame it in a way that will be absorbed and not overlooked. Your job is to bring employees closer to each other and their workplace- show them what they do matters, from all corners of the campus! (This is way easier for you than other corporate IC's, a university's impact on staff, students and community is GREAT. TELL THAT.) A major way to get employees engaged in something is to show them their opinion matters, and get a discussion going amongst them- increase employee-to-employee engagement.

Actionable information:
VIDEO. Just make it. Tell a unique series with someone's iPhone on a 'selfie stick,' this will help stabilize and remove shake. Employees just want video, and it's seen as genuine when there's not a lot of production to it. Feel free to add a start and end 'bumper' with your name and logo, but don't go overboard. Showcase the culture and share what's new via video. Video need not break the budget, nor should it. But it should be done.

"Knowing is not enough, we must apply. Willing is not enough, we must do." - Bruce Lee
 

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