How to Reduce and Manage Workplace Stress

We’ve all had the feeling of being tired, stressed and burned out from work. The physical and emotional repercussions of work-related stress can be detrimental to productivity and overall well-being, and it doesn’t seem to be improving for most workers. In fact, 70% of calls made to phone counseling lines at Workplace Options, a provider of employee-assistance programs, were related to stress and anxiety. Even more troubling, the same provider found that there was an 18% increase in calls made from 2016. With this trend clearly not slowing down, here are some tangible tips that can help you regain control over workplace stress and anxiety while becoming more productive and efficient.

Create time for mindfulness and deep breathing

From Wall Street to Silicon Valley, employees and employers alike are becoming more aware of the benefits of applying mindfulness in the workplace. With studies showing that mindfulness is associated with reduced stress and positive brain changes, it’s no wonder that these exercises have become so popular in business settings. There are a number of apps to choose from that will guide you through meditative practices, and you can even integrate some of them into your office communication platforms so that the reminder is more top of mind. Here at Circa, we’ve integrated the Stop, Breathe, and Think app into our messaging platform, Slack.

Allow for focused work, free of distractions and multitasking

Multitasking has been shown to inhibit productivity and efficiency. For those who feel like they have a million things being thrown their way, it can be easy to fall into the deep pit of multitasking. Not only does this add to stress and anxiety, but it undermines the ability to get tasks completed as thoroughly and efficiently when compared to more focused, singular work methods. Some effective ways to combat the temptation to multitask include:

  • Removing yourself from an environment of distractions, if applicable. We have an open office floor plan, as many millennial-dominated offices do today, and having a separate and secluded room that we can retreat to in order focus on more demanding or challenging tasks has proven to be a great addition.
  • Using time management tools like the Pomodoro timer. While these are fairly simple, straightforward tools (essentially fancy timers), they can be incredibly helpful in allocating dedicated time to each task while also preventing you from spending an excessive amount of time on any single one. This can help with workflow and make a heavy workload feel much more manageable.
  • Using noise-canceling headphones when you require heavy focus. Research has even found that music can have a calming effect when in high-stress situations.
  • Turning off notifications for messages that impede your ability to concentrate and focus. For example, we use the communication tool Slack almost constantly throughout our workday. In order to lessen the temptation to check Slack, email, etc., I have found that it is helpful to turn off any notifications and/or alter the settings to “do not disturb” mode (which is available for most messaging apps).

Take a walk

Studies have found that taking a brief walk (15-30 minutes) can result in calming effects. To capitalize on the benefits even more, apply meditative practices during your walk. Need to chat or brainstorm with coworkers and want to kill two birds with one stone? Merge walks and meetings into one. This can even help to jumpstart creative thinking for a more productive (not to mention healthy) meeting.

Be strategic about your notification settings 

It’s important to set boundaries between home and the office in order to maintain a healthy work-life balance. If you constantly have notifications alerting you of new work messages or emails, you’re pretty much setting yourself up for failure (unless you have spectacular self-control). Most people feel tempted or obligated to respond to an email if they see it, so dedicate a period of time outside of work where you don’t receive messages or make a point to only respond to urgent inquiries if you’re in a situation where you still need to monitor them. With our communication tool, Slack, there are options to set notifications to “do not disturb” mode, which is a simple and effective solution to this problem.

Find a project management tool that works for you

There is nothing more overwhelming and stressful than having more tasks than you feel like you can keep track of or keep up with. This is why pinpointing a project management tool that helps you to stay organized can be a huge stress reliever. I personally use Trello to manage my tasks and have created a system where I can prioritize them accordingly, as well as add notes, due dates, etc. Some of my colleagues rely on other tools and apps like Evernote, Wrike and even Google Calendar. Whatever your system is, find something that makes you feel organized and brings you greater peace of mind.

 

Caroline-Black-and-White-tan-3-4Caroline brings a wealth of knowledge in communications, marketing, and account management to the Circa Interactive team, and she has worked with partners such as HP, Cisco, and Adobe. Graduating with honors in Business Administration and Marketing from the University of Oregon in 2011, Caroline now plays a key role in Circa Interactive’s digital PR strategy by building long term relationships with internationally recognized media outlets on behalf of our clients.

The Anatomy of a PR Pitch – How to Structure & Standardize Pitching Across Your Team

As any PR or communications professional knows, pitching is the single most important skill to possess. While there are various approaches and styles to this, it’s important to find a structure and style for pitching that has had proven success within your industry and then standardize that formula across your team. So how can you streamline the process of pitching to make team members as successful and efficient as possible? First, it’s important to identify the key components that make up every well-rounded PR pitch. While each pitch can, and often will, look a little different, we have found that there are four primary components that should be included in every pitch. Here are the four core components and their definitions:

Lead

The lead is the angle into your story. Keep this as short and concise as possible. A lead should be comprised of one of the following:

    • A news peg is a trending story or topic in the news that relates to what you’re pitching. For example, leveraging the presidential debate or a new medical study that was just released. This allows you to hook the reader with a relevant and widespread story.
    • A time peg represents an upcoming date or event. For example, anniversaries of days like 9/11 or Hurricane Katrina, days or weeks dedicated to specific causes like “Health IT Week” or “Mental Health Awareness Day,” or even months like “Breast Cancer Awareness Month.” These types of dates and events can be easily leveraged for PR purposes as media outlets will often shape content around significant or relevant time pegs. In order to keep track and take advantage of these dates, it’s helpful to create and consistently update an internal editorial calendar with your team.
Call to action (CTA)

This is the action that you want your audience to take. For instance, in our case this would often include speaking with a professor or publishing an infographic or blog on behalf of our clients.

Value proposition

This is where you allow yourself to stand out and differentiate yourself from the competition. Demonstrate the significance of what you’re pitching and why it’s important. What value would it provide to their publication and readership? How does it relate to the larger story? These are some of the questions you should address.

Conclusion

Quickly thank them for their time and reiterate what your goal or call to action (CTA) is. Keep this brief and to the point.

There are questions that you should always be asking yourself when writing a pitch. Here are a few of the important ones to keep in mind:

  • Who is your audience?
  • What is the larger story?
  • Why should they care about what you’re pitching?
  • What value does this provide them?
  • What story are you creating in your pitch?

To see how this formula looks in practice, I’ve included a pitch below which is color coded based on the four components I described above.

screen-shot-2016-09-29-at-10-53-38-am

 

Caroline-Black-and-White-tan-3-4Caroline brings a wealth of knowledge in communications, marketing, and account management to the Circa Interactive team, and she has worked with partners such as HP, Cisco, and Adobe. Graduating with honors in Business Administration and Marketing from the University of Oregon in 2011, Caroline now plays a key role in Circa Interactive’s digital PR strategy by building long term relationships with internationally recognized media outlets on behalf of our clients.

How to Write a Media Pitch (with Examples)

Pitching compelling story lines and sources are the crux of any PR strategy. In the higher education digital marketing space, we leverage the expertise of professors from the programs that we partner with to help increase the school’s visibility, student enrollment, thought leadership, and brand awareness. For us, this is primarily an SEO and link-building tactic to help boost program search engine rankings and visibility. Professors make excellent sources for stories through their unmatched level of expertise and experience in their respective fields, but without the correct messaging and communication strategy, this may never come across effectively to the media when pitching them. Regardless of the industry that you’re in or represent, knowing how to effectively craft a pitch for the media is the most critical step to success in PR and content marketing. Here are some tangible tips and examples that will help you become a PR pitching pro in no time and write a persuasive media pitch.

Create an Effective Subject Line 

Subject lines are the first and sometimes only thing that a media contact will see–often times determining whether they will even bother to open your email or not. Ensuring that your subject line is clear, concise, and enticing are some of the most important elements. While many would assume that shorter subject lines work best, especially considering the character restrictions of mobile devices, a report from Marketing Sherpa actually found that subject lines with 61 to 70 characters had the highest open rate. This proves that you shouldn’t spend too much time trying to cut down your subject line, as it can actually be beneficial to have a longer one. While creating a subject line that entices the media to want to open your email should always be the goal, make sure that you don’t use “click-bait” phrasing as a tactic to draw the recipient in as this may leave a bad taste in their mouth and hurt the chances of them opening your future pitches. The last thing you want to do is mislead them or appear spammy.

chart-of-week-051815-1

Use Timely News Pegs or Research

Don’t do yourself the disservice of not using relevant news pegs or research as your hook for your pitch. It’s no secret that the media lives off of news pegs, trending topics, and new research to tell their stories. To increase the chances of someone showing interest in your pitch, it’s important to make their job as easy as possible; it’s a good idea to help to spell out the story for them so that your source or story fits in seamlessly with trending news topics and their target audience’s interests. Reporters and editors receive hundreds of pitches every day, so providing them with a story that their readers will be interested in and offering sources to help supplement that story will make them more compelled to move forward with the conversation. Along these same lines, always try to include hyperlinks to any research or statistics that you reference in your pitch. You don’t want them to shy away from expressing interest or continuing the conversation simply because they don’t have time to do the legwork to track down the sources themselves. When pitching a source for a story, I recommend abiding by this same rule of thumb and hyperlink to their bio page to provide more context and information on their specialities and background in case they’re interested.

Know the Reporter’s Beat

You can have the best pitch in the world, but if it doesn’t align with the reporter’s beat (the types of stories they cover), then it will provide no use or value to them. In fact, it will only blatantly show that you are sending out mass email distributions and aren’t doing the appropriate research and legwork before pitching them. While it’s not always realistic or feasible, personalize pitches whenever possible and mention any related articles that they recently wrote.

Keep it Concise & Know your Story

As I mentioned earlier, media contacts receive hundreds of pitches a day. If you’re lucky enough to get yours opened, the worst thing that someone with very little time can be confronted with is an unnecessarily long pitch. Find out how to say everything that you need to say in a paragraph or less (with rare exceptions). The more specific and focused you can be, the better. It’s also crucial to understand and communicate the story you’re trying to tell and how it aligns with the larger media trends yet provides a unique angle to the storyline. Here’s how our typical pitch is structured:

News peg (lead)

Introduce and tie in source you are pitching (faculty member in our case)

What unique value or insight can they provide to this story (angle of the story)

Thank them for their time and consideration

 

Following up is Key

Following up on initial email pitches is one of the most important pieces to the puzzle. This is where most of your interest and responses will come from, so ensuring that you schedule reminders to do so is vital. It’s good to wait around one week until you send follow-ups out; this will ensure that the media contact has sufficient time to get through their emails and respond if they are planning to. If the story is incredibly time-sensitive, it’s ok to follow-up a bit sooner. Similarly, if it is not a time-sensitive story at all, then waiting a little longer than a week is also fine. Include your original pitch at the bottom of your follow-up email to help jog the recipient’s memory and provide more context for them. To see more about how to follow up on a pitch, see my example below.

Pitch Examples:

Initial (cold) pitch:

Hi [NAME]

A recent report pointed to the frightening reality that hackers using ransomware on medical devices could pose the biggest–and most dangerous–cyber security threat in 2016, with insulin pumps and pacemakers being some of the devices most vulnerable to these risks. For this reason, I wanted to see if you were interested in speaking with [NAME], a leading encryption and cybersecurity expert, DARPA contractor, and a professor in NJIT’s Computer Science program. He has been conducting research on security and homomorphic encryption of embedded medical devices and can discuss the severity of this looming threat and the ways that we can leverage new protection techniques against this potentially fatal new cybercrime tactic.

Please let me know if you’re interested. Thanks for your time.

Caroline Khalili
Circa Interactive
circaedu.com

Follow-up pitch:

Subject: Re: Just Following Up: Medical Device Ransom is Biggest Cyber Threat of 2016

Hi [NAME],

I just wanted to follow up and see if you were interested in speaking with [NAME] about the dangerous and inevitable threat of medical ransomware.

Thanks for your time. Any feedback is appreciated.

Caroline Khalili
Circa Interactive
circaedu.com

On Mon, Dec 21, 2015 at 6:38 PM, Caroline Khalili caroline@circaedu.com> wrote:

Hi [NAME],

A recent report pointed to the frightening reality that hackers using ransomware on medical devices could pose the biggest–and most dangerous–cyber security threat in 2016, with insulin pumps and pacemakers being some of the devices most vulnerable to these risks. For this reason, I wanted to see if you were interested in speaking with [NAME], a leading encryption and cybersecurity expert, DARPA contractor, and a professor in NJIT’s Computer Science program. He has been conducting research on security and homomorphic encryption of embedded medical devices and can discuss the severity of this looming threat and the ways that we can leverage new protection techniques against this potentially fatal new cybercrime tactic.

Please let me know if you’re interested. Thanks for your time and consideration.

Caroline Khalili
Circa Interactive
circaedu.com

Pitch for established contact/relationship:

I hope all is well. Thanks again for featuring [NAME] in your article on ICD-10. I wanted to reach out about a new story and source that I thought you might be interested in:

According to a new study, approximately one-third of radiology recommendations that need additional clinical action are not followed through on, and almost half of those orders are not even acknowledged. This is a deeply concerning finding that can have significant adverse effects on patient safety and outcome. This points to need for better communication with physicians and patients and more advanced IT systems and procedures in place to help ensure that important diagnoses or recommendations don’t get missed. For this reason, I wanted to see if you were interested in speaking with [NAME], a professor of Radiologic Technology at the University of Cincinnati and a member of the Board of Directors for The Association of Educators in Imaging and Radiologic Sciences. [NAME] can discuss the common missteps that lead to these errors and the ways that healthcare professionals can reduce the chances of this occurring.

Please let me know if you’re interested in speaking with [NAME]. Thanks for your time.

Caroline Khalili
Circa Interactive
circaedu.com

To learn more about our digital PR services, read here: Digital PR.

Caroline-Black-and-White-tan-3-4Caroline brings a wealth of knowledge in communications, marketing, and account management to the Circa Interactive team, and she has worked with partners such as HP, Cisco, and Adobe. Graduating with honors in Business Administration and Marketing from the University of Oregon in 2011, Caroline now plays a key role in Circa Interactive’s digital PR strategy by building long term relationships with internationally recognized media outlets on behalf of our clients.

5 Digital Public Relations Challenges and How to Overcome Them

Digital public relations is a relatively new strategy used in digital marketing to increase organic rankings. It’s a practice where higher education marketers utilize public relations techniques to leverage the expertise and research of faculty members in order to acquire program links on high quality domains and publications. It’s a very important and exciting component of our larger SEO strategy, but it does not come without its own specific set of challenges. Below I will discuss some of the obstacles that are commonly faced when implementing PR for higher ed clients and how to best overcome them to ensure success.  

1) The academic and media worlds move at vastly different speeds

Challenge: 

Professors are accustomed to more lengthy turnaround times as the academic world can be a slow moving one, but unfortunately the media industry works at a different pace. While a story can be plastered all over the Internet in one day, a few days later it can just as easily seem irrelevant and overdone. This can become problematic when professors aren’t familiar with the short length of news cycles and, therefore, don’t have the same sense of urgency. More importantly, professors are incredibly busy people, which can make delivering timely articles or setting up interviews while the topic is still relevant much more challenging.

Solution:


Our first priority is to always respect the professor’s time and obligations, which is why we will resort to alternative solutions to accommodate worthwhile opportunities when there is a conflict of time. One way we accomplish this is by offering to jump on a quick call with them to write down their response to a media inquiry (something like a HARO or ProfNet request). This can save a lot of time and hassle on their behalf. If the reporter or editor’s schedule does not align with the professor’s calendar, then we will seek alternative options, such as providing an emailed response instead of a phone interview. If neither of these options work, then we will leverage the expertise of another professor if it aligns with the reporter’s need. Reporters are often very open to this option, but when it comes to major publications like CNN or the New York Times, it’s essential to try and work around the reporter’s schedule, because being published in these type of high quality publications has an extremely low probability and will provide invaluable exposure. It’s very easy for one of these reporters to stop returning emails if scheduling is an issue. 

2) Professor inexperience with media interviews

Challenge:


Some professors are less experienced with the media than others and, therefore, are not familiar with the process or the best ways to interact with members of the media. This can lead to professors straying from the topic at hand in an interview or using jargon that is not relatable to the average reader. A lack of media experience can also cause professors to be uncomfortable or distrusting of the media, and as a result, prompt them to request things of reporters, such as a copy of the article or interview, that can create a roadblock in the process. In one case, we had a professor leave an interview feeling that the reporter did not properly grasp his research and because of this, he wanted to see a copy of the article beforehand. While such instances are uncommon, they are in many ways understandable. Professors often have important research and grants underway, as well as outside careers that they don’t want to tarnish or jeopardize in any way with a poorly worded quote or a misrepresentation of their work.

Solution:

We overcome such challenges by not only thoroughly prepping a professor for an interview (sometimes providing them with an outline of interview questions provided by the reporter) but also by reassuring them that our first priority is their reputation. One way we ensure that they are not put in an adverse situation is by being on their interview calls. Although it’s extremely rare that we need to jump in, we make a point of being present so that we are able to take action in the rare event that a reporter crosses the line or pushes them too hard. We are also not afraid to request that a story be pulled if we think it might put the professor in a bad light. Building trust and mutual respect with professors is crucial to being successful. Again, these are extremely rare occurrences, but we want to be prepared nonetheless. 

3) Professor inexperience with non-academic writing

Challenge:

A huge part of a professor’s workload and research consists of publishing their findings in lengthy academic essays. These types of articles have a vastly different style and tone than bylines, which are created for news sites and blogs. Helping professors to understand this distinct difference will not only improve the chances of their article being published, but will also ease the overall process by requiring less edits and feedback which could potentially offend them.  

Solution:

We try to be as clear as possible upfront about the stylistic differences between the type of writing they’re used to and the style of writing required for media outlets to avoid wasting any of their time. We also provide website guidelines and examples of other articles that they should stylistically model their own writing after. If we still still don’t feel that their article effectively embodies the style and tone of the site, then we will provide thorough edits, explaining our reasoning and reiterating that it is their article and ultimately their decision whether to accept our feedback or not. When we go through all of these steps, they usually have a greater understanding and trust in our expertise and are very receptive to our suggestions.

4) Strict university branding guidelines & parameters

Challenge:

Universities often have very specific branding guidelines that they don’t want tarnished or altered. This adds an additional layer of pressure and thoroughness to any marketing/PR efforts done on their behalf.

Solution:

To ensure that you stick within these guidelines, it’s important to always vet out publications who want to feature a professor or program. If you’re unsure whether a publication will be a positive reflection of the school, then it’s always better to air on the side of caution and pass on an opportunity rather than risk the program’s trust and reputation. Your first priority should always be to preserve and enhance the university’s image.

5) Understanding Complex Research and Making it Relatable

Challenge:

A major component of any successful digital PR strategy for higher ed involves being able to comprehend and leverage the research being conducted within the university program. This requires having a thorough understanding of the material, which can sometimes be complex, and knowing how to best position it to the media so that it gains traction and interest. It is also very important to the integrity of the professor’s work that you represent and pitch it accurately.

Solution:

In order to accomplish this, we conduct initial interviews with all of the professors we work with. This enables us to dig much deeper into their current research and areas of expertise than their basic online bio’s will allow. We continuously stay up-to-date on relevant industry news which shows us where their research and expertise fits into the larger media narratives and, therefore, sheds light onto how their research can be applied to real-world settings. For example, one of our professor’s specializes in medical coding, and a big industry narrative we leveraged for his expertise was the transition from ICD-9 to ICD-10. While to the everyday person this might be mundane or unfamiliar, it was huge industry news that impacted most healthcare professionals nationwide. By subscribing to and reading healthcare news sites, we were able to effectively pitch and land placements in many relevant verticals for this professor.

Caroline-Black-and-White-tan-3-4Caroline brings a wealth of knowledge in communications, marketing, and account management to the Circa Interactive team. Graduating with honors  from the University of Oregon in 2011, Caroline now plays a key role in Circa Interactive’s digital PR strategy by building long term relationships with internationally recognized media outlets on behalf of our clients.

Why a Multi-Channel Digital Marketing Approach is Crucial to Student Generation

In the current competitive climate of higher education, having a cohesive, comprehensive, and diversified marketing approach is essential in digital marketing. While each marketing avenue or strategy has its own unique method of accomplishing client end-goals of student enrollment, brand awareness, lead generation, and market research, it’s the combined effort of all of them working together that fosters the most effective and all-encompassing solution. It is therefore imperative that those involved in higher education marketing understand how all of these components work together and independently to capture prospective students at every stage of the decision making process. Here at Circa Interactive, the overarching divisions of our company that help to accomplish our clients’ goals include Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Pay-per-click (PPC), and Social Media.

 

How Do They Work Independently? 

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

SEO is a crucial piece of the marketing puzzle, considering that 75% of prospective students start their research on a search engine. With so many competing programs and schools, it’s incredibly important to rank organically for relevant keywords in order to be visible to prospective students who are actively searching for related programs. There are several functions of our company that contribute to our SEO end-goals. The main off-page ones, which I will highlight here, are Digital PR and infographic creation and distribution.

Our goal in digital PR is to establish thought leadership, expand brand awareness, define program differentiators, and build quality backlinks for SEO that influence search rankings. We accomplish this by leveraging the expertise of faculty members and getting them and their respective programs placed in internationally recognized publications as well as in industry-specific verticals. On the other hand, infographics largely contribute to our SEO end-goals by generating backlinks through the creation and distribution of sharable content, which tells important stories within the larger narratives in the media.

Digital PR and infographics aid our SEO and brand recognition efforts by creating trustworthy and reputable backlinks to the programs that we represent, which in turn helps with organic rankings. These media placements also position our programs and professors as thought leaders in the industry, which is critical when trying to grow a brand and program. While PR links tend to be higher in quality, there is a tradeoff for this, which is quantity of links. While having our professors and programs included in nationally recognized publications is extremely valuable on a number of levels, more of our backlinks come through infographic distribution, where we have a broader reach due to our inclusion of smaller media outlets and blogs. Both strategies lend themselves to the same goals but accomplish them in different ways, which is why having both strategies in place is essential to achieving our larger SEO goals.

Pay-per-click (PPC)

Pay-per-click (PPC) can be an effective strategy for quickly driving targeted traffic to a website or landing page. This can be accomplished through keyword-based search advertising, display advertising in the Google and Bing Display networks, social media advertising (e.g. Facebook and LinkedIn), and remarketing, where you target prospective students who have already visited your website but have yet to convert. It’s also the most effective method for measuring return-on-investment (ROI). Since it’s easy to analyze and monitor results as you go with PPC, it has the added benefit of being able to adjust strategies according to the success of various channels. While SEO can be a more long-term and involved process, paid search has the ability to immediately get in front of prospective students and begin to generate leads. It’s crucial to have accurate and appealing messaging for PPC, because it could be the first encounter that a prospective student has with a brand or program.

Social Media

Social media is an important tool for higher education marketing considering that 57% of students will use social media to research universities. Although it’s very difficult to measure ROI on social media marketing, it’s a channel that should be integrated into every marketing strategy in order to have a well-rounded and consistent online presence. It’s also a great place to foster a sense of community and keep current, former, and prospective students engaged and up-to-date on university news.

How Do They Work Together? 

While I’ve explained how each of these digital marketing strategies operates independently, it’s just as important to understand how they intersect and why being visible and consistent across all potential touchpoints is essential to converting prospective students and amplifying brand awareness. A prospective student can encounter a brand in many different ways, but marketers will often only focus on the final campaign, search, or ad that the user interacted with to convert. However, as the multi-channel funnels reports in Google Analytics shows, there are typically many other interactions and touchpoints that the prospective student encountered in the process before converting. This further exemplifies the importance of having a diversified marketing approach that allows for interactions and cohesiveness across all potential channels.
One beneficial intersection between strategies is between PPC and digital PR. Since most people are aware when they are being targeted with an ad, PPC can come off as being disingenuous or less credible than organic results, which is why digital PR can be beneficial in adding another layer of credibility to a program. For students who are actively researching a program, seeing a program featured in various reputable publications can be important and, ultimately, help push them along in the admissions funnel.

Social media also plays an important role in building a credible online community for a brand. Since most students will research a program on social media sites like Facebook, having an established community of engaged and interested participants on social media platforms is important in getting prospective students excited and interested about a program. Additionally, there is often a link on Facebook paid ads that will be directed to the program’s Facebook page, so it’s important to have a strong social media presence built up when sending prospective students that way. Social media also has a mutually beneficial relationship with digital PR and infographic distribution because it provides another platform to feature this content on. This not only expands the reach of this content, further positioning the program as a thought leader and content creator, but also provides relevant and interesting content to the audience on social media.

As I’ve illustrated here, ensuring that a program or university is visible to prospective students throughout all possible channels and touchpoints that they may encounter is essential to a comprehensive and optimized marketing strategy. As we have seen, there are many ways that prospective students can search for or come in contact with a brand. A diversified approach accomplishes both short and long term marketing goals while more effectively reaching prospective students throughout various stages in the decision making process.

Caroline-Black-and-White-tan-3-4

Caroline brings a wealth of knowledge in communications, marketing, and account management to the Circa Interactive team. Graduating with honors in Business Administration and Marketing from the University of Oregon in 2011, Caroline now plays a key role in Circa Interactive’s digital PR strategy by building long term relationships with internationally recognized media outlets on behalf of our clients.

5 Must-Follow Higher Education Social Media Accounts

As our team at Circa Interactive create social media calendars and content ideas for our higher education clients, we’ve come across countless other universities who are exceeding the mark with their campaigns. Over the course of the next few months, I will highlight some of the best examples of content created by higher education marketers. Below I’ve chosen a few exceptional posts (in no particular order) that exemplify what higher education marketers should strive to achieve. It’s essential for universities to remain creative and timely in order to remain visible and engage with current and prospective students, creating a virtual and interactive university experience.

1. Syracuse–Twitter

Syracuse does an excellent job of putting a personalized touch on their Twitter account in a creative and playful way, as you can see below with their image of the campus designed to resemble a puzzle piece. What their posts prove is that a simple message can be transformed and brought to life through customization and ingenuity. They also often use the hashtag #OrangeNation to foster a sense of community and school pride.

 
One of my favorite parts of Syracuse’s Twitter is their @WorkingOrange account, which regularly features alumni who live tweet their workday and answer questions at the same time. This is a clever way to celebrate the successes of their alumni and a great way to connect them to current students who will soon be in their position.

 

2. Harvard–Facebook

I love the way that Harvard uses time-lapse videos to showcase their campus and student body. This video in particular was a welcome back video that shows the bustling campus life, while hinting at their storied history.  

 
Harvard is constantly using the the power of video to bring the university experience and their brand to life. The clip below shows a day in the life of a first-year student at Harvard. It’s a short and sweet video that humanizes the Harvard Facebook page even more by allowing the viewer a glimpse into the rudimentary parts of a Harvard student life that can appear extraordinary to prospective students.

 

3. MIT–Twitter

It’s no surprise that MIT’s world-renowned research programs play a large role in their social media strategy. By utilizing research from faculty, they’re not only expanding and showcasing their thought leadership, but they’re also helping to promote and push the professors’ valuable research into the community. The key is that they use eye-catching graphics to accompany studies that can appeal to a large audience, as shown below.

 

4. Stanford–Instagram

The Instagram photo below shows the beautiful Stanford campus while encouraging other students to submit photos that they’ve taken themselves. Stanford’s strategy is focusing on something that all higher education marketers should consider while creating content: How can I find a way to engage with my audience? By incorporating photos taking by students, their Instagram feed becomes a community-generated database of striking imagery that keeps their audience involved.

 
I gravitate toward the photo below because it’s not only visually appealing and attention grabbing, but it tells a story and promotes the fascinating research of a Stanford faculty member at the same time. This highlights that when it comes to higher education marketing content, it’s important to focus on storytelling. 


 

5. University of Wisconsin–Facebook

This video by University of Wisconsin-Madison is a unique and light-hearted way to promote alumni donations through their “fill-the-hill” campaign, where a pink flamingo lawn ornament represents each alumni gift that was made. While schools often run the risk of coming off as irritating when trying to repeatedly collect donations, UW-Madison figured out a way to accomplish their goals in a non-intrusive manner through the power of video, while incorporating a long standing school tradition. 

 
And finally the video below shows people how students at UW-Madison are involved in the community, rather than just telling them. This creates a much more sharable story than plain text would.

 
Caroline Khalili is a PR and marketing specialist at Circa Interactive, and she is an expert in developing content for higher education marketing campaigns. A 2011 graduate of the University of Oregon, Caroline now calls San Diego home.

5 Easy Tools to Take Your Higher Ed Visual Content to the Next Level

It’s no secret that the competition among higher education institutions is stiff. Having a meaningful online presence takes continuous work and nurturing on the part of the program or institution. Additionally, with all of the information that is available and pushed onto consumers, it is even more imperative that marketers come up with new, eye-catching ways to draw readers in.

With 98% of 18-24 year olds using social media, it’s an unavoidable and essential outlet for marketing that universities are now taking advantage of. Furthermore, approximately two-thirds of prospective college students use social media as a research tool to help with their decision, according to the 2013 Social Admissions Report. With that being said, it takes more than a simple, lackluster effort to truly engage with this age group. Enticing, attention-grabbing imagery is often the best and most effective way to capture the attention of a younger target demographic to get your message across. Moreover, posts with images get much more engagement, views, and shares than those without. Although this isn’t a novel concept, many people still don’t put in the effort to produce visually enticing imagery because they are discouraged by the perception of time and skill that it will take to create. While we can’t deny the power and effectiveness of having a network of professional designers, researchers, and advanced programs to bring your message to life, we also understand that many marketers simply don’t have the time, budget, or access to these tools. With this in mind, we’ve composed a list of five great, easy-to-use websites and apps that are of little or no charge, to help take your visual content and message to the next level.

Canva:

A great, easy tool for those who lack design skills but want to create professional-looking, customizable content. You can upload and customize your own photos, or choose from a variety of free or paid options on their site. Whether it’s posing a question to students or showing a comparison between two options (e.g. degrees) you can create original, appealing content through their large library of images, layouts, and backgrounds.

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Piktochart:

Made for creating easy-to-follow infographics, this tool is a must-use for infographic amateurs. As universities often have a lot of research and important academic findings under their belt, this is a great way to deliver that information in an easily digestible manner. In fact, a study conducted by KISSmetrics showed that “high quality infographics are 30 times more likely to be read than text articles,” and “infographics are 40 times more likely to be shared on social networks.” With over 100 themes to choose from, you’re sure to find one that fits the story you’re trying to tell.

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WordSwag:

It’s clear that higher ed institutions love to use quotes as part of their social media strategy. Whether it be from academic inspirations, students, faculty, or profound intellectuals, WordSwag will help deliver those quotes in a visually appealing manner that will encourage more shares and engagement.

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PlaceIt:

Want to showcase a new degree program in a realistic setting like in the hands of a student? PlaceIt allows you to insert your own screenshots and videos into a variety of screen images that they have available. You can do this for free, although there will be a watermark on it so if you prefer to lose that, you can pay $8 and make it your own.

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PowToon:

Creating animated videos has never been easier. This is an excellent tool for creating engaging, animated videos that can be used as a resource for presentations, instructional videos, or tutorials, just to name a few.

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Looking for SEO, content distribution, or lead generation help for your degree program or institution?  Contact us here.