2022: Another extraordinary year, part 1
As I reflect on the year, one of the first words that comes to mind is extraordinary. This year became the year that we were able to demonstrate and communicate about the outcomes that came from more than 18 months of often behind-the-scenes work. We’ve been able to talk publicly about what the brainstorming and campus-wide collaboration, research and testing, creativity, strategic thinking, and momentum-building activities have produced.
We have a new, robust foundation as an institution. We have clarity about who we are, where we are headed, and what we uniquely offer the world. And we’ve developed stunning visual and editorial systems to ensure that our core messages and themes shine with cohesion when we share them with others.
Here’s a recap of what was launched just this year:
- Revitalized brand differentiators
- New visual identity system, including a new logo drawing on our history even as it moves us closer to One DU, plus subsequent development and release of logo kits for University entities—literally thousands of logo variations were created!
- University’s first video standards along with demo reels as well as the start of b-roll packages for campus communicators to create their own high-end videos
- Expanded editorial style guide
- Brand voice guidance
- Visual style guide addendum for DU Athletics (sneak peek can be viewed here) as well as clarity on tertiary unit logo usage and specialty marks
- New tools and resources, including ordering portal for DU’s newly expanded and cohesive business suite which includes standards for email signature blocks, business cards, letterhead, envelopes, a PowerPoint template, and new Zoom backgrounds. Look for more fun elements in the new year!
We also started offering a new training series called MarComm Camp. The initial sessions over the summer and fall provided campus practitioners, admissions teams, and even the University’s leadership a space to interact with the brand and work through applying it in their areas of concentration. Though I’ve never been a fan of any type of camp experience, as you can read about in MarComm’s blog, MarComm Camp really does give me fond memories. We’re looking forward to offering more sessions in the new year and expanding the series to include specialty topics such as social media, design, the brand in Spanish, and more!
We heavily focused this year on internal collaboration. We sought new ways to connect our community to information that truly resonates as well as better ways for us to connect to each other. One of the outcomes of this work was a relaunch of The Bridge in the spring. Through the reshaping of this important University news and information channel as well as other forms of internal communications, we hope we helped inspire a sense of pride in and belonging at DU. The good we collectively do for our community is heartwarming and we appreciate you sharing your celebrations and stories with us! We want to hear more about the good happening at DU in 2023!
Another new opportunity realized in 2022 was the start of the HRIC Takeover of The Bridge, which we are planning to publish quarterly. Our friends in HRIC have been hard at work revamping benefits and adding new services for our valued DU employees, all of which are comprehensive and sometimes complex to communicate. The HRIC Takeover of The Bridge enables us to reduce the number of singular emails sent to the employee community, consolidate valuable information in an easy-to-read package, and provide a resource that can be referenced for months to come. Each HRIC Takeover will be followed by an Open Forum to address questions from employees. Look for a comprehensive look at performance evaluations coming to an inbox near you in early spring.
HRIC is just one of the many partners MarComm supports with internal communications efforts. 2022 was a busy year with the introduction of MyDU, major DEI initiatives and changes, and more. The DEI partnership was a particularly enjoyable endeavor, as we worked together on sharing bias-free and welcoming communications as well as recognizing religious holidays, awareness days and months, and commemorations across the DU community. Our refreshed Heritage, Awareness and Inclusion Program will continue to be a pillar in our internal communications program in 2023.
RadioEd, Social Media, Content Marketing
With a new year came a new season of DU’s RadioEd podcast, plus two new hosts and a new show format.
Matt Meyer and Emma Atkinson launched Season 3 of RadioEd with an episode about the Colorado River, followed by an episode about women’s rights and protests in Iran that broke listening records. Instead of sticking to a one-to-one hosting format, Matt and Emma switched things up, moving to a more narrative style of storytelling that allows them to drive the direction of the story with help from internal DU guests and outside sources.
The podcast’s digital home on the DU Newsroom website helps drive web traffic to the individual posts, and thereby to the podcast itself, resulting in increased listenership and a wider audience. The episode about Iran has alone garnered more than 500 listens to date.
As shared with you earlier today, the last episode of 2022 takes an even more unique format—a roundtable-style discussion with Matt, Emma, and two guests from the Daniels College of Business. In the spirit of the holidays, we’re talking all about gift-giving: cultural and familial traditions and norms, the smartest way to shop, and how consumers are paying for all the gifts.
As exemplified by the successful return of RadioEd, our content marketing efforts moved forward by leaps and bounds in 2022. Through the team’s efforts, DU’s branded social media accounts saw a 26.5% increase in followers, 72% increase in impressions, and 85% increase in engagement—an extraordinary increase for the second year in a row! We also created a social media policy in collaboration with the Strategic Marketing & Communications Council, released a social media training (headed to new branding as we speak), and modernized the University’s social media directory as well as the strategy for the brand’s social media channels.
With the release of the University’s first central marketing campaign in recent history, we seized the opportunity to begin the process of telling the University’s story through dynamic videos, including new For the Difference content marketing pieces, social-specific videos tied to DU’s brand pillars, and DU’s first brand anthem. Additionally, the team produced stunning photo essays such as the one seen in the fall University of Denver Magazine’s online exclusive of BANDALOOP, and infusing events with opportunities for our community to share stories with one another. In the coming year, we’re looking forward to furthering our efforts in this area and advancing our efforts geared toward thought leaders, alumni and friends, and more.
While it seems like eons ago, the web overhaul was completed this year, on June 30, 2022. This project lasted five years and included the standing up of new sites and new functionality while migrating 206 OmniUpdate-hosted sites to Drupal Pantheon. In the first six months of this year, 60 of the 206 sites migrated over to Drupal! We sunsetted OmniUpdate on June 30, 2022, and our web ecosystem is largely centralized. There are only a few remaining sites on different CMS platforms that are planned for migration, including Newman Center for the Performing Arts, The University of Denver Magazine, Golf Club, Daniels College of Business, University College, and Academic Affairs. We are working to move some of these sites to Drupal already. In addition to the migration efforts, ongoing web mapping efforts are underway to chart the way for the ecosystem optimization.
For the Difference Marketing Campaign
Year one of the For the Difference marketing campaign, DU’s first central marketing campaign in recent history, wrapped up to unexpectedly fantastic results.
While the timing of the new brand’s release impacted the start of our collective campaigns for this year, we consider the central branding campaign as a value add. Even as we anticipate a Y2 dip in the numbers to right size the benchmarks as this becomes a “new normal” for DU, we remain energized and thrilled with the possibilities that the momentum of the campaign’s first year and the addition of a unified brand system will help us realize.
This fall, we engaged in an exciting partnership with Undergraduate Admission, collaborating on the alignment of campaign strategies across the teams as well as the expedited transition of collateral to new brand messaging and visual direction. In the coming year, we will be releasing new campaign materials directly geared toward the personas that have been developed and amplifying the pipelines for future years even as we seek to support the yield of the coming year’s class.
While we’ll be maintaining our support of recruitment activities, this fall brought about a renewed need to amplify our efforts geared toward thought leaders and influencers in a variety of industries to increase the University’s visibility and build affinity. And thus, we started the process to identify a public relations agency of record. With my sincerest gratitude to the RFP committee for their time, insights, and commitment to the process this fall, I’m thrilled to share that we will be partnering with Kivvit beginning in the new year. Watch for more on this and refinements to the campaign in 2023.