Ways We Communicate! Market Research – One of the most important areas the Communications Office has to offer you is in the area of Market Research. When you are in the midst of a creative process, inventing programming, dreaming of new classes, it is important that you include some time for the sobering and sometimes tedious process of market research. A program will only be successful if you are able to identify and address your strengths, your weaknesses (and have a plan to address them) along with market weaknesses; your opportunities and your threats. Remember that this SWOT test will occur for internal to Columbia State issues as well as those external factors which can impact your program’s success. The Communications Office is ready to help you with market research.
Market Testing – Almost everybody in a department can tell you exactly how things work. But sometimes, if you don’t test your own processes, you will never know that what you thought was a well oiled process is anything but! It is critical to view your activities, your voice messages, signage and processes from the vantage point of someone who knows nothing at all about how things are ‘supposed’ to work. Shopping your own system gives everyone an opportunity to identify areas that could be better and to fix them. Shopping the system gives everyone an opportunity to question why things are done in a certain way and to think for just a moment about whether there might be a more efficient or a better way to manage things. The Communications team is tasked with testing the system. We are looking for areas that we may not even realize are not working they way they were envisioned. Shopping the system is NEVER about pointing fingers or finding blame, it is only to help find the holes that always exist in large and complex organizations so that we have the opportunities to think about whether there is a need to fix things.
Marketing Plans – Walking hand-in-hand with research and testing is the development of the Marketing Plan. The plan takes into account all of the research the strengths and weaknesses of our processes and moves forward to identify the ways and timetables that we will communicate with the campuses as a whole and with the outside public at large.
The Marketing Plan will take into account all available resources and define a budget. It will describe what each party will do to make the plan work and it is NEVER a static document that everyone just files someplace. Marketing Plans are continually tested, updated and revised as they begin to impact the outside community. It will always make room for changing environments, technologies and strategies to more specifically communicate with a target market. Our goal is to operate with most of you using a Marketing Plan that proactively looks at your communications needs so that we have the ability to anticipate and plan for your goals. It is in this way that we serve you the very best.
Promo Items - One way to leave a lasting message is to leave behind a promo item. Columbia State’s logo can literally be imprinted on any item you can imagine. From tee shirts, to mugs; from a pen to a paperclip; luggage to basketballs; an image or message can land on an item. Finding a unique gift, an item that represents your project or program is a lot of fun. Dream it and we can probably find it. Promo items are sometimes an extremely cost effective way to leave a lasting message.
Invitations – No direct mail pieces have such immediate measurable impact than an Invitation to a specific event. You send it / they come and we know how successful the event was and how effective the invitation! The challenge with an invitation is to have the planning time needed to create the invitation message, design the card, print it and then get it through the US Mail in time for the recipient to make plans to show up. The other challenge is the expense of the printing process and the cost of postage. Clean mailing lists are everything in developing a successful invitation.
The other choice with invitations is to go ‘Green” and send them via e-mail. Imbedded invitations (so that your recipient does not have to open an attachment) or ‘one click’ invitations that open a file that might include sound and video or photography are sometimes a less costly mechanism to get folks notice of your special events.
The Communications Office is happy to help you design either type of Invitation. You will need to bring us your specific information and some idea about our audience and their computer capabilities. You will also need to develop and clean up your mailing lists!
Print Ads – Ah, the actual planned and placed ads in the newspapers...The runners across the bottom of a page, those pesky inserts that fall out of your magazines and newspapers as you open them, the inches of copy and photography running in corners of pages...Print ads are developed and paid for by the column inch. The shelf life is the day of publication and hopefully assumes that a broad readership will identify the one person who actually glanced for the 4 seconds on the page and spied an ad so compelling that he or she decided to respond. Traditional print ads, more often than not, give the purchasers the feeling that they are at least doing something. Tracking shows, however, that these ads rarely result in sales for service organizations. Will we continue to place ads, absolutely! But we want to use the space wisely. Print ads for higher education can be used to promote programs and events as if they are news stories. We can create a series of ads, easily interchanged, but which provide a “News you can use” impact for the reader. Nothing is as powerful as positioning faculty and their programs as what they really are - sources for information, authorities within their fields, vital community resources – with whom you can actually in a classroom right here. So bring us your ideas for “News You Can Use”. We will work with you to develop it into a print ad that will interest prospective students!
Website – Columbia State’s website has room for almost any announcement, post event photos, and class announcements that might interest the campuses at large. The challenge with the website is to keep it current and up-to-date. The people with the specific knowledge of the various departmental announcements and news will need to become knowledgeable about how to track information on the site and update that information. Look for announcements and invitations from the Communications Office about dates and times to learn about the website and how your information can plug in.
Media Releases – The Communications Office is constantly looking for items that can be developed into news stories. Journalists at print, audio and electronic media outlets are more than happy to use media releases as we write them, but more often than not, they will re-write or even come to cover events and stories on their own, using the media release as a teaser from us to get them to come. The journalist, however, is looking for news. The politics of their job is to get a story that warrants the most space in the paper, the most seconds on the air, an assigned shooter for photography...They want the headline story. Our job is to think about news as they see news. What do we have to communicate that will be that exciting newsworthy story? The Communications Office is continually looking for that kind of news,- the publications, classes, human interest, athletic stories that happen around you every day. Keep your eyes and ears opened and make sure to tip us off as things happen around you!
YouTube – Columbia State has huge opportunities to emerge messages via YouTube. A complete Commercial and Entertainment curriculum exists that is learning how to use the medium to provide professional grade video and sound to the worldwide web. Their videos and ones we will create give us an opportunity to send specific, entertaining and targeted communications to prospective students, alumni, campus supporters and others.
Facebook - Our Facebook page is hungry for interactive messaging that represents our Campus well! Look for much more to come from the Communications Office in the coming months.
Electronic/Digital Signage - The digital signage medium is a brief message splashed across television monitors promoting your upcoming event, impending deadline, and program. TV monitors can be found on all five campuses.
Brochures/Fliers/Promotional Posters - We can help you determine an effective way to reach your target audience with a refined message. We can help you create and produce a brochure, flyer or promotional poster - and so much more. We produce the college's admissions/recruiting materials, numerous periodicals and publications, and countless promotional pieces for campus events, programs, and initiatives.
Programs – Some events or programs need a guide for users. The program provides the recipient with a roadmap of the event’s activities and also, sometimes, a feel for the event’s sponsorship or major backers. Programs can be simple or really glitzy. Sometimes the decision about how sophisticated the program will be is determined by the budget available, but even simple programs should represent Columbia State’s commitment to quality. We very much want to help you design programs that communicate your roadmap, but give the appearance of the sophisticated planning you have made in creating the event itself. Bring us your information and ideas. We will need to understand the event, its supporters, your venue, your anticipated traffic flow inside the event and in the parking lot. Remember that sometimes it makes a lot of sense to put a program in each attendee’s hand, sometimes you might be able to use electronic signage to guide your event’s progress.