The digital marketing series is a behind the scenes look at projects, campaigns, tools, tricks and other marketing machinations happening at Oregon State University.

An emotional connection

Whenever a police car is following along behind me I get this overwhelming sense of panic and fear. Usually they speed ahead or turn off in other pursuits but for that instant I am frozen thinking about all the possible laws I could have broken. It doesn’t matter what city I’m in, if they are a sheriff, state trooper or even campus security they all bring that same reaction. For many reasons (media, TV, personal experience) over time the law enforcement brand has developed this emotional connection.

That is exactly what we should strive for in our marketing efforts, although probably along the lines of hope and positivity instead of panic and fear. If we can create that kind of emotional response when people encounter our brand we will have joined the elite.

Ignore their minds connect with their hearts

Sometimes we get stuck trying to force our “Strategic message” on audiences that can’t relate. A great example of this is our Brand Statement. “Oregon State University is an authentic community, whose accomplishments, inclusive excellence, innovation and leadership promote a healthy planet, wellness and economic progress.

Your average human doesn’t think in these terms, that statement is really hard to understand. They don’t have a history of higher ed nomenclature to pull from. The base instinct that we are actually going for is “OSU, yeah they are super smart” or “OSU, they always impress me”.

Our typical pattern would be to do a very good job of storytelling. We would find a research breakthrough and if we were good we would come up with a way to make it relatable. It could be in written form, story, video, web site, etc.. Then if we were really good we would have systems in place or ways to make sure that content had maximum exposure.

Does that sound familiar? The content was created from an institutional perspective. The likelihood of creating an emotional response is pretty low. What if we came at it from a different direction? What if we created content with the purpose of getting people to think “wow, they are super smart”. We could come up with content that taught people something and not academic sense, more on a real life level. I bet if you made a list you could think of five things that you have always wanted to learn or maybe it’s five life hacks you learned in the last year.

Here is my list

  • Learn how to be an average singer. I don’t want to be a rock star I just want to be able to sing karaoke and people not hate it.
  • How to bake chocolate chip cookies? I’m terrible at anything culinary and learning simple recipes was super useful.
  • What are the best house plants and how to keep them alive? Plants are great to have around but I used to kill everything. A simple guide on what plants are easiest to grow and how to keep them alive would go a long way.
  • Poetry, I have always had an interest in writing poetry but I have no clue where to start. A basic guide would be really helpful in potentially unlocking something I’m passionate about.
  • How to change a flat tire. It seems silly but this is not a skill that you are born with and is useful for everyone.

So imagine we developed a series of content that accomplished all of these things. They were branded OSU but just cut right to the topic, no bull, no core messages. Imagine if you learned how to sing from a YouTube series? Wouldn’t you have a great connection with whoever provided that? The positive experience would transfer to the brand, people would consider us to be knowledgeable only because they had an experience where we taught them something as simple as how to change a flat tire.

Not only does this simple transference happen, but the content we would be producing is much more shareable and has a chance to reach a much larger audience. Even the best breakthrough research content has a limited audience and it is also temporal. Todays innovations are old news tomorrow.


  • This is just one example and it might not even be a good one. It just represents the shift in how we could be connecting to our audiences in addition what we do now.
  • The OSU brand statement is not meant to actually show up in any collateral it is by definition steeped in academic terms. I very much believe in our brand statement and think that it is quite well written. It is just the easiest example I could find.
  • My visceral reactions to law enforcement, following me, no way reflects how I actually feel about them. I am deeply thankful for the men and women who dedicate their careers to protecting our communities. It’s also quite possible that the negative emotion tied to their brand is a good thing. It might help keep crime in check.



I just want to say something ahead of this video. We definitely don’t agree/identify with the message these guys are delivering about Fraternities and their members. The Greek System at OSU does more good with their philanthropy and volunteering than most students ever consider. That being said, if you don’t find this amusing, you need to check yourself for a pulse.

You can take a lot away from this, but the part I want to focus on is the fact that it was made by students at the university. It was nicely shot, it followed a planned out script and definitely hit home with the intended audience (other college students). Having a student body who produces quality content like this can’t be underestimated. The reach this video has will typically exceed what we are able to muster with university resources.

Videos like this get passed down the chain to prospective high school students who, yes want to get a quality education and meaningful career, but also want to have fun and typically don’t think further into the future than what they are going to do on the weekend. No it doesn’t mention academics, esteem or any of our selling points, but it does create a link, in their brain, between OSU and fun. Outside of mind control this is about as good as it gets for influencing opinion and sentiment in our audiences.



It’s great when our institution receives positive recognition. In a series of case studies from the consulting firm Fathom Online Marketing, Oregon State’s efforts have been recognized as an example of best practices. This is largely due to the efforts of Web Comm staffers Kegan Sims and Celene Carillo, and the numerous other communicators on campus who’ve found innovative ways to use social networks and the Powered by Orange campaign in their outreach efforts.

We were also recently ranked 17th nationally in another report that assessed activity levels of 270 colleges and universities. We haven’t read the full report, but an associate from the reporting agency shared the following details about OSU:

  • Overall Social Media Activity: Top 10 among colleges with 20,000 to 30,000 students
  • YouTube Upload Views: Top 10
  • Facebook Ranking: Top 35
  • Twitter Ranking: Top 65
  • iTunes U Ranking: Top 55
Thanks for all the hard work of our team members who keep experimenting and developing best practices on the fly in this emerging communications environment.
You can find guidance and a survey of many of the great social media efforts from across campus on our Social Media Directory. And don’t hesitate to contact the Web Communications Office with questions or for support as you plan your overall online communications strategy.

It’s Civil War time again and battles of all types have been raging between Oregon State University and the University of Oregon. In the middle of it all the Web Communications department has been waging a war of our own. For the last few months it has been our goal to surpass the number of Duck channel views and subscribers on YouTube. Well what better way to accomplish a goal than to take advantage of a rabid and passionate audience. Because of the incredible support and dedication of Beaver Nation we were able to accomplish our goal (on the actual day of the civil war none the less!).

Much of the success can be attributed to clever cross promotion on our other social networks. Also, we had some real success recently with a couple videos. Even reaching the top 25 videos on YouTube EDU.



Kegan Sims officially joined Web Communications as our Social Media Specialist
True Beaver Believer Kegan Sims officially joined Web Communications as our Social Media Specialist

Beginning on October 1, Kegan Sims officially joined Web Communications as our full-time Social Media Specialist. Join me in welcoming him aboard.

For the past few months Kegan has been devoting several hours per day to fostering conversation and driving traffic and membership to our various social media groups. He’s sponsored popular contests and earned quite a following. During that time, OSU was recognized by industry outlets and authoritative blogs as an institution to watch in the social media space. This recognition is due in no small part to Kegan’s efforts, as well as those of our Web Writer and Twitter Maven, Celene Carillo.

We’re pleased to have Kegan now devoting a bulk of his efforts to social media initiatives. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us with questions, suggestions and for consultation as you explore this exciting area of communications.

Flickr is loaded with OSU images
Flickr is loaded with OSU images

We’ve become avid users of the photo sharing service Flickr here at OSU. We go way beyond merely having an official OSU account on the service.  Key content on our main OSU site and top level pages is integrated with our account.

Press releases (like this one) created by our news office use Flickr images. That way the image from the release becomes a searchable part of our Flickr presence. The multimedia page on our News site features a Flickr search and categories that pull from sets in our account. The pages also randomly pulls preview images from these sets right onto the site.

Our Powered by Orange campaign features a Flickr component, too. The Benny on the Move gallery features photos of people who have taken a cutout of our mascot, Benny the Beaver, and photographed him traveling around the world. This is done by merely uploading the photo to Flickr and tagging it with “bennyonthemove.” Our Summer Session program is also running a “Flat Benny” contest.

We originally started using Flickr for one of our student bloggers who traveled to Antarctica on a research project and chronicled his trip with hundreds of amazing images in Transmissions from the Ice Sheet.

OSU Archives is also a member of the Flickr Commons, joining the Library of Congress and the National Galleries of Scotland as the first university to become part of this group that shares archival photos with the world via Flickr.

We also share photos with Facebook and Ning, as well as via a number of other online services. But on the photo side, nothing is quite as extensive as our integration with Flickr. It folds nicely into our own site, and it also moves a lot of our content to a space where it is exposed to an audience searching for strong images. So far, it’s been an effective way to share our photos.

We recently conducted a series of focus groups on our OSU Web presence, specifically the home page. The results were fascinating. And, unfortunately, not all of the results turned out the way I would have wanted.

For example, I would have hoped for a larger number of tweeters, but only 5% of our subjects used Twitter regularly.

Still, Twitter is an important communications platform. It’s the first worldwide application streamlined for cell phone use. We get amazing and immediate feedback. And I expect it’s going to grow exponentially as handheld devices and cell phones try to keep up with the iPhone.

It’s never good to ignore data, but sometimes you have to take risks. I will be willing to bet that the number of Twitter users will grow next year.

Daniel Schorr was recently introduced to Twitter (he now tweets), and he used a wonderful analogy, calling it the modern equivalent of the ancient Greek marketplace known as the Agora, where people would gather to share ideas and hear feedback (okay, it was only open to free-born males with property; the ancient Greeks were enlightened, but not that enlightened).

Daniel’s enlightenment moment is shown below. And after you check that out, why not follow the 92-year-old tweeter. And while you’re at it, follow OSU on Twitter as well.

We’ve added a directory of social media sites and projects to the main OSU website. If you know of any more projects to add to this list, just let us know.

Social media is exploding, not only from the tight economy, but because it’s unavoidably becoming a mainstream form of communication. You could follow, for example, chatter about the State of the Union Speech on Twitter last week. You could use it to follow the Oscars real time from your phone if you were, say, at an airport in Europe. You can of course follow OSU on Twitter.

What are the benefits of online marketing and Web communications? Certainly one is the ability to track and measure metrics in a way not possible with other more traditional forms of communication. Here’s an interesting blog post that covers return on investment. How do you measure your return on investment in the incipient arena of social media? In a tight economy, we’re going to have to start measuring the impact of our efforts in this area:

2009 will be the year when the pendulum swings from experimentation to accountability.

WineLibraryTV entrepreneur also said it well back in October in his infamous tirade of the importance of ROI in a down economy. It’s even more applicable today.