Social Media Rules! How Can Higher Ed Marketers Reach Prospective Students?

When trying to reach Generation Z or Millennials, SnapChat, Instagram and Twitter are the “it” social media platforms. Print still serves a purpose — mainly driving the recipient to your digital presence – but social media is the place where engagement and conversion happens. That was the message Michael Mullarkey, chief executive officer of Chicago-based Brickfish, delivered at the Higher Ed SIG gathering that took place April 6.

The SIG meeting, which was held at Troquet North, was a discussion about how to optimize social media for colleges and universities. In keeping with our new format for these gatherings, the meeting was more of a moderated conversation as opposed to a presentation.  It was a huge success!

Brickfish, whose slogan is “Engagement is Everything,” manages the content and social media of large brands like Neiman Marcus and Hertz.  Relevant, fresh content along with a quick response to visitors’ queries is essential to the success of any enterprise. Generation Z and Millennials expect instance responses. Mullarkey believes Facebook is still important, but these cohorts spend most of their time exchanging rapid-fire communiqués with their friends on SnapChat and WhatsApp. Marketers need to become a relevant part of these exchanges.

Mullarkey also spoke about the shrinking reach of Facebook and Instagram. Once brands established their presence on these platforms, these firms monetized their sites.  You now have to boost your post to expand your reach and that requires paying for it. He offered some advice about how to get around having to pay, which includes unique, relevant content, engagement and short video.

Bottom line: For us higher education communicators, it’s new a world. We just need to fasten our seat belts and enjoy the ride.

Betsy Butterworth Dean Petrulakis

Betsy Butterworth and Dean Petrulakis

Co-Chairs, Chicago AMA Higher Education Special Interest Group

Ten Tips on How to Win Awards

Marketing is a creative enterprise and, when all is said and done,a highly competitive business internally as well as externally. To measure creativity, various organizations hold competitive award shows for the different projects marketing people do. For instance, web design, print ads and of course,  TV show commercials.

By the time most marketers have five years experience or more they’ve participated in, and maybe even won an award or two, from such an event. Of course, if you’ve entered and didn’t win you may be feeling a little discouraged about the whole experience. Perhaps you think you lost because the judges work for a rival company or because they knew the winner personally.

As someone who has judged a number of shows for organizations such as the Business Marketing Association and Direct Marketing Association, I can tell you that while both of these suppositions may be possible, they are highly unlikely. Almost all shows are set up to avoid any kind of favoritism. First, judges are asked to excuse themselves from judging work produced by their own company or by anyone they know well. And in most competitions individual entries are judged on their own merits not in comparison to others.

But there are real reasons an entry can lose even with a great concept and super execution. If truth be told, all too many losing entries are handicapped from the start because they were entered incorrectly. Below is a list of ten guidelines to help you make the most of every competition you enter and seriously increase your chances of winning.

  1. Enter the right show
    Most award shows are geared toward a particular niche in the marketing industry such as highly innovative design or business-to-business marketing that has produced measurable results. So before you consider competing with your peers make sure the piece you’re entering is suitable for that particular competition. No matter how funny that radio spot for a leading toothpaste is, it does NOT belong in a business-to-business marketing show. On the other hand, if you designed a killer trade show display for widgets, make sure the show you’re entering has a category not only for trade show displays, but trade show displays with budgets similar to yours. Furthermore, entering the wrong show is a waste of time, effort and money because your entry may be disqualified before any of the judges even see it. And even if it remains in the competition, the judges will be expecting it to be something that it’s not. However you slice it, this is a lose-lose situation for everyone.
  2. Enter the right category
    Every show has different criteria for each category, and if you don’t pay close attention to these specifications you may find yourself competing on an uneven playing field. For example, it would probably be a mistake to enter a multi-dimensional promotional piece in a competition for direct mail packages. Even if a note or response device has been included with the promotional piece, it still may be an inappropriate entry for a category designed for letter packages. When a piece is entered incorrectly it confuses the judges and this alone will cost you points.
  3. Make your entry statements brief, clear, and memorable
    As in almost all other aspects of marketing, when it comes to award show entries, less is more. Don’t try to impress the judges with your knowledge of industry jargon and acronyms. Just give them as much information as they ask for on the entry form in clear, succinct prose. If you must use acronyms, define them the first time you use them. (Keep in mind that different companies and industries may use the same acronym for two totally different things.) Tip: Include factual data about the positive results the entry has made to your client’s bottom line. It’s amazing how demonstrable profitability can add a patina of beauty to even the ugliest design.
  4. Answer all the questions
    In shows where results are highly valued, answering questions regarding sales outcomes can make or break your chances of winning. Of course, you may not always have results to submit either because they are not yet known or because the client never shared them with you. In the former case, include this explanation in your application. In the latter case, call the client and ask if they have any insights they can share. By the way, it is not enough to say “the client was pleased.” Or that “the piece met their expectations.” Remember, the point of the question is to give the judges an objective measurement of what your work accomplished. So share as much information as you can to help the judges understand why you’ve submitted this particular piece in the first place.
  5. Include all the pieces
    If you’re submitting an entry with several parts to it make sure ALL of them are included in your presentation. Otherwise it’s almost impossible to properly judge the entry fairly and your score will reflect it.
  6. Show the real thing, not photos of it
    Pictures may be worth a thousand words but a two-dimensional presentation is never as effective as one in 3-D. Unless your submission is a trade show booth, all parts of the ACTUAL piece should be included in your entry.
  7. Show “before” and “after” when appropriate
    If your assignment was to update a look, re-brand a product, freshen a logo, etc. show the  project“before” as well as the “after” you worked your magic. It’s much more impressive, especially if the piece you’re submitting isn’t all that creative. You can still impress the judges by showing how much of an improvement your work is over what had been done before.
  8. Take your entries seriously
    Award shows can help you cement current client relationships and develop new ones. After all, leaving a show with an award in hand not only confirms your expertise among your peers, it confirms your client’s good judgment in choosing you as their agency. (Not to mention that clients been known to switch their business from one agency to another based on which Creative Director took home an award!)
    Take some time and effort with your entries. Use the entry form to explain why your piece is better than all others. (Yes, it is extra work but so is a new business pitch.)  Have the folks who actually worked on the project fill out the forms. They know the full story of how and why a piece was created. Inside tip: Telling a good story about the development of your piece can help you win as much as the piece itself. Second inside tip: Brevity is not only the soul of wit, it’s the key to producing winning entries. Third inside tip: Writers are generally better at this sort of thing than art directors/designers. If you’re a design shop and a copywriter wasn’t involved in creating the entry, you might want to consider hiring a wordsmith to help your designers tell their story.
  9. Neatness counts
    Type your entry form if at all possible. Remember the entry form is a marketing tool – use it well.
  10. Don’t hurt your own brand by entering junk
    Every piece you enter in a show is a reflection on the brand and reputation of your business. It’s better not to enter anything at all then to submit less than excellent work. Enough said.

Hope this helps make your next foray into the world of awards a successful one. Good Luck!

Wendy Lalli consults on marketing projects through her own agency, Wendy Lalli Ltd. and is CD of Crux Creative, a marketing agency in Wisconsin.  She also mentors other marketing professionals in transition and wrote on job search for the Chicago Tribune and 25 newspapers in the Chicago Sun Times network.

Chicago AMA names 2015 All-Stars: Our Board Member and Volunteer of the Year

Last Thursday on one of our now common dreary, rainy days, 75 chapter volunteers brought some pent-up cheer to Clayco Headquarters to celebrate their hard work in 2015 at our annual Volunteer Appreciation party.

The beautiful, modern and bright space was the perfect venue for drinks, tasty nosh and the presentation of our Volunteer of the Year and Board Member of the Year. As Chicago AMA is a volunteer-run organization, this event is extremely important in recognizing the many people who have done incredible work to help improve and grow the chapter.

Volunteer of the Year

2015 cama bmoy

2015 Volunteer of Year Tammy DeMarco, center.

Volunteer of the Year went to Tammy DeMarco, our committee chair for the highly successful BrandSmart event. As the largest annual event in Chicago AMA’s large portfolio of programming, it’s a high stakes production that relies on long hours, many meetings and tireless efforts to execute effectively. We’re grateful for her donation of such time and energy to Chicago AMA.



Board Member of the Year

2015 Board Member of Year Michelle Batten, center.

2015 Board Member of Year Michelle Batten, center.

Board Member of the Year was given to Michelle Batten, VP of the Special Interest Groups which have become one of the most robust and valuable communities within the chapter. Her work in organizing dozens of events across many marketing disciplines brought attendees and volunteers together in a way that was unique to many associations in the city and has grown this valuable element of AMA Membership.


A Few More Thanks

In addition to the appreciation for our many 2015 volunteers, a big thanks goes out to Clayco for sponsoring the venue and Lagunita’s Brewing Company for providing a Little

Sumpin’ Sumpin’ (the beer) for our attendees.

Get Involved and Become a Volunteer:

The best way to become involved and meet the many of the best marketers in the city is by volunteering. Visit our volunteer page and submit your interest to our volunteer coordinator, Michele Fournier, to begin the quick process.

After that, we’ll see you at the next Volunteer Appreciation party in June of 2016!

Into the Wilderness

By: Jennifer Gladstone, Chicago AMA Volunteer of the Year 2013-14, now Assistant Communications Director, Chicago AMA Shared Interest Groups

You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. You can’t get there by bus, only by hard work and risk and by not quite knowing what you’re doing. What you’ll discover will be wonderful. What you’ll discover will be yourself. – Alan Alda

Three years ago I left my city of comfort. I was 24. I had a good job at a growing firm and from the outside things were going well. Inside, I was hungry for more and quickly running out of road ahead. I knew I needed to create more opportunities for myself to grow. When I was accepted to a graduate program in the Windy City, I packed my bags and left my family, friends, and the beautiful State of Vermont, behind. What I didn’t know was that this was not my final destination, but only the first stop on a road I unknowingly embarked upon.

The trouble with stepping into the wilderness is that you’re often directionless and alone. Fortunately for me, DePaul University allowed me to tap into a network of peers and discover a myriad of opportunities. Before long, I had landed a graduate research assistantship, accepted a position at Morningstar, and had been nominated for a role on the junior board at the League of Chicago Theatres. What had started as a quest for personal and professional growth quickly turned into more open road than I knew what to do with. I’m not talking about backcountry dirt roads; I’m talking about inner city expressways.

I always try to say yes more than I say no. In time, we all learn that one of the secrets to success is learning when to say both. No matter how focused and committed you are to your career, to lead a truly happy and fulfilling life you need to find balance and engage in endeavors that are meaningful in other ways. Volunteering for the benefit of others as well as yourself is one such avenue. What type of volunteering satisfies one’s happiness is a personal decision. For some, it might be volunteering at their synagogue, church, or a community health organization. For me, it was finding something that was directly related to my field of interest while also serving the broader community. When I was introduced to the Chicago American Marketing Association, I knew it was a time when I wanted to say “yes.”

Through my volunteer work with the Chicago AMA, I’ve found more than just another network; I’ve found a community, a family, and a home. I’ve been fortunate to work alongside some great minds, learn from them, be mentored by them, and contribute to something much bigger than myself. The Chicago AMA is a melting pot of knowledge and resources. I’m constantly discovering new insights through my work with our Shared Interest Groups (SIGs) and communications teams. The experiences I’ve gained are ones that I wouldn’t necessarily get in my day-to-day job. However, they are skills that diversify and grow my knowledge within my chosen field.

Everyone’s roadmap is different but an unfolded map isn’t going to take you anywhere.

Jennifer was honored as the chapter’s Volunteer of the Year 2013-14, in her role as Communications Chair for the Shared Interest Groups. Connect with Jennifer on LinkedIn and Twitter @jengladstone.

Jennifer Gladstone is a Marketing Specialist at Morningstar, Inc., a global leading provider of independent investment research. At Morningstar, Jennifer works in the internal marketing services agency, managing marketing campaigns and projects for the asset management audience. Jennifer is the Assistant Communications Director for the Chicago American Marketing Association’s shared interest groups and is on the Junior Board at the League of Chicago Theatres. She earned her BA from Eckerd College with a double major in business management and communication, and a MA from DePaul University in communication with an emphasis in public relations and advertising.


Chicago AMA Chapter Wins Excellence Awards 2012-13

The Chicago chapter of the American Marketing Association (AMA) received three 2012-13 Excellence Awards in the areas of Leadership, Programming and Communications from the organization’s international headquarters. The AMA’s annual Chapter Excellence Awards program highlights exceptional performance among the organization’s 75 professional chapters across the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

The award for Leadership Excellence recognized the Chicago chapter’s board leadership, strategic planning, vision, volunteer management, financial and KPI management, sponsorship and collegiate relations efforts.  The chapter was also recognized for re-investing six percent of its net income for strategic initiatives for 2013-2014.

The Programming Excellence award took note of the more than 30 quality educational events planned by the Chicago chapter, including new programs like the CAMA’s Sunrise Executive Series, Evening with an Expert, inaugural Momentum conference and a highly successful BrandSmart conference. The Communications Excellence award recognized Chicago AMA for best practices in content development, delivery and overall engagement and community building.

For full details, download the Chicago AMA award submission here:

Click here for the news release.