Rest of World

“Rest of World” is the term we use around the office when sorting mail for direct mail appeals. There’s local mail (UK), mail to continental Europe (a different postage charge, but not quite as much as an international rate) and then “rest of world”—the mail going out to every other country outside of those described above: the US, Singapore, Brazil, India and so on.

While these categories might work for sorting out postage, they don’t work when developing a strategy for international alumni. Lumping graduates who live overseas into one big group overlooks their needs as individuals. An alumnus living and working in Berlin may have next to nothing in common with an alumna in Beijing. Different languages, time zones, professional goals and communications channels all play a role in effective engagement.

As John Arboleda stated in “Find the Right Fit,” his article in Currents, “…institutions adopt a one-size-fits-all strategy for engaging international alumni… your alumni relations strategy should reflect the needs and realities of graduates who live in different countries and often experience different cultures and dynamics.”

While John is applying these principles to alumni events, programs and services on the whole, they also apply to social media strategy for international engagement.

Tailoring content for international audiences is key. For example, as explained in William Foreman, University of Michigan’s global communications manager, “‘we learned that if our content wasn’t in perfect Chinese, then people wouldn’t want to read it,'” Foreman says. “‘Getting the language right is so important if you want to be credible.'” Currents, The China Connection” by Becca Ramspott.

And on Lund University’s international recruitment Facebook page, all questions are asked and answered in English – not Swedish – to reach the largest possible international audience. There’s also a human touch: the page’s administrators, Megan Grindlay and Maria Lindblad, individually respond to each question posted on the wall and sign it with their name and title.

While “rest of world” might be easy in terms of categorization, it isn’t an effective engagement strategy. Care and attention to cultural details will go a long way toward effectively communicating with international audiences.

This piece is cross-posted on the CASE Blog.

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The Privacy Pyramid

Which parts of your website should be password protected? What belongs behind the login?

Chances are, members of your school community have an opinion: staff, faculty, alumni, parents and even students. There are legal considerations, too, depending on the country you live in and the age(s) of the students you work with. Somewhere between the legal guidelines, security, school policies and personal preference lies the squishy compromise that allows content stewards to determine what can be available to anyone in the general public to see, and what’s protected with a password for internal viewing only.

privacy pyramid

This graphic is meant to help give you a way to think about the different levels of privacy. Note that this is an inverted pyramid: private content is in the smallest piece of the pyramid, public content in the largest. The most controversial piece is the middle section – to be determined by your community, your security team, your Head of School.

privacy pyramid explained

Examples of the types of content in these categories are above. Private content will usually include family contact information: phone numbers, post and email addresses. The potentially sensitive content section can contain several options, all to be determined by your stakeholders. A few notes:

Faculty directory: this can include all sorts of details, such as photos, email addresses, phone numbers and even short bios. My take? The more information you can share publicly about your fantastic teachers, the better. It also helps the faculty members to increase their professional digital footprint.

Student surnames: do you name students on your website? First and last names? Class year? Do you name students in photos? Whatever you decide, be sure to be clear about your policies with parents. At the beginning of the school year as part of the re-enrollment process, have all families sign consent forms acknowledging acceptance of the policy.

Calendars: sharing generic details (“Band trip to Zurich” and “field trip”) is not the same as publishing exact itineraries and travel documents. Err on the side of vague if there is a concern. Also be aware of what other schools publish about your school. Take athletics, for example: if the opposing teams post their schedules publicly, your school’s schedules are as good as public too.

Photos/videos: Do you post photos of kids at all? This can be one of the most controversial discussions/decisions for your school. Always consider the legal ramifications for your particular country and age group. However, there are obvious benefits to showing student photos, including showing what the school community is really like, and how students engage with faculty and one another in your school’s learning environment.

While it is important to have buy-in from your constituents, privacy issues can’t be “design by committee.” Your highest level of administration (principals, head of communications, security team, advancement) should support the decisions on these items and move forward with policies.

Routine Maintenance

Your online communications tools and protocols require continual upkeep. Just like your home or your car, you rely on these tools and use them regularly. Here are a few ideas for keeping your online communications engine running.

Get a Tuneup
Brush up on social media tools and online trends regularly, as well as the latest your CMS provider has to offer. Do you know about the latest platforms and tools? What are the newest features and changes on the platforms you use? Have you taken full advantage of them where applicable, or at least given them a try? You should be able to demonstrate your knowledge and understanding of these tools, including the latest additions. On the flipside, take a hard look at the pieces you currently use and pay for. This sort of internal audit will help you determine what you might be spending time on, or paying for, that you don’t need.

Change the Oil
When is the last time you reviewed your privacy policies, terms of use, user agreements or other policies surrounding your social media and online presences?  Given the frequency of updates and changes in the online world, it is important to make sure your policies and procedures are up-to-date. Re-read these policy documents every 12 months and confirm that no changes or additions are necessary.

Check Your Spare
If your entire network went down, what would you do? If you store your policies and procedures on your servers, how would you get to them? Create a “low-tech” backup and print your policies and procedures, social media documentation, social media strategy and other important documentation (e.g., emergency contacts, crisis communications plan, contact information for vendors and other key players) —just in case. You don’t want to get caught without this key information if your systems fail.

This piece is cross-posted on the CASE Social Media Blog.

Program Notes: CASE Europe and Beyond Social Media

The recent CASE Europe seminar “Beyond Social Media,” developed by Ken Punter (@kenpunter), Ellie Lovell (@ellielovell) and me, was structured to give attendees the opportunity to go beyond the basics and learn how to develop strategic initiatives for social media.

Ellie’s vision for the seminar was to look past the day-to-day details of social tools. She describes the overall approach:

“We have been talking about social media for a long time now, and we’re all doing it in some way or another…but I wonder how many of us are doing it purposefully. We seem to talk more about the tools and the ‘how?’ rather than the principles and the ‘why?’ I was really keen to look at what we want to achieve and how social media can support those objectives. We need to demonstrate the value of using social media and online channels. It’s an area that will continue to need investment if we are going to do it purposefully.”

The Sessions

We heard from a variety of speakers representing higher ed, private industry, schools, communications, fundraising, alumni relations and marketing. Ken Punter kicked off the day’s talks by reminding us of the roots of basic human behavior. Ken believes that people should be at the center of everything we do with regards to social tools. “It’s an approach, not a technology,” he said. This reminded me of Andy Shaindlin’s “Ride the wave, not the board” concept as discussed on his blog, Alumni Futures. Both speak to the heart of the social web—it’s about people and behaviors, not software and platforms.

We also heard from staff at three institutions—Leeds, Open University, and York—who provided case studies about their efforts in social media. They included a bespoke solution (a custom platform built in-house), a “walled garden” hybrid (using a private alumni directory service alongside tools like Facebook and Twitter) and using solely third-party tools (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube). While the approach highlighted in each case study proved effective for the respective institution, the success of varied methods also speaks to the fact that there is no magic bullet for “solving” social media. Each institution has its own character, stakeholders, culture and community. Taking a hard look at an institution’s strategic initiatives is the key to selecting an approach for effectively engaging audiences with social technologies.

Measurement, return on investment and garnering support for initiatives is also key, as highlighted by the seminar’s two final presentations. First, a panel session on measuring and monitoring social media considered different approaches to both qualitative and quantitative measurement and stressed the need for benchmarking. I closed out the day featuring issues related to growing support for social media initiatives and reporting successes to peers, managers and high-level leadership.

In all, the day’s presentations provided a cohesive look at the issues that go well beyond starting a Facebook page or tweeting for the first time. Strategic thinking and being true to the voice of your institution are major components of a successful implementation of social tools.

In case you missed the program in person, learn more by following these links.

This piece is cross-posted on the CASE Social Media Blog.

Hello Europe

The folks at CASE Europe have welcomed me with open arms since arriving in London last fall. I’m happy to say I’m presenting at two events this summer:

First, at Online Management: Beyond Social Media, a daylong seminar put together by Ellie Lovell of Warwick University (follow along with #caseonline if you can’t be there in person).

And second, as part of the first ever schools programme at the CASE Europe Annual Conference, speaking with Tracy Playle of Pickle Jar Communications.

Please let me know if you’ll be in attendance, and stop by to say hello!