What’s the best thing you can do in a digital space to promote community? Be Human.

I’ve recently been reading a book by Sarah Robinson called Fierce Loyalty.

In short, it’s a mini tome on how to make people feel connected to your brand, be it Harley Davidson or a group of surfing enthusiasts, through community in a digital space.

Though we work in a public institution, and don’t live and die by the number of widgets or gadgets that are sold, Virginia Tech also relies heavily on brand loyalty just as any institution that sells material goods for survival. And many alumni cultivate a connection to the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the university that lasts throughout their entire lives.

Robinson has done a lot of work not only creating communities in a virtual space but also creating the intangible SENSE of community that tends to foster very strong connections to loyalty like those found among Hokie alumni and current students.

One of the themes that re-appears throughout her book and her blog is that there is no substitution for being human, even in a virtual space, to attract members into your community.

She cautions against merely making transactions in a digital space, but really attempting to make connections. And making connections can only be done by investing the one thing that we’ve come to associate exclusively with face-to-face interactions: Time.

Easier said than done?

Here are some tips:

  • Make members feel valued and important.
  • Create something together.
  • Fight a common enemy.
  • Create a culture of “we.”
  • Empower members to make the community their own.
  • Build in exclusivity.
  • Create a barrier to entry.
  • Stand for something bold.
  • Build structure with an eye toward fostering pride, trust, and passion.
  • Initiate opportunities for shared experiences.
  • Love your community.
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What’s up in the VT, CALS, and VCE web world?

With the start of a new semester, I wanted to welcome those who are new to the CALS and VCE family and to give some web-related updates. I’ve gotten lots of questions in the past few months regarding a variety of things, so see the sections below for information on the CMS migration, new web templates, and restructured teams. Don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any additional questions!

Content Management System migration

The Virginia Tech web team is hard at work testing the new content management system (CMS) and making sure the migration will go smoothly. An exact date for the switch over has not been announced, but it should be in the next few weeks.

Please note that the VCE Unit Office websites will not be migrated at the same time as the rest of the CMS. It was originally built with special content types that require a separate process. While the rest of the websites are moved into the new system, the Offices sites will remain in the old system. This is a very good thing because it means that we won’t need to potentially troubleshoot the CALS, main VCE, and Publications websites at the same time as the 107 unit office websites! See the next section below for information regarding the Unit Office redesign project.

While the switch over is happening, we are anticipating a blackout period where CMS users will not be able to access the system and make updates. If you anticipate needing to update your website around the start of the semester, do this now! Don’t wait! Otherwise, it may be awhile before your content and/or documents can be updated. Continue reading

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The Magical Number Seven

If you want your audiences to remember what you have to say, there are techniques that can be used to help people retain your message. Grouping information into bite-sized chunks can help readers recall important content you want them to remember. This is called chunking.

In the mid-50s, cognitive psychologist George A. Miller, wrote about the concept of chunking in a paper titled “The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two.” Long story short, human memory can store up to seven bits (chunks) of information in short-term memory, plus or minus two. In other words, some people can store nine chunks of information, others five, thus the “plus or minus” part of the equation. This is why phone numbers are seven digits (or they used to be!).

These chunks of information can be stored in short-term memory for about 30 seconds before it is forgotten. If you look at billboards, notice that the ones you can remember as you drive past. At 70 mph the industry average time for reading a billboard is six seconds. So, around six words is all you get for your message. Continue reading

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Feeling creatively uninspired? Here are some tips!

Social networks and digital media such as, websites, and films are currently the top sources of inspiration. Traditional media such as magazine and print ads, architecture, and fashion also remain as sources of creative juices.

These are some of the top sources of ideas:

Social media

Creative people see digital sources, such as social media, as a better source of creative sparks compared to traditional sources. This is because of how mobile technology allows for creatives to capture inspiration through their devices. Continue reading

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Listening skills

“The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them.”

— Ralph G. Nichols, father of the study of listening

Listening is one of the most important skills you can have. How well you listen has a major impact on your job effectiveness and on the quality of your relationships with others.

Given all the listening we do, you would think we would be good at it! In fact most of us are not, and research suggests that we remember only 25 to 50 percent of what we hear.

Good communication skills require a high level of self-awareness. By understanding your personal style of communicating, you will go a long way toward creating positive and lasting impressions with others.

Listening skills are essential to leadership that’s responsive, attentive, and empathetic, and they are skills we can all benefit from improving. By becoming a better listener, you will improve your productivity as well as your ability to influence, persuade, and negotiate. Effective listening skills are necessary for workplace and personal success! Continue reading

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Infographics (Dos and Don’ts)

Example of a stacked bar chartInfographics are visual representations of information, or “data visualization.”

The term implies that sets of data will be displayed in a unique way that can be seen, rather than read. This visualization should not be left up to interpretation, it should instead be designed in a way that provides a universal conclusion for all viewers. In the simplest terms, infographics are not much different than the charts and graphs that programs like Excel can create.*

Designing and creating an infographic and using it as a tool for content marketing is much more complicated than simply making graphics or charts. The designer and infographic creator must know how to effectively convey the meaning and context of a particular set of information in graphical form that online readers can understand and appreciate.

The here are some very important Dos and Don’ts that digital marketers should know and understand when creating and using infographics for content marketing.**

*Source: www.smashingmagazine.com/2011/10/14/the-dos-and-donts-of-infographic-design
**Source: http://digitalmarketingphilippines.com/5-dos-and-donts-when-creating-infographics-for-visual-content-marketing
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How to make your webpage stand out

You have a website. You have content on this website — perhaps information about an academic program, or an event, or your latest research — and you want it to pop out on your page over all the other content that might be stuffed there. What are some good ways to go about doing so?

There are good ways and bad ways to get your content noticed, and there are ways of getting your content noticed which may not necessarily help in getting people to take the action you desire. What follows are a few tips that will hopefully allow you to present your content in a way that is useful to your audience and help you to achieve your goals.

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Should Titles Be Capitalized?

When crafting a press release, publication, or letter, the rules for when and how to use academic or job titles can seem confusing. Virginia Tech follows the Associated Press Stylebook for guidance. Here are some general guidelines and examples to follow.

Academic Titles

The rule of thumb is to capitalize academic titles that precede an individual’s name but lowercase academic titles that follow a name.

  • Capitalize academic titles that directly precede individual names. Note: Capitalizing “professor” or “assistant professor” before a name is an exception to AP Style. Ex: Dean Vernon Wormer, Professor Severus Snape
  • Lowercase academic titles when they are used without a specific name. Ex: the dean, a professor of potions
  • Lowercase academic titles that follow the name of an individual. Ex: Vernon Wormer, dean of Faber College; Severus Snape, professor of potions


  • Capitalize University Distinguished Professor and Alumni Distinguished Professor whether or not they precede a name. If an area of study is included, capitalize it.
  • Capitalize all professorships and endowed chairs, whether or not they precede a person’s name.

Job Titles

With job titles, capitalize formal job titles that directly precede a person’s name but lowercase job titles that follow a person’s name, are used without name, or are more like job descriptions than formal titles. Continue reading

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Considerations when purchasing a display

Portable displays come in a variety of sizes, shapes, and styles, and they can be customized to provide the maximum impact for their audience and purpose. The variety of hardware and options available from local and online vendors can make purchasing a display overwhelming. Following are some questions to consider before beginning your search for the right display.

  • Who will use the display? Will one person have to move it and set it up without assistance? Is weight a concern? Displays can be as small as a handled briefcase with interchangeable panels or as large as an 8- by 10-foot pop-up. Some larger floor displays can be put up and taken down by one person but are heavy when in their cases.
  • How will the display be used? Look back at the venues where you have used displays and consider the space available (tabletop or floor, narrow hallways, meeting room or exhibit hall, etc.). Are you primarily setting up on tables? If so, is the table space limited by materials, such as promotional items and brochures? A narrow retractable banner — where the banner retracts into the hardware — works well as a backdrop for a speaker or in conjunction with a branded tablecloth. Other size considerations include available storage space and whether the display will fit into the vehicle transporting it.

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Feeding the social media monster

You’ve taken the first step and established a Twitter feed with a catchy handle that speaks to your organization’s mission, a Facebook account that easily expresses your branding, and a slew of other accounts that your audience can access for information. Great!

Now, what most people new to the social media landscape quickly figure out, is that these accounts require constant maintenance and feeding, and that something you had originally blocked out a half an hour for on your Outlook calendar is creeping into most of your morning routine, and your social media monster’s appetite is getting bigger every day.

Tame the monster hunger pangs by employing these simple things: Continue reading

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