40: Student Storytelling at SUNY Oswego w/ Tim Nekritz

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Tim Nekritz, Director of News and Media at SUNY Oswego talks about giving up the reins to your communication channels, and trusting and empowering your students to tell your institution’s best story.

We prove student bloggers that studentBlod Post that's carry over to the stuff we do in instagram and in Sapshat you're, listening to enrolment growth,university from helics education, the best professional development podcastfor higher education leaders looking to Growin Roman at their college oruniversity, whether you're looking for fresh and Roman growth techniques andstrategies or tools and resources. You've come to the right place. Let'sget into the show, welcome back to anroman growthuniversity, a proud member of the connect Evu podcast network ImericolsonAVP of marketing at helics education and we're here today with Tim, Neckritz,director of news and media at Sunyasuego Tim Welcome to the show,thank you for having me really excited to talk with you today about trustingand empowering your students to tell your institution's best story, butbefore we dig into that Toim, can you get the listeners a little bit betterunderstanding of both Sunyaswego and your rule? There O so Uswego, wear acomprehensive college in these Suni System State University of New York. Weare located on Lak Ontario, which is fantastic in the summer and not quiteas fantastic in the winter. I can tell you it's beautiful, almost always andwe are weave about eight hsand students here, Grad Undergrad and my role isthat I'm kind of the chief storyteller here so I have a team of professionalsthat do other writing and video and photos, but also a very large studentteam that does a lot of students, storytelling and social media is wherea lot of those stories end up being I love it Tim. Whenever we talk aboutgiving students the reigns to our communication channels, there can besome anxiety around that, but talk about your approach at Suyeswego ofapproving students not posts. It was kind of ingrained early, because whenwe were looking to do student blogging, probably about ten or eleven years ago,when we started it- and I asked around...

...it a very early Highad web and everyasking you O do you preapprove student, Black Post and the few people who aredoing it back Ben said. I don't know that that doesn't make any sense, andso that's how I came up with a phrase. We prove student bloggers N, thatstudent blog post and we we have thats, carry over to the stuff we do ininstagram and in snapshat and as well as the student interms I have who whoall have blogs and then work in various other social media channels as welllike the pop the only place, we've ever done a review once in a while forpreviews for a video just because it's so much going on the videos, easy tomisspell a title or maybe there's something that just didn't work right.I A generally speaking and even then, when I was working with the students.I've worked in on videos very rare that I have to send something back to themfor and Hedit, because this is their life. They know what's going on as astudent, much better than I do, and so I do trust their thoughts on that andit's funny because I was just thinking about this earlier today. Our school,our high school, had a quoteunquote radio station. When I was a senior thatstarted and basically we had a little cassette player and you would play thecassette and then you would bend the microphone down to the speaker and thatwould go over the school sound system. It's just I mean that sounds like suchhigh fight. You have no idea, then, after that we would read theannouncement and nobody was like. Oh, we have to do all this stuff. You haveto be responsible on our sets suff they distrusted us, and that that I thinkthat lesson unwittingly e stayed with me. If you are trusting your students,that means a lot to them. They know that this is a responsibility, so Ithink I put that up front. I know it's once in a while. I will mention ow yeah.By the way, don't forget your teachers and your parents and future employerscan see this. I try not to be really didactic with it. I try not to reallylecture hector them, but to make it positive say. Obviously I trust you todo this, so I know you'll do a great job. I always tell them that alwaysencourage them and always tell them that I really have. I believe thatthey're going to do well, let's stay on this consept of trust case. I thinkit's really fascinating. So So, while...

...you identify these students, as yourbrand ambassadors, you're not doing much specific brand training with them,you're not giving them scripts you're, not giving them talking points talk usthrough your belief that your students are your brand and the value of lettingthem speak authentically. Well, absolutely it's say you know the brandis not. I actually teach a class and I teach the brand is not what you as thecompany say. It is it's what people think you are Scott Stratan, also knownfor UNMARKETING vocuted conference and he used the line. He said: What's Yourbrand ask one of your students hi'll tell you what your brand is, so we haveeight thousand different rands out there. Obviously we all hope they atleast know what we are to some degree. But for me a brand training would seemlike a wayt, so I don't want them to seem inauthentic. I want them to be whothey are, because that's I pick them because they're interesting, becausethey're doing interesting things and not just to to sound out you know, marketing,marking, phrases and tag lines and that type of thing Becaus, that's not reallywhat social media is for. I know there are a lot of a lot of big brands atstill ron't understand that. I think it's all about the tag line and youknow trying to post something that no one's interested in is recruit thesestudents, because I think they'll be interesting to our audiences, whetherit is prespective student or current student members of our campus communityor alumni, there's, certainly a lot of different people. They can appeal toand they're going to peel that if they're interesting they're talkingabout interesting things, if I'm recruiting last week, we had a lakertakeover, which was from our men and women swimming and diving team, andthey had they both had really good seasons.theyere going to the conference championships at Suniac, and so I hadone swimmer who basically was posting photos, videos and that kind of thingand the coach picked her, because she knew social media, but also she's acharacter and swimmers often seem to be characters. And that's what I wanted toput across is like you know. Swimming is not a sport that you necessarilythink of in college, because you think about the big clamor sports, but ourswimmers are just as important to us as...

...anybody else. theire academic, highachievers, they're involved in other ways, and so this was a great way toput that in front of th people, and even if people knew nothing aboutswimming, they learned a little bit about it and learned that we had areally good team and saw a little bit of th the character insights at thatyou can get from such a group an really good stuff to timmy. Can you give us anexample of a success story where you did trust te student with your brandvoice and you're glad that you did? Oh absolutely. Her name is ElyssaLevenberg and she was really our first in earnest, video blogger and it's kindof funny because she tweeted at the Suniaspigo account basically saying youknow hey. If you want someone who can make videos and talk about the college,I'm your girl. So I clicked on the link on her bio and I saw that she wasreally good at video plick and just talking Woth, the camera blogging andthat type of thing so needs to say hiring her and I stay hiring. I mean,as a volunteer was one of the more easy decisions. Ive had ine my life and theonly easier one I could think of is when she asked if she could become afull intern, and I said why am even having a meeting and so basically webring storm to ideas, and I said what about the idea of Elisa explains it alland Nickelodeond Viocom didn come after us for that, but obviously tha with thatakeoff for clurcer explains at all people. My Age understand what that is,but also you know, current students say they. You know nickelodeon seems to betimeless. Apparently so, if you want to do kind of an advice thing and really alot of what we did with that, we would do some that were oriented towardPerspectiveiv speekal students, but some were just perspective, students ingeneral, where she would be very generic and they might say how toSpeako. This is, but if you're going to another college or look at othercolleges dat it up, and I think that made them very widely applicablebecause other colleges would share them because we weren't just talking about aWeego. So she got some nice traction on that we students would come up to herand say you're that Elisa person and they oh, I got your friend, my friendsgot to meet you and that type of thing...

...and she actually got interviewed acouple times by case currents. She spoke some conferences. She was theonly student at the content, Hiher Ed web conference in Atlanta, for example,and she and I spoke about student storytelling and basically, when I wasspeaking, they were just waiting for me to get done so the ELICI coultalk. Iaskliste question. I have a problem with that and so her video skills she'sactually putting to work for channel Frederator, which is basically itinvolves these people who make a bunch of cartoons that are on variousnetworks, and so she basically is still doing blogging talking with the camera,blogs and entertainment except she's getting paid for it, and and they havea really really good and big following, and it's really what she was born to do,and I'm just happy that for four years she was able to ply those skills withus, and certainly I know, we've got a lot of other rising stars and I've hadother students whoe, whose social media backgrounds have helped them work inthings like fitness magazine and redbook as online editors or asactivists or as video and TV producers. So I'm happy we provide that launch padfor them. I think that's been a bit of an appeal to when you can say you know.The one of your video bloggers is now doing this for a living with a very,very well followed. Bram, you know is not necessary to recruit students, butat least it kind of shows them what they can do, and that was a lot becauseI did not restrain what she did. We tild we talk about some ideas. I'vefloat some ideas, sometimes that she would do often she come with ideas orwe try to Shet start with something. We try. Okay, listen, Nerr it down or makethe sprotter, and a lot of it was also the authenticity she did a video aboutdorms and obviously, if you work in higher ad, you know that some people ona campus don't like the term dor. They want you to use residence alls, but ifhe us to term residence halls that would not have been authentic tostudents and as a result that her video on dorms continues to be one of our topperformers on Youtube, because it is timeless and students are probablysearching for the word. Dormss not...

...resident alls man is coming up andsearch engines such a win, win story. I really love it and she was aninteresting example of in terms of finding student ambassadors. She foundyou in terms of been sentavizing student ambassadors. You know she sawthis as a prelude to a future career in general. How common is that, in termsof how are you finding these ambasasors and n? How do you get them motivated toproduce good work for you? Well, in the old days, there was definitely muchmore much more hunting for that type of thing we would like, when I wasstarting the student blog project, I would ask around people it's like. Doyou know a student who's very involved in this? You know a student who is likeyou know maybe can has a science background, but can speak to it in aneveryday language. I I reginally thought. Okay, I want to get x numberof bloggers. I want to get them from these backgrounds is kind of changed alittle bit. We still find ways to highlight them, but my core studentsare now communication. Studies generally are marketing, people and hen,that's fine, because they are, and I had some jouralism students, includingthe O one who's. An online editor now approach him because she said I know towork in journalism. I should know about blogging in some of the things thatgoes go with it now the students generally will come to me, apply tobecome an intern and that type of thing for what we do: Weekly Laker takeoversin Instagram and occasionally on snap chat now to I will ask around like, forinstance, the the swimming and diving. That's just something that I saw. Iaske sports information. I asked the coach and Hiy gave me something, andbut then I'll have students come to me and say: Hey we're doing this event.Can we do the takeover for it? And you know I try to bet them and see ifsomeone will will vouch for them and that type of thing talk, t them alittle bit about some ideas and how often they might consider posting howwe start it make sure it's tag, Lake Er takeover and you know then basicallytry to work through because sometimes ey'll have well. I don't know if I'vegot a week's worth the content. Okay, let's take a step back and they will,in the process of talking they'll, have...

...more content than they realize they doand a case once in a while, we had a laker takeover for a theater productionlast year by a Freshman Anna, and I said, wow she's really good and I said:Do you want to become an intern and she has been ever since. So sometimes youhappen upon those people? It's always a bonus of. You can get them early onyour college careers. You can find you know. Obviously a Lissa contacted metwo weeks in to being a college student, so that was that was way too lucky butbut like if you can find for me like if I can find someone who's a sophomore orsomething like that. That's great because they have some collegeexperience and if we're lucky they'll be with me for three years and helpsmooth things over, because if you're doing new interns every semester, thenit's a bit of a reelern. But now it's kind of it's kind of a mix like I'llget a couple. New Interns and someonewill graduate or something likethat or just have a take another internship, but then I'll have a corein terns, because it's also good to mix it up and bring in new ideas. I have anew video inturn named Griffin Bruce. He does have some really good videoskills from a social media standpoint and he riginally wanted to be a videointern with our bideographer. But his advisor said you need to broaden out sohe's doing some general social media stuff he's doing instagram stories anddoing them really really well for us. So but again, I'm glad for this issomeone who's looking to graduate and he's getting something else that isn'tjust videos is some social media experience. So for me I do try to Selvas experience, but I also know that they need to be passionate about it.They want to have something on the resume, but they also should have someschool spirit. They should want to really want to go into social media atleast have a feeling that they want to go into social media communications andjust really feel it and want to show one show want to be dependable and wantto put the best face forward for whatever they're working with. Theyknow that they're a college ambassador, and certainly they value that, butultimately I want them to also to walk away with something I want them to havea portfolio after leaf her. I don't want to just say: Okay, you did thisthat the other thing I want them to have some project, or maybe it's a blogseries. Maybe it's a video that they...

...can take forward and say look. This issomething that I did and I think that's as valuable as anything really reallygood stuff. Timy. You mentioned some of these student takeovers you're,currently doing what activities? What communication channels are you the mostexcited about or seeing the most return on from from letting your studentambassadors loose on them? Definitely INSTAGRAM! Is it right now theinstagram stories are doing really really well. Snapchat is kind of thereat the class. I teach I asked students if they bailed on snapshating after theredesign, and quite a few of them did because they said, if I can do this oninstagram and on Snapchat, or they might use a snapshet just for thedirect messaging parts of it, but they're not using they're, not lookingfor stories as much anymore and part of the reader. We design O stampshads madethat more difficult. So the stapchat numbers for stories are notoverwhelming. I'm getting a lot more miledge out of instagram right now, man,certainly anytime. We can incorporate them into video. That's good. I've gotone. Stooden is really good photographer and I can use her stuffeverywhere. FACEBOOK instagram twitter snapchat, because the good thing ishave people with a lot of different skillsets. So I've got you know somepeople w o are good writers, a videographer, someone who's good withphotos and one of my interns, basically his kind of like the help or tipblogger more so than anybody else. In other word, she looks at the cycle andsays: okay, people need tips on this or that or the other things, and then oneof my the bloggers also really good photographer put together last year, alist of twenty twenty one. Twenty five questions to ask your future roommates,which was longer than I would have recommended, but I'll be darned. If allthe students in ar incoming class group didn't use that and copy it over andgave their answers and and havene to find roommates that way, and it's funnybecause she was somebody who found her roommate through the admitted studentgroup that we had in two thousand and eighteen and she and a roommate justdid a video with us, which is probably Onna, be two part: Video about findinga roommate trying to find out who an ideal roommate is and then being a goodroommate. So you know when we get that...

...that person that really good story whocan put out things that are informative and entertaining. We want to find waysto show case that ine, you know so there's and there's so many differentways to do it, because good content is good content, work Ino, so manydifferent channels preach Tim. Finally, what advice would you give toinstitutions who are looking to leverage student ambassadors for theircommunications in order to take that first step toward it I'd say: Start Small choose a channel.You know if you really concerned choose a channel, you think it's a low riskone. Maybe it's blogging, because it won't get a lot of attention youwouldn't want to. If you are concerned, don't put them on your most popularchannel Ness yet, but the problem is when you have, when you have a mindset,if you' got to approve them, first you're really desending them the wrongmessage. The message is not that I value your contributions. The messageis, I value the ability to edit or approve your contributions, as opposedto just saying you know, you're really interesting, you're well spoken orgreat, photographer great video, for we want you to tell your story andessentially that's where I tryd to come from, because I feel like once youstart with the approval process yeah. I guess you can you can loosen up afterthat, but it kind of puts a barrier up there at first at hopefully, you knowif you change that, hopefully that you know they'll feel better about it, butI think if you start from a position of trust, it's much easier to get them offthe ground, and you know and have some some ideas. As far as what to do, therewas a, I think it was target x, had a handout which was a bunch of tips forstudent bloggers and some of them were. You know the expected k. You know don'tpost anything too personal or weird or whatever, but then also some ideas asfar as if you're you know, if you don't know what to what to blog about here issome thoughts for my students. I always ask them your first blog entry shouldbe your introduction, reduce yourself tell them a little bit more aboutyourself. That should be easy, then that makes the second one a little bitharder, but I actively work with them on what they're doing, like Griffin isinvolved in a lot of clubs. He's an Ra he's got so people who have a lot ofirons in the fire who have a lot of...

...interest. They can speak to differentdifferent audiences or for us. When we see a question that comes up regularlyin our admitted student groups, then we might have someone go out and researchit like a good example. Was We have a sychodized skating team called the iceeffects and a couple of incoming students asked about that a few yearsago, and one of me Antios, like oh I'm, like good friends with the president,and so he just emailed her. Some questions she emailed back and just hatturned that innew QNA and then postit into that group, and that shows somevalue of the group to shows that we're answering their questions and trying toget them a little bit more information to and again that's that's you know,students talking to students talking to students, so it's really a win win winand it keeps the boll much more in their court than mine, because, ifyou're a student applying at a college, you know you've already talked to awhole bunch of administrators and that type of thing you want to a you wantcollege students. Current count, students are the they are who youespire to be. You aspire to be a current cowlege students, and so theseare the ones who you will trust the most great stuff to him. What's thebest place for listeners to connect with you if they have any followipquestions about students to are telling usually a good place to start istwitter at Tim Nekritz on twitter. They can also drop me a line on email whichis tim, dot, Nekritz and I'm assuming that's Goingno, be spelled outsomewhere here at Aswego Dot Edu. So I try to be responsiive on those. Somedays are better than others, but if there's anybody who's ever reallyinterested in the topic, I certainly want to help and want to continuebringing student stories forward wherever they might be. Love in thanksagainst so much for joining us today. Toim much appreciated attractingtoday's new post, traditional learners means adopting new enromant strategies.Keeloks educations data driven enterprise, wide approach to enrolmentgrowth is uniquely helping colleges and universities thrive in this neweducation, landscape and Helex has just published the second edition of theirenrollment growth playbook, with fifty percent brand new content on howinstitutions can solve today's most...

...pressing andromant growth challengesdownload it today for free at Helocks, Educationcom playbook you've been listening to enromantgrowth university from helics education to ensure that you never miss anepisode subscribe to the show in Itunes or your favorite podcast player. Thankyou so much for listening until next time.

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