May 262017

Not only does he have two last names, but this brilliant and inspiring speaker has two titles and is a professor in two departments! Jeff MacKie-Mason is UC Berkeley’s University Librarian and Chief Digital Scholarship Officer, as well as a Professor of the School of Information and Professor of Economics. He came to Berkeley in 2015 from the University of Michigan where he was recognized with the University’s Distinguished Faculty Achievement Award. He has been a pioneering scholar in the economics of the Internet, online behavior, and digital information and been published more than 85 times. In addition to his exceptional academic achievements MacKie-Mason is passionate about the performing arts, serves on the board of Cal Performances, and was an active board member of the University Musical Society at University of Michigan (Cal Performances’ most similar peer organization nationwide.)

In his BC2 talk – Information pollution and how to fight it – Jeff will speak to us campus communicators about why it’s now so challenging to sift through the glut of online information, factual or otherwise, and also provide informed context about what we all need to do in order to make sure our stories stand out as credible amidst all of the noise. Watch him participate in a panel discussion about fake news hosted earlier this year by UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism, and read the accompanying Berkeley Library News article highlighting his participation. In the article MacKie-Mason describes one of our current day challenges, “The content platform providers now want to lower the barriers for people to bring content to them. They want to make it as easy as possible for people to publish,” said MacKie-Mason. “At the same time, you want to keep out the manipulations, the spam, the disinformation. But telling the difference is very hard. It’s very costly.”

Read the full description of his BC2 talk on the conference agenda page. We look forward to welcoming Jeff MacKie-Mason to the BC2 podium for the third session beginning shortly after 11am on Tuesday, June 13. In addition, he has generously promised to stick around for the lunchtime networking hour from 12:30-1:30pm!

May 262014

On most websites you’ll see at least three ads on each page, usually at the top above content, alongside content you’re viewing, and at the bottom of the page. But have you ever clicked on one?

The average click-through-rate for banner ads in 2013 was 0.19%, meaning that only 19 clicks were recorded for every 10,000 times a banner appeared on a page. Based on these paltry figures, one may think digital advertising is a waste of time and money. But consider this: A typical cost-per-thousand impressions is five dollars, so those 10,000 banner views may only cost an advertiser $50.

Now ask yourself: Is it be worth spending $50 to get 19 new visitors to your website to learn more about your department or program? How does this cost compare with the expenses of hosting information sessions, printing information pamphlets, or conducting other marketing tactics you currently utilize?

Digital advertising can help complement your non-paid communications activities to grow your reach and re-engage individuals who have already visited your site.

In the BC2 Breakout Session, Greater Reach Through Online Advertising, we’ll examine several types of online advertising that are straightforward to execute and manage, produce measurable results, and can be easily scalable depending on your budget. We’ll focus on paid search, banner advertising, and video promotion, discuss how to get started, and consider how paid advertising can help you ensure your messages are being seen by the audiences you want to reach.

If you’re planning to attend and have specific questions or topics you would like me to address, please leave a comment in response to this post. I’m looking forward to meeting some of you at BC2 in a couple weeks!

By Matt Skinner, Marketing Manager, Demand Generation & eCommerce 

May 202014

In a meeting the oinstagramNYCther day with a (ahem… older) colleague I was asked why anyone would ever want to do an InstaMeet. InstaMeets are events during which Instagram photographers go to the same location, take photographs, and post over the same time period. They represent a unique moment captured from many different perspectives – an intersection of the digital and the physical plane. Or, just a chance for a bunch of people who are photography enthusiast to meet each other and do something they love, together.

It got me thinking about what successful digital marketing is in a world with so much technology aimed at humans – who in essence crave the same things we’ve wanted for thousands of years: connection, communication and community.

We desired to be able to capture and record our thoughts – to connect with other at a later time and place. So, we invented writing (oh yah, and we wanted to tax people… also an age old human need).  Over millennia we went from cuneiform to messages delivered in an instant around the world.  We needed to communicate with each other across vast distances. So carrier pigeons evolved into cell phones and now we can speak any time, to almost anyone – instantaneously. We formed nomadic tribes to fulfill common goals and needs. Eventually these became the virtual communities of today, formed around every interest and passion under the sun. current technological tools answer needs we as a civilization identified thousands of years ago. In millennia, those needs haven’t changed. Understanding the essence of human nature has been and will always be at the heart of marketing.  As we look forward to the next big thing we must also look inward and understand who we are: as humans, as a civilization, as a community, and as a tribe.  InstaMeets work because they combine passion, connection, community and technology.

Finding the intersection of the human soul and that perfect communication tool – new, old or a combination of virtual and physical isn’t easy. It requires truly understanding your business needs, your audience / consumers, and your options. Sometimes it means turning away the bright and shiny to use a technology that seems outdated. Sometimes it means capital investment and taking a risk. It always requires research and soul searching.

Still, for as long as we’ve craved the same, simple things, humans are complex and there isn’t a single simple formula. But with diligence, research and insight, we as marketers can hunt and gather our way to solutions that make sense and truly feed our digital tribes. Oh, and sell stuff.

By Fawn Kazati, Director Content Strategy, Saatchi & Saatchi LA
Twitter: @fawnforce

Hear from Fawn and her colleague Kayla Green during their BC2 session on Bringing Brands to Life Through Digital Marketing. Learn  how you can leverage basic human insights to determine appropriate tools, and then build a narrative across your digital marketing ecosystem (website, mobile, apps, social, search, PR) that creates a meaningful connection between your business, your brand and your audience.

Apr 282014
Tiffany Shlain

Tiffany Shlain

We live in a highly connected world linked together by status updates, texts, emails, tweets, and countless other messages. As communication professionals, we are expected to process this information every day, to navigate these connections as easily as a pro surfer rides a monster wave. But how much information can we “surf” before becoming overwhelmed? How do we as communicators manage the compulsion to connect but still carve out space to stay focused and productive?

Our closing keynote speaker Tiffany Shlain is tackling these very questions. A groundbreaking filmmaker, artist, and founder of the Webby Awards (as well as a Berkeley alum!), Tiffany explores what it means to be connected and how to navigate our changing world, from technology shabbats to tech etiquette. Her recent film Connected: An Autobiography about Love, Death & Technology is a timely look at the ways we are all connected that is both personal and universal.

The Yuen family phone.

The Yuen family phone.

Like many of us, I’m not immune to the allure of connectivity, the excitement of receiving that online notification, text message, or user comment. However, during my childhood my family and I were far from the technology forefront. We had a black and white television and rotary phone for most of the 1980’s. We didn’t get a VCR, microwave oven, or answering machine until 1992 (a banner year for us). My mother uses a manual typewriter to this day to write letters.

My world today could not be more different–I find myself now managing social media, writing content, and yes, even helping to organize BC2! I’m excited to listen to Tiffany’s talk as she returns to Berkeley for BC2, and I’m looking forward to making new connections with campus colleagues (special props to those who still have a typewriter).

Trailer for Tiffany Shlain’s Connected

Jun 122013

Note for those who have been living on Mars the past few years: Pandora is an online streaming radio that creates channels based on the groups or songs you like. It is extremely addictive.

LIKE OR DELETEPandora has us all figured out. What we like, what we once liked, what we will never ever like, even if it was served up hot and steaming in the middle of an ice storm. Here is Pandora’s Like Sleep Delete (LSD) formula:

Like: If you hear a song you really like (and would be happy to hear over and over), click the thumbs up icon.

SLEEPSleep: If you hear a song you used to like but have now grown tired of hearing over and over, click the sleep (I’m tired of this track) option.

Delete: If you hear a song that reminds you of the fat kid who used to bully you in middle school, click the thumbs down icon. (If only you could do that in the real world…)

What a perfect formula for life:

Like something? Keep doing it. (You won’t go blind.)

Like something but have grown tired of it? Take a break for a while. (Tell your partner you have a headache.)

Don’t like something? Just don’t do it. (Unless you could lose your job.)

Seriously though, this LSD formula has found application everywhere because it is rooted in human psychology.

fly-through-shotTake my iPhone mail app of the moment, Mailbox. I know, I know, I keep serving up apps. Guess I just “like” them. Anyway, mailbox lets you answer urgent emails immediately (Like), send emails away to lists or to return tomorrow/next week/in 3 months (Sleep) and of course, get rid of / archive the emails that come from your old high school classmates (Delete).

So what do you think of the LSD philosophy? Do you think you could apply it to aspects of your life? If you did, what would you select for the Sleep category (apart from my blog posts, of course)?

Aug 062012

I revisited my Midwestern roots last month (ah, flyover country) while attending the HigherEds 2010 Huddle at the University of Michigan, and in the process picked up a lot of ideas and inspiration from folks who face the same daily challenges we do.

HigherEds is a loosely affiliated group of North American university communicators who keep in touch with each other throughout the year on an email listserv, and get together each summer for a Huddle, a not-really-a-conference where we spend two days giving and taking in presentations, sharing ideas, asking questions and networking. The past three summers, Huddles were held in Toronto, Rutgers (N.J.) and Michigan. (If you notice a geographic trend here, you’re not alone, which is why there’s chatter on the listserv about a West Coast Huddle in 2013.) While originally focused on internal communications strategy and practice, the group has seen that audience boundary dissolve as the web and other new technologies spread our communications farther and wider.

This year’s Huddle covered a wide variety of topics, from social media and press releases to humanities news and DIY video. Copies of the presentations for many of these topics are available on the group’s website ( But I thought I’d call out a few of the lessons learned that struck me as particularly helpful in a Berkeley context.

 Social Media: Michigan has a vigorous social media operation led by a full-time director recruited from the corporate world, Jordan Miller. She talked about the @UMichStudents account on Twitter, in which a different student each week tweets about his/her activities, thoughts and interests. Jordan vetted the students, all volunteers, by looking at their existing social media presences to get an idea of their style and appropriateness. One of her goals was to pick a broad cross-section of tweeters to represent UMich’s diversity: a rah-rah cheerleader one week, a geek the next, a student politician the third, etc. She says the feed has been immensely popular, and hasn’t caused any blowback despite having the students post without any kind of institutional review or editing. (She acknowledges that the idea “may well be a time bomb,” but the return so far has been great.) Jordan and others also noted that Twitter seems to attract a more thinking, less “ditto that” audience than Facebook, making it a better place to promote more intellectual or important stories.

As for monitoring comments and posts, Jordan said that on the rare occasions she has felt the need to remove something, she has always added a note explaining her actions. And she said the Facebook and Twitter communities themselves have done a fine job of policing the run-of-the-mill “UM sucks!” posts.

At Wisconsin, where there are nearly 500 social media accounts spread around campus, social media and internal communications manager John Lucas says they try to infuse the “inspired goofiness” that is UW’s personality into social media posts, differentiating those channels from the more stodgy, institutional character of the university’s traditional communications outlets. Among other things, that has meant polls and contests to collect reader photos into a Flickr stream, or using Storify to gather faculty tweets in the immediate aftermath of a major news event. Another notable effort was UWRightNow, highlighting 24 hours in the life of the campus with more than 1,000 photos, tweets, stories, blog posts and other items shared in real time from around the globe. As for less-successful ventures, John says, “It’s OK to fail — the web moves on.”

 Blogs: Two intriguing efforts were LabLog, from Michigan’s College of Engineering, and Virginia’s UVaToday News Blog. LabLog focuses not on the end product of research (those dense and daunting peer-reviewed papers) nor on the awards won by researchers, but rather on the process of research, highlighting unusual methods, novel research tools, exotic locations, or serendipitous discoveries. It offers a good chance for storytelling rather than dry recitation of facts, and thus makes for unusually interesting reading, as well as a good media-pitching tool. The UVa News Blog also focuses on the lighter side of campus news, providing a home for odd, offbeat or quirky stories, YouTube embeds, nonvarsity sports, rankings, and a way to trumpet great outside media coverage.

Video: Teams from Michigan’s communications office and engineering school conducted a clinic on how to create great video with limited resources. They even shot, edited and posted a video of Huddle participants during the morning presentations. Among their tips:

  • When filming, get in close and get comfortable with your subject
  • Be authentic, not scripted
  • Look for surprises, but sprinkle them throughout the video story
  • Gather lots of ambient sound, and use it throughout the piece
  • Look for emotions and conflict; that’s what will hook viewers
  • Conduct interviews in the field, not the office
  • Avoid inverted pyramid style in videos. Or as Jean-Luc Godard puts it, “A story should have a beginning, a middle, and an end … but not necessarily in that order.”

They recommend asking video subjects to summarize their story in one sentence, and then using that condensed summary as a guide to shooting and editing down the final video.

Analytics: Demographics for your social media followers and interactions (age, gender) can help guide you to the best stories for promoting in those channels. On the web, analytics — showing who your audience is, and what they’re interested in — can help you choose what to cover, and then support that decision among higher-ups. They can also give you ideas about when best to post items (e.g. Rutgers found that student videos received the most traffic when posted on Thursdays and Fridays).

Arts reporting: Michigan has a separate portal ( to spotlight stories from the arts and humanities, and an editor whose primary focus is on finding, writing and linking to such stories. They use video whenever possible to bring the stories to life, even short, YouTube-quality video. And they meet monthly with communications folk from the relevant departments and schools to sort through potential story ideas.

Press releases: Rutgers, which launched a NewsCenter-style news site a couple of years ago, has moved away from writing traditional press releases, yet has found that their stories still get carried by traditional media (as links, rewrites, even wholesale verbatim pickups). Now they primarily write directly for the end reader, and pitch stories to the media via emails that include a summary of the story, a link to the online version at Rutgers Today, and sometimes a bulleted list of highlights or key facts to pique a reporter’s interest.

Get a life: A presentation on how to cover the news without burning yourself out included the following recommendations:

  • Telecommute or use flexible scheduling (e.g. four 10-hour days)
  • Use cloud-based systems like Google Docs instead of server-based storage that limits your physical location
  • Hire student interns and work-study staff
  • Take a laptop and head out onto campus to work for a few hours
  • Schedule publication times to match your audience traffic patterns. In particular, if you have a CMS, use it to publish stories around 7 a.m. so visitors have something fresh to read after they fire up their computers.