Teamwork Makes the Dream Work: Insights From the SAMC Portfolio

ICC look
ICC Look Before (left) and After (right)

Case Study: ICC Look

An old higher ed marketing maxim: When your message isn’t getting through—and you aren’t totally sure why—it helps to get students involved in finding the solution. The staff at the Internship and Career Center (ICC) felt that their one-page handout outlining ICC services, called “Look,” which is distributed at outreach events, was in need of a refresh.

“We wanted to have a piece that highlighted ICC services with fewer words, reducing paper, and which was designed by students,” said ICC Associate Director Andrea Hanson. So, SAMC had its student employees collaborate with ICC student employees to reimagine ICC Look from top to bottom.

Key Message 

With brochures, handouts and postcards, cramming in too much information can confuse and discourage. Think tax instructions. A better practice is to keep it short and direct those wanting more detailed information to where they can get it.

“With the prior handout, it always felt a little overwhelming to give to students, parents, etc., and now if a person wants to go more in depth about a resource we offer, it’s open for more discussion during outreach,” noted Doris Cortez, student resource assistant at the ICC. Based on the feedback of SAMC and ICC student employees, the SAMC team decided to devote space in the reduced-size handout to the career development information students said mattered most to them.

We made sure it was clear where these services could be found on campus—a photo of South Hall, home of the ICC, is included on the front of the card—and incorporated the theme of “Find Your Path” into the messaging and graphic identity, including a stylized street map background and compass.

Results

The updated ICC handout is small, beautiful and to the point. “The information we gleaned working with students reinforced our research on Generation Z,” said SAMC senior designer Jenn Vaughn, “they expect superior design, they want direct and authentic messaging and they want a mobile-first strategy—which is why the print material directs students to access information on the UC Davis NOW app.”

Student employees from the ICC and SAMC collaborated to distill the essential information down to fit a 5-by-7 card, a significant reduction in both cost and environmental impact. Above all, the new design better serves ICC’s outreach goals. 

Says Hanson, “One of my favorite parts of the process was to see the SAMC design students and ICC outreach students work together to come up with a piece that represented the ICC, outlined the services and was a new design.”

FYAC

Case Study: FYAC Connection Renaming

What’s in a name? Well—quite a lot, especially when you’re vying for the attention of already-overwhelmed incoming students and hoping they’ll want to sign up for a group experience that may or may not be for credit.

Focused on themes such as social justice, building community and interests ranging from knitting to outdoor adventuring, First-Year Aggie Connections (FYAC) helps new students transition to life at UC Davis in a way that promotes the kind of outside-the-classroom involvement that’s at the core of Student Affairs’ mission. Getting students to view participation in a Connection as a fun and integral part of becoming an Aggie is a major goal of FYAC’s marketing efforts, according to Rachel Bingham, FYAC coordinator.     

“It’s critical for our registration, and ultimately the success of our program, that we have a really effective digital marketing strategy to reach students before they even step foot on campus,” said Bingham. To boost interest among incoming students and increase registration numbers, SAMC worked closely with FYAC program staff and student employees to develop and refine a holistic communications strategy—beginning with the Connections’ names.

Key Message

“We’ve found that clever Connection titles and descriptions are key in getting students to register,” Bingham said. Working together, staff and students from SAMC and FYAC collaborated through brainstorms and focus groups to rename certain Connections in a way that felt livelier, more current and more likely to appeal to their target audience—incoming students.

 Successful Connection Renames:

o   Tutoring Connection  Future Educators: Let’s Start With Tutoring

  Research 101 for Biological Sciences  We Search Research: Connecting to BioSci Research

  Disney Connection  A Whole New World: UC Davis Through the Disney Eye

We also developed hashtag-based category names (e.g., #braingains: Your Academics; #thrive: Your Personal and Professional Development) to better organize and publicize the various types of Connections by theme.

Results

The renamed Connections have been a hit. In addition to the above examples of successful renames, Bingham offered the further example of a music-themed Connection that had low registration throughout the summer but filled up rapidly once its name changed to Jam Sessions. 

Since First-Year Aggie Connections is a continuing program, we created a look and feel that had a three-year trajectory. SAMC and FYAC continue to hold joint brainstorms for naming new Connections.

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