Jennifer Doak is the online communications specialist at CASE.
I came across a fun question last month on CASE’s proto-social network, the communications listserv, about holiday cards. Amanda Beck, at the College of Sciences at The University of Texas at San Antonio, was planning out her end-of-the-year outreach and asked for examples of cards—but there were a few limitations. “We don’t have snow. Or sledding, or evergreens, or mittens,” she said. “And since we’re a public institution, we don’t mention the holidays, only the season.”
I’m sure some of you out there can empathize with Amanda. Thankfully, her fellow listserv members came through with a ton of ideas, as well as lots of great examples of video and Flash e-cards. Here’s a sampling:
- Last year, the University of Hawaii Alumni Association sent a year-in-review gallery video featuring guitar music performed by a talented alum.
- Penn State’s 2010 greeting theme was “The Forecast for 2011.” Its Nittany Lion mascot interviewed students, staff and alumni around campus on what they predicted for the upcoming year.
- The University of Connecticut’s Neag School of Education sent a simple Flash card greeting in 2010—a step up, noted the contributor, from previous years’ attached PDF cards. (I’d be a bad alum if I didn’t also include the serene season’s greetings video I received from UConn.)
- Ohio Wesleyan University’s 2010 holiday video greeting featured a diverse array of students sending well wishes to their alumni.
- American University created a similar 2010 video greeting that coordinated well with its “Wonk” campaign.
- The University of Central Missouri sent a lovely Flash e-card in 2008 asking for a “holiday gift” donation at the end.
- The Boston Museum of Science sent a simple “stars are aligned for a new beginning” themed video for 2010, while the School of the Art Institute of Chicago had a classy Flash e-card for the holidays.
The listserv thread contributors, in sum, found success with generic holiday or winter themes—and an emphasis on the New Year might work especially well for institutions in places where seasons don’t do much greeting.
A few other takeaways:
- Tap into student and alumni talent. I saw quite a few e-cards that used campus bands, sports teams and a cappella groups, as well as alumni musicians. Speaking as an alumni association member, I can tell you most of us LOVE that stuff.
- Align your e-card with an institutional campaign to keep the message consistent. Having a simple, non-intrusive ask at the end of your video or Flash card is a smart idea, too.
- Keep it short and sweet. Videos should only be a couple of minutes, and there’s nothing wrong with a simple Flash e-card if it’s well-designed.
- Don’t worry if you have a small budget for holiday outreach. You can still make a beautiful holiday greeting your alumni, donors or students will appreciate.
As for Amanda? She hasn’t quite hammered out an online holiday communications strategy yet, but she was inspired by several of the examples on the thread for a print card. “I’m doing a photo shoot on campus of our dean with some students and a unique microscope we have [on campus],” she said. “Our dean has wanted to include real students in this piece for awhile, but it has never come together before this year. I’m hoping that this will be true to our college’s identity and still evoke the feelings that the holiday season brings without directly saying ‘Merry Christmas.’”
Karine Joly also has a great compilation of holiday e-cards from 2010 that highlighted greetings from the University of Maryland, the University of Washington, Carleton University and others.
What’s your institution doing to mark the end of 2011?