Tag Archive: Change Leadership LLC

Sandy Carter is a VP at IBM. I follow her on Twitter and on her blog. Here is what Sandy once had on her email signature: “Tell me a fact and I’ll learn. Tell me a truth and I’ll believe. But tell me a story and it will live in my heart forever.”

In 2010 Toyota launched what I believe is a brilliant marketing campaign pushing story telling and testimonials to a new 21st century level. I believe they have created a proven business template worth discussing in higher education.

What was different about this campaign? How can this campaign  be adapted to market in higher education?

What Toyota Did

Auto-Biographies was a crowdsourced campaign allowing Toyota’s raving fans to tell their stories on a Facebook site designed by welikesmall. (Saatchi created the campaign.)

The site guides customers through a three-step process: Select Your Car, Tell Your Story and Add Photos and Videos.

Tell Your Story is a guided process: A drop down window allow the customer to select a category for the tale, provide a title, tell their story in written narrative and then locate their story on an interactive Google map.

In addition, Toyota tweeted the opportunity and placed 7 videos on their YouTube channel promoting the campaign.

For a summary check this Facebook app out.

Crowdsource. Tweet. Facebook. Exploit You Tube.

These customer-generated stories are memorable because they

  • Demonstrate that Toyota products are different from competitors, that Toyota is a greater value add than other car manufacturers.
  • Are short and to the point as well as truthful and transparent.  Consider Mike’s story, with photographs. “”My 1994 corolla is a little rough on the outside, but still runs like a champ. The springs are bouncy and much of it has rusted away and been replaced due to good ‘ole CNY winters, but it still gets me around. My friends make fun of it, but when 10 dollars gets you half a tank they quickly change their tone. I love my corolla “
  • Are “told” with webcam video or animated film on xtranormal. (Check out  Tristan’s video as an example.) In short, the process unlocks the innovation and creativity of a large network of raving fans, to borrow the terminology of Ken Blanchard.
  • Are delivered in multiple formats- written narrative, video of different types and mapped onto a Google Map.

In short, the activities model a range of communication (and learning) styles and preferences, a critical component to communication.  And they are placed up on a specially created FB page. Given that FB is ubiquitous, that students are on FB before (and sometimes during!) class, that was a smart move. And mapping it with Google Maps adds a sense that you know where the stories physically come from and helps you connect.

The potential raving fan is actually provided input and control as 20 suggestions for story types are provided on a drop down menu.

The stories themselves created a buzz, with others re-telling the story within their own network.  (“Do any of your friends own a Toyota? Invite them to share their story here.”)

Authentic stories, from real customers with compelling story lines, appeal to the emotions and shared common interests and experiences that lead others to connect to the brand.

Creative. Innovative. Memorable

The Potential Adaptation

1. Of special interest is

  • A clearly defined three-step process (Select Your Car, Tell Your Story and Add Photos and Videos) Selecting Departments will help the readers focus in on those most like themselves in coursework.
  • Use of a drop down with suggested story types. Story types might include how I learned of the program, what I did when I needed help,  my most memorable classmate, my most memorable instructor, how I survived the hardest course, etc. Asking the story teller to title the story will inherently collect a range of styles ( Tristan’s Toyota Times. A great car for a great family. My Vacation in Bangkok) and thus assists in creating a fresh look.
  • Opportunity to send the link to others. Social constructivism assists in getting the message out in a networked fashion, with unexpected (and unpredictable) opportunities.
  • Use of a specially designed FB page. This enabled the control of the process and guided the input from the raving fans.(I also support  multiple accounts across different YouTube channels specific to departments or schools  (i.e., Twitter, YouTube, Facebook accounts for the Engineering and English department, etc

2.  Determine themes coming out of submissions and use them for advertising in social media and print. If you are not getting the types of stories on topics you thought you would get, then this process is a reality test against perceived and real impressions, and thus becomes an information input and formative evaluation tool.

What do some other well known,successful crowdsourcing marketing campaigns look like?  How can they be adapted to market in higher education?

Doritos and Pepsi Max

What Doritos and Pepsi Max Did-- Posted a number of consumer-made video spots on its website in 2006 and voting chose the top two “Crash the Super Bowl” spots to show on the 2007 Super Bowl. In 2010 they paired up with the PepsiCo brand Pepsi Max. This innovative crowdsourced contest included a FAQ list, a Tool Kit to build the videos, “Ads Dissected- The Anatomy of an Awesome Ad” and  “Advice from Vets- Winners of Past Contests”

The Potential Adaptation- Incorporate a FAQ list about the project and a “Toolkit on Telling a Good Story.” (I like the title for the toolkit as The Anatomy of an Awesome Story.)


What Ford Did- In 2009 Ford promoted its Fiesta subcompact on blogs, tweets and Facebook updates of 100 people who bought the cars and shared their experiences online.

The Potential Adaptation- Select 10 students to follow for the month through a range of classes on a FB page created for them.  Promote this page with potential students through print and social media.  FB is successful because it is about we not you.  This campaign is about “we” not “you”as a university and that is what grabs prospective student attention.

In a twist on the concept, set up FB pages for set of program administrators and staff to follow for a month- instructors, student advisors, program designers etc. This provides an opportunity to highlight experts and resources. And I would not advise that it all be “we are the greatest here” information.  Truthfulness and transparency are highly valued and help make everyone seem real. I remember a diplomatic colleague in the State Department tell me, “Skip, we are here in Country X to tell the truth about the States- warts and all. If we don’t, our new friends will find us fake and that will become the buzz. Get ahead of the story!” Advice well given.

What are some other ideas for socialmedia in higher education marketing? What are current examples of university use of social media in marketing?

  • Stanford takes Facebook a step further with use of “Office Hours”.  A Facebook note  is posted promoting and describing the professor or faculty member hosting the “office hours.” A video is then posted with the Office Hour host talking about their research or work (or that of their department). Fans then have a chance to ask the host members questions via comments. Cleverly, the host then answers the comments or questions, referring to names asking the question or offering comments in a second, follow up YouTube.
  • The University of Texas hosts student blogs called “Longhorn Confidential” in which two students from each grade level blogged about their experiences at school. The public responds to each post via comments.
  • Set up a process to follow what students are doing that is creative in the classroom and advertise their work via the social media. For example, Stanford students created a YouTube rap video for a biology class assignment.  The school’s News Service shared the video in multiple social media channels.
  • Collect tweets with a common hash tag!  To accompany the video webcast of its main 2009 commencement ceremony, Vanderbilt University designated a page on its website that gathered commencement tweets that included the #vu2009 hashtag. This allowed students and others to report on the commencement happenings as they were being attended.  (Example: “Can I just record the applause and play it back everytime I’m supposed to clap? My hands r tired. #vu2009” via @triciafields).
  • The University of Michigan sets up pages for incoming students to make new friends before they arrive on campus.  The U of M also creates Facebook groups and Twitter accounts for specific graduating classes.  These are excellent selling points to prospective students and keeps up a netowrk after graduation.
  • Universities can adapt the business concept of a Day in the Life of …… A Day in the Life of a Global Marketing Manager   Howard University (A Day in the Life: Howard University Student AthletesPhoenix University spins it to a Day in the Life of an instructor (Ronald Gdovic: Life as a Phoenix Faculty)

Social media is about a conversation. No matter what approach, someone must follow up. That requirement must be clear up front to help ensure a successful project or campaign.

Last night I was sharing the geocaching concept with the fellow that manages a local restaurant.   It was Show and Tell time so I opened my app and up came three nearby geocaches.  One in particular grabbed our attention. A customer of a nearby restaurant has created a geocache because of the fine food served.  A raving fan, to use the term coined by Ken Blanchard, provided free advertising for this establishment.

-One marketing example is Project A.P.E. Cache. In 2001, 14 geocaches were placed with 20th Century Fox to publicize the movie Planet of the Apes. Each cache represented a fictional story in which scientists revealed an Alternative Primate Evolution. The caches, marked ammo containers, also included an original prop from the movie. Only a few Project A.P.E. caches exist today.

-In 2007 students used geocaching to promote Coca-Cola for their campaign in the National Student Advertising Competition, a student contest run by the American Advertising Federation. For further information check out  Students Campaign for Coca-Cola.

-UC Berkeley, Oxford University and the University of Ottawa have up to 47 geocaches scattered around campus.  Florida State University has 20 caches on or near campus and many people try to “collect” the full set. Brown University has 14 tiny or nano caches that take you on a tour of the university’s Providence neighborhood. In effect, students, and others, have created sets of team building events or campus orientation to new students in a social context. Purposively or not, the universities have crowd sourced the work.

-Joshua Noble is the Director of Tourism for the Kingman, Arizona  Area Chamber of Commerce. His cache superimposes historic photos over the modern-day locations and  hopes to use such old photos to draw geocachers to various historic points of interest in and around the city.  In an email to me Joshua notes that they recently applied for an Arizona Governor’s Tourism Award for innovative promotions and the Historic Kingman Geocaching Projectis a finalist.  They have also been approved by the Arizona Historical Advisory Commission to conduct a similar geocaching project for an Arizona Centennial Legacy Project across Northern Arizona along Route 66 and that is in the early planning stage.

Geocaching (see definition below) is one of

the fastest growing tourism activities that visitors of all ages can participate in. Adding to the

innovation of this project is a mini history lesson designed to engage visitors into the history of the

area. Best of all, this activity is very inexpensive to participate in and implement.


Geocaching (see definition below) is one of

the fastest growing tourism activities that visitors of all ages can participate in. Adding to the

innovation of this project is a mini history lesson designed to engage visitors into the history of the

area. Best of all, this activity is very inexpensive to participate in and implement.


- A number of state and local parks encourage geocaching to attract visitors. Lincoln City, Oregon had 500 coins made. These coins have an icon and are trackable.

Bottom line- This is a yet generally untapped marketing and communication tool in business or at the higher education level.  As we will see in part 3, geocaching has a growing number of adherents in the classroom, but not yet in the marketing arena.  I suspect that, although around for 10 years, the vast majority of people really don’t know what it is all about.  I personally have asked about a dozen 20 somethings and only one had gone geocaching (in a state forest) and the other had a roommate who was in the game.

How might creative and innovative minds  put geocaching to work to draw in customers or raise awareness of academic programs?  What are the steps?

1. Do your due diligence.

  • Review the three blogs in this series. Check out the resources at the end of the blog entries. Visit flickr and review the photos and descriptions. Review the video and slide materials on Slideshare.
  • Prepare a list of questions for geocaching enthusiasts.
  • Facilitate a meeting with current geochachers within the business or university.  Some universities have student geocaching clubs. Check out Kansas State UniversityMarshall UniversityFort Hays State University There is your gold mine!  Or check this site to determine if there is a local geocaching club nearby.  Contact that organization for support.

How long have they been in the game? What was the one best experience they have had in finding a cache? What are the Lessons Learned?  Be sure to capture these as that will help you avoid the errors they made! How do they think your business or university can utilize geocaching?  Remember- the wisdom is in the crowd, the knowledge is in the network!

2. Go on your own geocaching adventure! Meet together afterwards to discuss as a group. Use the After Action Review (AAR) process- What did you expect to happen? What actually happened? What did you learn?

3.  Assuming your adventure was fun and that you successfully located a geocache or two, determine the business case for change.  Of course the object is to raise awareness of your organization, but be very specific. What do you want to raise awareness about?  If a business, what is special about your product or service?  What are you proud of? What’s your elevator speech?  If you represent a university, what makes you a cut above others? What do you do better than the others? What’s your elevator speech? Or is there a particular cause you support, such as the environment  But stay away from hot political issues!

4. Conduct a Risk Analysis. What might go wrong? What would you do? What might become a barrier? How would this barrier be removed?

5.  Review your resources. Do you have funds to have a special cachet box made, symbolizing your institution? Do you have funds to put in some “swag” representing your business or college?  (Companies abound.  Old Time Wooden Nickel  produces custom made tokens, for example.    Consider your human resources. You have a great marketing and communication opportunity to harness your current employees or students (and alumni) to create a “raving fans” campaign based on their creation of geocaching boxes with something you supply and they augment with their own creativity.  Geographically it may be possible to have a global reach!

6. Based on answers to number 2 above, what are some items you can put into the cache and what can be used as the cache? Where might you hide them? Brainstorm. Don’t eliminate any idea. Put them all up on the board. (I prefer to give meeting participants a pack of post its and then have them write one idea per post it. Then when they all have generated ideas I have everyone stand up and place their post its on a brown paper wall I set up and move them around as they see what others have suggested. The audience groups them themselves.   All in all, this is a time saver and a more physically involved approach. )

7.  Set a meeting with Senior Leadership to review the business case for change, potential risks and responses, resource issues and high level communication plan. Secure buy in. You can adapt the slides found on Slideshare if you need support.  Remember- buy in and support from Senior Leadership is critical to the success of any change process.  Checkout John Kotter’s eight step change plan. It is a classic.

8.  Create a Steering Committee and write a charter including roles and responsibilities of all members and ensure that they have read and agreed to the document.

9.  Go to the official global geocaching site, Geocaching.com, and register. You can get a basic free membership or pay for one for $30/year.

10. Create a written communication plan on raising awareness, and interest, in your geocaching campaign. The plan should include who does what by when.  Someone must oversee the plan and I suggest the traffic light approach- Green if completed, yellow if in trouble and red if a train wreck. For further information see Communication Plans- The Triple Ts of Transparency, Truth and Trust and Presentations and Media That Stick.

For further reading and ideas see

Hiding Your First Geocach

Setting up a Geocaching Marketing Campaign

I am always on the hunt for new and attractive ways to use mobiles for learning, communication and marketing and the article quoted below opened a few new doors. The author reminded me again of one of my favorite Lessons Learned, “You don’t know what you don’t know.”

This is the first of a series of three blog entries. This entry serves as an introduction to what I think is an exciting marketing, communication and educational tool. Part 2 will be on use of geocaching in marketing, communications and team development.  Part 3 will explore the use of geocaching as a teaching tool.  All three entries will be supported by slides, print materials and a video on my Slideshare site.  Stay tuned!

What is geocaching?

“Participants (a.k.a., “geocachers”) use GPS systems to hide and find “geocaches” almost anywhere in the world. (They can even be found in Antarctica.) A simple geocache (or simply “cache”) is a small water-resistant container with a logbook and pen in it. You can buy specially designed caches, but a regular Tupperware container will do. Unlike pirate treasure, caches aren’t buried. If you can find your way to the GPS coordinates, you should be able to find the cache. Note that the caches listed on geocaching.com may come with clues to help you find them. (“Look for the missing brick in the ivy-covered wall.”)
 Dain Schroeder, “Treasure Hunting with Your  iPhone?

How long has it been around?

A full decade. However, it has only recently entered the fields of marketing and education. In fact, start ups have recently emerged to professionally develop geocaching campaigns for businesses.




What iPhone app did I download?

I downloaded the free Geocaching Intro app and found three caches near our home.  I immediately went after one. Lesson Learned- Do it in the cool of the evening, not at noon when it is 101 F in Houston! Then I went all out for the $9.95 US version loaded with more than I even wanted to know!  Global caches in our global world.  As we were driving to New Orleans for the 4th of July I hit the app and found 4 caches as we whizzed by.  The bottom line, however, is this is a no-to-low cost approach. Most smart phone have GPS and most have smart phones. The app is free.

I don’t have an iPhone (yet!)

No problems. Free apps exist for Androids and  Windows Phone 7.  Visit this site to download the apps.




Example Use in a Class

GPS and Geocaching Guide for Educators  by Dr. Alice A. Christie, Arizona State University President’s Professor Emeritus. Sample lessons

“Teams of students will use GPS units to locate geocaches that their instructor has hidden around their school campus. Students will return to the classroom with the recovered geocaches, examine and discuss the contents of the geocaches, determine a number of possible ways to categorize the contents of each geocache, and then use Excel™ to create spreadsheets and graphs that represent the categorized data. The contents of each geocache can be sorted in two or more ways.”

What does a cache look like? What am I looking for?

They come in all sizes and shapes! BYOP (Bring Your Own Pen) to sign the logbook.  And, if you take a token out, the rules say you must drop your own little keepsake into the cache for others to find!  They can be easy to find, as in PNG (Park and Grab), or more challenging to locate.  And you will be given clues along the way.  When you get near the stash, the app will announce that you are close!


For further information:

What is geocaching?  YouTube, short, simple introduction

Geocaching  Wikipedia, excellent list of variations

Geocaching.com The official site

Be sure to visit my flickr  site the set on geocaching: tips, key words, links to videos and more!  By the way, there are over 54,000 photos of geocaching  as of today July 8, 2011 @ 4:21 PM.

Stay tuned for Part 2 on the use of geocaching in marketing and communications.

Today my Pastor called. “Skip.  That QR code on the bottom of your email. I have noticed these  around. How do I do it?”

Being ever the instructor, I sent the Pastor to my earlier blog on Quick Response codes and a self-taught free online training tool and to all the sites available to generate the codes. And then I created a code for him and decided to have one more blog entry on this subject.

So how can instructors use these for teaching?

1.  My QR Code Lesson Plan:  Kandinsky by Leilani Hickerson

Leilana is an art teacher and she shares in the link above.

2.  Use the code as an introduction to your topic before class. Create a code that links to a YouTube video, image, quote.

Here is an image for a history class

3.  Brittany Price- Shark Talk (Composition)

Her lesson used the code to take students to The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living and then answer these questions:  What’s going on in this picture? What do you see that makes you say that?, and What more can you find?

4.  And check out this Slideshare site for 40 Interesting Ways to Use QR Codes in the Classroom

5. For a clever use in reading check out this YouTube on Around the World in 80 Days

6. Finally, check out this Flickr site to view a poster on QR codes.

We are just entering the anytime, anywhere, anything digital culture originally created by Apple and the iPhone. For the moment, it’s all about the apps that are just being discovered for university communication and marketing use. (See my blog entry University Apps- The Challenge of Delivering Sustainable Information Just in Time, Anytime and Just for Them! )

Now I foresee three major areas that will challenge the status quo but potentially will also enable the future.  And I suggest specific remedies to each challenge.

For further information, see my blog entries  Mobile Phones for Communication and Learning on a University Campus  and Mobile Nomads- Opportunities for Universities to Harness the Power of Community

1.   Challenge: Managing Change in a University Environment

There are examples of universities that have undergone significant change, among them is North Carolina State University. The university has a strategic plan, and conducted a sequenced communication process with students, faculty and stakeholders. NCSU is in the execution phase. This institution used the proper tools of change management- stakeholder analysis, focus groups, feedback sessions etc.

John Kotter’s now classic 8 step change model is more than theory.   Implementation following Kotter’s sequence leads to, while never seamless, generally smooth change. (And as we live in a mobile age, check out a free iPhone app, Mindtools, where you can go to countless change management tools anytime, anywhere.)

1.  The first step begins at the top- an urgency to change, an urgency felt by Senior Leaders, in a university of a business.

What to do?

  • Identify potential threats, and develop scenarios showing what could happen in the future.
  • Examine opportunities that should be, or could be, exploited.
  • Get the conversation going. Start honest discussions, and give dynamic and convincing reasons to get people talking and thinking.
  • Build the case for mlearning. If the President, Provosts, Deans and other leaders aren’t for it, the introduction of mlearning will fail. The Communications plan is the critical element as the institution moves forward

2.  You must make the case for change. What are the advantages to the institution? Faculty? Students?  In short, you must form a powerful coalition across campus.

3. Create a vision of what the future will look like.   This becomes a change tool- it helps individuals imagine what the use of mobile devices will look like.

4. Communicate the Vision. (“A Day in the Life of an mlearning (instructor) (administrator) (student)” is an effective addition to the campaign to educate across the campus.  It is an idea that sticks.

5.  Along the way, the university will encounter obstacles, and they need to be removed.  Determine the treats to a roll out of mlearning and creating potential responses in advance is a key to removing roadblocks.

6. Identify the low hanging fruit, the easy successes and communicate those success.

7.  Don’t declare victory too soon. After every win conduct an after action review – what did you expect to happen? What happened? What did you learn?

8. Anchor the change in university culture.  Make that idea stick!

2. Challenge: Create a written communication plan.

For details on the how tos of communication plans, see my blog entry  Communication Plans- The Triple Ts of Transparency, Truth and Trust and Presentations and Media That Stick

Much work will have to be done on the ground level to share how universities are using these tools now.  (Stay tuned- I am in the process of creating a Creative Commons document for download on Slideshare that is a collection of examples of current mlearning usage, practical real-life ideas.)

FB about mlearning. Tweet the stories. Create campus posters with Quick Response codes.  Put the stores about mlearning  up on the university YouTube channel and Slideshare channel.  Crowdsourse it! Enlist students to use their mobiles to shoot video stories and email them into an mlearning blog.  Create an mlearning logo contest then use the logo on university shirts, caps etc.  Create a “Day in the life of an mlearner contest.  (For information on QR codes see my blog entry  Marketing, Communications and Early Adopters: Quick Response (QR) Codes Emerge in the States and What Are the What-To-Dos to Implement?)

3.   Challenge: Sustain the momentum and celebrate success

Celebrating mlearning success is a key factor. People like to be congratulated for work well done. It is bottom line human nature.   Sadly it is often overlooked.

What is a mobile nomad?

Always on the go lifestyle

University students, like many business folks, live in an “always on the go” lifestyle- walking and chewing gum, texting and walking and chatting, multi-tasking.  The Android device or iPhone is ubiquitous, always with them (and me!).

Speed of “been there done that”

Recently a 20 something said to me, “By the time I graduate two years from now, the information I have been taught will be old and outdated at the speed of change today.”

I do get his point, but George Washington will always be our first U.S. President and 2+2 will always = 4.  But new theories will be put into practice, new technologies will emerge that will enable us to do what we can’t do now, creating new jobs and process and tools.  (Take the text to chat or chat to text app- 5 years ago we would not have thought that was possible. Now it is.  I dial a number by saying the name.)

Brian Chen of Wired Magazine wrote, “Why listen to a single source talk about a printed textbook that will inevitably be outdated in a few years? That setting seems stale and hopelessly limited when pitted against the internet, which opens a portal to a live stream of information provided by billions of minds.”

Point taken.

Emergent change in behavior: The mobile in the hand

“About five years ago my students stopped taking notes. I asked, ‘Why are you not taking notes?’ And they said, ‘Why would we take notes on that?…. I can go to Wikipedia or go to Google, and I can get all the information I need.”  Bill Rankin, Abilene Christian University

So students are constantly on the move through a set of classes, exams, papers, Face Book updates, tweets, and parties, (of course).  They anticipate that the world is changing faster than ever. And they know that coping with information overload—learning about and using an aggregator like Google Alerts, deciding now what to scan, what to read, what to ignore, what site takes them to the most useful information or ideas, is critical to survival. The same technology that enables on the spot fact check just in time and just for me also can create the roadblock of information overload.

How to harness the power of change oriented mobile nomads for the university student community?

Engage them!

Here are four trailblazing examples of how institutions engage their stakeholders, their customers– the student– in the creation of apps. Many have taken up Apple on its offer to train students to create apps. Others have created “how to” courses or integrated app creation into an existing IT program.  Others engage through use of the mobile device in the classroom.  Check it out.

1.  Apple launched the  iPhone Developer University Program to train university students in app development,  for free.

2.  At the same time, Stanford launched its  iApps Project

“At Stanford, we envision the iPhone as having a profound potential to break barriers in the way we provide information and services to students – in how they converse with the institution, their curriculum, the faculty, and each other. With an enduring entrepreneurial, innovative, and technological leadership, those same qualities that helped shape Silicon Valley, Stanford is in a unique position to chart yet another new course, this time using the iPhone.”

Visit here to see Stanford’s impressive iTunes site

Other participating universities include

-The University of Wisconsin

-Indiana University

-The University of Delaware


-University of North Carolina at Charlotte, and they have created their own wiki

For information on how your university could join Apple’s free app training program, enabling students to create university apps like those described in this blog entry visit iOS Developer University Program.

3.   Computer science major Evan Aumack created the application, or app during winter quarter as a final project for Dr. Enoch Hwang’s Introduction to Computer Programming class.

In fall of 2009, Hwang added the Apple application development component to his quarterly Introduction to Computer Programming classes to boost interest. Students create apps as fun, final class projects each quarter. “Before we were just using a traditional approach to teach computer programming,” Hwang said. “Now the students are learning the same logical programming techniques but applying it on the iPhone platform. After 10 weeks they can now write simple app codes.”

Instructional Uses

At Abilene Christian University, faculty

  • Have students look up relevant information on the spot and then facilitate a discussion
  • Put discussion question on a screen as a PowerPoint and then use polling software the university has developed for the iPhone
  • Deliver quizzes created for an iPhone.

For further thoughts on this topic see  University Apps- The Challenge of Delivering Sustainable Information Just in Time, Anytime and Just for Them!

My Call to Action

If your institution  teaches the “how tos” of app development, let’s hear from you!


By nature mobile phones are personal and lightweight. They travel with us everywhere and often in places that inherently contain a large number of distractions (riding a bus to work, for example).  In our Mobile Age rural learners, for example, are rural only geographically. They are as connected as a student in Cairo, Jakarta, Ottawa or New York, even globally with the Skype app for mobiles..The use of mobiles for communication and learning is very much an emerging technology. The hardware issue has been solved.  “The challenge is now in developing innovative, usable and affordable software applications and services for these devices.”  Razi and Mahmoud, 2008.

Abilene Christian University launched a program in 2008 to equip every student with a mobile and to rollout a program to integrate mobile learning with an iPhone or iPod Touch into classroom instruction. Apple launched the  iPhone Developer University Program to train university students in app development,  for free. At the same time, Stanford launched its  iApps Project

“At Stanford, we envision the iPhone as having a profound potential to break barriers in the way we provide information and services to students – in how they converse with the institution, their curriculum, the faculty, and each other. With an enduring entrepreneurial, innovative, and technological leadership, those same qualities that helped shape Silicon Valley, Stanford is in a unique position to chart yet another new course, this time using the iPhone.”

For information on how your university could join Apple’s free app training program, enabling students to create university apps like those described below, visit iOS Developer University Program.

My take on the challenge is, yes, we need to develop apps, but we also need to look at use of existing processes and tools to deliver information. (For an interesting look at the extent apps are just emerging, see the Pew Research Center reports, The Rise of the Apps Culture and App Hype Still Way Ahead of Use Adoption.)

The Prerequisite: SMS Text Policy

The University of Bristol offers a template of what a policy can include, beyond use of SMS for campus emergencies: reminding students to register or select options, announcing room and timetable changes; announcements, essay deadline reminders, updating reading lists;  seminar and lecture announcements, social events, concerts.

Yale allows for texts to the library on specific information.

An Innovative Use of SMS

I want to propose in this blog entry a concept using existing systems at minimal cost:  Text blasts (a Group SMS– Short Message Service– Text Messaging solution) and Quick Response codes. I want to place this example within the context of a university.

There are many low cost services offered for group SMS texting. I am not endorsing any one of the services, but see EZTexting.com for information and a webinar on how these systems work.  These services are beyond short lines- they also allow the user to open a page of information, which was my “aha” moment the first time I received such a text.

For a discussion of Quick Response codes, see my blog entry Marketing, Communicatons and Early Adopters: Quick Response Codes Emerge inn the States and What Are the What-to-Dos to Implement?

The Communication/Learning Scenario: New Student Orientation and the Scavenger Hunt

Mobile technology enables communication and learning in with a tool uinversity students mastered long ago.  Here is an opportunity for a university to collectively plan out activities that engage and entertain participants (imagine, learning is fun!)  in face-to face-activities that rely on social activity and technology.

The process is simple. This activity is an active ‘icebreaker” that meets all learning styles and I am certain that each reader will invent a variation to meet individual institutional needs.

1. Create the text clues in advance for each group in order to have students fan out at different rates and times to different places on and off campus.

2. Have a student from orientation planning in each group in order to check back and have the next clued blasted.

3. Have QR codes set up around campus providing links to further information. For example, QR codes could take a viewers to a set of photos around the development of the building or significant events in campus history and traditions, including campus sports “heroes” past and present. A link could go a sound file of the campus anthem (imagine what you could have teams do with that!) or puzzles.  In planning this event, a well facilitated meeting with students will generate countless ideas and potential activities. Generation of QR codes is free and very easy.

I previously posted an entry on the use of university apps and noted that some universities include walking tours.  Certainly a self-guided walking tour could be supplemented with QR codes. For more information see University Apps: The Challenge of Delivering Sustainable Information Just in Time, Just for Them

Other Uses

The University of Memphis texts links to videos on their YouTube channel.

A wide range of secondary schools text key information, and reminders, to parents.

As a footnote- The University of Maryland uses Twitter to support new student orientation.

For further reaiding on the development of SMS text quizzes see Niazi, Razieh and Qusay H. Mahmoud, Senior Member, IEEE. (2008). Design and Development of a Device-Independent System for Mobile Learning, IEEE Multidisciplinary Engineering Education Magazine, 3(3), September. Retreive from http://www.ewh.ieee.org/soc/e/sac/meem/index.php/meem/article/viewFile/28/29

My Challenge

So what say you? What learning and communication uses have you seen as applied in our  Mobile Age?

A central feature of managing institutional change is implementation of a written Communication Plan that captures issues faced by all stakeholders.

Why written?

The act of writing a plan together creates commitment to the actions you will take, when you will take them and what you will say.  A written plan creates a sense of accountability to do what you say you will do. And the plan provides the team with milestones to celebrate success together.

Who are the stakeholders and what are their characteristics?

Stakeholders are those that will be directly or indirectly impacted by the changes being implemented. Not all stakeholders are equal, however. The range of impact will slide from little to none to significant changes in everyday work.  Secondly, some stakeholders will commit to becoming champions of change, while others may chose to simply be passive observers.

Lesson Learned: Underpinning all communication plans is a formal Stakeholder Analysis that takes into account the degree of impact, and the influence of the individual.

Is communication really “all in the marketing?” The Triple Ts: Transparency, Truth and Trust

Communication is not effective if it is not based on Transparency, Truth and Trust.   If you are not transparent in your communications, you can appear to be less than truthful. And once a trust is broken, it is rarely rebuilt.  In fact, if you are not truthful and transparent in your communications, you are discarded, and rightfully so.

There is another very grave danger to the triple T-less marketer- often they come to believe their own press releases, as a former mentor in the US State Department once wisely told me.  You have said your own fictions so often to so many people.  Falling for your own press releases can indeed lead to a communication disaster and worse.

Lesson Learned: Maintain trust through transparency and truth, even if the change is painful.

What are the characteristics of a Communication Plan?

The plan is a simple spreadsheet or word document that provides a sequential list of who will communicate what by when.

The specific form of the communication is identified: traditional print documents, posters, e-newsletters, email flashes, or social media formats.

And the specific messages contained in the media are identified.

Stakeholder Analysis will help you understand the type of media your target audience prefers.

Do you mean I have to write different messages for each media we chose?

No!  The beauty of a formal, written Communication Plan is that you can “recycle” the same information, in the same wording, multiple times in multiple media.

Lesson Learned: Not everyone reads everything (or anything) they are provided. Some prefer to glance at a poster, others to thumb though a document while commuting on a bus, and others are digital nomads and prefer the social media.

Print material has been around a long time.  How can we make print “edgy”?

  • Posters can become interactive with the use of Quick Response codes.
  • To help make people aware of IT changes, I saw one set of two posters on the entire front of an elevator.  No one could miss the message.
  • I personally created a series of snail mail postcards. The front photo was from the workshop event, and the message on the back was follow up to the outcomes of the sessions. One visual in particular was created on the spot- post its were placed on a wall indicating the steps in the communication plan. That photo became the team’s follow up post card to all participants.
  • To market a safety campaign, each of the corporations Senior Leaders supplied a short story around intervention. Here is the tragic story from the VP of the time:

“If only….Many people walked past the man on the roof of the redundant XXXXX facility in China in 2004, witnessing him slowly removing roofing panels.  ‘That’s odd,” said one person. “He doesn’t have a harness.” Another walked past and said, “strange his hard hat looks broken.” No one took action. Then, at about 15:o0, the worker, Fu Shi Yong, slipped and fell- he had no harness and no effective hard hat. He fell 10 feet and died as a result of his injuries.”

Later, I created a poster telling this story, tying a brochure into a poster story. Check out page 12 of this e-book of safety posters, Create a Safety Buzz.

What about face-to- face?

Nothing is better than a face-to-face session- a Town Hall meeting, a lunch and learn, an item on an exisitng standard meeting agenda. But please- no death by PowerPoint! One of the most memorable meetings was the use of notes written on the back of envelopes, photographed and dropped into a pack of only five slides.

Call to Action

What are your examples of “edgy” print material?  What is your experience with use of a formal written Communication Plan?

I recently downloaded eight university apps for my iPhone to determine how they are used as communication tools on or off campus. My assumption is that these apps are built for marketing and branding the university with parents and students and various stakeholders.  I also assume the apps are part of an overall written communications plan based on the university brand. I will soon add a blog entry on the critical value of a written communication plan, along with examples of Best Practices.

I was informally looking at these basic questions:

  • What are the common info bits in these apps?
  • What “different” or “edgy” bits of information do they contain?
  • How often would they be used? How sustainable are they given the cost of development?
  • Where can university apps go from here? What are some Best Practices to consider?
  • How can institutions go beyond the app into other digital communication tools?

First, a word on cost. If a university does not outsource development, and does not harness the intellectual power of IT and students, the cost is prohibitive.

According to Aaron Maxwell in a February 2011  Mashable article,

“There’s no such thing as a “typical” app, so it’s hard to give a meaningful average cost. But as a general working figure, we can say it costs at least $30,000 to design, implement and deploy a brand-quality iPhone app. I haven’t found published studies for the equivalent costs for Android and BlackBerry, but since the device fragmentation is greater, it would makes sense that the costs are at least similar.”

I was personally quoted a cost of $15,000 and that was taking a book into an app concept.

What universities did I look at?

  • University of Texas at Austin
  • Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas
  • University of Michigan
  • University of Iowa
  • University of Tulsa
  • University of Vermont
  • University of Chicago
  • University of Montana

What are the common features?

1. They all contain university news.  Now I assume this is the same news form campus papers, but a key feature of communications is to repeat the same news in different media and formats to meet the reading styles of various segments of the target audience.

2. Most contain university maps, and these are helpful to visiting parents and potential new students. The University of Chicago contains a mass transit map, a truly useful item to first year students.

3. Five of the eight contain employee directories, again an item students potential will use year round, providing information just in time and just for them.

4. All contain links to YouTube, Twitter, Facebook or to pages of student or university generated photos.

5. Sports, of course!

What “different” or “edgy” bits of information do they contain?

1.  Sam Houston State University contains emergency numbers as well as Help Desk numbers.

2. The University of Montana has links to bars and eateries.

3. The University of Texas at Austin has a link to puzzles, songs and traditions.

4. The University of Michigan has the cafeteria menue.

How often would they be used? How sustainable are they given the cost of development?

While I would recommend a survey to student usage, and assuming the existence of the app has been well advertised, I assume these are all sustainable in use, with certain features especially helpful for new student orientation.

Where can university apps go from here? What are some Best Practices to consider?

1.  I assume the bulk of students nationally have shied away from iPhones due to cost, and have gone over to android based phones (It’s Google and it’s a free operating system!) The institution has to plan for apps for all phone users.

2. Form some informal face-to-face focus groups to collect the features the student users would like to see. Run an informal online poll with Survey Monkey or Zoomerang or a similar tool to collect ideas from parents and other key stakeholders.  If people participate in design they are far more likely to use the product.

3.  Consider use of the app as a tool for anytime, just for me orientation.  Where can you send people on a self-guided campus tour? What would a student want to know- what is a kool factoid?  Remember- this is information for 20 somethings, their friends who influence their decisions and their parents- not for a university professor. How can you build in the use of publically posted Quick Response codes to the app?  See me blog entry on QR codes for further information.

4. Some features will need to be updated frequently, such as campus events, campus news and YouTube videos. These resources need to be built into your communication plan or you will quickly have an outdated product, a very unacceptable brand image.

5. Apps are based on emerging technologies. What is kool today may be un-kool next year, dating the institution and branding campaign.  IT, communication specialists, and the students themselves are sources of the “ing” of emerging.  Certainly the institution should consider an advisory team that meets every 3 or 6 months to discuss and share emerging features on apps.  For example, I believe that augmented reality and apps where people leave notes or comments on  buildings, already out there, will take on a greater role in the next year. And photo sharing continues to take on innovative dimensions.

6. If you build it they will not come- you have to communicate in multiple formats that the app exists and what it can do for users.  Remember, mobile learning and mobile based communication is just in time, anytime and just for them.

Beyond the App

So let’s make this edgy! Given the range of IT projects for IT majors, what game-based products might be created to attract the student body? Universities burst with talent, creativity and ideas that are free and ubiquitous. Why not go after that energy in a planned way?

My Challenge

So what say you?  What are some kool features you would include in a university app? What about beyond the app into the “edgy”?

The next big leap, from organizational use of Social Media to use of the ubiquitous tool in the hand of nearly every Millennial, the smart phone, is rapidly upon us.   The train has left the station and many  have to run and jump on the caboose!

How is business using the smart mobile phone?

  • Mobile marketing can contain a timed slideshow of images, text, audio and video and Best Practice comes from Motorola and its House of Blues campaign which allows consumer to send photos from their smart phones to the LED board in real-time as well as blog.
  • Promotional messages are now delivered in mobile games to drive engagement.
  • Google, Yahoo, and other major mobile content providers have been selling advertising placement on their properties for years and now mobile advertising has emerged as cutting edge.  I strongly suggest that all review the Classic Guide to Mobile Creative for proven ideas on advertising, applications, coupons, messaging, and video.
  • One gym in Greenville, N.C. ran a call to action on a television spot: “Text VIQUEST to 74642 to receive free registration and a free after hours pass if you register before Jan. 31.” Over 300 people sent in texts and     44 % of those opted to receive more text messages.
  • An 84 year old company wanted a modern day marketing tool to identify and engage their consumer base at the International Sportsmen’s Expo at the Denver Colorado Convention Center. Visitors expressing interest in Bioline, a biodegradable tackle, were encouraged to text BIOLINE to 74499 to receive an SMS coupon. Again, great responses. (I personally get texts from Arby’s with free food offers, and I opted into this process, the standard Best Practice.)

And how are mobile devices rolling out in higher education?

From alerts about course materials and exams to invitations to join mobile forums and continue class discussions, mobile is being implemented with an increasing number of institutions and educators. Here are four examples of university use. 

  • Sam Houston State University

This March Phase I of the SHSU Mobile Application was launched for the iPhone. Android and Blackberry versions will be available in a future release.  It is critical that institutions consider all the major mobile systems available.  The SHSU app contains athletic news, YouTube videos, news, links to social media sites, Flickr, faculty and staff contact information, and to the library’s mobile website. (Google “University Flickr”- 72,200,000 results. SHSU also has a very wide range of You Tube videos up.)

 The University of Louisville

“Prospective students typically aren’t accustomed to checking their email regularly. We needed a solution that would allow us to quickly and easily contact all of our incoming students.” Elizabeth Fitzgerald, Coordinator of Communications Office of Admissions

In June 2010, the university sent a text message blast to 500 incoming freshman who had opted in to receive information on campus events, contests and more via text. Text opt-ins was provided by including information about how to receive text message updates in all materials sent to incoming freshman.   Subgroups were created for its text message recipients based on their geographic location.

 An example: One text message blast offered incoming freshman a week of free campus parking if they responded with a text citing the three things that they were most looking forward to during the upcoming school year.

  • The University of San Diego

“We just want apps that are practical and in demand for the students. Students are much more mobile than they used to be in the past. They want info in palm of their hands, we have a pervasive wireless network on campus and a student is not going to flip open a laptop to see when the next tram is coming.” Chris Wessells, Vice Provost and Chief Information Officer

Students can register for classes, access a faculty and staff director, find their classes on a GPS map, get directions, find out about professors, browse courses and search library catalogs.

Future planned uses include tuition and other payments available via mobile devices.

“Web sites used to be the thing to have; but today mobility is key with the latest information always available at your fingertips. In addition, Smart phones and tablets are expected to have an explosive growth in upcoming years.” Kumar Raman, Director of Internet Services

According to Campus Technology:

Features for the first version of the app give users access to campus maps; GPS-driven location help; faculty and staff directories that launch the phone dialer; course catalogs that display class descriptions, times, and locations; and library search functions. The app feeds news, events, and game schedules and scores. It’s available in six languages: English, Arabic, Dutch, Japanese, Portuguese, and Spanish.

For a view on the best university apps, check out this blog by Patrick Powers

So you have an interest? Where do you go from here? Strategic Planning!

According to my colleague Socorro Paz Jones,  you are looking for a sweet spot- determine what’s working and keep doing that. What’s not working? Stop doing it! Really understand your demographics and the tools and preferred forms of communication. For example, my spouse and I both read the old fashioned newspaper in the a.m. before I use my iPhone to read all my news apps.  But we still want a paper in our hands. Our neighbors don’t need to go out in the a.m. to pick up the paper form their driveways. We are the only family that gets home delivery on our street.

“Strategic Planning provides the tools and processes to identify where the organization wants to be at some point in the future and how it is going to get there.

The ‘strategic’ part of this planning process is the continual attention to current changes in the organization and its external environment, and how this affects the future of the organization.

This form of planning includes:

  • What’s going on outside the organization and how it might affect the organization (opportunities and threats)
  • What’s going on inside the organization (strengths and weaknesses)
  • Establishing statements of mission, vision and values
  • Establishing goals to accomplish over the next two to three years
  • Identifying how those goals will be reached (objectives, responsibilities and timelines).”

Socorro Paz Jones, Change Management, Training Specialist and Coach

Socorro is referring to fundamental Change Management tools- a Strength, Weakness, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) Analysis and the elements of Action Planning.

I will build on her ideas and add that a Stakeholder Analysis is also a fundamental tool in preparing for a new approach to communication and marketing and potential organizational change. 

Call to Action

What say you? How is your organization using mobile devices to communicate and market?  Let’s hear from you!!

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