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Humanizing the Digital Experience and more from eduWeb 2019 with Jason Buzzell

Episode cover art: Humanizing the Digital Experience

Jason Buzzell is Director of Digital Communications at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. We met up with Jason at the 2019 eduWeb conference to reflect on some of the most interesting ideas and themes we encountered at this year’s conference, including:

  • How to humanize digital experiences (which was the topic of a talk Jason delivered).
  • We talked about why today’s students place such a high priority on authenticity and how schools are attempting to provide it.
  • Some of the more interesting findings from RNL’s 2019 E-Expectations report, which was presented at the conference.


Jarrett Smith: You’re listening to the Higher Ed Marketing Lab. I’m your host, Jarrett Smith.

Welcome to the Higher Ed Marketing Lab. I’m Jarrett Smith. Each episode, it’s my job to engage with some of the brightest minds in higher ed and the broader world of marketing to find actionable insights you can use to level up your school’s marketing and enrollment efforts. In this episode, we’ll be talking with Jason Buzzell, Director of Digital Communications at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. I met up with Jason recently at the 2019 eduWeb Conference, and we stopped to reflect on some of the more interesting ideas and themes that we encountered at this year’s conference. Side note, I actually recorded this on-site, so you’re definitely going to hear a lot more background noise than you ordinarily would.

Along the way, we discussed how to humanize digital experiences, which was actually the topic of a talk that Jason delivered. We talked about why today’s students place such a high priority on authenticity and how schools are attempting to provide it. And we discuss some of the more interesting findings from RNL’s 2019 E-Expectations Report, which was presented at the conference. I thoroughly enjoyed my conversation with Jason, and I hope you find it as fun and interesting as I did. So without further ado, here’s my talk with Jason Buzzell.

Jason, welcome to the show.

Jason Buzzell: Thank you. Thank you.

Jarrett Smith: Maybe just to get things started, if you could tell us a little bit about your school, University of Nebraska at Omaha and a little bit about what you do there.

Jason Buzzell: I’m the director of digital communications going on five years at the University of Nebraska Omaha as you said, and I have a team of five people who work on social media, web content strategy, our mobile app, and then work collaboratively with IT on development and design. Yeah, University of Nebraska Omaha, it’s located in Omaha, Nebraska, metropolitan university, lots of first-generation students in the city, lot of great internship opportunities and part of the University of Nebraska system, so Nebraska Kearney, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, as well the med center, and then us in Omaha. So we’re the Mavericks. Our color’s black, and our mascot’s Durango. There’s the UNO background in a real small bit of time.

Jarrett Smith: Very cool. And what’s enrollment at UNO?

Jason Buzzell: Close to 16,000, so a couple thousand graduates. So we have graduate school as well and a bunch of graduate programs, as well as PhDs,  offered in a few programs, but obviously, mostly a lot of undergrads as well.

Jarrett Smith: So we are wrapping up eduWeb 2019, lots of different stuff presented this conference. Thought it was really strong conference on so many different topics. What’d you think of the conference? Any sessions or any sort of themes stand out to you?

Jason Buzzell: Yeah, well they had, I think it was four or five tracks, but then within the tracks, you’re starting to see some new themes emerge. And we’ve spent a lot of time over the last year or two at UNO focused on accessibility. Within the design track, there were three or four presentations on accessibility and then another one on social media that focused on accessibility. And it seems like maybe I’m a little bias, but that might be a track in the future. That was one that really stood out to me as well as all the good marketing data and seeing how far analytics has come in the last few years. There used to be hardly anything on analytics, and now, that was its own track.

Jarrett Smith: Yeah, tons of presentations on analytics and making the most out of Google data studio.

Jason Buzzell: Yeah, things that were new ideas back few years ago when I was on an analytics team at another institution now are just no-brainers, or they’re being talked about like, “You know you’re on Google data studio, right?” And a lot of people are nodding their heads now. Whereas before, that wasn’t the case.

Jarrett Smith: Yeah, lots of good teams there. So you spoke on humanizing the digital experience, was kind of the title of your talk. What do you mean by humanizing the digital experience? What does that mean to you? And I guess another way of phrasing that would be, what is a well-humanized experience versus one that’s maybe not?

Jason Buzzell: We talked a lot about personalization. There’s a couple good posts, and I wish I could attribute them properly in this podcast as I speak to you, but I saw some good things like, don’t focus as much on personalization, focus on humanization, and it really stuck with me. And a big concept of that, and it was on the panel I was on, I think Jenny from MIT talked about, sit down with your users, talk to your users, use them to guide you. Data’s one piece of the story, good design principles, all this stuff that we’re experts on, but the other third component of that is talking to your users and kind of putting that all together.

My presentation, the title might’ve been a little misleading for some. But we focus on the technology. We focus on the content a lot. And sometimes, it’s kind of an afterthought to sit down with our users. My focus was on voice technology and maybe some things that are a little bit futuristic, especially in higher ed, but until you sit down with users who are using screen readers, which has an audio component to it, or sitting down with users who have to use other assistive tech, you can’t humanize it until you sit down with a human. So we can do all this content, all this technology, but until we sit down and really get with our users, we’re not able to take that next step. So that’s what that was trying to get across.

Jarrett Smith: I thought that the panel on designing websites for Gen Z that you were sitting on was super interesting, and yeah, Jenny from MIT talking about doing focus groups with students and being down in the student center and asking students for feedback. And I don’t know if she mentioned it, or it was in another session, somebody was talking about actually having students when they were prospective students on a visit coming in. It’s like, “Hey, we’ll give you this laptop sticker if you’ll do our little informal usability study real quick, and let’s watch you go through the website.” And I thought that was a super clever idea.

Jason Buzzell: I mean, she was saying either they were getting them at the campus visit or just after they had just registered, or they just showed up on campus. And that’s the key because it so quickly, after we’ve experienced it, we lose what our mind was in when we’re completing the task around the website. So focus groups are okay. Surveys are okay. She did talk a little bit about when they’re on the website, little popups when they’re in the mode, and they’re thinking whether they’re frustrated or yes, that was successful. That’s when you have to get with them.

Focus groups after the fact, did you like that website? We saw somewhere there were survey question I felt like you start to kind of lead the witness, or were they delighted by this content or that content? In the moment, it’s a different way of thinking. They’re trying to complete a task. They’re trying to find something, and if you don’t catch them or watch them do it, you’re not going to get the true answer. You might get in a focus group what they think they might have done or what they think they like, but watching them in the moment or right as they’re at a campus visit is the time to grab them, whatever your audience is, whatever state they’re in.

Jarrett Smith: And I know we’ll eventually talk about RNL’s E-Expectations Report. We got to see a great presentation on that. But I always feel that way about survey data too. It’s like, after the fact, I think there’s a lot of science to back up that oftentimes, people are poor judges about why they did what they did, why they chose what they chose. And I think Hanover maybe had some research a few years back that was showing if you talk to kids about why they make their decision before they actually choose a school to enroll in, they’ll say one thing, they’ll talk about academic quality. But then if you talk to them afterwards, they’ll talk about the intangible aspects, “I walked on campus, and I just felt like I belong there. I felt like I kind of found my crowd,” and it becomes a lot more qualitative and less…

Jason Buzzell: And if you’re using that to impact your decisions or some of the things that we’re involved in on web or digital, I mean, those can be two totally different strategies. And so depending on where they’re at in that journey, which I think is what we might talk about a little bit in the RNL stuff, there’s different strategies you do from a communications perspective depending on where they’re at in that journey.

And so if you’re trying to figure out, for Jenny’s case it was the homepage, if you’re trying to figure out what state of mind they’re in, you got to watch them when they’re in that state or else later on, you might not be getting accurate data. And that’s step one of any data, accurate data, before you start making decisions or accompanying that with qualitative stuff.

Jarrett Smith: Something that occurred to me as I was sitting in presentations on analytics, and a lot of the conversation’s very data-heavy. Data is on the tip of everybody’s tongue as always. And it kind of made me wonder if sometimes we don’t get into a place where we’re focusing on the things that we can measure because they’re measurable. It’s like that anecdote of somebody looking for, they lost their keys, and they’re looking under a streetlight. And why are you looking here? It’s like, well, that’s because that’s where the light is. Do you ever think about that? Do you wonder if there’s a danger there?

Jason Buzzell: Yeah. We’ve kind of come from this journey where we weren’t necessarily measuring anything to where we can fairly easily measure a lot of stuff. And I think Karine Joly did a little presentation on that. We got to take a step back. Okay, what are the goals? And then that can help us decide what we measure. It’s so easy just to track page views or likes or these engagement metrics, which could lead to some goal eventually, but you got to kind of step back and say, “What’s our goal? What’s our audience? What are we trying to accomplish?” And then that can lead to a few KPIs, key performance indicators, maybe that lead to a goal. And there’s a lot more experts out there than me on this.

I think we’re learning now, in higher ed especially, what’s important in data and just being careful because we don’t have a lot of time. We don’t have a lot of resources. We don’t have a lot of staff, so we just got to be careful in spending the time on the right things that we need to collect data-wise. And again, it’s just one piece of the story. Keep doing user testing, keep talking to our students or whatever audience you’re working with, and use that together. If you just base it on data, you just use it based on watching users, you might make some decisions that weren’t necessarily right. Combining those together, you’ll definitely make better decisions I think.

Jarrett Smith: So I kind of want to circle back to a little bit about your talk, and I know with the theme of kind of humanizing digital experience, you kind of break that down in a few different components. How do you kind of conceptualize that as you’re thinking about it?

Jason Buzzell: For me, on the website, there’s so much content, and there’s so many areas we could focus on streamlining content KonMari-ing.

Jarrett Smith: That was a fun presentation. Does your content spark joy?

Jason Buzzell: So kind of related to that, it’s like, where are we going to focus our efforts where people need to find the info that’s going to help them complete tasks or us retain them or stay at state university. So I kind of call them the five P’s, and I don’t know if this is what you’re getting at, but people, places, programs, some of our products. And so those are things that we really focus on. So products being news events, camps on campus, and people, like your employee directory, your faculty profiles.

And then one that I’m really proud of is our place things, so going out and finding your Google place listings and getting a place on your website where you can find not just your Google map of your locations that you can interact with but literally every building on campus, having metadata and structure and content around each building on campus and what offices are in there or what services are offered. We have more work to do there.

But my whole thought was, focus on the things humans need from your website. Watch them interact with that. Use the analytics to figure out and prioritize what are most commonly searched on, what are most commonly interacted with, obviously, majors in programs is one that we all know about now, and really do those really well. And as technology changes, you’ll be in a good spot. Your website’s your core. From there, you can build out. Whether it be apps, whether it be voice technology down the road, whatever tech you’re doing, focus on the humans, focus on the content they need, and altruistically, you’ll be okay. You’ll be in a good spot.

Jarrett Smith: I know after your talk we were kind of chatting, and we kind of hit upon this idea of the Maslow’s hierarchy of sort of digital needs and focus on doing some of the basic things right. And I thought in your talk when you were saying, “Hey, it’s a pain, but go out and claim your Google listings for the key buildings on your campus and make sure that information is up to date and has a little accurate description about what’s going on there and when it’s open. And hopefully, Google will pick up on that.” And I thought that was such a key point, especially in the conference when we’re talking about things like the AI chatbot. And it’s like, okay, that’s cool, but not when sort of these core components, these sort of basics that are much farther down on the hierarchy aren’t being taken care of.

Jason Buzzell: And they seem basic. But then during my presentation, I kind of highlighted these buckets. Our employee directory, sometimes IT helps, but then there’s HR data, buildings and maps, sometimes facilities involved. But also all of the different colleges, majors in programs, you’ve got academic affairs, then you have the colleges.

So no one really wants to own these things, and it is fundamentals and tedious. But I think that’s the place for some of these web teams is to really own a few of those and do them well in Maslow’s hierarchy. That’s a good reference, kind of those foundational things before you can maybe take that next step. If you don’t have a solid foundation, it’s hard to jump up to that next place.

I mean, Joe in that panel talked about Gen Z, and he’s using students to answer questions. I mean, that could feed a chatbot someday. So that’s a foundational thing that they’re doing at BYU, have actual students or those that are in the mode of answering questions help with answering basic questions on campus. Seems simple, seems foundational, but I bet a lot of campuses aren’t necessarily doing that.

I didn’t speak up at the panel, but we have these things called Mavigators. We’re the Mavericks, so we have a full-time staff member and then four or five students, and we’re doing a little bit of live chat kind of like what Joe was talking about at BYU to help answer these questions, help with retention, help with some of the scheduling. And then maybe because we’ve got this bank now of questions stored somewhere if we want to take that next step to chatbot or voice technology if that really catches on, we can feed that into our social media for example.

But if you don’t have that foundation just separate from the tech, then you’re just chasing the technology. I think we kind of talked about that after. You’re just chasing the next new technology. Heard that in the social media presentation from Andrew, just chasing the technology. Have a strategy. Have the foundations, I’ll just keep saying, and you’ll be okay. You’ll be better off for it. You’ll be authentic. That was a big word that was talked about.

Jarrett Smith: Oh, yeah. So I definitely want to talk about authenticity. I don’t know. I feel like a few years ago, it was storytelling. I think storytelling’s still very much alive and kicking, but it’s been now replaced by… Probably there was a transitional period where it was authentic storytelling, and now, we’re just authenticity.

Jason Buzzell: Why do you think that is?

Jarrett Smith: I have some theories on this. I’m going to date this podcast, but we recently published an interview with Jeff Kallay of Render Experiences, and he focuses a lot on the campus visit experience. And I was asking him, I was like, “You can see students posting on YouTube about what your dorms are like, and you can take a VR tour for some schools and that sort of thing. Why do you think the visit is still relevant?” And he kind of ho-hummed. He was like, “Everybody always asks that.” As I recall, I think what he said was, “There’s so much information out there, and it’s overwhelming, and it’s hard to determine the veracity of that information.” And he said that Gen Z and their Gen X parents have seen sort of failed institutions, and they’re very skeptical about the information they receive from their institutions.

And so the campus visit remains relevant because it’s a way to connect with something concrete and real. I don’t have to take your word for it. I can come see for myself. Now in all reality, every campus visit is going to be carefully curated, and we’re going to skirt around some parts of the campus and maybe not others. But I mean, he’s a big proponent of, hey, show your campus. Even with the not so great parts, own it. Be authentic. I think there’s got to be something to that.

Jason Buzzell: I think what you’re saying there, the Gen X and the Gen Z, I guess they’re calling them now, they’re so good at filtering out the BS. And I think eventually, it’s going to catch up with you. You’re right. There’s just too much information they can triangulate that, why would we go about this kind of old concept of marketing, showing the sunny picture, showing this fake idea of what’s campus is?

And that’s something, UNO, we’ve been talking about authentic for a while because we were starting up a bit of a new brand, new logo, going to Division I from Division II. People had an image of what UNO was, and for us, we were lucky that we could show some things that people maybe didn’t see or didn’t think of when UNO, but it was still authentic. But we’re not lying. We’re in a city. We have great internships with businesses. We are moving to Division I. We had a new arenas. We’re able to share.

I’m thinking photography a lot, but some of our text as well and stuff of how we written. But photography is how we really did that early on and just showing great photography. And that was something on the panel, no stock photos. It kind of came out in the panel. I don’t know if it’s good quote or not, but I’m thinking of my son too, who’s eight or nine years old who is in the Gen Z band now, which… Yeah, it’s terrifying.

Jarrett Smith: I know it’s kind of [crosstalk 00:18:14] The nine-year-old, going to be a 10-year-old. When you said that, I was like, “Oh, crap.”

Jason Buzzell: I know. But I was just thinking when Jason Boucher asked the question, I was like, “I want my son to be marketed to how I would want. I want him to be marketed to in a way that I’m comfortable with. And lying to him or deceiving him and then getting him into this experience, which maybe, it wouldn’t be true. That would bother me.” It’s just kind of stuck with me this weekend, not just the tech or the retargeting or the geo-fencing, but just overall the messaging.

Jarrett Smith: And the intent. I had an interesting conversation last night, one of the after-hours mixers, was somewhere, talking about influencer marketing. Student generated content was a big topic. Saw some really interesting presentation from some folks at Harvard on how they do that and talking about takeovers and some of the logistics behind that and their take on it. But I got into a conversation with someone about influencers, and as a marketer, I feel very conflicted about influencers.

On one hand, the risk-taker marketer that’s always looking for the next thing says, “Yeah, that’s awesome. That’s a growth area. We need to be dipping our toes into that.” But then thinking about how much this generation values authenticity, is it authentic? Is it helping to connect? If our prospective students want the truth, are we helping them discover the truth by finding that high school YouTuber that has 100,000 subscribers and proposing that they talk about our school? I don’t know. And I don’t have a clear answer and if we’re paying them for it…

Jason Buzzell: I know private institutions are under a ton of stress. And I can see they need to be thinking of those things and really tapping into them at some time because awareness is a big key of social media. There’s also a customer service angle and the whole messaging side. But it is an an awareness strategy and definitely something that we’re dipping our toe into, even at UNO, student workers who are active on social media.

But I don’t think you can create the content for them. It has to be coming from them and genuine or else… I just think we have these filters now, and we’re so good at spotting it, and I think maybe that’s why authenticity really came out at this one just because people are just so good at spotting stuff that’s not real.

Jarrett Smith: And they’re going to call BS on it so fast.

Jason Buzzell: They’re starting to spot some of this influencer marketing as banner ads, banner ads in ’97 that were kind of… You started to banner blindness. We’re getting maybe influencer blindness if you don’t do it the right way, or it’s not genuine. But if it is, it’s really powerful. If you have a student who tells a story, and it’s from them, and it’s really true and genuine, that’s powerful. That’s a powerful message you can’t even pay for. You can’t pay enough for that.

Jarrett Smith: And so then I think what you’re talking about is, it’s almost more an approach of uncovering the story that was organically there. As marketers, we’re like, “Okay, but I could uncover more if I just gave it a little tap.”

Jason Buzzell: It’s a fine line to jump off.

Jarrett Smith: It’s a fine line, yeah, and then you’re kind of like, “Is it possible to engineer something organic like that?” You have to be very careful with that.

Jason Buzzell: I think it goes back to foundation stuff. We talk about foundation, good storytelling. You need to go find stories. And from there, and whatever your goals are, you can figure out how you tell that story. That might be through a new social channel. It might be through your traditional news or even some printed or word of mouth stuff through your leadership. There’s different ways to deliver the story. Foundationally, how do we find those stories, and then, later on, it’s, how does it get delivered in the right way that’s genuine?

Jarrett Smith: Coming from a marketing background, I think it was McCann, one of those old school Mad Men era agencies, but their motto, their sort of agency philosophy was, the truth well told. And that’s always kind of stuck with me because we think of the smoke and mirrors of advertising, but they’re like, “At the core, it’s got to connect to something true.” And how truth is perceived, or verified I guess, these days is changing.

Jason Buzzell: The truth back then was really wide, and now, it’s really narrow. So you have the goalpost, right? You used to be able to kick it through the really wide goalpost. Now, they’re down to two yards apart.

Jarrett Smith: You’re threading a needle.

Jason Buzzell: You got to find that connection and kick it through there. It’s much more difficult.

Jarrett Smith: That was interesting. So RNL’s E-Expectations Report, I’m always excited to see what they’ve dug up this year and saw a good presentation on that. Was there anything that jumped out at you?

Jason Buzzell: They started to do that sophomore survey, so where a sophomore’s at in that journey. And-

Jarrett Smith: That’s a great addition.

Jason Buzzell: … starting to see the difference between sophomores, juniors, and seniors and how they responded to how they receive messaging. And we’re seeing this at our institution. It’s getting younger and younger. I got a nine year old. He already knows the brand I work for. He’s biased, and we’ve got the gear on all the time. But they’re starting to connect with brands early.

So you can think, by the time they’re a sophomore or junior, they’re making decisions. And you could see that in the RNL. You could see how they’re already talking about how they want to be communicated with. So sophomores were saying, “Hey, send me some brochures. Send me some printed things. Send me some cool stuff.”

Jarrett Smith: Yeah, that was interesting, right?

Jason Buzzell: Yeah. And that makes me, as somebody who’s been in the industry for a while, okay, there’s still a need for good, high quality print things, right, if they’re done well, and they’re done targeted, and then somebody has a connection with you. But then you could see the junior and senior especially get much more transactional. They’ve made some sort of decision.

And the only thing it looked like RNL pointed out that was going to maybe change, it was some financial aid or some life event. You’ve got to get them at that sophomore age or else they’ve started to make their decisions, and then the way you communicate with them becomes different. Their email, a little bit of Facebook, they were saying, “Facebook’s not dead yet.” There’s still a way to communicate, and some of that was their parent’s influence. But that was interesting to me, just seeing the difference between those groups only one year apart. And what they were showing was a difference in the way they like to be communicated with.

Jarrett Smith: Actually, the Facebook is kind of funny because, and I remember during the presentation, RNL had made a comment. They said, “In last year’s report, the Facebook numbers were pretty abysmal, and students were saying, ‘We don’t really use Facebook or look at Facebook very much.'” And they said, “Well, it was around the time Cambridge Analytica, and some of that stuff has passed. People have kind of forgotten about it regardless of what Facebook has or has not done from a privacy standpoint.”

But then one little nuance I noticed, as I was kind of re-reviewing the report again this morning, was just, students are using by far Instagram, Snapchat, all the social media channels where their grandparents aren’t and their parents aren’t. But a lot of them still view Facebook as a reliable way to research a school.

Jason Buzzell: Some of it, I don’t know if it’s because we’re building the lake, and they know they have to go to the lake still. I don’t know if the metaphor makes sense, but it’s like they know these channels are there, and they have to go there to get to their school of choice. So I don’t know if it’s like chicken and egg where they know we’re still there, and that’s the way, or they’re okay with emails, especially juniors. So I don’t know if some of it’s because they just accept it, and that looking 10 years down the road, will it change more drastically because email may even not be a thing for my son? I don’t know. But they are still open to these channels that we kind of talk about in the industry as being maybe dead or no one will look at as viable things, whether it be a print brochure, whether it be a traditional email trigger, transactional or otherwise.

And then the texting thing for seniors, I think everyone here wouldn’t be surprised by that. It’s just more implementing it and governing it. But there’s already texting going on with recruiters that’s happening naturally because they don’t want… I mean, I don’t want to pick up a phone. You and I are texting to meet. It’s like, we’re not calling each other like we used to. So some of these things are happening gradually over time. And I wonder if this next few years they’ll be okay with these kind of traditional channels. Texting’s new for higher ed, but I do wonder, in a few years, will that change, or will those just be continually the professional way to communicate still through those-

Jarrett Smith: Just more and more deeply ingrained in what we do. The comment you made, we as professionals, we think X thing is dead, whatever it is, SEO, print, social media, whatever, email, which year after year continues to be a strong channel and some interesting findings in the report around email and email design that folks can go check out. But one thing that occurred to me, I think we saw a presentation at the beginning, a keynote that was talking about, every school’s got the flyover drone photo. And the presenter’s kind of raising the question, should you do that, or is that kind of cliche now? Is that just, everybody’s got it?

And I heard some debate in some of the other sessions, and I thought it was an interesting point. They said, “Well, it’s one thing if you’re a consultant, or you’re in the industry, and you just see this stuff all day long, but not every school has that. And honestly, if you’ve got a great campus, show it off, and that’s a really effective way to show it off.” And we saw in the RNL study where they looked at photos and what was most appealing. Those sense of place photos that have that sense of location is so important.

Jason Buzzell: If you do the foundational stuff right, then some of the imagery, some of the way you deliver the video or the content, there’s an art to it. Andrew kind of, he was one of the presenters on social media. He’s from UA Fairbanks. He showed a ton of great things, and he talks about the art of what we’re doing just as much as the science. And so yeah, to me, and you know me, we’ve talked about it, I think you need to sit down with your users, understand your audiences. Location and value are important to UNO. We have a great value with a public education. We’re located in a major city with almost a million people. Those are things you have to showcase, and however you need to do that with your content, that can differ.

And I think Joe on our panel from BYU talked a little bit about the drone shot. Maybe that works for a campus, that another campus… We do more static images and more foundational things and really leverage social media to do business videos with partners around town and things like that. It’s going to be a little different from campus to campus. So yeah, the drone shot might work for one, and for us, it’s not something that we thought it would work. We’ve used more photography and things and then leverage social media for some of our drone shots.

Jarrett Smith: Speaking of Andrew’s presentation, I don’t want to get his title wrong, he’s basically the social media strategist at University of Alaska Fairbanks, and you were in that session, right?

Jason Buzzell: Yeah.

Jarrett Smith: It was just a amazing presentation on offbeat content for higher ed needs, primarily talking about social channels but not the usual stuff. I mean, he didn’t mention Instagram once, or even, I think he mentioned YouTube briefly, but it was like, hey, you can take your Twitch content and distribute it out on these other channels. I thought that was super interesting. And just kind of going back to the idea of authenticity, kind of reflecting on some of the things he was sharing, the impression I got was his approach is, I’m going to venture into these new channels. I’m going to take my institution forward, and within the context of that channel, say something that is hopefully interesting and unique and fun. I didn’t get the impression he’s trying to game the channel. He’s just, “We’re going to show up there and be relevant and interesting.”

Jason Buzzell: He was like a experimenter. He just had a personality. You have to be a little experimental, but then he also… I don’t know. He’s like a guard dog. On new things, he must just always be thinking how to get content out on the university that was relevant though still like the lists and the photos and the auroras and the northern lights. He just has this special knack to find those. That’s a pretty special skill. And he talked a lot about the art. That’s the art side. But then that comfortability to sit down and play around with channels and learn about them, he’s got some passion there. I didn’t look up his education, but I mean, he should do a thesis if he hasn’t on something around communication and technology. And he’s always in the mode of looking for that and connecting that back and thinking about the student audience.

Back to all of our institutions, all of our challenges, there’s so many audiences and so many critical ones. For us, it’s obviously the public, being a public institution, the government, our donors. They’re in much different places. I was thinking when he was talking, it was like, they’re on different channels, no less or more important, and we’re kind of pulled that way to make sure we get information out to the public through our traditional mediums, some of the big ones, but then there is an audience out there for institutions on these offbeat channels. And he really, he has a passion for it. That was an interesting presentation to kind of cap off the week, really got me thinking

Jarrett Smith: Well, I guess that’s kind of a good question to wrap up on is, as you kind of head back to UNO, what are you thinking about? What are you maybe going to do a little differently based on something you heard here today, anything just kind of on your mind?

Jason Buzzell: I think the eduWeb Twitter, they sent out a tweet, some of the design stuff just back to accessibility. There was a presentation on atomic design. I’ve heard a lot on CSS Grid back at at one of our campuses, among the other design type things, and really how to bake accessibility into what we’re doing. The social media presentation on accessibility, I think you can kind of see where my head’s at, definitely focused on accessibility. But that encompasses design. That encompasses content. That encompasses social media.

So really how to scale that across, not just our campus but the whole system, is something I’ve taken out here today. And we touched on it. That seems to be something that’s growing and is being presented on is accessibility, which really is, to me, one of those foundational elements. And even Andrew with all of his offbeat things, he was talking about accessibility in TikTok or some of those other things that he was trying out or experimenting with over the last couple years. So that’s what I’m going to take back.

Jarrett Smith: Good stuff. Well, Jason, thank you so much for taking the time to chat after the conference and…

Jason Buzzell: Yeah, I was glad we ended up connecting and able to do this before we head out and absolutely happy to meet you.

Jarrett Smith: Yeah, it was a lot of fun. I’m sure I’ll see you around the next conference, and thanks everybody for listening, and we’ll catch you next time.

The Higher Ed Marketing Lab is produced by Echo Delta, a full-service marketing firm dedicated to helping higher education institutions drive enrollment, increase yield, and capture donors’ attention. For more information, visit echodelta.co.

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Jarrett is our VP of Strategy and the torchbearer for all things digital. Since joining us in 2014, he’s made it his mission to help clients seize the power of smarter marketing strategies—and reap the rewards.

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