Monthly Archives

August 2014

Is your higher ed institution on Instagram? It should be.

By | Newsletter | No Comments

Sure, everybody and their grandmother has a Facebook page these days. But how’s your Instagram presence? According to a recent Advertising Age poll, brand posts on Instagram are getting TWICE the number of interactions (likes, comments, shares) as those on Facebook. Clearly, Instagram is one of the most popular, fastest-growing social media sites out there. And it’s showing no sign of slowing down.

According to the latest numbers, over 200 million people use Instagram every month, including 51% of high school seniors and 34% of those between the ages of 14 and 34.

So is your higher education institution making the most of it? Does it even have an account? If not, your school’s missing out on a golden opportunity to connect with current and prospective students and alumni—for free.

Here are five ways to make Instagram work for your institution:

  1. Post photos of important events. Sharing photos of things like sporting events, and concerts is a great way to let people know all the cool things happening on campus, as well as increase participation.
  1. Create a hashtag campaign. Create your own hashtag based on a theme (i.e. a campus photo contest) and encourage students and others to post their own photos and comments.
  1. Post exclusive access photos. Share behind-the-scenes photos from school sports events, lectures, and other activities. This is a fun way to give students an inside look at the school they won’t find anywhere else.
  1. Post historical photos. Engage with alumni and enhance school pride by sharing its history.
  1. Feed other social networks. Smaller colleges may find it more difficult than larger ones to grow their fan base on social networks. Sharing images from Instagram to other social media sites allows them to reach a wider audience.

With marketing budgets constantly being pinched, social media remains an excellent way to promote your school and your brand. Plus it has the added advantage of encouraging participation from the school community. Maintaining an Instagram account takes a little time and effort, but the results are worth it.

Business Etiquette in the Technology Age

By | Newsletter | No Comments

Technology has dramatically changed almost every aspect of our daily life – from the way we wake up in the morning, the way we get our information, the way we communicate to the way we spend our free time. The list is endless and ever changing.

Recently, I started taking note of how the use of technology has changed business etiquette.  Are manners going by the wayside? Has everything become casual?  Is multitasking the accepted norm? While I have my own opinions and observations and, let’s be honest, a few of my own bad practices, I was curious to see what the expectations should be.

Following is a list of best practices for the use of technology compiled from several business etiquette experts.

Cell Phones

  • Turn your phone to silent – even vibration noise is bothersome to others.
  • Never check your phone, text or catch up on emails while at a meeting, during dinner, or in any other professional setting.*
  • Do not use speakerphone. It is rude to others around you and you could be disclosing confidential information.
  • Wear a watch if you need to check the time.

*If you are waiting for an urgent call or message, state this before the start of the meeting and ask for permission to take the call.

Speaker Phone/Video Conferencing

  • Keep the agenda brief and choose a quiet place to conduct the meeting that is free from background noise.
  • Announce everyone who is present at the beginning of the meeting.
  • Participate in the meeting.  Other people can hear you typing, playing with your phone, talking to others or multitasking.  If you really think that you do not need to be in the meeting, then do not attend so as not to distract others.
  • Avoid flipping through papers or excessive movements.
  • Always assume that the microphones and cameras are on.  Be mindful of your attire.

Laptop/Wireless Use

  • Ask for permission at the start of the meeting to take notes on your laptop and do not use it for other multitasking.
  • Pay attention to the speaker.  As with using cell phones, using your laptop can be disrespectful and distracting. Do not ask someone to repeat something because you were not paying attention.
  • Do not be a Google know-it-all.
  • Do not send instant messages to others to provide your commentary or share confidential reactions to the meeting content.
  • Keep eye contact and do not hide behind the screen.
  • Make sure your laptop is working and correctly configured before the meeting.

Instant Messaging

  • Ask if the person is available before launching into a conversation.
  • Keep it short. IM is for quick questions and updates. Anything longer than a few sentences should be discussed over the phone or in person.
  • If you are unavailable, make sure that your status is set to reflect this.


Email is a long-standing business communication tool with a complete set of well-established do’s and don’ts.  However, the use of text messaging and the rise of social media have led to some bad habits.  Here are a few reminders:

  • Speak professionally, no text speak.  Emails are professional documents.  No jargon, slang, abbreviations or use of emoticons.
  • Using poor grammar and misspelling words is never acceptable.
  • Don’t be lazy. Don’t use email for something that should be communicated via another channel – a handwritten thank you note or a personal phone call when bad news is given.

Paying attention to business etiquette is a sign of professionalism. Using good etiquette can form positive first impressions and build trust. Hopefully, this list of best practices will serve as a good reminder for us all.

Liz Taylor, founder, Etiquette Principles, August 2013, August 2013
David Ingram, small business owner and business writer, as published in the Houston Chronicle online.
Angie Reid,, May 2012
Marjorie Brody, business etiquette expert,
LinkedIn, May 2014, posted by Scott Pugh, Recruitment and Search Manager

Management Perspective

By | Newsletter | No Comments


I like it when it rains hard. It sounds like white noise everywhere, which is like silence but not empty.”
― Mark Haddon, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

First of all, if you’ve not read this book, it’s a great novel written from the viewpoint of a 15-year old boy who likely has autism. It presents an unexpected, unusual and enlightened look into a mind that sees things from a different angle. But, that’s not what this article is about. This article is simply about rain.

It rained hard last weekend. After weeks of drought came a 3 or 4 hour downpour in the middle of an 85 degree hot and humid day. And..for me at least, it was oddly perfect. It helped that the rain didn’t usher in a sudden and sharp drop in temperature. This was not a cooling rain but a mild warm summer rain, the kind of rain that shows up in movies but is seldom seen in Minnesota. I could almost hear the trees, plants and lawn saying, “thank you, thank you, thank you!”

I had several things planned for the afternoon; a few errands to run, some things to do in the yard, a dog really looking forward to a walk. Suddenly all things stopped. They stopped and I waited, then waited a bit more and then finally, conceded that my day was officially on hold…if only for a little while.

I headed to my porch to sit, listen and take in the rain and a few surprising things happened. I relaxed. My mind cleared and I felt as if the rain was doing a meditation for me. I just sat as thoughts and ideas seeped in and out of my mind. I solved a few problems and made a few decisions. I rested. I had a time-out and it was wonderful.

A good reminder that down time can be really, really productive time.

And, so as not to get too sappy, I’ll end as I started with a quote about rain, this one taking on a bit of a different spin.

It always rains on tents. Rainstorms will travel thousands of miles, against prevailing winds for the opportunity to rain on a tent. -Dave Barry


Like this post if you love homework… More teachers adopting Social Media in the Classroom.

By | Newsletter | No Comments

With school starting this week, the d.trio staff engaged in a lively conversation about academics and new trends in school. As someone who has not seen the inside of a classroom in a few years, I was floored when one of my colleagues mentioned that schools and teachers have embraced social media in the classroom. After some digging into the subject, I discovered that “tweeting out” homework is actually common practice. In fact 80% of higher education faculty reported using social media for some aspect of a course they are teaching.*

And it’s not just for college and university staff. In a recent survey of both higher education and high school faculty, 30% of teachers have reported using social media to post content for students to view outside of the classroom. Additionally, 40% have required students to view or read a social media post as part of an assignment and the numbers increase dramatically when you include teachers who work in non-traditional or online classrooms.

From online video tutorials, to hashtags that prompt student discussion online, teachers are finding new ways to embrace social media and incorporate it into their curriculum. Want to see other ways teachers use social media? Click the link below.

*Report by Pearson Learning Solutions, 2011

Featured Work: The Carlson School of Management

By | Newsletter | No Comments

The MBA admissions team at the Carlson School of Management sought an outside agency to re-create their recruitment brochure.  Their goal was to find a fresh, more modern voice, look and feel.  d.trio envisioned a lighter, brighter overall look for the piece, with more conversational messaging that ultimately spoke to Carlson’s unique curriculum and specializations. As one of the top MBA programs in the country, the Carlson brochure is a highly-visible, public facing element of their brand.  It is the centerpiece of the admissions materials, and is utilized in both print and digital formats.


Devil in the details – 5 signs you’re in too deep

By | General | No Comments

Details – if you’re a detail person like me, you know they are important. They will dog you if you don’t pay attention. But, how much is too much? When do you know you’ve done your due diligence and how do you know it’s time to edit? The funny thing about details is they can add value and overwhelm; lend to credibility and shut down the conversation altogether. You are probably not the one to see your own obsession with details as a negative, but it does help to have colleagues and friends to help you edit.

It’s good to know when to edit, so here are the top 5 signs that you’re too deep in the details:

  1. Your emails are more than 2 paragraphs long. Really, if your emails are any longer, you won’t get people to read them anyway so maybe choose another way to communicate this information. A memo? A conversation with a follow up in writing?
  2. Your hour-long presentation has more than 15 slides. More than this and you’ll have your audience wondering how long they will be held captive or you’ll be speed speaking your way through and lose them anyway. Plus you won’t have the crucial discussion time built in.
  3. Your slides in your presentation look more like paragraphs in a book than a nice visual and a thought to build on. Enough said.
  4. Your strategic overview has actual tactics detailed, when you’ve stated you’re just keeping it high level. You’ll lose credibility here and you will confuse people if your strategy is mixed up with tactics. Other than relevant examples of how you’ve accomplished your strategies (and maybe keep those in case studies), tactics should come later.
  5. Your instructions or directions or processes have so much detail that they confuse people. All of these need to lead people. Complete but concise is the ideal. Superfluous information will just make the steps more difficult to follow.

Visual cues are your best friend if you’re a detail person. One hopes for engagement and interaction with conversations or presentations in marketing, sales, and personal interactions. When you see faces glass over, you’re too deep in the details – time to pull up. When your audience looks at the time and toward the door, it’s time to check in with them. Details are a great thing, but I’ve learned, with a little help from my friends, that sometimes enough is enough.



Three Simple Ways to Make your School’s Videos More Effective.

By | Higher Education | No Comments

By Gary McVey

While higher education marketers have more tools than ever to communicate their messages, the good old-fashioned medium of moving pictures is still one of the best. Video has always been a powerful way to express emotion, authenticity and a sense of place. By combining it with today’s digital tools and social media networks, marketers are realizing that video can deliver more impact while reaching larger target audiences.

Following are three proven techniques for producing effective videos:

1. Know the Story You Want to Tell

Whether it’s a highly polished, scripted video or more of an authentic documentary, it’s important to know what story you’re telling. Without a cohesive storyline, you’ll be left with a series of unrelated snippets that fail to connect with viewers.

Take for example, d.trio’s recent video for the Master’s in Strategic Communication program at the University of Minnesota’s School of Journalism. Program Director Steve Wehrenberg wanted to show how this graduate degree program transforms the lives and careers of its students and alumni. “We decided that an authentic documentary-style production would be a more effective way to tell our story, rather than a slick, scripted approach,” he said. “But even though it was more of a documentary, d.trio led us through a story-boarding process that was very effective.” Having a storyline drove everything, the location, the cast, the tone and the overall format.

2. Three Words: Location. Location. Location.

Why do A-List Hollywood directors travel halfway across the world to film their movies? They know how important it is to ground their stories in the right setting. For the U of M video, we filmed on campus, in the same buildings and classrooms used by students.

“Some of our competitors offer classes in newer, generic-looking office buildings,” Wehrenberg said. “We thought it was incredibly important to do the filming on our historic campus, and to visually communicate our close proximity to downtown Minneapolis by using the skyline as a backdrop. This is the place where we transform lives, and it had to look and feel authentic to that.”

3. Consider your cast

With the right people to tell your story, your video will engage and connect with viewers.

For the University’s video, we worked with program directors and staff to choose the right people to feature, including those who spoke directly and passionately about how the master’s program had transformed their lives and careers.

The video is already having an impact for the program. In just a few months, it’s been viewed over 260 times, with 55 percent of views originating from the microsite d.trio created and promoted through direct mail, digital and other tactics.

“It’s by far the best video we’ve created, and it really made a difference to bring in the professionals,” said Sarah Howard, Communications Manager for the School of Journalism and Mass Communication. “They helped us tell our story much more effectively than we could have on our own.”


See the “Turning Point” video d.trio created for the Master’s in Strategic Communication program at the University of Minnesota.



-Gary McVey is a guest blogger for d.trio. He is president of McVey Marketing Inc., a marketing, research and brand consulting firm based in the Minneapolis area. He has worked with more than a dozen colleges and universities, and previously served as chief marketing officer at Hamline University in St. Paul and for the Minnesota Private College Council, a 17-college consortium.


Don’t Confuse Discounts with Customer Service

By | General | No Comments

I heard from a banker friend of mine the other day about his frustration with his commercial bankers’ habit of waiving fees for “good” customers. This practice is often viewed by the “donator” as providing good customer service, but in fact has the opposite effect of commoditizing service overall.

Service is one of your primary deliverables, and any overt focus on pricing will tend to devalue that service. Your company’s brand position should support your pricing and discounts or waiving should be a rare occurrence. Your customers likely did not come to you, or more importantly stay with you for price considerations -so why would you resort to price reduction as a retention tactic?

Good customers recognize truly good service and are willing to pay for it. Those who are not, do not value what you deliver and will be subject to abandoning you for price-driven competitors.

Defend your position. Hold your ground and keep delivering exceptional service. Your truly best (and most profitable) customers will stay and pay and you’ll be far better off in the long run.