Of pies and (Facebook) posts

RA's cream themselves for charity

One of the reasons I love college students is because of their energy and general enthusiasm to change the world — through pie-throwing, if necessary.

One of the reasons I love social media is because I can share this exuberance and good-natured antics with the world. Instantly.

Students: Want to cream your RA’s? You can today! Whip cream throwing stations will be set up for today’s Club Friday at 3:00 p.m. in the University Center Commons. You can purchase a plate of whip cream for a lucky RA. Cost is $1 and proceeds will go to benefit Kids Against Hunger! Let’s see who has the best aim!

This simple post on Mount Mercy’s Facebook page landed us not only on the evening news of our local TV station, but also in the local paper the next day (two color photos. Cha-ching)

An alert journalist saw this post and took it as an opportunity to get some footage. In hindsight, it should have been obvious to me that this would have been something of interest to them. It carried all the elements that their cameras are drawn to.

1) Interactive and visual
2) Out of the ordinary campus event
3) For a cause


RA Casey G. tries to tempt students to come outside and cream her. One dolla!

I didn’t even have to formally pitch this event because they came on their own. Post, and they will come. And what can we learn from this little experience?

1) Social media can be used to share a message with an audience AND convey a brand identity to a larger listening base. Case in point, students were alerted to a fun event on campus, and the Cedar Rapids community got to enjoy highlights of a service-oriented project

2) Social media is routinely used as a resource for journalists looking for unique story ideas that include all the pertinent details – when, where, why, how

3) After the event, it allows you to share the message again with your audience. Thanks to the coverage we earned from the local media, the Mount Mercy page was able to share coverage again with our fans

And of course, capture our own great photos and video.

The RA’s who allowed themselves to be creamed for charity were good sports. Nice job, guys!








The rally

It’s been an embarrassingly long time since I’ve managed to squeeze in a blog post. Help me hide my shame and don’t look down at the date stamp of my last entry.

I told you not to look down.

But back to the purpose of my post. This week our Mustangs made history when the men’s soccer team came back from a 3-0 deficit to score four goals (yes, four goals) in roughly 10 minutes of the Midwest Collegiate Conference Championship — leaving the crowd, our students, the photographers and quite frankly, our staff, stunned.

But not speechless.

I have never seen anything like the triumph and jubilation our team exhibited when that timer ran down and throngs of frozen students, faculty, staff and players rushed the field. It was a moment created for a movie.

Here we were. It was the second half, and we were down by three goals in a sport not known for its fast-paced scoring. The students who had braved the cold were sitting on the frozen bleachers, bracing themselves for a sad ending to the last 10 minutes of our team’s season.

We scored a goal on a penalty kick, which helped revive everyone’s spirits. And the rest is a blur. All I remember is the team knocking them in three more times in a row – swiftly moving the game to a tie and then bumping us up in the lead. And we were just down three to zero ten minutes ago!

Before I even realized it, the timer ran down and we were all on the field, elated. And my video camera was rolling. Dog piles, players hoisted on shoulders, screaming, hugging, jumping, flag waving…it continued and continued. I hugged every player I saw. I hugged the coach. I hugged our photographers.

We were stunned. And just like a well crafted movie, with Oscar-winning cinematography, the sun peaked out behind those bleak clouds and shrouded our players in its rays. I kid you not, the moment that trophy was hoisted in the air was the moment the sun decided to make its appearance. I find it no coincidence.

I don’t get to cover our athletic successes very often, but I could not have scripted this better. When I arrived at the second half, I was debating whether or not to even stay. I don’t have the heart for recording defeats, and that certainly wasn’t the reason I had left my office. But who could have predicted we’d come back and score four goals in ten minutes. Not me. Now I understand a little better why my colleague comes to work every morning. It’s for moments like that.

I could not be happier for our team. It’s a great group of guys, with a great coach at the helm. And it was completely inspiring to see our students huddled on the bleachers, cheering them on despite the cold (even painting their chests and going shirtless, for crying out loud). I saw guys from our baseball team. I saw our women’s basketball coach and our men’s cross country coach. I saw our department chair of business. And I thought, “This is what it’s all about. Those are our guys. That is our team. We are Mustangs, and we are going to rally or stand with them till the end.”

Could not be prouder of them – or of the opportunity to help capture the moment and celebrate it with campus. On to nationals. Go Mustangs!

Happy little words

If you are looking for a small distraction from work, here’s a fun thing to do: Create a word cloud out of your blog.

Wordle: Beautiful Word Clouds, will do the work for you – simply paste in a paragraph of text or type in your URL and magically (what? It seems like magic) your own personal no-two-are-alike word cloud will appear.

So what words do I use the most? See my word cloud below. The larger the word, the more frequently it is used.

Apparently I am stuck a lot. And I have no idea why the word “Howard” is in there so much.  Another mystery.

Happy wording!

Fueling your creativity

We all have those little “when all else fails” tricks that we turn to when we are feeling totally non-creative. The fix is different for each person and each creative problem, and the solutions can be as varied as there are font designs.

My team mates and I had a creative meeting today and took a moment to share our “fixes” with each other. It was our hope and intention of sharing the little light-bulb moments with each other and perhaps sparking new ideas for one another.

The goody bag included some nice solid sites, like TED,  Design Sponge, and Educational Marketing Group (their Facebook page I’ve found particularly helpful).

What I didn’t share with our group was all the goofy, quirky things I do when I am having writer’s block or when I want to “creatify” my work space (# 1 on that list just might include making up my own words).

My inspiration or miscellaneous other help:

  • Movie Scores. My iPod is full of them. Listening to music when you write is a personal preference, but I love a good movie score. My favorites are Armageddon (Trevor Rabin), Lord of the Rings (Howard Shore), Black Hawk Down (Hans Zimmer), and pretty much anything by James Newton Howard
  • Munchies. I’ll admit, when I’m writing I like to have Tootsie Roll Pops by my desk. Could be worse, I guess.
  • Poetry. Much like drinking some water in between glasses of wine, reading poetry when I’m stuck in a writing rut often “cleanses the palate” of the words in my mind. You are so drenched in what you are writing that sometimes delving into Sir Walter Scott, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow or John Donne washes it all off and replenishes your vocabulary and thinking patterns with fresh words and rhythms.
  • Photography. Anyone who has come within three feet of my desk has noticed that I have photography slapped everywhere. If I find space around me that is magnetic or made of poster board, it will soon be covered with photos of scenery, people I love, architecture and trees. And maybe a cornfield sunset.
  • Last one: a darling little tumblr account I found recently that randomly highlights lovely quotes or movie scenes or a myriad of other gems. Small pica, or philosophy.

What do YOU do when you are stuck? When you seek inspiration? When you wish to create beauty in your workspace? I’d love to hear other ideas or tips.

And may you never get stuck again.

Favorite Words: Part II

1.    Dauntless
2.    Scintillate
3.    Mollify
4.    Winsome
5.    Sanguine
6.    Dawning
7.    Superfluous
8.    Altruistic
9.    Muse
10.   Cordial

Favorite Words: Part I

  1. Ardently
  2. Stalwart
  3. Formidable
  4. Peerless
  5. Temperate
  6. Celestial
  7. Pledged
  8. Valiant
  9. Demure
  10. Fortitude

The Power of Words – from YouTube

In a nutshell, this is why I love words so much. They live.

Thank you, YouTube, and @Jenion for finding it for me.

Social media: On the job and in the job

Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, SCVNGR, Tumbler – they all made a brief appearance over coffee as my friend and colleague on the Hill Jen Hanson and I discussed social media and Mount Mercy. Jen is our director of residence life, and is one of those people on campus worth knowing.

Now, social media is not a foreign concept to MMU. We tweet, FB, YouTube and “scvng” with the best of them. But where we found our conversation going that afternoon soon fell into two buckets:

1. How can we enhance and grow the social media we are already implementing on campus?
2. How can we use social media for professional development? Yes, I’m talking about finding resources so busy young professionals can tap into trends, ideas and feedback – all from social media (let’s face it, we can’t hit every conference we’d like to).

The ideas and food-for-thought we generated was encouraging, and I am eager to see where we take it. A few brief highlights:

Social Media and Campus:

  • Get more people involved: Residence Assistants are generally engaging and personable individuals – let’s leverage that with social media and give voices to their experiences
  • Highlight the communities we already have: Mount Mercy has Living Learning Communities that are taking off and seeing a lot of positive results. How can we showcase the unique stories of the floors involved in this program?
  • Educate the masses: Find ways to help everyone on campus interested in social media discover the tools they need to work the system

Social Media and Professional Development:

  • Gather a solid group of individuals who work in the same field you do and who are doing innovative and creative things in their profession – and follow them. Read their blogs, follow them on Twitter, join conversations
  • Leverage hashtags on Twitter. Jen and I discovered several hashtags where professionals from around the country were talking about student affairs and residence life. Find the hashtags that benefit you and check in on them regularly
  • Use Twitter bio searches to find folks in your field and plug into them as resources
  • Can’t make a conference? Follow it on Twitter. Most conferences use a hashtag so folks participating can share ideas and pass along what they are learning

Do you have ideas you’d like to share? What are some other ways we can leverage social media to learn more about a specific field or gain additional professional resources? We’d love to hear your ideas, please pass them along. You can find Jen and I both on Twitter: @jenion and @emuhlbach.


PR 101: Being BFFs with the media

I had the privilege recently of guest speaking in Associate Professor of Communication Dave Klope’s Intro to PR class. He thought it would be beneficial for the students to hear some practical applications of what they’ve been learning in the classroom. Hopefully, I passed along some helpful information on working with the media, and more importantly, succeeding with the media.

I do not profess to have picked up all the tricks of the trade in my thus-far short career at Mount Mercy, but there are a few things I wanted to pass along  to our students as they set out on their own endeavors.

Ways to succeed with the media:

  • Know their beat. Pitch the right story to the right reporter. It makes the material more relevant to them, and shows you know the area they cover.
  • Respond ASAP. Reporters have been given a deadline, and they are looking to you for help. Get back to them immediately, even if it’s just to say you’ve received their email or voice mail message, and you’re working on it.
  • Package the information for them. Media professionals are bombarded with press releases everyday. Make the information in your release easy to digest, short and sweet, and above all – complete. Don’t make them fish elsewhere to get the big picture.
  • Formatting counts. Are you sending an email? Pull out the date/time/location and bold it. Use bullets for key stats or chunks of information. Hyperlink to more info or a campus map. Package it for busy people.
  • Why is this relevant? You may have a great event coming up, but unless it relates to a broader issue or theme, they won’t want to cover it.
  • “What’s your deadline?” Ask them this sincerely, with the intent of helping them make it. They will appreciate it.
  • Be there. If you pitch an event, cover it. Find them in the crowd and assist them. They might not know who to interview to get the story, but you do. Find the reporter, and stick with them until they have everything they need for their story.
  • Think ahead – what will they need to make this story complete? A headshot? A visual? Anticipate it.
  • Check in with them. You never know when a short “anything I can help with?” email will hit at just the right moment.

If you are a member of the local media and would like to add to this list, please leave a comment. I would genuinely like to hear from you.

Best of luck to those PR students. You’ll jump right in and rock it, I’m sure.


Wordless Wednesday: lamp-light on the hill