My Notebook Obsession

I’ve become rather notorious for my notebooks. I have one with me constantly, and I take notes in every meeting in which I am a part.  There’s something satisfying about putting pen to paper rather than just plucking away a keyboard. For me, there is something in the motion that helps me to remember.  Regardless, I figured I’d share my current notebook methodology here.

Black, medium-sized and squared. This is my primary note taking notebook. It goes with me to every meeting, conference, or any other opportunity where I need to take general notes. I go through about one or two of these a year. I like and the portability of it. I prefer squares to lines because of my doodling habit. It also helps if I ever need to map something out. The pocket in the rear is perfect for storing receipts from travel. I never throw them out and will often go back and review my notes, especially from conferences.

Continue reading “My Notebook Obsession”

My Social Media Sabbatical

I took a social media sabbatical last year—not a full on, delete all of my accounts and don’t post anything sabbatical—but for the first time in 7 years I didn’t have a Facebook, Twiiter, or some other school/college account attached to my phone/computer. I also limited my posting to many of my own accounts as well. I didn’t spend a ton of time on Twitter, in fact I hardly posted anything there at all. I did use Instagram a lot, and posted to Twitter and Facebook through that, but otherwise, the Twitter and the Facebook were quiet compared to where they had been years prior.


Why did I do this?

After starting social media projects at two schools and pretty much being the social media guy at both, I was feeling a bit stale. I also had started at a new job which was very demanding of my time in other areas. We also had someone who was producing some really good content here for us as a school and we didn’t need more of it. In short, I didn’t need to be on it and thus, I wasn’t.

What did I gain?

No new personal insight, that’s for sure. I did, however, come into the end of the summer refreshed and ready to reengage with social media on an institutional level. It was nice to not have that pressure of creating content for multiple channels everyday.

i thought a lot about collaboration.

How do we spread the work across multiple offices and how do we make sure we aren’t duplicating content? I’m still a big believer in the idea that there should be one main account for a school rather than special interest accounts. While the audience for the Alumni/Development office obviously differs from that of the Admissions Office, but there are similarities, and there’s no reason we can’t tag-team events to make sure we have both covered.

I took a step back.

When you’re focused on creating content you can get hung up and lose sight of the big picture—the why? I used to spend a lot of time tracking engagement stats. It’s important information to have, but if you get too much into the numbers, you can lose sight of the big picture goals you may have.  How are your efforts in social media helping your annual fund numbers? How are they helping enrollment?

Looking ahead.

Now that I’m back on the horse, I’m excited to reengage in social media, if not as a direct user then definitely as an influencer. We’ve started getting to work our multiple offices across our campus can coordinate, collaborate and create while keeping the big picture goals in mind. I’m really excited about the work we’re going to do this year.


Deliberate Acts of Kindness

The following is a Chapel Talk I had intended to give this year.  

Were any of you on the Circle when Acts_Of Kindness, that troubadour of good deeds was a sensation during one particularly grey and dreary February?

I loved Acts. For those of you (I suspect the majority) who have no idea what I’m talking about: Winter three years ago, a mysterious email account appeared on FirstClass and began poetically expound upon good deeds around the Circle. These mysterious emails would show up on student conferences once a day. Here’s an example:

a girl is helped in a flash by another
who should have then been singing
sing she does

a boy calls us to call our moms
and some of us do

a little baby stays mostly quiet in a chapel
but lets us know she’s there
in the midst of it all

At one point, a student caught Acts_Of Kindness on First Class Chat and when asked for motives, AOK responded: I have received more beautiful stories about random acts of kindness than everyone in the world.

Speculation ran rampant as to identity of the mysterious emailer until concerns that it was an undercover Al Qaida operative eventually won out and Mr. Gemmell stepped out from behind the curtain to reveal himself as this mysterious bard behind the keyboard.

This was just a few weeks or so in February three years ago, but I have thought about this over and over again since. Both because it was sad to see it go, as it was a little bit of sunshine during what was a difficult time for me, but also because is has me thinking about that idiom, Random Acts of Kindness.

It should be easy, being kind. After all, it’s what we all want others to be, right? Why then does is sometimes seem easier to be the opposite? Can we not be just kind all of the time? Must we rely on the Random Acts of Kindness to make our day?

Flash back to the summer of 1988. My family and I have moved to Massachusetts that previous December from Clifton Park, NY. That June day, my dad, and my younger brother headed into Boston for our first professional baseball game. For all I can remember, it might have been our first baseball game ever.

I did not know was that it was just two years after the Sox blew the World Series in epic fashion. I had no knowledge of Bill Buckner, Bucky “Bleeping” Dent, Pesky holding the ball, Ted Williams and the Teammates, Joe Cronin, Yaz, Rice and Fisk. I had never seen a baseball game before this, and I remember being awed by what is now known as “America’s favorite ballpark.” This was well before the circus of Yawkee Way, the hour-long pregame show and the hour-long post game show. This was back when half of the games were played on Channel 38, free TV. Back before real fans had cards proving their fandom and residence in the some made up nation.

I was struck by that building. That ballpark. I remember the brick, and that unmistakable green paint. Our seats were in the roof boxes on the first base line. To get there we had the option of climbing a whole bunch of stairs or taking the elevator. With a nine-year-old and a five-year-old in tow and the first pitch about to be thrown, my dad, perhaps wisely, chose the elevator.

At the elevator was a tall skinny guy with a slight afro. He wore a Red Sox shirt that made it apparent he worked for the team. On the ride up, he asked us if we had arrived early to watch batting practice and get some autographs. Having been raised by two Vermont Hicks (this is not quite as bad as being raised by a pair of wolves in the forest, but when put in situations like these involving civilization, you are equally unprepared), my brother and I replied no. Didn’t know that was a thing.

“Go buy a ball and meet me here after the game.” was his reply.

We found our seats and the beauty of that park struck me. In fact it still strikes me today as it did back then. The green, the grass, the rust colored damp dirt of the infield. I don’t remember much about the game. The Sox played the Mariners, winning 11-5. Oil Can Boyd was the starting pitcher, lasting four innings before the immortal Tom Bolton getting the win in relief. I know all this not because I remember it, but rather because I looked it up on

After the game, we met our new friend at the designated spot after the game, ball and ballpoint pen in tow. He brought the three of us down the elevator and out of the park onto Van Ness St. This was before the statue of the Teammates was there and was a fenced in area used for player parking. A crowd had already gathered held back by yellow tape, waiting to catch a glimpse or maybe an autograph from one of the Sox players.

We made it to the tape, and our new friend told my dad to wait there as he beckoned my brother and me to follow him under the tape. I remember a, “Who are those kids?” coming up from the crowd behind me. I must have been in total shock. There I was in the parking lot surrounded by the very baseball players I had just seen from our seats high above the playing field. Baseball players that I barely knew, yet somehow revered. And they began driving by me, stopping, rolling down their windows and signing my ball.

Roger Clemons, Dwight Evans, Spike Owens, Oil Can, Ellis Burks, Mike Greenwell, Wade Boggs (the only jerk of the group who barked “Hurry up kid. I gotta get out of here.” This is a prejudice I held as I watched him ride around Yankee Stadium in pinstripes on the back of a police horse after winning a world series with the dreaded Yankees. I did not see who was in his passenger seat.)

And they kept coming, Marty Barrett, Jody Reed and others.

I think about that day every now and then. I still have that ball which sits in my living room. Acts_Of Kindness got me thinking about that day and my friend at the elevator in Fenway Park.

Was that a random act of kindness? Did that employee see two young kids on their first trip to a ball park and decide to give them a magical moment that they would remember for the rest of their lives?

I have decided that I like to think that this was not a random act of kindness, but rather it was a deliberate act of kindness. That’s more inspiring isn’t it? To believe that guy woke up every single day of the baseball season with the intention of giving a kid a once in a lifetime experience for no other reason than he could.

Suppose he did this at every home game for two kids, just like my brother and me. The Sox play 81 home games. That’s 162 kids who had a moment at a ballpark that they will never have again. And what did it take? 15 minutes? 15 minutes of deliberate kindness 81 times a year. Here I am. 34 years old and that is still one of my most favorite childhood memories. Imagine having that impact on 162 other people. And that’s just in one year. Who knows how long he had worked at Fenway.

Doesn’t that make a better story? One guy, a simple job, creating lasting childhood memories for hundreds, maybe thousands of children through deliberate acts of kindness.

This is what I loved about Acts_Of Kindness. It took the random out of acts of kindness. It drew attention to the small acts, and it made, me at least, do one kind act each day during that month of February. Not only that, but also look out for kind acts as they happened. It seems to me that is a pretty good way to go through life, seeking out and performing deliberate acts of kindness of varying size and impact.

I think we could all stand to make a deliberate act of kindness a part of our day. In fact, why not more than one? There are 450 of us in this room right now. If each of us does one act of kindness today, that 450 positive actions. If we do two, that’s 900. Spread the love. Keep it going. Imagine the type of community we could become. To quote a Grateful Dead song, “Let it grow. Let it grow. Greatly yield.”

How hard is it to do two kind things in one day? Two kind things that could help someone’s day be a little bit brighter? I would suggest that it’s pretty easy, you just have to be deliberate about it.

the Online self

I applied for two jobs this year.  Interviewed for both.  Didn’t get the first.  Got the second.

In both instances, during the interview someone mentioned having read either this blog or recent tweets. They knew I was a dad, that I love good beer and occasionally make my own, and even pointed out a typo.

I don’t know why but each time the conversation left me feeling a little uncomfortable.  Certainly, I should have been prepared for just such a conversation.  I have been preaching to students that they should be aware of the manner in which they use social media for years.  This blog certainly is not a journal on my nightstand only to be read by me.

And yet, each time it or some other media was mentioned, I could feel myself blushing and getting squeamish.   Wondering, just what embarrassing item they may have stumbled upon.

My first post in this space was in 2006, and it has a typo in it.  In fact, the first few posts have typos.   Now, seven years later, should I go back and retroactively fix them?

I don’t think I will.  I, rather, see it as an evolution.  It’s pretty clear in the beginning that I was trying to figure out just what to do with this thing.  It’s evolved from short comments on the weather, to a device in which I explored social media and its use in schools, to most recently, my trials through fatherhood.   To go back in time, and revise, remove or reprise previous posts would, to me, take away from the evolution of this space.

All that being said, it was a good reminder that this is very much a public space.  As much as I sometimes treat it like that journal on my nightstand, it isn’t private.  It’s totally searchable, and it’s here for a long time.   If I’m not writing something that I can be proud of and have total strangers read and gather an impression of me, then I  probably shouldn’t be writing it and definitely not here.

On Fatherhood

Below is a Chapel Talk* I gave a couple of weeks ago now.   The tragedy of Newton, CT has hit me harder than any other national news event that I can recall.  There’s no doubt in my mind that fatherhood is the reason behind it.  President Obama nailed it yesterday when he said that parenthood is like removing your heart from your body and letting it walk around outside of you.  My boys are an incredible gift.  I’m thankful they’re healthy.

Delivered December 6, 2012 at St. John’s Chapel, Groton School

“So, What’s it like being a dad?”


“It must be cool, you know?  Like, that’s your kid and all.”

“Uh, Yeah.  It’s cool.  I mean big responsibility and all that, but yeah, it’s cool.”

That was a conversation that Ray Dunn and I had just before study hall sometime last year.   Short and awkward, that conversation has stuck with me for some time now, and I often find that question floating around in my head.  “What’s it like being a dad?”

I’ll be honest.  When I signed up to do this Chapel talk, on St. Nicholas’s day (Patron saint of children) I fully intended to do some reflecting, do some writing, arrive here, and share some truly brilliant insight into what it is like being a parent. Give you some pointed, wise, and timeless advice on how some day, you too can be a parent.

Anyone want to take bets on whether or not that’s actually going to happen?

I did do a lot of thinking about this question, and like I said, it still runs through my head from time to time.  “What’s it like being a dad?”

Well, for one, being a dad is terrifying.

I have a serious paranoia streak.  I’m not like those people on Doomsday Preparers, but I can see how one could get there.

If I let myself, I could wake up every morning and ask myself, “What am I going to do today that is totally going to screw my kid up 20 years from now?”  That’s if I let myself.

Not only is the idea of raising this human being that could become the leader of the free world, or a psychotic mass murder, or somewhere in between, terrifying but the entire process leading up to the birth of this child is an experience, that frankly, I don’t want to go through again.

Let me share with you my experience with our first-born, Parker.

We were still living in Vermont at the time and Parker was a week overdue.   Maria’s water broke at about midnight on Sunday.  As nothing was really happening besides that—no contractions, etc.— we were told to get some rest (right) and come into the hospital at 8 a.m.

We did and as there still wasn’t much going on, they hooked Maria up to an IV and start pumping a drug called pitocin which speeds up the process of all hell breaking loose.

Fast forward to Tuesday at 3 a.m.  There’s some contractions going on now.  Things are moving, albeit slowly.

8 a.m.  Now hard labor is going and Maria is told to start pushing.   This goes on for three hours.

Now I should stop here and let you all know that the crazy person that I’m married to has decided to do this without painkillers.

Those three hours were awful.  Terrifying.   It was three hours of watching the person that I decided to spend the rest of my life with, go through this insufferable amount of pain.  And there is nothing I can do.  I’m totally useless.

There was one point at which Maria reached over, grabbed me by the love handles, and lifted all 195 pounds of me off of the ground.

All I could think was, “This hurts.  But not as much as that.”

At one point, watching this all, completely helpless, in one of many acts of hypocrisy I have committed, I remember praying.  Please just let her get through this.   Please.  I can’t raise this kid by myself.


It’s also hard.  Fatherhood is hard.   It’s hard because so often, my initial reactions to situations is an emotional one.  It’s typically something that I should know how to handle better, but often don’t.   These aren’t new lessons for me.  In fact they’re ones that I’ve learned years ago, mostly through coaching.

I learned quickly in my coaching career, that I am not Bear Bryant.  To start, I coach the wrong sport. But I am not a hard-nosed disciplinarian. I learned that in my first year as a swimming coach after college.

It was just me on the pool deck, and this group of swimmers had totally exhausted any patience that I had left.  In attempt to show them how tough I was, I went ballistic.   I stopped practice, started yelling, snapped a clipboard, and lined up an innocent pull buoy lying on the deck.

So I lined up this styrofoam football sized buoy one places between one’s legs in order to keep one’s legs afloat while doing pull drills took three steps, and set it flying into the stands of the observation deck.

Unfortunately, the shoe I was wearing followed it.

It is very hard to feel tough wearing clogs.  It’s even harder to feel tough when you’re standing on a wet pool deck, with one clog on, one clog off, balancing on one foot so that your sock doesn’t get wet.

That was the first lesson.  The second occurred three years later on a pool deck in Florida.  I was coaching the college team this time with my former coach and mentor.   It was New Year’s Eve Day and it was pretty evident both by the smell in the van on the ride over, and what I was seeing in the pool during warm ups that the team had been out late celebrating the night before.

Coach stopped everyone and I prepared my tough guy assistant coach stance and look.   Rather than berate them however, Coach took a totally different approach.   Rather focus on how angry he was that they had clearly broken our trust and were thus far putting in a dog bleep practice, he put it back on them.  He essentially said that they had let themselves down.  The only thing that was going to decide where they went in this practice, season, career, was their actions and their commitment.

I’m not doing a great job of summing this up, but it was one of the greatest teaching moments I’ve ever been a part of.   It was like the zen of coaching or something.

It’s a lesson that I’ve found I need reminding of as a parent.  It’s hard to remember to stay within yourself when put in a situation like when all you want your kid to do is eat a damn pea.

Just one.

Instead, you find yourself locked in this battle with this stubborn little 3 year-old who refuses to eat even one pea.   25 minutes into it, you’re stuck at the table wondering “Can I give in?  I can’t give in.  If I give in to this, I’ll be a total failure as a parent.  I can’t give in. ”

30 minutes in you’re asking yourself, “Wait, which one of us is three?”

Then the next thing you know, 45 minutes has gone by, you’re both in tears.  No pea has been eaten.  There is no winner.  No lesson learned.  Except a reminder to stay within myself.

Parenting is hard.  It’s also the most joyous thing that I have ever done.

I have an unhealthy relationship with a wild piece of Vermont known as the Northeast Kingdom.  In the NEK is a lake called Seymour in a town called Morgan (Emmett’s middle name) and in that town is a house that my grandparents bought in the 50’s and is now owned by the next generation down.  It’s a place where I have been going since I was Emmett’s age. In Vermont we call these places camp.  I have missed friend’s birthday parties and weddings  in order to spend a weekend at camp.  I didn’t say it was a healthy relationship.

This summer, Parker and I spent a lot of time up there.   Maria too.  She likes it.  But Parker and I, we love it.  Parker loves that place like I love that place.  I can see it already.

One weekend we pulled in at around 6 on a Friday.  I let Parker out of his car seat and he began running towards the lake, stripping off clothing, yelling “I love camp!  I love camp!”

I can’t tell you the feeling of pride and joy that I had.  The boy got it.

After a weekend of swimming, fishing, kayaking, peanut butter and fluff sandwiches walks around the mile, wearing little more than underwear (Parker not me) we prepared to leave on Sunday.   As we drove away, Parker was in tears.  “I don’t want to leave camp!”

I have to admit that I was too.

This is in reality, no big feat.  I’m a crier.  Ask the boys in my dorm last year or anyone who has seen me in the handshaking line.

I was crying because here is the most special place in my world, a place where I have uncountable numbers of childhood memories.   A place that has so many emotions tied to it—for me.  Here was this place that I had fallen in love with.  And my boy had too.   We shared something incredible on that day. Truth be told, I didn’t want to leave either.  I wanted that weekend to last forever.

I don’t know how I could possibly forget that moment.

So, despite all of the terror and the stand offs over legumes, being a dad has been a wonderful and fulfilling experience.

I did want to leave you with some original piece of advice for you future parents in the room.  Unfortunately I don’t have any.  What I do have is some that my uncle gave to me before he passed away when I was the age of many of you of you here.

He said, “Andrew, it doesn’t matter how you raise your kids, what method you use or any of that.  All that matters is you love them. And tell them so.”

Thank you.

* Apologies to my wife for sharing her birth story with 400 people without asking her.  Apologies to my wife for doing the same thing here.

A Couple of Presentations

I’ve done a couple of presentations around here in the last few weeks.  Below you’ll find the Slideshares to each.  I find Slideshares to be mostly useless, so if you have any questions, @drewmillikin.

This is a presentation I did for our admission office.  It’s basic overview of our four core social media tools: Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, and now Instagram.


This is one that I just gave to a small group of trustees.   It’s a case study of how we used social media to share the announcement of our new headmaster.


So You Want to Work at a Boarding School

This started off as a rant against those who talk about how busy they are and turned into a here’s my week at a glance.  Life at a boarding school isn’t for everyone. It’s a demanding lifestyle, and I use the word lifestyle deliberately.   Technically, I’m on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week when students are present.   I live with the people with which I spend all day working.   I eat three meals a day with them.

It’s an incredibly rewarding place to live and work though.  That concert on Tuesday night?  Well, we got the boy dressed up in his pj’s and he and I went and listened to the music for an hour giving mom a much-needed break.  Where else to you get to bring your three-year old to hear music in his pj’s?

Life here is busy though, and you have to get involved and be engaged in the community.  Otherwise, why work at a boarding school?  There are day schools if you’re looking to shut things down at 5p.m. each night.

Here’s my typical week:

7p.m. Dorm duty starts.
11:00 p.m. Check in wraps up and I’m back in my apartment for a drink then off to bed.

8 a.m. Chapel then a full work day until 4:30 p.m. unless I decided to duck off early at 3:30 to go out on a bike ride with the cycling club.
6:15 p.m. All school sit-down dinner.
7:15 p.m. Stop in a the arts performance and then off to a prep meeting for tomorrow night’s meeting.
8:30 p.m. back home in time to say good night to the boy.

8:00 a.m. Chapel and then another full workday
7:15 p.m. Meeting with our fourth formers
9 p.m. Back home.  Missed bed time tonight.

8:30 a.m. No Chapel today, but I do have a meeting to debrief last night’s meeting.  After that right into a full work day.
2:30 p.m. If there are home games, I’ll walk around campus and catch a few minutes of each.
7:15 p.m. Dorm duty and study hall.
11:00 p.m. Back home and ready to crash.

8:00 a.m. Chapel and then a full work day.
7:30 p.m. Dinner with alumni at some college within driving distance of campus.  This may turn into an overnight if I’m visiting a school more than 2 and a half hours away.
Midnight:  Hopefully I’m back home.

8:00 a.m. Chapel then a full workday.  Maybe skipping out at 3:30 p.m. for a bike ride.
5:00 pm. Finally, a night off.  That is assuming none of my dorm residents need a ride to the grocery store or CVS or something like that.

I’m lucky in that I don’t have any official duties on Saturdays with the exception of two weekend duty nights a term.  You can usually catch me at the local playgrounds or games on campus as I try to spend as much time as possible with the boy.

With great demands come great rewards

Now there are times, especially at the beginning of the year and end, when my wife will complain that there needs to be a support group for spouses os faculty that work here.  There are indeed times when it gets claustrophobic and by the end of the year you are running on fumes.

The saving grace for me is that I pretty much live where I work, and I can bring the boy to things like arts performances, games and sit-down dinner.  Without that piece, forget it.  I came to a boarding school to raise a family in a unique environment, raise my kids in a communal and intellectual setting, and most importantly, be a part of their childhood.

The boarding school life has been all that so far, and as I suspected when I was visiting schools like this as and admission rep., it has been a wonderful place to raise (and grow) a family.

Happy Birthday!

Every time I see a birthday notice in my Facebook feed, I make sure to write them a little birthday note .  This is a 180 degree turn for me.  I used to ignore them, and even took sort of a Scrooge approach to it.  I have no idea why; I just did. I’m also at the age where I’m not longer psyched about birthdays.  They’re just one step closer to 40.

I decided to stop being a jerk and start doing this soon after my birthday this past year.  I usually get annoyed by those little red notices alerting you that someone has posted on your wall, but it rocks seeing a bazillion well wishes on your Facebook page on your birthday. I’m kind of on this whole, let’s be more positive and less critical kick as well (let me know if it’s working).  I now figure that if I can push those birthday well wishes from a bazillion to a bazillion-and-one, well, why not be part of the awesomeness.  If I’m Facebook friends with you, then we’re close enough that I can give you a little birthday love.

So if I’ve missed your birthday, (those helpful little notices don’t show up on the mobile) then here’s a happy belated birthday to you!

The Way Back Machine

I was clearing out my Google Docs when I came across this  little gem.  It’s a document that I wrote to my then protegé, explaining our social media strategy which I helped develop.  It’s now four years old and they’ve gotten way more sophisticated, but I found it interesting to look back at some of the predictions I made, and also, how much of it is still relevant today.

My favorite part might be, ” At its best, a college education is an opportunity to grow intellectually and emotionally.  It is a chance to create long-lasting relationships and connections personally and professionally.  At its worse, it is a four-year summer camp with booze, sex and drugs. “

The Successful Electronic Marketing Campaign
Andrew M. Millikin

The successful electronic marketing campaign incorporates multiple media channels in a complimentary manner to an institution’s marketing efforts in print media.  There are four important points to remember throughout the campaign.   Actually that’s a bunch of B.S.  There are a ton of things to remember, but here are a few that came to mind:

  1. Keep the message on target.  A successful electronic campaign will seamlessly blend the focus of a print marketing campaign and vice versa – be truthful to the institution on both accounts.
  2. Be quick.  Be nimble.  Damn the committees!  Committees are where good ideas go to die.  Avoid them at all costs.  Embrace the mantra that it is easier to beg for forgiveness than ask permission of a committee.
  3. It’s not about what you want.  It’s about what they want.  It’s about creating a space and creating tools for people who care about a subject to share, collaborate and create (stolen from Brad J. Ward who stole it from the insufferable Seth Godin).  Keep the information accurate, but don’t try to control the message.
  4. You sell a cool product.  At its best, a college education is an opportunity to grow intellectually and emotionally.  It is a chance to create long-lasting relationships and connections personally and professionally.  At its worse, it is a four-year summer camp with booze, sex and drugs.  Either way, for the right audience, it is a cool product.

I.  Email Marketing


The KnightLites emails provide a branding for our email communication.  At its simplest, KnightLites is a monthly newsletter highlighting Saint Michael’s strongest programs including M.O.V.E., the Smuggs Pass, Fire & Rescue, PBK and also on campus signature events such as P-Day and Jibbfest.

The Knightlites brand is also used to send information to targeted groups as deemed fit.  For example, news may come out that an English major has received a grant to write a novel.  A KnightLites will then go out to prospects who have selected English as an interest of theirs.  This can be done for all academic interests and extra-curricular interests.  It’s best to stay away from NCAA sports interests as there are NCAA regulations that govern how athletic programs are marketed to high school athletes.

Quick Tips

  • K.I.S.S.  Live by it.  Keep It SHORT and SWEET.  I know not what you were expecting, but these are words to live my when it comes to email.  Think of the pyramid structure in journalistic writing – most important points first to catch the reader’s attentions and then bring in the less exciting, but often essential details. 200 words max.
  • Graphics and photos can add to a story, but because of the way SPAM filters and email services work, they should never be the sole content in an email.
  • Every email should have a purpose and each Email should always have an action message driving the recipient to take action.  This can be as simple as directing a student to the website for more information.
  • Don’t use “Click Here.”  It sounds lame.  At the same time don’t use url’s like in the text.  The code that FER adds to track click-throughs makes it look ugly in the text.
  • Before you hit send ask yourself, “What is the goal of this email?”  Then proofread it 3 times.  Read it backwards and then read it forwards and then backwards again.  Check links.

The Next Level

The current campaign structure that we have is sufficient, but there is definitely more room to grow.  Raising awareness amongst faculty and getting them more involved in the recruiting process by using tools like email is certainly one way.

II. Social Media

It’s not what you want.  It’s what they want.  But you sell a cool product.  How do you get your message out?

A prospective student has three questions that they want answered.  Can I get in?  Will I fit in?  And now, perhaps more so than before, can I afford it?

Your task in is to not broadcast the marketing department’s message in relation to these questions, but rather to create a space where these questions can be asked and discussed, not with you, but with their peers.

Remember, it’s never about you.  It’s always about them and their needs.


Facebook is the foundation of a social media marketing plan.  It’s the largest social networking site in the world, and we’ve only done an okay job using it.  To make it more successful, we’ve got to drive more traffic to the Fan Page.  Whether it is the Admission Fan Page or, hopefully, an overall Saint Michael’s College Fan Page getting the word out is key.

In the past, I was hesitant to use email to announce our presence on this social network because I thought it was their space.  That, in retrospect, was a mistake.  Again, we have a cool product.  It’s okay to let people know where they can find us.  Email,  blogs, what ever you can do to drive traffic to the site, and then you need to figure out what needs to be there for content.  That content has to be updated regularly and frequently.  A Fan Page without new and fresh content is a Fan Page without active fans.

The structure of Facebook is as follows:
Fan Pages

Recent updates to Facebook have been in an effort to make Fan Pages more like profiles.  My sense is that Fan Pages are best suited for groups with broad interests i.e. the Saint Michael’s College Fan Page.  Groups are more suited for specific interests such as the Class of 2013.

I’ve found that the best content on a Facebook “Class of..”  is organic content.  Let the prospective students create their own.  They’re also a great place to advertise events like Blogger Chats.

Fan Pages are also great places for events. Ideally, we’d have a more proactive and technology friendly residence/student life staff and we’d have a better representation of what happens on campus here outside of classes.

The Next Level

The challenge is always, “How do we drive traffic to the Fan Page and how do we increase participation?”  Creating a Fan Page that isn’t focused on the admission process or just a rss feed for news from the marketing department, but rather is focused on current student activities, athletic events, special events on campus, will provide a service to current students and give prospective students a better idea of life at Saint Michael’s.

Getting multiple offices in line on campus will also be helpful as it will give them a glimpse into the task of recruiting perspective students and what they’re looking for in as far as student services, etc.


The Ning sites are customizable social networking sites.  We use two one for accepted students which is an invitation only site and another for prospective parents which has no restrictions.  Ning isn’t as user-friendly as Facebook.  It’s slightly harder to navigate.  I haven’t spent much time digging around in the guts of it (XXXX handles these), so I don’t know much about formatting options.  It seems like the simpler the better and like all of them, the more action the better.  Bloggers should be on both, and a reminder from time to time wouldn’t be a bad idea.  The key with these is to check it often and be able to respond to a post immediately.  If it’s allowed to sit, it will be forgotten.

The Next Level

The Parent Coordinator and you and XXXX need to work on whose responsibility this is.  To me its social media and therefore it makes much more sense for the social media expert in the office to oversee the page. I can also see the argument that the parent coordinator should be the one as they’re thinking about parents everyday as part of their job.  That being said I still think the social media coordinator is the one who should over see it.


Twitter is the fastest growing social network in the world.  The challenge here lies in its users.  They’re older.  They’re more likely to be in there 30’s and 40’s than in high school.  It is growing though, and going after that older population isn’t a bad thing either.  It may mean that you’re connected with parents of prospective students rather than the prospective students.  Parents are of course major players in the decision process so again, this isn’t a bad thing.

Twitter can also serve as the blog post between the blog post.  The short 140 character updates provide another dimension and give a reader more insight into the lives of the Bloggers on the Saint Michael’s campus.

Once students get into this they begin to see it as their own.  It’s less formal than a blog and therefore, the content can get iffy.  I’m pretty anti-censorship and haven’t acted on anything, but there have been times….

The Next Level

I don’t know.  It’s a new medium.  Its growth was so steep that I don’t think that the real value in Twitter has been figured out.  As I’ve said many times though, it’s a great professional development tool.  Make as many connections as possible with social media professionals at other schools.  It’s a great networking tool.


This is where the story really comes out.  I often tell the Bloggers that they just need to write about life.  It doesn’t’ have to be groundbreaking, Pulitzer quality stuff.  It just needs to be stuff and it needs to be updated frequently.   I think the team atmosphere that I created with the Saint Michael’s College Bloggers has helped aid in the frequent posts.  Meeting a couple of time s a month with them will help as well.  A blog that hasn’t been updated in 3 months is worse than no blog at all.  Again, I haven’t censored anything and I haven’t had to even think about it in these.  Typically they understand what to write and what not to write.

Quick tip

Never begin a post with “Sorry I haven’t posted in a while” or some manifestation of that phrase.  That’s an excuse and excuses are always lame.  Besides, it draws attention to the fact that you’re a slacker and are neglecting your blog.

The Next Level

This is a big one.  We have done a blogs pretty well in the last couple of years.  The key is finding good talent and getting them involved in the group to keep their enthusiasm going throughout the year.

III.  GO BIG OR GO HOME- The Big Picture Next level

The next step is simply to increase the media through which the conversation can continue.  While we have some presence on YouTube and Flickr, etc, it won’t take much to do a better job.

Flickr has been very useful with students who are studying abroad.  XXXXX is very familiar with Flickr and he would be a great person to act as a photo blogger.

YouTube is another area that would be an easy area to increase our presence.  Each time a Blogger makes a video, rather than import it directly into Blogger, they should upload it to the YouTube account.  The video quality will be better and it would mean more content on the account.  A quick ten minute sit down with the Bloggers would be sufficient to teach them how to do it.  It’s an easy process.

Ustream TV
This is a video/chat website.  We haven’t done much here and by not much I mean nothing.  It could be a useful tool though.  Maybe a simple, users post questions and someone answers them in the video.

Blogger Chats
What used to be called Virtual Open Houses.  Open House implies something more than just a chat room that’s why we’re changing the name.  There has got to be a better and probably cheaper chat program out there.  I would encourage you to find it.  In some ways, I think that Ustream TV might be that tool, but I’m not sure.

How did you learn all this, stuff?

By “stuff” do you mean useless crap or do you mean social media marketing expertise?

Different perspectives will value social media indifferent ways.  They will also value the research and the learning process in different ways.  To some it will seem ridiculous that you spend all day on social networking sites.  I spend a lot of time “listening.”  And by “listening,” I mean reading.  I read a ton of blogs and I am always keeping an eye on Twitter.  In fact, I’ve gotten more out of my peer group on Twitter than I have at any conference.   Develop a strong network there and listen.

The real challenge is implementation, and knowing when to stop listening and start gettin ‘er done.

Good luck,


The Tug of the Plug

I don’t know about you, but I find it incredibly difficult to reflect, unplug, and be thoughtful during the school year.  There is just so much going on, and there always seems like there is just one more thing to do. That’s why I so value the summer and especially these first couple of weeks in July.

My family and I are fortunate to have a place on a lake in northern Vermont.  My grandparents bought it in the 50’s and still remains in the family.  It’s in an area where there is little to no cell phone reception and up until this past year, we didn’t have cable or Internet access.   The last few years, it has been my habit that as soon as we wrap up our Annual Fund year, I book it for Vermont to spend a week or so unwinding and unplugging.

I have at times relished in and at times been frustrated by the lack of connectivity up there.   It’s wonderful to get away to a place where no one can reach you via email, cell phone or text message.   It’s nice to go days without checking Facebook and Twitter, and I enjoy getting news and highlights from the newspaper rather than a television set.

Drew and the Three-Year Old UnpluggedDays are still busy and packed with things to do, especially with a soon to be three year old, but there’s something that happens to your head when you unplug from all of this connectivity.  It’s almost as if I can feel my vision expanding like going from a old tube T.V. with a square screen to the rectangular wide-screen picture of a flat screen. After being unplugged for a couple of days, I remember old goals, think of new ways to do things, and feel seriously reenergized for the year ahead.

As I mentioned, this year was a bit different as I had access to the Internet and to cable that I hadn’t had in the past.  I found the pull of all of these “screens”, as William Powers describes them in Hamlet’s Blackberry (which I read on my Kindle, oh the hypocrisy!), hard to resist.  I’ve seen a few studies comparing the pull to stay connected to that of a drug addict’s urge.  I don’t doubt it.

I found that I could not help but check my iPhone.  I tried to limit myself to once a day and left it on the counter rather than carrying it around in my pocket.   I had some success with this, but since I use it as a camera, it was hard to do.  I was more or less able to leave the laptop closed and the T.V. off (except to catch the Tour), but I just could not put that damn phone down for an entire day.

What was I checking?  Well, I was reading the Globe and checking up on the Sox.  I was texting my wife or my friend summering in France.  I was taking photos and posting them to Instragram and Facebook.   And most egregiously, I was checking work email.

Not a single one of these things was pressing or necessary.   There really was no need to check other than to satisfy that urge—that tug.

Really, what’s the point?  Were those few minutes of connectivity really worth it?  Did I gain anything from them except for a quick buzz from being connected to my network of friends?


I wear a Road I.D. bracelet that has emergency contact information on it in case I get in an accident while on my bike.  In addition to a few phone numbers, I also have “Live Deliberately” inscribed on it.  It’s taken from Thoreau’s Walden, and I had forgotten these two words were on my wrist until I was reminded of it the other day when I just happened to be looking at it.  With all of this pulling and tugging that comes from digital devices and screens, sometimes I forget to do just that.

Now it’s true that technology is incredible and connects us in ways that do bring us together.  Just look at my three year old and the way he uses Facetime to talk to his grandparents halfway across the country.   It’s also true that I run our school’s social media and thus am fully immersed in these tools.

That being said, I find immense value in unplugging and I often fantasize about wiping out my Facebook and other social media accounts and taking a multi-month hiatus just to see what would happen.

Maybe next time I go up to Vermont, I’ll just leave the damn iPhone at home.