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The Ohio State University: The Future of Brand & Student Experience
[00:00:00] KevinSaghy: I am a stats nerd like it from tracking stats on the back of baseball card cards to a kid. Right. Like I just, I love this. So imagine how, like counterintuitive it is for me to, to [00:00:15] launch this campaign this year and say, don't force the hashtag. If it's not about the hashtag Buckeye love this year, it's about the feeling[00:00:30]
[00:00:35] Corynn: Hey, y'all and welcome to the application. A podcast, nestled nicely in the middle of the enrollify podcast network. This is your guide Corynn Meyers, and I am so excited to share my love of higher ed marcoms. [00:00:45] Student experience and campus squirrels. My friends at RahRah were awesome enough to sponsor all of the insights and ideas I get to share with you over the course of the application's episodes.
[00:00:54] Corynn: So let's get to it.
[00:00:57] KevinSaghy: Hi there. I'm Kevin saggy. I am head of audience [00:01:00] engagement at the Ohio state university on that typically one distress the there, but that's part of the name and part of the reputation. My job is to look at how we engage with our audiences in a really meaningful way, and, you know, create [00:01:15] experiences, create stronger connections to the brand.
[00:01:17] KevinSaghy: Whether that's a student alumni, you know, you name it, we've got obviously a number of priority audiences. And I'll be honest. I did not know that was going to be my title even a year ago. So this is kind of a new direction [00:01:30] with the university. My background is overseeing the enterprise social media.
[00:01:33] KevinSaghy: For the last four years and just moved into this kind of new created role. So it's exciting. It kind of taps into some of my background and the things I'm passionate about. So it's really a kind of exciting path forward [00:01:45] for the university and myself personally, too.
[00:01:48] Corynn: You know, I, I've never seen audio engagement title in higher ed.
[00:01:53] Corynn: It, maybe I just haven't seen enough titles in my life, but for higher ed specifically, it feels like this is a unique position. So [00:02:00] why now, why. The Ohio state university focusing on audience engagement.
[00:02:07] KevinSaghy: Yeah. So we're, we're on a bit of a journey and, you know, again, I referenced, I didn't know if this would be my title, you know, [00:02:15] even a year ago, I even had some conversations with my boss and mentors, but we've you know, we've reorganized as a, as an institution and our marketing and communications group really trying to bring marketing and communications together.
[00:02:27] KevinSaghy: And part of my background past life, I was [00:02:30] in sports in Chicago with the Cubs, and we'd gone through this transition of merging merging groups and social media, you know, it was originally the reason why I came here you know, to kind of lead a turnaround there, but my passion is really how all these channels work together to create an interesting experience.
[00:02:44] KevinSaghy: [00:02:45] Right. So that integrated marketing communications and how you're thinking through that audience lens first. And what are they receiving from you? Not just in the moments that are important to the university, but the moments that are important to them and their life. Right. And [00:03:00] how can you kind of flip that paradigm, meet audiences where they're at in their life with content that's beneficial information experiences, right.
[00:03:11] KevinSaghy: And be just a little more audience focused. [00:03:15] And so far. You know, I I'm excited just because having gone through this transition before, I've been able to kind of see the excitement from your audiences when you kind of acknowledge what they're going through, what's important to them. And then you deliver what they'd hope for or [00:03:30] more.
[00:03:30] KevinSaghy: Right. You'd do surprise and delights and things like that. You talk about, you know, where you can get as a brand then you know, if you're consistently delivering. At expectations or beyond, it just makes your brand that much stronger. So I think with us merging, you know, marketing [00:03:45] communications, and then being able to take a fresh look at, you know, what do we want to be for audiences?
[00:03:50] KevinSaghy: You know, what can we accomplish if we really kind of dedicate some resources to this? Just an exciting challenge to tackle. And so so I feel heard, you know, first of all, just [00:04:00] being at Ohio state and kind of having some of these conversations to. Be aware, my role transition has been really exciting.
[00:04:06] KevinSaghy: But I think it's just more of a sign of the institution, just being willing to, you know, go down this path. And I think it's a, it's a noble one. So we'll see. We're just at the [00:04:15] ground level. And just getting buy in and starting some of these activations you know, like, like I love in changing how, how we approach them.
[00:04:21] KevinSaghy: And so maybe we'll check back in a couple of years to see how it's going. It's
[00:04:27] Corynn: interesting. So combining comms and [00:04:30] marketing and higher ed is pretty unique. And then the, the, just the act of breaking down silos between those teams is unique. Are you like, what are the, like the biggest challenges you've seen with this transformation?[00:04:45]
[00:04:45] KevinSaghy: Yeah, it's, it's funny because again, we're at the ground level. So right now, even, you know, we're bringing partners in early in conversations. I do a lot of listening. Right. And hearing, hearing what the appetite is for this and what challenges may arise. [00:05:00] And, you know, I have to laugh, but it's like every, every time we kind of spell out this grand vision one of the first things I hear back, cause this is going to be hard.
[00:05:06] KevinSaghy: We're I know I've, I've heard that you know, and, and again, we're in a large kind of decentralized university, so it, it is going to be a challenge. But I think, you know, great things [00:05:15] don't happen. Great aspirations, right. Someone has to set out and kind of tackle these challenges. So, you know, I think when you're at an institution and, you know, I don't know if it's fair to call them silos because we absolutely kind of talk with each other and work with each other, [00:05:30] but, but you're used to operating in your lane and you focus on what's important in your group.
[00:05:34] KevinSaghy: And then you may have you know, rise it up for visibility and then you're able to go, yep. Go do that thing. And. Yeah, largely, that's good. You want autonomy in your work, but [00:05:45] I think when you're in a large place and you have a lot of shared audiences think of a prospective student, right? A high school student is very talented and is thinking about coming to Ohio state, we could easily create a lot of [00:06:00] noise ourselves, let alone all the noise that we're up against externally with other universities.
[00:06:05] KevinSaghy: You know, you name it, other options in there. We could just step over each other and trip over each other, trying to deliver one concise targeted message to that student if we're not aligned. [00:06:15] Right. And that's, that's the challenge we're trying to tackle is how do we kind of solve for the noise that we may create ourselves and try to be intentional about what we're communicating to that student in the moments that are really important to them.
[00:06:27] KevinSaghy: And if, if we can be the [00:06:30] university that is delivering them. Insightful answers to their questions that they have as they're pursuing this journey. Right. And that's, we're consistently meeting them there. If we understand what their interest is and the programs, and then [00:06:45] maybe all the other programs can kind of lay off them.
[00:06:47] KevinSaghy: We let them focus on right, where, where they're really interested. And we try to deliver that experience across the college and different kinds. Yeah, I think we just get a lot more refined, a lot smarter about how we're [00:07:00] going about our business. And then ultimately that means you're hitting your goals right.
[00:07:04] KevinSaghy: More efficiently too. So that's yeah, that's, that's the end goal, but it is, it's a big challenge. And and I keep hearing that. So
[00:07:11] Corynn: I love, I love what you just said about like, not creating your [00:07:15] own noise. Right. It's hard enough to break through the noise of all of the content that they're seeing, especially since, you know, a lot of that.
[00:07:22] Corynn: Friends and family and things you can't compete with, honestly. But creating more noise from your university. I mean, it feels like sometimes, you know, you get one too [00:07:30] many emails from the university, from every college. So that's interesting and I love that you keep using the word experiences because it really is that experience that the student is having their expectations coming into those experiences, the experiences they're experiencing.
[00:07:43] Corynn: And then what happens [00:07:45] after that? The perceptions they take away in the beginning. At that follow. So I love that that take, so like why, why now do you know w why are suddenly not, maybe not suddenly, why is Ohio state [00:08:00] focusing and doing it this way? Now?
[00:08:04] KevinSaghy: That's a good question. I mean, I think some of it has to do with, you know, the internal makeup of the team and all that and linear leadership coming on board.
[00:08:13] KevinSaghy: We've got a new president, [00:08:15] a new leadership under her. A new mindset and perspectives there. And somebody has to do with the reality of, of, I mean, my God look at what we've been through the last two years. Right? Like, and, and as people are making choices, I mean, higher education you know, has been [00:08:30] questioned and the value of it and everything.
[00:08:31] KevinSaghy: And then you look at what have students been through you know, what's the value they're going to get? Are they going to get that in-person experience? Are they going to get the same value of it's a hybrid learning environment? An opportunity to kind of [00:08:45] question you know, what's my next step and am I going to get value out of this?
[00:08:49] KevinSaghy: Right. So I think pressure's on from a higher education standpoint to say and show, yes, you are going to get that value here. And here's what that looks like. And here's what that [00:09:00] can feel like. And that's a number of things, right? It's another, it's obviously the degree you get an education and how you can put that into practice.
[00:09:06] KevinSaghy: It's the, the network that you become part of. And then there's the life experience too, that, you know, if you went to college, I'm sure you, you know, most people have some pretty good [00:09:15] stories about what that experience was and the friends that they gained and the memories they made and some of the memories they forgot, maybe.
[00:09:20] KevinSaghy: So so you know, how do you show all of that, you know, in, in a way that's compelling so that we continue to attract talent, it's just being proactive [00:09:30] about the challenges that may the industry. Faces well face you know, has faced, I mean, proactive and trying to maintain a strong position which fortunately Ohio state has held.
[00:09:41] KevinSaghy: But you want to make sure that we don't, we don't slip. So so yeah, I [00:09:45] think we feel a little more pressure to go ahead and, you know, improve that experience that folks have with us. So they can be confident when they come.
[00:09:52] Corynn: What is what, or where do you sit in the, like the trends of offices and you're like, who's your boss?
[00:09:58] Corynn: Like, what does that structure look [00:10:00] like?
[00:10:01] KevinSaghy: Yeah, so we we report directly to the president's office. That's a change. We had been setting in the advancement office as a marketing team, and then our communications team reported up to the president's office. So as we a new president, we have a [00:10:15] new EVP of over the office of marketing and communications.
[00:10:19] KevinSaghy: And then, so I report to our AVP of brand experience. His name is Justin. Belly's not a wonderful job, kind of assembling the brand team. If you will, of thinking [00:10:30] through just about every touch point you can have, whether that's on our various channels, whether that's the branding you know, the, all the way down to the topography we use and logos and things like that you know, to yeah.
[00:10:42] KevinSaghy: Videography and you name it. So. So I say, I report [00:10:45] directly to Justin within we're, like I said, within the president's office now.
[00:10:49] Corynn: Oh, nice. So that's an interesting from advancement to office that directly reports up that's that's interesting. And a great move. I think, I think everybody agrees, but might be a little bias if, as we're in [00:11:00] marketing as well, but a great move anyway, by the university.
[00:11:05] KevinSaghy: I think so. It's, it's, it's removed a little bit of. I guess question of role, right? When you sit in kind of an enterprise team. [00:11:15] Now, the is kind of clear, like we are, we are truly enterprise. And I think when you're within a unit you know, we, we acted as an enterprise unit. You know, there's just some question of, you know, if you're an advancement, do you prioritize their work or what percentage of your work is with advancement?
[00:11:29] KevinSaghy: Right. [00:11:30] And some of those questions are kind of resolved
[00:11:31] Corynn: now. Interesting. Elizabeth Parkinson, right? Is your yeah, she was my boss at university of Michigan.
[00:11:37] KevinSaghy: She is wonderful. She's she's awesome. My
[00:11:40] Corynn: favorite person,
[00:11:42] KevinSaghy: honestly, so [00:11:45] Elizabeth deserves so much credit for just bringing the teams together. You know, she's just a very empathetic leader, very like trust, trustworthy, like trust her team.
[00:11:54] KevinSaghy: So yeah, we'll have to keep talking on that thread because, you know, curious to learn more about your experiences with her, but [00:12:00] she's, she's just been
[00:12:00] Corynn: incredible. Yeah. She amazing. Amazingly, like you said, I think. She's the reason for lots of things I'm doing professionally now. So I miss her terribly, even though she went to the Ohio state university.
[00:12:11] Corynn: I forgive her. You could let her know that.
[00:12:14] KevinSaghy: [00:12:15] Well, I'm honored that you're having me on the podcast. It's
[00:12:18] Corynn: hard. This is really hard for me. Actually, my husband I'm sure is not going to appreciate this. No.
[00:12:27] KevinSaghy: I think there's a lot of professional respect. I mean, the [00:12:30] rivalry is fun to live into and, you know, I wouldn't change anything about that.
[00:12:34] KevinSaghy: And we have a lot of fun with it, you know with our audiences. But, but I just think there's a lot of professional respect. You have to kind of tip your hat when, when people are good at what they do and you look across the [00:12:45] aisle and you just see a lot of talent. And so yeah, so, and I was glad Elizabeth saw that as well and was able to join
[00:12:51] Corynn: exactly.
[00:12:54] Corynn: Tell her about this. So the reason I reached out to you originally, right, was this campaign that you all [00:13:00] launched and it, it feels like it was maybe a Valentine's day campaign. Could you explain a little bit about the campaign, that, the name, the idea behind it and why, why it was launched? Yeah,
[00:13:10] KevinSaghy: sure.
[00:13:11] KevinSaghy: And what, it's an interesting observation on the Valentine's day piece, cause [00:13:15] that the campaign is called Buckeye love. And originally, like, it absolutely was rooted. You know, it's always been around this time of year. You know, it's been going, I don't know, since 20, I was able to find tweets and posts and logos back to [00:13:30] 2014 or so.
[00:13:30] KevinSaghy: And it really started, it's been an affinity campaign and it's merged a little bit in its purpose. So, you know, largely we spent a couple of weeks and it started with, you know, stories of love. Like how did you meet your spouse here? You know, and then advancement would take that [00:13:45] and use it in some fundraising efforts too.
[00:13:47] KevinSaghy: And they would kind of, I would say it was, it was a light engagement campaign with purpose. But it was fairly fluffy, right? We love you. You love us. You love being a Buckeye. You know, let's tell our [00:14:00] stories and let's, you know, let's celebrate that. It feels good for a couple of weeks and then you move on where we're at in the world today.
[00:14:08] KevinSaghy: It's, you know, things aren't all sunshine and rainbows, right? So to just kind of launch a campaign every year and say, [00:14:15] let's, you know, Hey, it's time to tell us why you love us again. Right. We want to tell you that we love you and you know, life is good. And sunshine, rainbows, you know, clap our hands.
[00:14:25] KevinSaghy: That's not the world we're living in today. And so we've [00:14:30] really intentionally shifted to focus the campaign on kindness. It's something that. Our world needs more of today, you know, as, as people have struggled going with two-plus years on in a pandemic you know, there's science behind kindness, [00:14:45] both receiving it and giving it what that can do from a mental health benefit and a sense of community.
[00:14:52] KevinSaghy: And I'm going to get, I'm going to get really nerdy from a marketing perspective if that's okay. Which I think is your, your, like your vibe anyways. So [00:15:00] you know, this won't be lost on you and in your audience. So with Ohio state, we've done a ton of like research and just investment in understanding our brand.
[00:15:11] KevinSaghy: And out of that work have come these brand equities, we [00:15:15] call it. And it's things that strengths of the brand that we know exist, not in our minds. You're not just things that we hope are true, but going out to our audiences and understanding what's your perception of Ohio state what's your [00:15:30] experience with us that we know our strengths, that just time and time again, and come back as a theme about a house state.
[00:15:37] KevinSaghy: And one of them is a sense of community here and that's whether it's. You're on campus as a [00:15:45] student and you've got good faculty relationships and, you know, advisors or with your peers or you become part of a huge alumni network, which, you know, again, having experience at a large university, you know, that can be flipped on its head and people will say, oh, you're so big that you get [00:16:00] lost in the shuffle.
[00:16:00] KevinSaghy: Right. I can speak for Ohio, stay with the research that that's not the case. And we've got, you know, loud class sizes that are intimate. A lot of relationships with our faculty. But the alumni network, even, you know, if you're wearing an Ohio state shirt and you're walking down the [00:16:15] street and someone someone's going to shout OHT you and, you know, to respond IO and there's little things like that, that kind of reinforced that sense of community.
[00:16:23] KevinSaghy: So for us, we call it brand equities, which is nerdy. And it's more like an in house right in house term. [00:16:30] But we look at those brand equities. How do you, how do you keep them going, keep those alive? That's good stuff, right? That's a fire you want to keep going. Right. So how do we keep kind of putting some kindling on, on that fire and maybe [00:16:45] even strengthen them, let's put a bigger log on that fire.
[00:16:47] KevinSaghy: So it burns a little brighter, right? So how can we do creative things to live into our strengths and keep them going if not grow them. So for us caring community is a very important one right now. [00:17:00] You know, again, not only two years of pandemic in February, you're getting into the doldrums of winter.
[00:17:06] KevinSaghy: There's a lot, there's a lot politically, you know, there's a lot going on in the world that it just, it all adds up to, to a lot [00:17:15] where kindness could be needed. So one thing I love about the change that we made this year, we've largely been addressing kindness. The last couple weeks. But instead of stretching it out over a couple of weeks, doing some isolated [00:17:30] activations here and there, we just said, we're going to, we're going to blow it out.
[00:17:34] KevinSaghy: And one day let's try and be really impactful, really targeted with a message and try to hit everyone so that it leaves you with that experience and [00:17:45] impression here that I can't turn the corner. I can't go to class. I can't go to get lunch without being touched or. By an act of kindness or receiving a kind message somewhere.
[00:17:56] KevinSaghy: So we really lived into that. It was [00:18:00] exhausting. It was, we planned so much. But it's so rewarding to see how it paid off. So a number of things from this central, you know, like enterprise level, we started a couple of things that we knew were going to hit a lot of people in [00:18:15] mass. You know, I've got an example here.
[00:18:17] KevinSaghy: A couple of things would be. These cards very simple, you know, hi share kindness as our logo with Buckeye love. We printed up 40,000 of these from a university [00:18:30] side and then other I think 20,000 from the medical center side, we just put them on windshields, put them in windshield wipers, put them under a dorm room doors, let them monitor and.
[00:18:41] KevinSaghy: You know, so that's, that's a nice kind of baseline. Or we gave them the [00:18:45] medical center employees that they were part of the work. So you get this, you know, like, what is this? Is this like an extended car warranty? Luckily it's got Ohio state branding. So, you know, it's not just total spam. But you get it and you open it up if I can do it and not so awkwardly on camera here [00:19:00] there's a message for you.
[00:19:01] KevinSaghy: And it just talks about the value of being part of a community and that word, glad you're here. And we want you to further that sense of community. So we are also giving you little thank you cards [00:19:15] and just a couple of little cards to pay it forward, pass along the kindness. And again, blank cards that you write in kind of the logo you can download, you know, facilitate that sharing of kindness.
[00:19:27] KevinSaghy: So now you've got 120,000 cards out there, [00:19:30] right? Where people can pass along the kindness. And then we also had hundreds of these signs. I hope you don't mind the props. This is great. So this says you are accomplishing so much or look how far you've come. Some of them are [00:19:45] like, you know, be the reason someone smiles today, or, you know, I think the most popular one was gold, little rockstar, and these were written by students for HR.
[00:19:57] KevinSaghy: Distributed by students for each other. We [00:20:00] had over 140 student volunteers that passed out all these cards, plus plus faculty and staff that was kind of the base layer of the activation so that you just, we knew we were going to have a lot of representation, right. A lot, a lot of [00:20:15] coverage there.
[00:20:16] KevinSaghy: And then the part that we weren't sure of was everyone else. We just, we rolled it out to our community. We've got hundreds of marketers and communicators across campus that, you know, [00:20:30] you're a marketing communications. Like we like to think we're great people and you want to do well. And you, you know and we put them to task and said, look this is what we're doing.
[00:20:37] KevinSaghy: This is the goal of the day. This is the field that you have. People to leave with that day that there it's truly this impactful, like, oh [00:20:45] my God, like something's happening here? Like this is, this is a cool thing taking place. And it's the, so we're going to challenge you essentially. Don't be the car in the Starbucks, pay it forward line that like stops the, it stops [00:21:00] the the trend, you know, like keep it rolling.
[00:21:03] KevinSaghy: Right. Keep that momentum going. So that when folks get in your building or they log into your zoom class you know, they go into your residence hall that you keep it going, and we're not going to tell [00:21:15] you how to do it. You know, the concept is simple. Be kind, make people feel appreciated and that they're part of a caring community.
[00:21:24] KevinSaghy: And we can't wait to see what you do. Yeah. There's a, you know, a little bit of [00:21:30] anxiety that comes with now being able to plan it all out and wanna, you know, if you, you know, you're type a at all, you know, you may want to control that environment, but oh my gosh, to see what our different [00:21:45] units came up with was so cool.
[00:21:47] KevinSaghy: And just, they took it above and beyond where we would have expected. You know, down for like, for the president to other leaders, you know, deans urging their faculty to incorporate kindness into their classes. [00:22:00] You've got professors baking for their classes and bringing treats in Brutus ran around and gave out cards and hugs and things that library has given up cookies.
[00:22:09] KevinSaghy: We had health sciences library just printed these huge signs because they knew [00:22:15] there's so much foot traffic in front of their building. Like we're going to reach a lot of. And people, the units just took on these expenses and this challenge, and really ran with it with Buckeye paws, which is a therapy dog program, you know, go out and mingle [00:22:30] with people, you at the medical center, give out treats.
[00:22:33] KevinSaghy: I mean, I could, I could go and go and go of some of the examples and I'll forget more than I remember, but cause there were just so many, but it's just so cool to see how the community embraced it and. [00:22:45] Then you go and you see the chatter online. Right. And it gets to hear the chatter back and see how it resonated.
[00:22:51] KevinSaghy: And it was worth at all worth the, all nighters, leading up to it, to see students reciting, like literally [00:23:00] saying things that you could pull out of the nerdy brand decks, right. That we put on. And then when you see it on Reddit and you're like, I know that's, that's the, your truth zone, right? Yeah. Right.
[00:23:09] KevinSaghy: It was where like people really want. And this see like the, the positive [00:23:15] feedback there and everyone associated just, it was real. So that's incredible the long-winded overview of the campaign, but you can tell we're pretty excited about it.
[00:23:26] Corynn: Let's talk about rara, the generous sponsors of the application.
[00:23:29] Corynn: They [00:23:30] truly fit right into my obsession with experienced management because they built an app to ensure your students can discover access and connect with resources, programs, and generally all things happening on campus. Check them out at dot com.[00:23:45]
[00:23:47] Corynn: Well, you don't get to see, you know, I saw a tweet. You don't get to see that back the, all the work. And it's amazing that you trusted your campus to do the things and translate it, but do it in their own way. I feel like as central [00:24:00] communicators, especially we tend to squeeze on and hold on to things and not trust those campus partners, but like you said, it was amazing and pied better than you could ever have done.
[00:24:10] Corynn: If you would have had controlled. What they were going to do, or like, you know, told [00:24:15] them what to do that, you know, they have them, they have passion, they are doing it on their own. So that's incredible. I guess you mentioned surprise and delight earlier, which is a term we often hear in customer service and marketing outside [00:24:30] of higher ed, would you consider this a surprise and delight tactic?
[00:24:34] Corynn: And what other, what other surprise and delight things do you think about throughout the.
[00:24:41] KevinSaghy: Yeah, it's it is one of, I just love surprises and delights. I've [00:24:45] like, I just, I've made lifelong friends doing things for my job that surprise and delights from, because no one, no one asks you to do them, right?
[00:24:54] KevinSaghy: Like very rarely are you going to go somewhere? And they say, we want you to pull off 200 surprise [00:25:00] and delights this year and go like, you know go at it and, you know, do this thing. So it's something that I feel like a lot of times it's generated by. You know, by us and you see the opportunity and you're listening for it in the right places.
[00:25:12] KevinSaghy: And you see the opportunities and you're, you hope as an [00:25:15] organization that you are set up where you can capitalize on those opportunities to delight and right. Like someone that when the opportunity presents itself. And so I, I would consider this whole Buckeye love campaign was largely a surprise and delight campaign as much [00:25:30] as it could be.
[00:25:30] KevinSaghy: Having to coordinate and get 150 student volunteers and having to, you know, get your units in order. So they're a fairly sizable group. That's planning it, but largely the campus was positively stunned at how this all unfolded. In [00:25:45] terms of other places, you know, we used to, we built a whole program around engagement and, you know, down to creating a role around it.
[00:25:54] KevinSaghy: That was. Something that I find, I find very important that one-to-one engagement. [00:26:00] So I'll go to my past life for a minute here because I think it helped shape like some of the why. At least the, the efforts that I'm personally involved with at Ohio state, there's many other people who do this really well, too.
[00:26:12] KevinSaghy: So I don't mean to take any credit for this, but [00:26:15] past life at Wrigley field you know, I would, we'd look up mentioned the Wrigley field or mentioned. And we have thousands of people coming to the ballpark every day. Right? Sometimes it's an April when games were cold and we'd have promo gloves in [00:26:30] the office.
[00:26:30] KevinSaghy: And this is literally like grassroots, no budget, just finding opportunities to go, like, say, they're at Wrigley field, you see their family with kids. And I would go out myself and go hand them gloves and hats, right? A [00:26:45] $20 like expense, maybe $15 or whatever it may be. And what the impact was on that family and then who they told that word of mouth marketing, right?
[00:26:56] KevinSaghy: You get a T a ton of return on that [00:27:00] spend if you will. And then if you can scale that up and do some really impactful surprises, you might get a lot of PR around that, right? You might you just build this reputation and we did that. And again, I have lifelong friends that I literally met by delivering gloves in [00:27:15] their seeds.
[00:27:15] KevinSaghy: There Bob and their family to the ballpark after a family loss or something, you know, something was bad. So fast forward to Ohio state. And it was like, okay, I'm back to grassroots. Like I've kind of built the the, the program, the trend there, and it's, you know, you can [00:27:30] go to a new place. And again, sometimes you can just think of the expense that that could incur.
[00:27:35] KevinSaghy: Right. And you have to prove value on this. So So buck, I love actually tying it back to this is five years ago now ran the campaign and I literally like sat, [00:27:45] engage with it was over a hundred people and I logged all of those engagements in a spreadsheet. And you know, it could be anything from you took care of my cat at your vet veterinary center to I met my spouse there.
[00:27:59] KevinSaghy: Right. [00:28:00] Log them in a spreadsheet. Our day of giving was a couple of weeks later. And I spent my day of giving in a basement, tweeting back to the people who had shared their buck. I love stories and [00:28:15] where it was appropriate, you know, said, Hey Kerryn, I remember, you know, that you told your story about pat the cat and how we saved his life at the veterinary medical center.
[00:28:27] KevinSaghy: I thought you'd want to know that donations are being matched right [00:28:30] now to benefit the medical center for our day after. Here's the link. If you're interested, the people that we engaged with at that personal level were eight times more likely to give and donate and click that link and give than our audience at large.
[00:28:44] KevinSaghy: [00:28:45] Right. Okay. Phew, boom. Now I've got a stat. I can prove I've got a stat on ROI where I can prove like that that level of engagement matters. Right. And it can impact. And imagine if we could scale. Imagine if we [00:29:00] had a person focused on that. Right. And in a program, a little bit of budget. So we got that.
[00:29:05] KevinSaghy: And then we started doing some creative things. We'd send out, you know, jerseys or things for pets or whatever it may be. You know, where, where the opportunity presented [00:29:15] itself and then the pandemic hit and a lot of the fun, fluffy stuff that you like to do that kind of led to a lot of our turnaround and metrics for social It just wasn't a as appropriate.
[00:29:24] KevinSaghy: So we switched gears and honestly, we started sending care packages to families, [00:29:30] you know, who reached out that their loved one had COVID or and sometimes it's a message, sometimes just a handwritten card signed by people in our office. And sometimes it was something a little more when you understand, you know, you can tell if they're a big Disney fan, let's get them something Disney [00:29:45] related.
[00:29:45] KevinSaghy: Right. And just that, that little extra personal touch And it just, again, saw the strengthening connections that we have with those folks. And it takes, it takes time, you know, like to do that. You don't always know the [00:30:00] ROI, but what I can tell you is that, that family's connection with us that received that care package.
[00:30:05] KevinSaghy: There'll be telling that story for years. And they do, and we hear about it. Right. And, and when you get those stories back to you, You know, it's so cool [00:30:15] that just know that there's that again, I'll put it in marketing language, the word of mouth marketing happening about your brand in dining rooms and wherever, you know, like in hall living rooms where people are [00:30:30] talking about you in those terms, that's, that's a hard place to get to.
[00:30:34] KevinSaghy: We talk about. Impressions and re you know, re brand recall and all these stats of just like, did people see your billboard? Did they see your tweets today? They remember what you're trying to [00:30:45] put out there. It's hard enough to get people that remember your Facebook ad, let alone, like be the subject of someone's story in their family room when they gathered for Thanksgiving.
[00:30:55] KevinSaghy: So to me, that's a really powerful place to be, and it's worth investing [00:31:00] a little time and energy and. It's
[00:31:01] Corynn: amazing. That's like, you know, coming from somebody who's pretty, you know, central communications office at a university literally doing experience marketing, but at like a personalized level and being supported in that way, [00:31:15] right.
[00:31:15] Corynn: Your office and your team and your boss support you in that way. And that's incredible. I think, I think we're seeing a shift in higher ed, especially in getting out of. That the experience, the multiple experiences and the experiences that people are [00:31:30] having with not just higher ed with brand in general, it's what matters.
[00:31:34] Corynn: That's what matters. It's not the price, it's not all these other things. It's the experiences I have with those organizations. And how can we create experiences that are [00:31:45] memorable? And that they'll talk about, like you said, that we need things that will trigger. This word of mouth marketing. If you will.
[00:31:54] Corynn: So that's incredible. Do you have any colleagues outside of Ohio state that do what [00:32:00] you do?
[00:32:03] KevinSaghy: I don't know. It's so new. I mean, I just, you know, it's funny cause I I personally write just, I was PR and social media. And [00:32:15] oversaw both in my past life. And then when I came to Ohio state, it was social media you know, senior director of social media.
[00:32:20] KevinSaghy: And when we started talking about our new structure we call them like pods that we oversee. So we've looked like kind of these it's almost like an, essentially a sub function that we've [00:32:30] created a few of them. And right now we've got a leader of each pod and eventually we'll build out the team. But those pods, like we have head of.
[00:32:38] KevinSaghy: And I didn't know how to react to that. You know, I didn't and this won't surprise anyone who's watching this, my boss or let's [00:32:45] bet or, you know, but I went to my mentees. I had a I'm on a non-profit board and a lot of my mentors run that board and I sat down with several when I was back in Chicago and I asked them for their like, opinions on this this title, this role, this like direction, because it feels [00:33:00] very like Silicon valley asked, right?
[00:33:01] KevinSaghy: Like, Head of audience engagement. What does that mean? And and it's funny because one of my mentors who used to work at McDonald's, she said, look, the industry is largely going in this direction. She said, I, I look at, [00:33:15] you know, the titles and the departments there now. And she's like, I haven't been gone that long and I barely recognize half the titles and some of them, I couldn't even tell you what that person does.
[00:33:26] KevinSaghy: And there's some really dramatic examples of that. I think [00:33:30] mine somewhat understandable. But it gave me comfort that, okay, I'm not alone, right? I'm not out there as like this. I don't know this weirdo with a title that no one understands. Like it, it does seem to be like the beginning of an industry shift.
[00:33:42] KevinSaghy: So when you go look at LinkedIn[00:33:45] not that I have job alerts on or anything, but you search the head of title and there's actually a decent amount of. You know, have titles like that. And I found some examples of, you know audience engagement, [00:34:00] brand experience, things like that. But I think it's, it's not a space that's so well-defined that you could say like head of advertising.
[00:34:08] KevinSaghy: Okay. I know what that is. Right. Like I know what that could be. I think it is, you know, a space that, [00:34:15] you know, not a lot of people have built out yet. Yeah. Which is exciting, you know, it's, it's kind of cool to be early on, on a, on a trend and hopefully, well, it's
[00:34:24] Corynn: interesting that you're in a higher ed institution and early in on something.
[00:34:29] Corynn: Right? [00:34:30] So like, we were used to higher ed kind of being, you know, a little behind and kind of slow, but it feels like if higher ed does they do student experience, well, it feels like more so than other industries outside of that. [00:34:45] But the movement of it becoming a central marketing and communications function and being very intentional about surprise and delight student experience and having it be the center of marketing [00:35:00] communications across campus feels different to me.
[00:35:02] Corynn: Anyway, it feels like a change in a shift. And I think we can unfortunately look at COVID as the reason it's being pushed harder because. Experience is [00:35:15] what we're S we're seeing across a consumers, consumer experience, period, right. Is what we're seeing as the trend and what differentiates everybody, especially when you can now get a degree online.
[00:35:28] Corynn: Right? What makes you [00:35:30] different in those? Or like you said, it's the experiences and the connection and how do I feel. When I think about my Alma mater or when I think about applying to this school. So was it an incredible thing and it's so hard to measure. I think that's why it's, [00:35:45] it's kind of being slow.
[00:35:48] KevinSaghy: I, if you saw me just light up, I'm literally facing that challenge right now. I mean, I was as you were wrapping up your thought there, I was just like, you know what I think I think I have to be honest about a little challenge with all this, because. [00:36:00] We're so used to, so Buckeye love is a good example, right?
[00:36:04] KevinSaghy: We would track the hashtag you track the sentiment around it and compare you over a year. How much was it discussed? And you know, what was our impact or potential impressions, blah, blah, blah. [00:36:15] Right. And you want to have, I am a numbers guy through and through. I mean, look that, that whole engagement campaign I referenced earlier, right?
[00:36:23] KevinSaghy: Like getting to that eight times more likely to share. I am a stats nerd like it [00:36:30] from tracking stats on the back of baseball card cards to a kid. Right? Like I just, I love this. So imagine how, like counterintuitive it is for me to launch this campaign this year [00:36:45] and say, don't force the hashtag. If it's not about the hashtag Buckeye love this year, it's about the feeling.
[00:36:53] KevinSaghy: It is about the feeling that we're delivering and we're going to make choices led by that, to the point that we did [00:37:00] not invite media cameras on campus to cover it that day. Because if you're doing a surprise and delight campaign, but there's TV cameras there that like capture it, that changes the field, right.
[00:37:12] KevinSaghy: It feels like it's a little bit more about us than it is about you [00:37:15] and delivering that experience to you directly. That's great. And I, and you can feel good about like, yeah, we, boy, we really put the audience first and their feelings. How do you measure? [00:37:30] Not everyone goes and shares their feelings on a platform.
[00:37:35] KevinSaghy: Let alone one that you can track. Well, like Twitter, right? They posted an Instagram story. I remember last year or two years. We did Buckeye love and I was riding the bus. It wasn't more of [00:37:45] a Valentine's day activation that day. And we did a bus where we decked it out and they had free candy. And I remember riding that bus, seeing the strategy come to fruition, like people got on, it was like the, you know, surprise and delight of [00:38:00] like, what is this?
[00:38:00] KevinSaghy: This is so cool. It's decorated. I get free candy. It's got music pumps. They're taking pictures and they're like, you know, literally taking pictures of the treat that they got. And I watched them like posted to an Instagram [00:38:15] story instead of tweeting. Right. And you're like, I literally got to watch the entire flow to the, the desired outcome.
[00:38:26] KevinSaghy: And that will not be captured in a metric. [00:38:30] Right. Like, because we can't just down to the logistics of, we couldn't capture. Instagram story shares, what a challenge to, you know, like to overcome. And that was at a time where we wanted people to share the hashtag [00:38:45] more and leaned into it even more than so, so where we're at right now, we're having those discussions with with our strategy team on measuring and, you know, is it more you know, getting getting a sense, right?
[00:38:56] KevinSaghy: Through surveys of how people feel about Ohio state and the [00:39:00] caring community. And then trying to get more like qualitative feedback too, on what makes you feel that way and seeing how campaigns like buck. I love to show up. We've got a grow kindness campaign in a month where it's just giving out [00:39:15] succulent plants, 10,000 plants to students.
[00:39:17] KevinSaghy: And again, take one for yourself and take one to give away. I'm going to be a really cool campaign, you know, as you do these things over and over again. You hope that as you survey people, I guess, you know, like you know, they're, they're showing these [00:39:30] things as the examples of why they feel supported.
[00:39:33] KevinSaghy: But it's not an exact science, so, so we're sorting through that right now and how you show that impact.
[00:39:40] Corynn: That's so interesting. Yeah. I mean, I'm guilty of, well, how are we [00:39:45] going to measure this? Like he had to do, how are we going to measure it? You know, that kind of talk and then see. Just coming out of COVID as a different marketer, really.
[00:39:53] Corynn: And seeing the impact of just actually like human connection and again, these [00:40:00] kinds of experiences and how important they are and how do you, as someone who realizes it and knows that it's important, tell somebody who doesn't and be like, yeah, we should do this, but no, you're not going to get a report from me.
[00:40:13] Corynn: And we might see a [00:40:15] 2% increase in sentiment, but I can't tell you, it was this. I can just tell you, in general, our efforts did this change is a soup. It's a, it's a big challenge. But I think if you're looking at the data with, so the [00:40:30] organizations that have these giant systems that can track, you know, everything, they are seeing it and they are proving ROI on it.
[00:40:36] Corynn: You just, the. I guess that within your own institution, who may not have these, the budget to track every single living thing it's making [00:40:45] a difference. So I think it's interesting and I'd love to hear, you know, in a couple of years, those are, what, what are you putting on those reports to, to talk about, you know, how, how this campaign goes?
[00:40:56] KevinSaghy: Isn't that such a hard, you use the word [00:41:00] trust and that's such a hard place to be. Trust me, trust me, it's making an impact like that. You know, invest this money and, you know, in this campaign, trust me, it will make a difference and people will [00:41:15] feel good. That's so hard. And I never, what I think, like again, being the numbers guy and that like never would, I think we'd be here.
[00:41:24] KevinSaghy: Yeah. And I would be making a case to do something that you couldn't necessarily [00:41:30] directly correlate and track. Like that's just not, that's not my Mo and it's like, so I feel a little irony here. I will say one thing that I've found that that's really helpful is the examples matter. I mean, like [00:41:45] the numbers are helpful, but when you can tell a memorable story, you know, to, to bring that concept of.
[00:41:54] KevinSaghy: And then you can envision it scaling up. It helps. And one, you know, I remember [00:42:00] one example of like being a social media guy and like, I was up just scrolling Instagram and I got a DM on the Ohio state account. It was like one in the morning. And like, we're set up, we have a monitoring night [00:42:15] on our team.
[00:42:15] KevinSaghy: Someone takes the evening and is monitoring for things. Maybe not actively responding all the time, but especially during COVID. And other things that pop up safety, you know, like you want to be on as a brand and just be covered. And [00:42:30] that was, that was my night. So shame on me. I wasn't in bed yet. I get this DM and it was two students who had been accepted DM in every college that they had been accepted to.[00:42:45]
[00:42:45] KevinSaghy: And they said first one to respond is where we're going.
[00:42:53] KevinSaghy: Do I really want to be responding, you know, like at one in the morning from a brand account, screw it. I'm dealing with that. [00:43:00] You know, Jim. So we, we were like, we had kind of a a good chat bot on, you know, where it's like, Hey, we're not here right now, but you know, I don't know, son, you know, we'll have to get to your message soon kind of thing.
[00:43:13] KevinSaghy: Right. So they were just [00:43:15] had happy with that and they're like, oh, well, you know, OSU, is it. And I responded and I just said something like, well, how state it is indeed. Like, can't wait to see you in the fall or something like within like a smiley face. I'm just like, [00:43:30] I'm a person, you know, I'm definitely a person.
[00:43:32] KevinSaghy: This isn't like a automated response. And then, I mean, I got expletives. I got like wholly, just like they were, it blew their mind. [00:43:45] You know, the, their brand, this college that, you know, they were interested in responded. So it went well parking lot that for a few months in the fall, we were just curious, you know, we're talking.
[00:43:59] KevinSaghy: And we looked [00:44:00] up and our student database, like, do you think those guys actually came and both did. And And I'm a hundred percent sure that that was the reason why there no other factors. So,
[00:44:11] Corynn: so the ROI on that is there tuition times two on that message [00:44:15] that you send out a one seat. There we go.
[00:44:16] Corynn: We've
[00:44:16] KevinSaghy: got data. And then given, they'll give as an alumni moving forward and you know,
[00:44:21] Corynn: the lifetime value of a student, man, you just, there you go. You should like take a break. The rest of.
[00:44:28] KevinSaghy: Justified my existence, [00:44:30] but things like, you know, we've got a few stories that like, you kind of remember that. And then you think about like, not, everyone's going to have that exact extreme of a case, but when you start to build up stories after [00:44:45] story and show that you've built some momentum and some regularity of like this making an impact, it just helps build a little faith in the, in the process.
[00:44:53] KevinSaghy: So.
[00:44:54] Corynn: It's incredible. I mean, it's honestly, it's inspiring to know. So I talked to Jenny [00:45:00] petty before this and they they are hiring a experience manager as well, which is similar to what you're describing. I'm just seeing these kind of pop up a little bit, and it's very encouraging to see this movement toward experience student [00:45:15] experience from the brand people, the individuals in charge of the brand.
[00:45:19] Corynn: As opposed to student life who should still be doing it obviously, but it's an interesting move, I think, to central comms. And how this will adapt over the next couple of years, because it really is [00:45:30] a differentiator that you can do and act on today. Right? It's not, it's not, you're not promising anything you're providing the value in the moment.
[00:45:40] Corynn: It's interesting. So any last. Wrap up [00:45:45] statements or things you want to say before I hit stop recording.
[00:45:48] KevinSaghy: I, you know, I I've actually found this very validating, right? I've, I've learned a lot from YouTube, even just the impressions that having you, you know, looking at this environment and, [00:46:00] you know, almost kind of confirming that we are, we are early in this process of.
[00:46:06] KevinSaghy: And it's, it's been fun to learn and share some of it out. One thing that does come to mind on the student life perspective is, is partnering with [00:46:15] student life is so important and we've found even like launching Tech-Talk, I think as communicators marketers, you're kind of used to like, you start your account, you've got the passwords, you publish the content.
[00:46:28] KevinSaghy: You know, that, that model. [00:46:30] When we launched Tik TOK, we just partnered with student life. We share the tape, we share the account, share the passwords, work with students across the university showcase what's important to them. That's been a really successful model, so that's just a small tip. If you're thinking about that space [00:46:45] or you're in that space and kind of getting there you're funding still, we have found a tremendous value.
[00:46:51] KevinSaghy: Both from. Ideation and resources of getting students, you know, who can post directly. So it is more peer to peer. Oh, way down at like [00:47:00] the, just the logistics of like building your team out. I mean, we're all kind of strapped, right? So adding Tik TOK is kind of intimidating from a content creation standpoint and even just the logistics of having help creating content.
[00:47:13] KevinSaghy: So that's, that's a small tip. I'd [00:47:15] leave. If you can work with student life, I think it's worthwhile. It's, it's been good partnership for
[00:47:20] Corynn: That's a great idea. I think, as partnering with your campus as much as possible, building those relationships and really handing the keys over to [00:47:30] students, because that's who your audience wants to see that they identify.
[00:47:34] Corynn: And they know, they know the trends, they know that the landscape better than any of us would ever hope to know, especially the undergrads. So that's the, you know, the first year [00:47:45] undergrads and super interesting. So I'm not gonna go check out your tech talk now. Now that you've mentioned that and I didn't realize I would be, you know, fan girling over Ohio.
[00:47:53] Corynn: Experience marketing, but gosh, I probably even shouldn't say that since, you know, I could literally see the university of [00:48:00] Michigan.
[00:48:01] KevinSaghy: It is the ultimate medicine that has made my day and I will only tell a few people and then all of your listeners as well
[00:48:12] Corynn: as they can
[00:48:13] KevinSaghy: judge me.[00:48:15][00:48:17] Corynn: That's a wrap for this episode, please rate and subscribe to your favorite podcast platform. And remember a better student experience is always the answer.[00:48:30] .
About the Episode
The what's what...
If your brand was an experience, what would it be? That’s a question Kevin and his team get to answer every day. Ohio State is setting their sights on the student experience by centralizing efforts and creating affinity-building brand experiences. It’s not easy, measuring is hard, and it requires significant partnership across campus, but as Kevin describes, the rewards are worth it.
About the Podcast
Corynn is the Director of Brand Strategy at Simpson Scarborough where she provides strategic oversight on the development of higher education brand platforms, messaging architecture, and content strategies. Previously, Corynn created multi-channel content strategies for national brands at Convince and Convert and oversaw digital strategy at the University of Michigan as the Associate Director of Marketing. When she’s not working, Corynn enjoys browsing Antique shops with her husband, coaching her daughter’s softball team, and building Magnatile masterpieces with her son.
Kevin is the Head of Audience Engagement at The Ohio State University where he is responsible for driving creative engagements during important moments for Ohio State’s various audiences. This new role is charged with collaborating across the enterprise, as well as with other partners and brands, to make the Ohio State brand tangible for audiences through affinity-building experiences. Kevin and his team are leading new ways to shape the student experience that translate into authentic marketing and communications for the university, which is both surprising and refreshing. I am excited to see what the next five years brings to Kevin’s position and team as student experiences begin to drive student decisions.
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The Application with Corynn Myers
I'm doing a podcast, but not like the typical fluffy marketing podcast (I really don't like fluff). This podcast has a 3-part recipe. Ingredient #1: The Doers. These are the social directors, marketing managers, and communications specialist on the ground doing the work, and I'm going to convince them to tell me all of their secrets. Ingredient #2: Consumer Data. We'll look at consumer behavior and marketing best practice outside of higher ed and apply them back to higher ed. Ingredient #3: Actionable Takeaways. We're going to mix together higher ed secrets, marketing best practices, and consumer data to create action items you can do and use today. This podcast is for doers in higher ed marketing communications and is a a part of The Enrollify Podcast Network.
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