After spending 2002-2007 leading Saint Louis University's internal communications efforts, leadership offered me the opportunity to move into marketing the school to prospective students. The university president had big goals for enrollment in the coming years, and the marketing department would be developing a new undergraduate recruitment brand. As the ungrad marketing specialist, I'd be responsible for setting the tone for all signature marketing channels.
A new opportunity for storytelling? Heck yes!
In 2008, that meant exploring opportunities to use video in our materials. At the time, video was cumbersome and expensive, and as with social media, there weren't a lot of higher-ed institutions making good use of it yet. But that only meant that SLU could stand out a bit from its peers by deploying video thoughtfully. With a partner studio, my team put together a quick initial video tour of the main and medical campuses, and those led to the administration giving us more funding for future videos.
The administration wanted to create a video spotlight on SLU's major service efforts. Part of the Be a Billiken student recruitment brand was setting up SLU's Jesuit mission of "men and women for others" as a differentiator among our competitor schools, enticing prospective students who wanted to continue the community service work they'd already been doing on the side and giving them an opportunity to explore service in future career paths. SLU had the bona fides for this: at the time, well over 2,000 faculty, staff and students participated in the university's annual Make a Difference Day of service and gave hundreds of thousands of service hours throughout the school year, year after year. Service simply was ingrained in SLU's DNA.
For the "Be Compassionate" video, I worked with video production partner Spot MPG to document that year's Make a Difference Day, planning out and directing shots that showcased the university community in action at service sites around the city. I then wrote the footage script, fact-checked items, gathered related resources, selected the music, collaborated with designers on graphics and colors and worked with Spot to produce the final product. With the Be a Billiken brand being injected into every piece we did, regardless of medium, I made sure that our video storytelling matched the tone and intent of the brand -- I especially focused on making connections between the video and the large section of the signature viewbook that dove into SLU's mission, echoing the "Be Compassionate" language that I'd used there.
SLU featured the "Be Compassionate" video heavily on its website, in its recruitment materials, in presentations, in press materials and within classrooms. The video also was considered for a Midwest Emmy and won an award from the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) award.
The "Be Compassionate" video was the first significant, focused video that I'd led. I was so, so fortunate to have wonderful mentors for it, too. The vice president of marketing and communications at the time was a former longtime news anchor who had produced thousands of video packages. With video emerging as a new medium for us, he recognized that my storytelling abilities easily translated from print to video and put me into a position to succeed in our new endeavors. He taught me about scriptwriting, shotlists, directing, packaging and voice-overs and guided me through producing with a partner studio. Likewise, the director of marketing set me up to take on these new kinds of projects, teaching me about reporting on project progress, working with budget managers and helping me think through branding hurdles. She fully backed the VP in moving me into this new-to-me medium. And then they just let me run with things for the next five years, trusting my abilities and brand knowledge. I was and still am incredibly flattered and grateful.
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