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How do CCAE member schools enhance outreach in the era of social media “noise”?

January 29th, 2019

Written by: Janet Sailian

In a new era in info consumption In this multi-platform digital era, how do CCAE member schools capture the attention and earn the engagement of key audiences, including alumni, community members, donors, supporters, and the news media? See how 4 CCAE member schools transformed their outreach strategies and techniques to measurably boost audience engagement.

University of Calgary explore site: Burning questions, research-based answers

The University of Calgary moved from traditional research announcements housed on its main website to a dedicated explore site. It’s filled with research-based insights about real-world concerns. U of Calgary also expanded and diversified its presence on social media platforms.

The explore site articles answer “teaser” questions that show how U of Calgary research helps solve issues of daily life. One article with a high engagement index - If we lose bees, will we lose coffee? - explores how climate change, agricultural practices and fragmented landscapes all contribute to the global decline in bee populations.

Connecting the bees’ dilemma to our morning cup of joe illustrates the value and relevance of U of Calgary researchers’ work. The article was widely shared on social media and linked by Huffington Post and The Calgary Herald.

Many explore site items contain embedded links to related videos, podcasts, webinars, articles and even scholarly papers, with content designed to be evergreen (not become outdated). The most shared item on social media to date is a one-hour webinar on using nanomedicine to detect and treat cancer.

A presence on multiple social media platforms helps U of Calgary “actively reach people and bring them into our space,” says Anju Visen-Singh, Senior Director, Marketing. Tactics include paid ads on selected websites, plus paid and organic social media posts.

Results: Pageviews per month have almost doubled (up 97%) since launch and conversions (webinar registrations, ebook downloads and newsletter subscriptions) are up by 11%.

Your outreach and communications initiatives can feature intriguing themes that answer burning questions to engage your audiences.

University of Alberta’s Folio site: Bringing brand journalism to the academy

Gold Award - 2018 CCAE Prix d’Excellence, Category 10: Best Online Publication
2018 Prix d’Excellence submission summaries on CCAE website


University of Alberta developed a brand journalism platform – Folio – to engage audiences with “all the stories the university has to tell.” The independent website uses a traditional journalistic approach and journalistic techniques to tell the university’s story in a compelling way to a wide audience, bringing content marketing to a new level. Folio also offers a free subscription to a daily news digest of U of Alberta-linked stories. Yes, daily!

“The story is the pitch,” says Michel Proulx, Executive Director, News. With resources in mainstream media dwindling, Folio has boosted U of Alberta pick-up from news media with print-ready stories and viewer-ready video. The reduction in traditional news releases and media pitches frees up media relations staff to focus more on content creation.

Written in a style that places the most essential info at the top of the article and then delves into related details (known in journalism as the inverted pyramid), “news right from the source” items in Folio focus on:

  • Research discoveries
  • Context / Expert comment and
  • Service initiatives

With dedicated Facebook and Instagram accounts and Twitter feed, Folio pushes out news stories to a growing audience. Readership shows an upward trajectory of broad audience engagement with both Folio and U of Alberta - a win-win for the university, its audiences and the news media.

Results: As of December 2017, three months after its launch, Folio saw a 63% increase in page from the previous December.

Your campus content creators can craft news stories in a journalistic style to demonstrate your institution’s relevance.

Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics shares the whimsy and wonder of science

Gold Award - 2018 CCAE Prix d’Excellence, Category 9: Best Website
2018 Prix d’Excellence submission summaries on CCAE website


“Theoretical physics is not rocket science; rocket science is easier to explain,” according to Perimeter Institute. But sharing the power and wonder of theoretical physics – in fun, accessible ways – is a vital aspect of the Perimeter Institute mandate. – an online hub of stories, videos, interaction, social media content, quizzes, polls, memes and more – features sections titled “Slice of PI”, “People of PI” and “Fun stuff”. Recent articles include “The physics of eating pizza the proper way” and “12 poems and one limerick about physics”.

Through its engaging content, seeks to “demystify science, humanize scientists, convey a sense of awe and wonder, and illustrate the many ways that curiosity-driven research shapes the world.”

Results: An interactive quiz earned tens of thousands of page views. A poster series on the news site – “Forces of Nature: Great Women Who Changed Science” (Gold - 2018 CCAE Prix d’Excellence, Category 25: Best Advertisement or Poster) – attracted 1,900 downloads.

To enhance engagement, capture the spirit and excitement of how your school makes a difference in the world.

50th Anniversary special: Loyalist College showcases alumni from coast to coast to coast

Bronze Award - 2018 CCAE Prix d’Excellence, Category 17: Best Use of Multi-Media
2018 Prix d’Excellence submission summaries on CCAE website


Loyalist College’s #Amazing50 video and blog series capitalized on the college’s 50th anniversary and Canada’s 150th birthday with an ambitious series of 24 videos from seven provinces and one territory, featuring alumni from varied life and career experiences. With a target audience of young singles, families and single parents often on the move, the #Amazing50 videos and blog have been widely shared via social media and at public and college events.

Content was repurposed for print, including Loyalists’s alumni magazine and local Bellevlle, ON area newspapers.

Results: The videos, designed for a lifespan of 3 years, had garnered more than 248,251 views and reached more than 649,646 people as of winter 2018.

Capitalize on an institutional milestone in a vivid, sweeping way that brings audiences in and shares diverse alumni stories.

Common features of these 4 successful outreach strategies:

  • Linked to strategic plans with a mandate to increase audience engagement
  • Deep dive into how audiences search for and interact with knowledge
  • Detailed audience “personas” / profiles used to plan and script content
  • Presence on multiple social media platforms drives readers / viewers to the school’s website
  • Lively, jargon-free language and storytelling
  • Use of analytics to track effectiveness and adjust tactics