After the successful and educational WSU System Communicators Conference last October in Vancouver, it didn’t take long for us to do it again. Today we wrapped up our 2023 conference in Everett. Once again, marketers and communicators from across the WSU system came together to discuss our work, learn from each other, and look ahead to the future. This time we got to do it on the WSU Everett campus!
I wanted to share some highlights and themes from our time in the Puget Sound…
Travel Partner – I traveled with my colleague and friend Cara Hoag. We were supposed to take a motor pool car but a scheduling mistake meant that we had to take my personal vehicle at the last minute. Cara, our enrollment management marketing director, took it all in stride as we had smooth travel, lively conversation, and plenty of caffeine to/from Everett.
Special Visitor – How do you make a WSU conference stand out? You have the top university leader make an appearance! Kirk Schulz, our WSU president, made the trip to Everett to talk to our group. He thanked us for our work, expressed his goals for our marketing efforts, and even fielded questions. It was really cool to have him in-person in such an intimate setting.
Brains Behind the Agency – The leadership team I am part of within University Marketing and Communications is working with a newly hired and highly touted marketing agency called BVK. This agency is going to help us do BIG things. We were fortunate that Vince Kalt, BVK’s senior vice president, underscored this enthusiasm by presenting to all the marketers and communicators at the conference. In a series of three different talks, Vince gave an introduction to BVK’s services/philosophies and shared some research that his agency has already completed regarding WSU. The sky is the limit for us!
Updates From Phil – Our University Marketing and Communications vice president, Phil Weiler, was the glue throughout the conference. Not only did he serve as the emcee and keep the itinerary on track but he presented as well. Phil gave updates on the work our department is doing, discussed a specific communication model, and even hosted an icebreaker event on the first night.
Campus Tour – After lunch on Tuesday, we were treated to an in-depth tour of the WSU Everett campus. WSU program coordinator Brandon Buckingham took us around the main campus building as he showed us the innovative labs, impressive classrooms, creative art, and student-focused features that define the campus. After seeing so many photos and videos of WSU Everett over the past three years, it was nice to actually view it all in-person.
Work Project – Tuesday also allowed us to complete the filming of a video project. My social team and our video team are working on a “Best-Kept Summer Secrets” video that includes all WSU campuses. WSU Everett was the last campus we needed to film so my colleague Kara Billington (videographer) and I worked with a couple students to highlight their student center. It was enjoyable to take a break from the presentation grind and engage with a couple of enthusiastic and high-energy WSU Everett students.
Communication and Mental Health – We were so fortunate that Erin Carroll, the marketing and communications director of Student Affairs, presented on a topic that many of us feel nervous and unworthy to champion within our jobs. You see, the tendency is easy to either neglect communicating about mental health entirely OR to address it in a stigmatizing, out of touch way. Erin’s expertise was much needed and appreciated as she encouraged us to normalize the topic. My favorite part of her presentation was her challenge to be more thoughtful about the images we use within stories and social media posts that relate to mental health. Erin sure was impressive!
The Fun Breakout 😉 – During the afternoon on Tuesday, three breakout sessions were offered. I naturally attended the one about social media. Matt Haugen, our social media manager within University Marketing and Communications, presented on content development and the hierarchy/ecosystem of social media at WSU. I was proud that Matt represented our team and I enjoyed listening to others in the session talk about their triumphs/successes with social.
Debrief – This morning we had the opportunity to bring it all together. We broke into small groups and chatted about what we had learned at the conference and how we can apply it moving forward. We also shared the tools we are using to make us more efficient at our jobs. The honest discussion made me feel so proud to be part of our central strategic communications team as the progress we have made under the leadership of Holly Sitzmann was highlighted.
Community – At a conference like this, you can learn a lot and grow professionally. However, I prioritize the opportunities to build and solidify relationships. You can’t put a value on going out to dinner with a fun group, connecting with a new employee, or sitting down in-person with a colleague you have only interacted with via Zoom. I feel lucky to have had these experiences during my three days in Everett.
Big thanks to our University Marketing and Communications staff, especially Amanda Beardslee and Maria Anguiano, who organized many of the logistics for this conference. Much gratitude to Corrie Wilder, the WSU Everett marketing and communications director, for hosting us. Finally, kudos to the planning committee and presenters who made sure we had a content-rich conference. I look forward to our next all-system in-person meeting in May when we will all converge in Pullman. Don’t Blink.