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Office Space: Planning for Diversity
Office Space: Planning for Diversity

Ideas for creating a social media editorial calendar that drives and delivers inclusive content

By Kesha B. Williams

Jim Frazier

Need to develop more inclusive social media content? Create an editorial calendar that celebrates your institution's diversity through timely strategic messages. By thinking broadly about key dates, events, traditions, and themes—from Diwali and LGBT History Month to the institution's annual International Festival and campus ring ceremony—you can go beyond the diversity people see and incorporate what they don't see: diversity of geography, backgrounds, beliefs, experiences, abilities, accomplishments, opinions, ideas, interests, and thought. The content we produce should reflect the people who make our institutional communities what they are.

I became Clemson University's first director of digital marketing and engaged communication in December 2013. Operating out of the Office of Public Affairs, I work with more than 50 social media account managers across campus (a list that keeps growing). One of my goals is to increase the volume and frequency of content distributed through Clemson social media channels.

Diversity is an important consideration in managing our social media accounts, special projects, audience engagement, and storytelling. On my desk, I keep a picture of 10 interconnected hands of different colors, which reminds me to focus on diversity and inclusion. This isn't merely a high-minded goal. These principles are a hallmark of today's higher education experience and a top concern of administration leaders. Prospective and current students expect to see diversity. Effectively and authentically demonstrating it—or not—affects student recruitment and retention as well as relationships with alumni, donors, and community members.

One way we're increasing diverse content across the campus's social channels is by sharing ideas among social media managers and coordinators. The six C's guide my efforts: Coordinate, collaborate, communicate, connect, curate, and create. Producing an editorial calendar will help you think strategically about content and ensure that it's timely, interesting, and relevant to your audiences. An easy way to begin is by charting significant dates—historical, commemorative, or celebratory—for your institution. Adding dates of national and international importance as well as awareness days and months can help round out your calendar and provide opportunities to demonstrate your institution's priorities.

Begin with a diverse team

Encouraging inclusive content begins with a diverse social media users group. Ours consists of faculty members, staff, and students. (Staff members range from administrative assistants to program directors; faculty members include department chairs and heads of campus-based institutes.) We also invite campus community members to join and share information with our social media managers. Our users group encourages collaboration and the sharing and curation of other members' content. I also email weekly content advisories to inform group members of upcoming events and help unify our campus communications.

Thinking about how to communicate inclusion and diversity of people, affinity, community, thought, and engagement pushes you to creatively tell your institution's story and the people it represents. Clemson celebrated its first Diversity and Inclusive Excellence Month in October 2014. This was an opportunity to tell people who we are by showing the breadth and depth of the institutional community—a chance to paint a picture of our big, beautiful #ClemsonFamily, which includes everyone who studies (or has studied), teaches, and works here, as well as the people connected to them. That broad definition keeps things interesting.

Diverse content provides your audiences with different engagement opportunities and ensures that your followers are not always seeing the same type of information. But achieving diversity in communications is challenging because of the wide-ranging priorities across campus schools, departments, and offices. The university's central social media accounts focus on student recruitment and engagement, for example. Social media managers in the admissions office view the campus editorial calendar as a way to spur prospective students to visualize their future at Clemson. Meanwhile, similar kinds of communications are happening on more than 100 other university accounts. While the content is not uniform, it exhibits a common thread or unified themes (often amplified by hashtags such as #Clemson, #SolidOrange, #DeterminedSpirit, #AllIn, and #TigerPride). Together, we try to show what Clemson is—and what it aspires to be.

Make diversity work for you

How do you build a broadly inclusive editorial calendar?

Do your research, both internal and external. Ask social media or communication managers across campus to share dates and observances important to their schools, departments, and offices on their editorial planning calendars. Consult your institution's planning calendar to identify important campus dates as well as annual events and holidays, such as Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Arbor Day, and Women's History Month. Supplement these with awareness days and months relevant to your campus and its priorities. Websites such as Awareness Depot and Days of the Year are useful calendar resources.

Review your institution's strategic plan to determine dates and events that align with campus or audience priorities. Try starting a hashtag (or leveraging an existing one) to boost engagement with your audiences and amplify your content among people with similar interests. In November 2014, Clemson and seven other U.S. institutions with tiger mascots used #SaveOurMascot and #MakeARoar to deliver messages about National Tiger Awareness Week and conservation efforts to save the animals.

View diversity and inclusion as opportunities to discover and share new and inventive content. Here are some examples that have worked for us:

  • To celebrate National Mentoring Month in January 2014, the academic advising office for Clemson's College of Business and Behavioral Science asked students on Facebook why mentoring matters. Posts included photos of the students along with their answers.
  • National Poetry Month in April offers a natural way to highlight poetry within your academic and student community, which the university's libraries did by featuring their online collection.
  • During National Historic Preservation Month in May 2014, President James Clements used his Twitter account (@ClemsonPrez) to celebrate the historic properties on our South Carolina campus.
  • Last year, Clemson's Cooperative Extension office marked the 100th anniversary of the federal legislation that established the nation's cooperative extension service network at land grant institutions. The social media team used pictures of the day to honor the university's history as a model extension program, illustrate its mission, and depict the contributions of extension professionals across the state. New and archival images featured everything from denim jackets and Christmas trees to photos of President Dwight Eisenhower and mid-20th century home economics demonstrations, such as a group of rural women learning to make an electric lamp.

So save the dates! Look at what's happening on your campus and in the wider world to enhance the diversity of your social media planning and better tell your institution's story.

About the Author Kesha B. Williams

Kesha B. Williams is the director of digital marketing and engaged communication at Clemson University in South Carolina.




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