2018 Conference Social Media

Are You Addicted to Data? Balancing the Heart and Mind in Your Content Strategy (MCS2)

Liz Gross and Andrew Cassel entered the session room tossing out vital organs to audience members.

This distribution of hearts and brains set the stage for a presentation about the tug of war we often face between our feelings and “the numbers.”

Each speaker played their role well. Andrew, of University of Alaska Fairbanks and who started the presentation wearing a huge heart, loves content that inspires. And Campus Sonar’s Liz Gross adores analytics and measurable goals. But what we learned by the end of the session is that we can indeed have both because in the end, as Andrew says, “All of what we want is the same thing: we want people to come to our schools. We want people to go higher.”

This lively presentation included a costume change or two to illustrate their analogy of being a pirate vs. a captain. In short, captains take orders (please post this flyer on Facebook) whereas pirates kind of do their own thing. Here are just a few of the key takeaways from this team presentation.

The Heart

“Try and bail, not try and fail – you just try again,” said Andrew on taking risks and not feeling like you’ve failed if something doesn’t pan out. We can learn as much from our mistakes as our successes sometimes.

“Data always wants to be human – the people who hire you hire a person… they want you to be innovative – computers cannot take risks,” said Andrew.

The Mind

“Saying ‘I feel really great about the work I’m doing’ isn’t going to cut it with the executives,” Liz said about the need to back up your plans and ideas with data.

“Get on planning teams! Social, video and web needs to be part of everything that happens on campus.” – Liz

The WYCDNs (or, What You Can Do Right Now)

To balance the heart and mind, Andrew and Liz shared a few WYCDNs (pronounced Wick-dins).

  • Invigorate effectiveness with a larger budget
  • Assert – yourself as the expert you are
  • Dare to take on the impossible (impawsible: check out the slides to see the adorable case study!)

One of the things that stood out here to me was when Andrew talked about getting even just a small budget to do a paid Facebook campaign or money to promote a post. He says that because you spent “rare money” for that content, you’re personally invested in that content and, thus, will feel closer to it.


The pirate vs. captain take, Liz explained, came from a book called The Science of Serendipity. She adapted this for the higher ed space:

5 characteristics of a higher ed pirate:

  1. Unreasonably ambitious
  2. Humble – and know when to shut up and listen (like when to fight a battle another day)
  3. Confident – trust themselves – pirates “ARRR” decisive (come on; we had to have at least one talk-like-a-pirate instance in their presentation!)
  4. Flexible – able to jump between big picture and small details
  5. Finishers – they get things done, they don’t quit, no matter how long it might take

But, you’re never just a captain or just a pirate. You’re both, and both face storms.

The presentation continued with a great case study about a family finding home for a kittens — another higher ed professional with social media experience used his tool box for this. Definitely check out the slides (and recording when it’s available) to see.

In the end, some of us might be more all-the-feels and some of us might be all-about-the-data, but Liz and Andrew remind us that we need to balance the heart and mind with everything we do. Perhaps Andrew summed it up best when he said, “You’re going to have beautiful ideas coming out of your heart, and the data will tell you what to work on.”

Aye, aye, mates.

IMAGE CREDIT: Flickr Creative Commons/Evangelio Gonzalez

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By Donna Talarico

Donna Talarico, a Red-Stapler-winning HighEdWeb presenter and volunteer editor for Link, is an independent writer and content strategist. She is the marketing columnist for Wiley's Recruiting and Retaining Adult Learners, and her work has also been published in CASE Currents, The Guardian Higher Education Network, and elsewhere. From 2010 to 2015, she told the Elizabethtown College story as part of an award-winning marketing and communications team. Always a storyteller, before higher ed she worked in print and broadcast media, and for a leading eCommerce company. She is the founder and publisher of Hippocampus Magazine, a bimonthly creative nonfiction journal and small press. She loves road trips, board games, greasy spoon diners, and words.