Erin Supinka Shares the Key to Understanding Everything

Presented by Erin Supinka, assistant director of digital engagement at Dartmouth College

Erin Supinka is a big believer in context.

“Without context, we can’t understand the full story,” she said during her session HighEdWeb in Sacramento. “Context helps us understand everything else.”

What followed in her fast-paced, information-packed talk—titled “A Tale of Strategy Discovery and Triumph”—was her story of expanding Dartmouth’s digital engagement efforts while focusing on its mission, strategy, and framework. In other words, placing the school’s communications efforts in context.

Erin shared that she wanted to align everything she and her office created within a larger strategic framework. She began by clarifying Dartmouth’s social media mission and tone—a project that took months of scouring the college’s website.

“I went through every page and found every mention of our mission, guidelines, and our values,” Erin said. “I wanted to see what themes exposed themselves over time.”

Erin said she asked herself a few questions during her research:

  1. What words, phrases, or ideas were repeated?
  2. What types of stories were being told again and again?
  3. Who was being featured?
  4. What was being sent to prospective students? Alumni?

The research allowed Erin to create a mission statement for Dartmouth’s social media presence, develop content buckets, create a strategic communications framework, craft guidelines for a social media voice, and generate tone guidelines for each social media platform.

Shaping Dartmouth’s engagement strategy took more than a year. And Erin said that at first, getting a seat at the table didn’t always come easy. No one had ever done her work on her campus.

She shared seven suggestions for getting buy-in, building relationships, and creating an effect digital engagement strategy.

  1. Ask questions. A lot.
  2. Bring examples of others’ work to show people what’s possible.
  3. Ask to sit in on meetings. Be part of the process early.
  4. Do your research. Be prepared when meeting with stakeholders.
  5. Share what you find. Make sure you don’t keep ideas and examples to yourself, and tell others what your analytics show works and doesn’t.
  6. Make it relevant. Make it tangible. Don’t overwhelm people with information and examples—use only the best.
  7. Bribe them. Coffee and donuts help make friends, but so does sharing resources. Make your work accessible.

When it comes to measuring results, Erin shared that Dartmouth tracks analytics on a weekly, monthly, quarterly, and yearly. Frequent measurement allows for quick reporting or rapid changes to strategy.

Erin finished her talk with a bit of her personal philosophy.

“If you are really thankful, what do you do?” she asked. “You share.”