Friday, February 8, 2013

The Value of Visuals

Have you noticed how televisions, computer monitors, even smart phone screens have continued to grow larger over the years? The reason behind it is simple. We’re a visual society. More and more, we are influenced by large imagery whether it is moving or still.
As director of web services for Southern Miss Gulf Coast, I encourage everyone who has input on our web presence to carry a camera or a photography-enabled smart phone with them at all times. You never know when a photo opportunity may happen in front of you. And SEEING something is so much more engaging than hearing someone describe it, isn’t it? That’s the whole point.
One of our geography students snapped away during one of Dr. David Holt’s classes in a recent mini-session. He posted the pictures on his Facebook page and suddenly the project the class was engaged in came to life. Rather than saying “this is how we took core samples from trees” and describing the process, the student held a core in his palm and snapped a well-composed image of it and captioned it, “what the inside of a tree looks like.” Because a picture is worth a thousand words (or more), why spend the thousand words?
I encourage everyone to take more photos of what they do every day. You’d be amazed at the uses you will find for them. We are working to put more photo galleries on the Southern Miss Gulf Coast website. You’ll notice very useful links on our site when you want to describe specific events or time periods we’ve all lived through. Approaching eight years post-Katrina, how do we tell people in words what we faced and have since overcome? Well, for starters, go to our “Before and After” gallery online:
Research with first-time college students show that most prefer well-chosen visuals on the university website primarily to act as a portal into that particular institution.  (Sung and Yang 2008) They want to see if they can mentally project themselves into our world. Contact University Communications if you need advice on visuals.

Judy Day Isbell
Director of Web Services

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Written Communication in our High-Tech World

Communication in the workplace should be clear and professional but today’s written communication is often scattered with pop culture references and jargon. The writer needs to be taken seriously and the use of proper grammar and sentence structure does influence your audience. Take pride in all communication while also allowing it to reflect some personality. defines pop culture as “cultural activities or commercial products reflecting, suited to, or aimed at the tastes of the general masses of people.” Often influenced by the media, society is swayed by these cultural trends and they become a powerful influence in our communication.
There are 3.1 billion email accounts worldwide and the corporate email user receives and sends an average of 112 emails per day (, 2012). Some key elements of effective written communication, including email, are:
  • Know your audience and target your communication accordingly
  • Use good formatting techniques (readable fonts and good layout)
  • Use good grammar and proof your document
  • Be clear and concise – get to the point
  • Summarize lengthy correspondence
  • Close with your contact information
Using abbreviations and acronyms can also have its place in written communication such as social media and email. While it may be understandable to use the three letters “lol” to abbreviate “laughing out loud” in a casual correspondence, some abbreviations can be confusing and your reader may wonder if you truly know how to spell. For example, email correspondence using the abbreviation “2” can have many meanings: two, to or too. Spelling the word “what” as “wut” may not leave the lasting impression you’d like. There is no need to confuse the reader or require that they determine your intent.
In the South we have our own culture and slang. For example most Southerners use the term “ya’ll” when referring to you or you guys and “ain’t” is often used for emphasis or in casual conversation. These terms may be common in verbal communication but consider the audience and setting when using Southern slang in your professional correspondence. First, you want to impress and then you can win them over with your Southern charm!
Shelia White,
Director of University Communications


Thursday, November 29, 2012

Simple Rules for QR Codes

Finally! Your marketing pieces are printed and your website is now updated–so what’s next?  Have you thought about using a QR code? A QR (Quick Response) Code is that little square barcode that you’ve probably seen on advertisements, posters, brochures, etc. In order to activate it, you have to launch a reader app on your smartphone and scan it with the camera. The content is then delivered to your phone for viewing.

 A QR Code may not be necessary in all situations, but when used properly can be very successful in engaging your prospects. Below are 6 Rules to using a QR Code well. Utilizing these rules will help you avoid mistakes that could kill your promotion efforts, hurt your brand and tick off your target audience:
1.       ADD VALUE FOR THE USER. The last thing you want to do is waste your target’s time by sending them to your homepage. Your target audience already knows who you are and if they were savvy enough to scan the QR Code they are savvy enough to find you.

Think of a QR code as a request for the user's exclusive time and attention. Make the scan worth someone’s time and add value by defining a purpose for the QR code. Ways QR Codes are being used:
·         Calendar Events
·         Contest Entries
·         Linking to Social Media
·         Video Links, Audio Links or Photo Gallery
·         To Fill out a Quick Form
·         Calendar Events or Schedules
·         Maps and Directions

2.       LINK TO A MOBILIZED LANDING PAGE . People will be scanning these codes on the go and the content should be optimized for fast download. Keep things simple, minimize the content and don't create images that take a long time to load. This is a sure way to detour your user from any future scans.

3.       INCLUDE A PLAIN-TEXT URL WITH THE CODE. Only 5% of smartphone users have scanned a QR code. If you'd like a wider audience, consider that over 87% of smart phone users have accessed the internet while mobile. Do you want to shoot for the 5% and ignore the 87%?

4.       PROVIDE INSTRUCTIONS. QR codes are a relatively new phenomenon in the United States. Never assume someone will know what a QR code is or what to do with it, they will blindly scan your code without knowing what's in it for them, or will automatically know the value that's waiting on the other side.
5.       TEST, TEST, TEST! on multiple devices. Make sure the QR code design is generated from a short URL, has sufficient contrast and is large enough to be readable. It only takes one negative experience to alienate your target.

6.       MEASURE RESULTS. Just as you would measure the results of an e-mail or direct mail campaign, a QR code campaign should be tracked as well. Analytics can provide
·         Where people are scanning your code giving you information on what ad locations are giving the most return on your investment
·         What ads are working the best
·         When people are scanning your code
If you don't, you will never know what impact your codes are having or if they're worth the investment.

Sources:  Comscore, Aug 2011; Pew Internet, 2012; Small Biz Survival, Mitchell Graphics, Business Insider

Francesca Linthicum,
Assistant Director of Creative Services

Friday, October 19, 2012


Whether for portraits or documenting an event, anyone can take great photos. Here are a few tips for getting great images that can be used to promote your department or the university on your web page, Facebook page, publications or in the media.

  • Think about where you plan to use your photo before you start snapping away. If there is a specific purpose for why you are taking your photo, understand how it will fit in the space you need. If you are not sure about how you will use your photo, then get as many different variations of your subject as possible. This will give you a number of options when you decide to use your photo either online or in print. Also, try not to limit the edges of your photo to exactly what you need when taking the picture. Using image editing software, it is better to crop your photo afterwards.
  • If you are staging a photo, be sure to direct your subject. If you are trying to get a specific photo, most times, the people in the photo won’t know what you want until you tell them. Whether you are taking a photo of an individual or a large group, figure out the balance you need for the image and that all faces are visible to you. In a large group, if someone can’t see you, you won’t see them in your picture.
  • Think about your background and not just your subject. Whether posing a subject or photographing candid moments at an event, think about what is in your background. The colors of a wall may be distracting or a large flower arrangement may have stems coming from your subject’s head. As the photographer, you can make small adjustments either moving left, right, up or down to improve the background.
  • When taking a candid photo, be patient and try not to distract your subject. If a person knows they are being photographed, the natural expressions on their face may be replaced with discomfort. Try to keep enough distance that they either don’t notice you or they don’t feel like they are the only one being photographed.

There are hundreds of tips for taking great photos that can be found online. But the best way to learn is through practice. Play with your camera so that you are comfortable with its features and you can easily make changes to get your best quality image. Keep your camera handy because you never know when a great time to practice may become available.

Charmaine Schmermund
Assistant Director of Public Relations

Southern Miss Gulf Coast

Monday, October 8, 2012

Social Media 101

A few days ago on Oct. 4, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced that more than one BILLION people were actively using Facebook monthly to communicate and stay in touch with far flung friends and family. What does such a huge number mean to you and what you do every day?

Well, it shows that more than a billion people have discovered they can use Facebook for:

  • Instant communication with your most important audiences. In all social media channels, you have the option of building your own database of contacts, friends, followers, and so on. Once you have them, you can communicate with them at will. But note: this does not give you license to pester them constantly. This type of non-stop communication could burn some very important bridges. Just as people have the power to “friend” and “like,” they also have the power to “unfriend” and “unlike.”
  • Conversation starters and relationship builders. By not only putting out information you want people to read, but providing information they want in return, you can develop a reciprocal relationship and build trust over time.
  • Openness with your audience. Part of a truly reciprocal relationship is to allow your users to post up their own questions or commentary to engage them in conversation. If it’s a positive remark or question, it gives you the chance to accentuate the positive. If it’s a negative remark or question, it gives you the first chance to correct any miscommunication or get the university’s position out on the issue. You can shape the conversation.

Which social media channels should I use?

  • For quick comments about exciting events happening on campus, consider Twitter. A tweet is a 140-character comment that can include shortened links and referrals to other Twitter accounts using “hash tags” as identifiers. (
  •    For more expansive postings, go for Facebook. You can share links, images, videos and more. (
  • If you’re all about video, get a YouTube account. A division of Google, it handles the heavy storage demands and gives you a nice, little link or embed code to send people to your video. (
  • If you really want to get expansive with your writing and aren’t so concerned with a conversation so much as a monologue, go for a blog. (
Judy Day Isbell
Director of Web Services
Southern Miss Gulf Coast