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With the University of New Hampshire (UNH) planning for a drastically altered Fall 2020 reopening due to COVID-19, communication has become more critical than ever before. Administrators must create contingency plans in the event of campus outbreaks, and students need access to quickly changing information in addition to general COVID-19 prevention messaging. Plus, campus events and community-building efforts that UNH has been perfecting for years can no longer be held in-person due to risk of virus spread.
Apogee Campus Engagement is a managed service that helps drive content and campaigns that inform and promote happenings on and off campus across multiple digital channels. UNH looked to Apogee, their Campus Engagement services partner since 2014, to help provide the critical communications needed for three key types of information:
- Health and safety public service announcements
- Emergency alert messaging
- Community building in the hybrid onsite/virtual space
UNH is New Hampshire’s flagship public research university. Located in Durham, NH, it is home to more than 15,000 students. For more than 150 years, the university has delivered on learning, research, and work experiences that bring together students, faculty, and private and public partners to create life-changing opportunities and innovative solutions in the community and across the world.
Health and Safety Messaging
Preventing community spread of COVID-19 is key for UNH, so health and safety messaging is priority #1. Apogee has been creating prevention messaging for UNH for many years. In Winter 2019 and before the COVID-19 outbreak took hold, Apogee created flu prevention videos for UNH Health & Wellness group which were displayed on digital signage across campus. UNH Health & Wellness was so pleased with the results that they asked Apogee to create more safety videos when COVID-19 struck. Word spread across campus, and the UNH Office was soon asking the Campus Engagement team for assistance with videos, including a social distancing public service announcement and a face mask usage video. Apogee’s team scripted, produced, and published the videos for UNH to share across various platforms, including social media, email, the learning management system (LMS), and digital signage. The team will be producing more videos and graphics in the future to update the UNH community on the latest COVID-19 prevention strategies. Please visit YouTube to see the custom UNH Social Distancing PSA video that is being shared across
all these channels.
As part of its safety messaging, a consortium of UNH departments are working together on a “Masks On, UNH!” campaign. Inspired by the advent of social media contests and UNH athletic teams participating in the #MaskOnChallenge to challenge their competitors, UNH wanted to run a similar competition to encourage wearing masks and to create a sense of solidarity for following institutional health and safety guidelines.
UNH partnered with Apogee to drive a collaborative virtual effort encouraging students to wear masks on campus. Apogee will create contest web infrastructure and digital signage distribution for social media posts featuring UNH students wearing masks, while the UNH team publicizes the competition.
Departments, including UNH Information Technology, Health and Wellness, Occupational Health and Safety, Student Involvement, Student Affairs, Residence Life, and even local businesses in the town of Durham, have worked with Apogee on this timely social campaign. The hope is that this campaign will encourage students to take ownership over the community’s safety.
Once it launches in August, UNH students will share photos of themselves wearing or creating masks on social media using the #unhtogether hashtag. The competition will encourage students to vote for their favorites and incentivize participation.
Apogee will provide a gift card to a local business, and UNH will provide incentives sourced from local businesses. Mask posts will air on social media and the university website for reposting, and students will be featured on digital signs across campus once the semester begins. Digital signage will allow students to still feel connected on UNH’s physical campus as they see peers featured, but the competition will also include students taking classes virtually. As an added incentive, UNH students will virtually compete against rival University of Maine to see which school has more social media posts celebrating mask wearing.
UNH hopes that, by proactively communicating prevention measures on platforms students use daily, students will be encouraged to drive communal safety.
Emergency alert messaging has always been a crucial component of UNH’s safety strategy, but in the COVID-19 era, UNH considered that this system may become necessary to quickly communicate an outbreak on campus, changing safety protocols, and new health information. In the event of an on-cam- pus emergency, UNH Campus Police issue an alert describing the emergency and safety precautions to take.
Users affiliated with the university or who have opted into the RAVE alert system will receive email and text alerts. Apogee has managed integration with digital signs so that screens around campus are also taken over with messaging for high-priority emergencies, allowing prospective students and families, visiting lecturers, vendors, and other personnel to see a public-facing alert message and be aware of any danger.
How do you build community among students who have had to shelter-in-place? Countless research shows that students are more successful in school, more likely to be retained from year to year, more involved with campus life, and more engaged and generous as alumni if they build a community during their college experience. Their relationships built on campus “most affect graduates’ perception that their education was worth the cost” according to the Gallup-Purdue Index Report of 2015. When UNH students were suddenly sent home in Spring 2020 with no expectation of when they could return, community building became more difficult.
Apogee worked with UNH to virtually connect students across social media platforms and through competitions with peers. In one instance, Apogee’s Student Ambassador collaborated with the CatPack Captains, a group of students driven to build spirit for UNH Athletics, to create a “UNH Spirit” contest during Summer 2020 in which students posted their spirit photos on a landing page and then campaigned for votes from friends.
Students posted videos from hockey games, shots wearing UNH gear, confetti-filled Instagram photos, and more using the hashtag #UNHSpirit. One day into the three week-long competition, the two top photos had over 1,100 votes!
“Apogee has been very flexible and helpful throughout our entire interaction with them,” said Troy LaPolice, UNH CatPack Captain, Class of 2021. They gave us the freedom to personalize the contest and make it a success; and best of all, they’ve been pleasant and easy to work with throughout the process.”
Once the fall semester begins, Apogee will support UNH to create more community-building projects geared toward specific student demographics, including virtual students and new students. Apogee’s managed service offerings have allowed UNH to focus on strategic details including messaging to students and campus safety, while Apogee has provided campaign ideas, web infrastructure, content curation, and reporting for the virtual events.
As campus staff are stretched into new and unfamiliar roles, industry partnerships are becoming more important and necessary in helping schools succeed in a brave new world.
To learn more about Apogee Campus Engagement Services, please visit the CES page.
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