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Best Practices Using UM Today

Posted on: December 12th, 2019 by Robby Seitz

As UM Today continues to be used to communicate en masse across campus, we thought we would share a few suggestions to improve your rates of success in this medium.

Here in the Office of Information Technology, we have two main ways of knowing that at least some people are, in fact, reading UM Today. One way comes from reviewing the logs showing which messages are clicked on. The other way is from listening to reader feedback. In a recent survey of our campus in regards to UM Today, many reported that their primary reason for not reading it is that there were regularly too many messages that were not relevant to them.

Target the Right Audience

UM Today was built on the concept of delivering messages to specific audiences – the more precise the audience, the greater the interest level of the readership. If you would like to announce an event to which only students are invited, it is best to include only students in your target audience. You can even narrow that down to include only current students if it isn’t open to past and future students. If you inadvertently target “Everyone” or just people having the “myOleMiss Student Role,” you would hit a lot of non-students (e.g., employees who are no longer students) who would treat the message as spam or junk. This results in an unengaged audience which is an undesirable outcome.

Understanding the groups that you can target will go a long way toward improving your readership. As much as possible, avoid selecting “Everyone.” The attention to detail needed when selecting the post audiences should be the same as what you used when you were crafting the message. “Current Students” and “Current Employees” are the best bets to start with. Then consider how you might narrow the field even more. If it only pertains to people in Oxford or students having a certain major, then kindly omit the rest from your target audience.

What will more precise targeting do for the overall UM Today audience? It will reduce on the overall number of messages each person gets from UM Today!

Important vs. Urgent

In addition to the daily summary emails that UMT generates each weekday morning, there are two more methods of communication that are more urgent: immediate emails and SMS texts. Since the university incurs charges for text messages (the sending department gets billed for those), permission to use the text function is quite restricted. Less restricted, though, is the express email function. The daily summary is great for announcements that do not need to be acted upon immediately. If a situation arises unexpectedly, though, it is important to get the word out ASAP.

This is where a judgment call is needed: Exactly how urgent is this message? If it is something that needs action/awareness today/tomorrow (class cancellation the day of, for example), then quite possibly yes. If the timeline is further out, a regular UMT message should suffice.

Being attentive to the urgent vs. important messages before sending can really help create value when communicating through UMT.

Disappearing Act

Broken links can be frustrating for the recipients and are the brick walls of communication. Announcements that have been deleted after being included in an email become broken links. If an announcement has been sent with incorrect or incomplete information, edit the existing announcement with the correct info rather than deleting it. This is especially true for announcements sent as express emails.

Too Many Clicks

Depending on the UMT message, readers will need to click one or more times to read everything about it. One of these clicks is part the process because only the title and summary appear in emails and web page listings. The complete details of a message are one click away from the title.

If a message has multiple attachments, that is one click per attachment and one click to return. Studies have shown that a reader may not return to the original message once a click has taken them elsewhere. Unless your communication requires an attachment, try to put all of the information in the full details section where it is only one click away.

The Trouble with PDFs

One of the most common types of attachments is the PDF file. The Portable Document Format was invented in the early 1990s as a means of sharing documents between different computer platforms. They remain a great way to preserve the content and formatting of Word and Powerpoint documents, and for seeing how something will look if it is printed.

Not all browsers are set to open PDFs in the same window, however. Some require that you download the file and then open it. PDFs are also often quite large. Being that a lot of these messages are consumed via smartphones, data limits may reduce the chances of a reader downloading a large document using their cellphone plan.

Additionally, PDFs aren’t automatically created to be accessibility compliant by default. Unless the author has taken the time to tag the content and provide alternative descriptions for images, a PDF will not be accessible to people relying on screen readers to interpret its contents. (The accessibility of PDFs is required by Section 508 of the Americans with Disabilities Act.) Screen readers don’t have any problem at all with text entered into the full details section.

Click Here!

The method of how we interact with a link is different based on the device we are using. Ideally, linked text should give the reader a sense of what it leads to. Your readers are savvy enough to identify where links reside in a message and how to use them. Be sure to make your message interesting enough that readers are motivated to follow the link to read more.

I’m Here to Help!

UM Today is not a perfect system, but it’s very good at what we need it to do. When you are ready to post your next message, consider who your readers are, what they need to know, how you can inform them, and how you can make the whole process easier for them. You will be more effective, and everyone will appreciate it!