4. One Campus, Countless Stories: Lessons Learned Through Talk

Let’s be honest…We’re all a little bit creepy. Why do you think Facebook is so popular? Humans are innately interested in what everyone else is doing. I personally like to refer to my creepiness as “interested research” (sounds much more professional that way, right?).

How many times have you walked around town and seen a face that you recognize? Maybe its that guy who doodles in the margins of his scrappy notebook during your lecture class. Maybe its the girl who wears the mismatched shoelaces in the express line at the grocery store.  It’s a stranger; you don’t even know their name. But you can’t help but wonder what their life is like.

This is the principle idea behind Talk. In a campus of over 200,000 students, it is easy to feel like just another face in the crowd. The project was created by previous Allen Hall Advertising greats (in my mind, they should be in the SOJC Hall of Fame) to capture a sense of community within campus and explore a different definition of “diversity”. Through Talk, we learn about our peers through listening and shared experiences.

For the past two years (almost three! How time flies…), I have been part of the Talk project in Allen Hall Advertising. A mere seedling in the advertising world, my roots in Talk began as a lowly creative associate, and I recently blossomed into the creative director with the fabulous Julie Basque as my director of strategy wing woman (flower metaphors are fun!). This year, our team is made up of some incredible talent: Designers Rachelle Digregorio and Lisa Harris, and strategist Maggie Dieringer. It hasn’t always been sunshine and daisies, but it has taught me infinite lessons about collaborative work, leadership, and life in general.

I could write for hours on how passionate I am about this project but for the sake of your straining eyes, I will focus on our recent challenges and how we want to overcome them. Don’t fret – as the year progresses, many more Talk updates will prevail.

While Talk sounds like the coolest thing on the face of the planet* (*shameless self-promotion) we struggle with brand awareness. Although the project has been around for three years, most students have never heard of it. If they have heard of it, sadly they lose interest within a few minutes (or at least that’s what the people say after I strap them into chairs and force them to watch the videos and give me feedback…What, how do your focus groups work?).

Obviously, this is a problem. And not just a problem for Talk, but for all brands. Ahh, yes, the question on every advertiser’s mind: how do you get people interested in your brand? Here are the solutions and strategies that Talk came up with. It’s a work in progress but perhaps it can help you put your own brand into perspective.

1. Define it

We started by identifying ourselves. Stepping into the shoes of a co-director of the Talk project, I always found myself stumbling over my words when people asked me what Talk was. I should have had an elevator pitch but the problem was that not even our team members knew how to define it. As a project that has molded and shifted throughout the years, Julie and I decided we needed to come up with a clear definition of what Talk is, and what it aims to be in the future. We chatted with old Talk directors, along with faculty members that were familiar with the project. As a team, we each came up with a short description of what we  felt represented Talk as a brand. With our powers combined (that’s a captain planet reference – I really do love the 90s) we created a solid identity.

We refocused our identity into this sentence:

Talk is a video archival project dedicated to preserving the stories of our time. We aim to get an essence of our community and define campus culture through conversations with students, faculty, and staff.

While it seems somewhat elementary, this exercise was a great way to get our team focused and ensure that we’re all on the same page. Some questions we focused on were:

  •  What is it?
  • What purpose does it serve?
  • Why should people care about it?

2. Tell it like it is

A key word in brand awareness is awareness (thank you, captain obvious). If people are unfamiliar with your brand, simply explain it. However, in today’s world of 3 second attention spans, you need to do it in an interesting way and capture the audience’s attention. There’s a lot of clutter to break through. Our previous promotional videos for Talk were heavily focused on the informative side and less on the interesting side of what Talk embodies. I decided to spruce up our promotional videos a little bit and acknowledge the “story” aspect rather than the “WE DO INTIMIDATING INTERVIEWS RAWRRRR” aspect. In the end, Talk is a project designed to get to know people — shouldn’t that be something we focus on in every tactic?

3. If it’s not working, don’t be afraid to change it.

To quote an Intel fellow: at the end of the day, it’s all for naught if the dogs wont eat.

In other words, if something is does not work, change it. It’s hard to tear apart things that you’ve worked hard on, especially after years of following the same format. However, if the end product is not successful, change is necessary. Use the feedback that people give you. For Talk, our feedback was that our videos were uninteresting and people did not have the incentive to watch them. It was a little bit hurtful because we have invested so much time into the project. It’s always been interesting to me. It’s sort of like someone telling you that your child is ugly, or being dumped over AOL Instant Messenger.

However, if the fish aren’t biting you’ve gotta change your bait.

As a result, we decided to change our template. We completely reworked our organization. Before, we were overwhelmed with work. As a small team, it was hard to focus on our brand while at the same time interviewing, editing videos, and balancing schoolwork. Like before, we have our core group within Allen Hall Advertising that focuses on the brand side. However, this year we will partner with outside resources like editors, broadcast interviewers, and faculty. If you have untapped resources, use them. Different outlets that we had never thought about previously were extremely helpful in getting our brand out there. Now, our small team can focus on the brand while also learning and collaborating with other people. It has been beneficial to the core idea of Talk – we explored various student groups on campus to work together and collaborate ideas.

Working on Talk has been a very formative experience for me. It’s a process in which I will never stop learning. I hope that our brand grows because I truly believe in the idea behind it. We are all human beings who yearn to connect with each other. I believe that we are capable of a better world if we have the right outlet to connect with each other, and my hope is that Talk will become that outlet. Call me a naive, wishful thinker but I think Talk has serious potential.

Side note: I’d just like to shout out to all of the past leaders and team members of Talk. It is a sincere honor that I have had the pleasure to work with so many inspiring students and leaders. Talk would not be where it is today (or grow in the future) without your talent and brain power. 

*If you are interested in a conversation with Talk, please email us at talkuoregon@gmail.com. Visit our website talk.uoregon.edu for more information about the project, and as always feel free to connect with me with any questions.

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4 thoughts on “4. One Campus, Countless Stories: Lessons Learned Through Talk

  1. Hey Kels,
    You are right on the money in your solutions to Brand Awareness. Like you said…Sometimes you’re so busy ‘creating’ the future that you forget to use the basic Tools in front of you. Keep up the good work!!

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