Office of Marketing and Communications Operations Guide

Michelle L. Thompson

Michelle Thompson,

Director of Marketing and Communications

Headshot of Mary Cunningham

Mary Cunningham,

Associate Director of Marketing and Communications

Emma Anderson, 

Marketing, Communication, and Graphic Design Coordinator 

Brandon Cantrell, 

Marketing, Communication, and Graphic Design Coordinator 

The Office of Marketing and Communications is dedicated to positioning the College as a leader in research, scholarship, and practice related to the public's health. We look forward to working with faculty and staff to make the College's accomplishments visible and to help our students succeed.

The following resources and guidance are designed to help achieve the College's goals as efficiently as possible.


1. Project Prioritization, Process, and Deadlines

Planning and Turn-Around Time

Planning

If you know of forthcoming projects (events, student profiles, research publications, new degree programs, events, videos, photography, design or collateral needs etc.), please let the Marketing and Communications team know, so we can put them on our planning calendar. Who to contact depends on what the project is and those details can be found below. When in doubt, please contact the Director of Marketing and Communications.

Turn-Around Times

We strive to turn projects around in a timely manner. Advance notice helps immensely and when we receive your requests, we’ll do our best to provide an accurate estimate of turn-around time. Here are some rules of thumb and deadlines to help with planning:

  • Weekly Update – The Updates are published on Thursday. The deadline for new material is the Monday prior for simple announcements. Please allow more time if more research or content development is required. 
     
  • Research/Publication Press Releases – As always, please let us know as soon as you find out your publication has been accepted. See below for more information.
     
  • Events – We’re eager to work with Chairs to plan events and build on community engagement. For events already underdevelopment: as soon as you know that an event is planned or is in the planning process, please let Michelle Thompson (mthomp7@gmu.edu) know so we can develop a promotion plan and assets. 
     
  • Social Media – Once you submit your social ideas/content, we will provide an estimated turn-around based on the complexity of the request and other items in the queue. For simple social posts, we should be able to make them within a week. For more complex campaigns, additional time is appreciated.
     
  • Content Development – We are excited to be able to deliver more student profiles, news stories, special reports (an external newsletter, maybe a podcast??). Please continue to send us story ideas and we’ll provide an estimated timeframe for stories agreed to pursue, with at least 1 week for turn-around. 
     
  •  Web Updates – Once you submit your desired updates, we will provide an estimated turn-around based on the complexity of the edit and other items in the queue. For simple edits, we should be able to make them within a week. 

Additional Turn-Around Times 
Depending on staffing levels and workload, the time for frequently requested projects is:

  • Press release: 2 weeks
  • Publication promotion: 2-3 weeks
  • Social Media Campaign: 2 weeks 
  • Small design requests: 1-2 weeks
  • Large design requests: 2-4 weeks
  • Small Web updates: 3-4 days
  • More Complex Web updates: 2-4 weeks
  • Multi-Channel Campaign: 2-4 weeks

Project Prioritization

During the project/request intake process, the Office of Marketing and Communications uses the following project tiering framework for decisions related to resource allocation and prioritization.

Tier 1

Description - High profile, large scale, external audiences, heavy marketing lift including media, internal communication plan

Examples - Population Health Center Opening, Graduation, MAP Clinic Opening, Launch of Speaker Series, College of Public Health Milestones (as appropriate), College of Public Health Graduation, ASTHO Partnership 

Tier 2 

Description - Medium scale, possibly external audience, medium marketing lift, possibly media, internal communication plan

Examples - National Nursing Week, National Public Health Week, Promote new research (See Research/Publication Promotion Criteria), Large Development Campaigns, Externally-facing Awards Ceremony

Tier 3

Description - Small scale, internal audience, small marketing lift, no media
Examples - Celebration of Scholarship, OSCAR Research, Small Development Campaigns, U.S. News Rankings

Tier 4

Description - No direct marketing required, provide templates or kit only
Examples - Small events, short notice activities

Event Prioritization

During the planning process, the Office of Marketing and Communications uses the following tiering framework for decisions related to resource allocation and prioritization.

Tier 1 Events

  • Description - Strategic initiative, executive presence, external presence, college-wide events
  • Example - Population Health Center Opening, Degree Celebration, MAP Clinic Opening, Conversations and Connections, Launch of Dean's Seminar Series, College of Public Health Milestones (as appropriate)
  • Lead Time - 6-12 months

Tier 2 Events

  • Description - Cross-departmental, large external audience, high-profile speakers or attendees, College award events, OSCAR Research events, large prospective student events
  • Example - Health Policy Institute, NPHW, Social Work ELEVATE conference
  • Lead Time - 6 months

Tier 3 Events

  • Description - Departmental event, smaller attendance, short-lead time
  • Example - Celebration of Scholarship, small development events, department poster sessions
  • Lead Time - 3 months

Department Liaisons

Departments and offices within the College should have at least one liaison to the Office of Marketing and Communications. Liaisons work with our office to keep website content updated, post events to the College calendar via 25Live, create slides for the lobby monitors, etc. Thanks to all the liaisons identified below, we appreciate your assistance. 

  • GCH - Allan Weiss
  • HAP - Tracy Shevlin
  • Nursing - Grace Tran 
  • Nutrition - Allison McKay
  • Social Work - Le Anne Wisineski
  • Student Affairs - Alma Detten
  • Faculty Affairs/Strategic Initiatives and Practice - Jennifer Sturgis

Operational Deadlines

Deadlines:

Mondays @ 12 pm
- Weekly Update Content - For Thursday Weekly Update content that requires background research or additional content development please allow additional time. Please submit to Mary Cunningham

Thursdays @ 12pm
- All Lobby monitor content is due by 12 pm to appear the following week. Please use the Slide Template provided to create your content and submit to Brandon Cantrell

Fridays @ 12 pm
-
ASPPH Newsletter content - Deadline for inclusion in ASPPH’s following Friday’s newsletter. Please submit to Mary Cunningham

2. Projects and Activities

Faculty and Staff Profiles

Are you a new faculty or staff member? Send the following items to Brandon Cantrell (jcantre@gmu.edu) and Michelle Thompson (mthomp7@gmu.edu) so your bio can be included on the College website:

  • The faculty/staff profile form. The first three sections are required.

  • A high-resolution professional headshot in portrait orientation (taller than it is wide) or far enough away so it can be cropped to portrait orientation. If you don’t have one, you can email Emma Anderson at eander6@gmu.edu.

  • Faculty only: Your most up-to-date CV, with your newest Mason position listed and personal information removed such as cell phone, address, and personal email.

Publication and Research Promotion

Notifying the Office of Marking and Communication about an upcoming publication

As soon as a publication has been accepted by a refereed journal, the faculty member should email Mary Cunningham,  Michelle Thompson, the Associate Dean for Research, and their department chair/school director:

  1. Most recent manuscript
  2. Responses to these questions to help us determine how/when to promote the publication:
  • Was this work done at Mason and as part of your Mason role? Were you the PI?
  • Was the research funded? If so, by what entity? Are there any perceived conflicts to identify?
  • What is the earliest anticipated publication date (for epub version)?
  • What type of research was it (one-sentence overview of research methods)?

Depending on your answers to the first set of questions, you may also be asked the following:

  • What is the key finding/main message in one sentence?
  • What are the main supporting points that must be communicated clearly and concisely to readers (a maximum of three)?
  • How novel is this work and the findings?

Criteria for Promoting Publications and Research

Promoting faculty research news at all stages of the process—from grant award to announcing publications and novel discoveries—is core to the success of the College marketing and communications strategy. Our goal is to provide transparent and fair guidelines on how the office will prioritize and promote research news, particularly news about primary research, publications in high impact journals, significant author contributions, and grant awards.

Our strategy includes a range of promotion tactics that will allow us to share important research news with target audiences, promote promising faculty research at various stages of the process, and focus on high-impact activities.

The communication and marketing goal is to develop a research news strategy to raise awareness of the College and our faculty among target audiences and position the College as a leader and innovator. 

Tier determined by type of research, Mason author contribution, novelty of findings, and journal impact. See below for the Process for Evaluating Publications for Promotion.   

Research news includes:

  • Tier 1 – Highest Priority to Promote through Available Channels

    • Research Discovery (R01 priority, funded priority)
    • Grant award (R01 priority, funded priority)
    • Research Publications
    • Primary Research
    • Clinical Trial, Clinical Case Study
  • Tier 2 – Will likely be Promoted via Social Media
    • Research Publications
    • Meta-Analysis Review
    • Systematic Review
    • Invited Commentary in a high impact journal
    • Opinion/Commentary
    • Text Book
    • Literature Review
    • Book Review

Research news promotion channels include:

Tier 1 Channels

  • Press release on the news wire (there is a cost associated with each news release ranging from $500 to $1,000 depending on the distribution)
  •  Outbound Media pitch on specific announcement (discovery or grant)
  •  Outbound Media pitch on faculty expert(s)
  • Annual Report (funded research will be prioritized)
  • AAAS EurekAlerts
  • ASPPH Friday Newsletter

Tier 2 Channels

  • The George
  • IBI/ISE Newsletters
  • College Weekly Update (Internal / External)
  • College website
  • College Social Channels

Criteria for Decision to Promote Research News, Level of Time Sensitivity, and Level of Effort

  • Type of research
  • Author contribution
  • Journal impact factor
  • Funded research

Promotion Process and Estimated Timeline*

  • Faculty member emails manuscript, publication date, and responses to key questions as soon as publication is accepted to Mary Cunningham, Michelle Thompson, and Assoc. Dean for Research, cc’ing their department chair/school director.

    • Feel free to send even earlier if you expect it will be accepted
  • Dept. Chair, Assoc. Dean for Research, and OMC review to determine whether to move forward with press release and/or other promotion (3 business days)
  • Marketing and Communications writes EurekAlert Summary, ASPPH Friday Letter Summary, as appropriate (7 Business Days)
  • Author Review, including co-author of author desires (3 Business Days)
  • Chair, Associate Dean, Review (3 Business Days)
  • Marketing and Communications works with Author to finalize changes. (2 Business Days)
  • Publish EurekAlert in conjunction with publication available online, pitch to reporters (Tuesdays-Thursdays for more media exposure) (2 Business Days)
  • Total number of days per publication - 20 Business Days

*Dependent on resources, author response time, and other Marketing and Communications commitments.

College Weekly Update

If you have an update you would like to include in the College's Weekly Update newsletter, send a complete description to Michelle and Mary at mthomp7@gmu.edu and mcunni7@gmu.edu. Items that are typically included are upcoming events for the college to attend; faculty, staff, student, and alumni recognition; college announcements; and College of Public Health in the news. Deadline: Mondays at 12 pm. 

Lobby Monitor Content

All lobby monitor content is due by Thursdays at 12 pm to appear the following week. Please use this Slide Template to create your content and submit to Brandon Cantrell at jcantre@gmu.edu.

Event Promotion Assistance

The role that the Office of Marketing and Communications will play is dependent on the tiering of the event (see Event Tiering above). Unless otherwise noted, the department/faculty/staff member holding the event is responsible for activity listed.

See Office of Marketing and Communications Event Promotion Assistance Overview 
 

Event Guidelines have been developed to be sure that all events executed by the College meet the high standards of our participants/attendees/students, community partners, and sponsors.

Prior to allocating College resources, all events must be:

1. Approved by the respective Department Chair in writing, including the following:

  • Alignment with Department goals, priorities, and quality standards
  • Budget (Expense and Revenue, if appropriate)
  • Content and speakers (draft)
  • Adequate time for planning and promotion, as appropriate (see Event Planning Checklist and Event Tiering and Lead Time for guidance)

      2. Reviewed with the Office of Marketing and Communications and Office of Practice and Strategic Initiatives and Office of Development (if appropriate) for:

  • Allocation of confirmed resources
  • Draft operations plan and timeline

Continuing Education Activities, Conferences, and Other External Activities

Event Planning Checklist for Continuing Education Activities, Conferences, and Other External Activities (Office of Practice and Strategic Initiatives)

To assist in the gathering of required information and documentation needed, the following checklist may be used as a guide.  When continuing education contact hours are to be awarded, all items must be completed. View the event planning checklist.

3. Guidelines for Disseminating Information to Faculty, Students, Staff, and Alumni

Email Lists

The College strives to engage our faculty, students, staff, alumni, and community partners through many channels, including communications sent through group emails and Listservs.   

To ensure smooth and successful communications, here are some guidelines to increase the likelihood that our messages will be opened, read, AND reflect the brand of the College as well as the departments and offices we represent.  

Guidelines for College, Office, Department/School Mass Communications (Listservs and Blackboard Orgs) 

  • Unless a communication truly is urgent, provide a single, unified update (ideally once a week, on a recurring day of the week) rather than individual emails with updates. 
  • Make it easy to peruse and process information. Create categories to group like information together and use headers. 
  • For highly detailed information, include an overview in the email and direct the audience to a webpage for additional details, forms, etc.
    • (The goal is to have at least one person in each office and department trained on Drupal web pages. If your office does not yet have a delegate, it’s important that one be assigned and trained.) 
  • Use a minimum number of fonts, font sizes, and colors.   
  • Calibri and Helvetica in 11-14 point font are approved fonts for email. 
  • The Office of Marketing and Communications uses just two colors in our updates – headers are the darkest color of green in the MS Outlook font color choices and body copy is black. 
  • Triple check your subject line prior to sending, especially if it is forwarded. 
  • Double check your links before sending. 
  • Minimize the use of attachments when possible.   
  • Please read all information prior to forwarding emails from another source. Often there is internal information that needs to be removed prior to sending. 
  • To avoid typos and other errors, all emails must be reviewed and proofed by at least one other person in the office or department prior to sending. We recommend that you identify a trusted reviewer who will be your second set of eyes on all emails going out. 
  • Avoid using an image, such as a flyer, as the entire body of your message. The image may be difficult to read on mobile phones. If you must use an image of a flyer or other text in the body of your message, retype the image’s text below the image for Section 508 compliance. 
  • Mistakes happen! Unless there is an error in the accuracy of a communication sent, it’s often best to avoid sending a second email if there is an error in the original communication.  
  • When in doubt, feel free to ask the Office of Marketing and Communications. While sadly we aren’t able to review every email, we are happy to review templates that you create for your weekly emails. 

Brand and Editorial Guidelines

Brand Guidelines 

The University has developed brand guidelines that specify brand-aligned colors, use of the Mason M, use of the Mason M and other considerations. 

Editorial Guidelines  

The full Mason Editorial Style Guide can be found here. This document outlines the University’s style for punctuation, capitalization, spelling, abbreviating, and using common words and phrases.  Some of the most common use cases covered include: 

  • GMU/Mason - Avoid using GMU. If you’re not spelling out the full name of the university, you would typically use Mason. See the guidelines for more details. 
  • Academic departments, majors, programs, and degrees – please see this section in the Guidelines for details
  • Alumnus, alumni, alumna, and alumnae 
  • Buildings and Rooms (Example: Peterson Hall, Multipurpose Room) 
  • Titles (for example, chair is not capitalized unless part of a formal name such as Northern Virginia Chair) 
  • Electronic media terms – (Examples: email, web page, website, home page) 
  • Faculty- (Example: Use faculty as a singular noun; use faculty members to denote individuals) 
  • Professional titles - please see the Professional Titles section in the Guidelines for details  

4. Additional Tools & Resources

Resources and Tools

  • Lobby monitor slide template
  • Event Promotion Assistance Overview
  • Event checklist
  • George Mason University Brand Guide
  • New faculty or staff member? Send the following items to Michelle Thompson and Brandon Cantrell (mthomp7@gmu.edu; jcantre@gmu.edu) so your bio can be included on the College Web site:
    • Your most up-to-date CV, with their newest Mason position listed and personal information removed such as cell phone, address, personal email.

    • A high resolution professional headshot in portrait orientation (taller than it is wide) or far enough away it can be cropped to portrait orientation. If you don’t have one, you can email Emma Anderson at eander6@gmu.edu.

    • The faculty/staff profile form. (First three sections are required.)

Preparing for a Media Interview

Please notify Michelle Thompson and Mary Cunningham if you do any media interviews so we can be on the lookout for the published story.

Interview Preparation

  • Reporters are usually working on a deadline. Call or email back right away, even if you plan to decline the interview.
  • When you get a request for an interview, find out as much as you can about the interview opportunity to determine if you will do the interview.
    • What is the reporter’s name and media outlet?
    • What is the reporter’s deadline?
    • Is the interview for radio, television, print, a website, a podcast, or a blog?
    • What is the subject of the interview?
    • What information is the reporter looking for you to provide?
    • Does the reporter have a particular angle for the story?
    • Who will be interviewing you?
    • When and where will the interview take place?
    • How long will the interview last?
    • Will the interview be live or recorded?
    • Who else will be interviewed for the story?
    • When/where will the story run?
       
  • When a reporter calls requesting an interview, you have a right to ask the subject of the interview and some sample questions. If you need time to collect your thoughts and the reporter’s deadline allows, offer to call back later at a specific time and follow through.
  • If you are not familiar with the media outlet and/or reporter requesting the interview, do some research on the reputation, mission, audience, and how experts are quoted. If you are uncertain or in doubt, you can decline the interview.
  • Identify two to three main points you would like to make about your subject. Gather facts, figures, and anecdotes to support your points. Anticipate questions the reporter might ask and have responses ready.
  • Don’t overestimate a reporter’s knowledge of your subject. When a reporter bases a question on information you believe is incorrect, do not hesitate to set the record straight. Offer background information where necessary.
  • Gather any supporting facts, research, statistics, or quotations that will enhance your answers.
  • Have printed materials to support your information whenever possible in order to help the reporter minimize errors. If time allows, offer to email the reporter printed information in advance of the interview.
     

The Interview

  • Start at a basic level. Avoid academic or technical jargon; explain special terms if you must use them.
  • The average soundbite is less than 20 seconds long and may be as short as 7-8 seconds for television interviews. The shorter your comments, the less likely they are to be edited. Even print reporters are looking for short, snappy quotes.
  • Stick to your main points and do not allow yourself to get drawn too far off on tangents. Repeat your points if necessary to get back on track.
  • Speak in complete thoughts. The reporter’s question may be edited out and your response should stand on its own.
  • If you do not understand a question, ask for clarification rather than talking around it. If you do not have the answer, say so. Tell the reporter where to find the information, if possible.
  • Never say anything you do not want to be used by the reporter - this includes your comments before and after the formal interview takes place. Don’t count on anything being “off the record.”
  • In a TV interview, look at the reporter and not the camera. If you’re uncertain where to look, ask.
  • Stay stationary in front of radio or TV microphones and avoid sitting in a chair that rocks or spins. Wandering around or rocking in your chair can cause the recorded volume to rise and fall

What to Wear 

  • For television interviews, plan to wear solid-color clothing. Stripes, plaids, or other designs can cause problems with color TV pictures. 
  • Business wear is a safe bet. 
  • Avoid wearing a short dress or skirt—you may end up sitting on a couch or chair and be uncomfortable—or worse!
  • If possible, wear a jacket, shirt or dress with a lapel so they can easily place the mic on you.
  • Avoid large, jangling or reflective jewelry.
  • Bright lights will wash you out. Consider wearing foundation, eye make-up, and blush.
     

Here’s some more good advice:

https://themediacoach.co.uk/what-to-wear-on-tv/

Creating a Website

If you are looking to have a current College or departmental web page updated, please contact Brandon Cantrell at jcantre@gmu.edu.

If you are looking to great a website for a research study, we recommend contacting the University's WordPress hosting serviceThe service can provide a Mason-branded template to help you create at website.

If you have a site created, we are happy to add it to the College's Study page and promote on social media. Please contact Mary Cunningham at mcunni7@gmu.edu.

Creating a Research Graphic

If you are looking to have a graphic created for a research paper, we suggest you reach out to Graphic Design Support from Research Development Services.

Cost: $13 per hour | Approximately 10 hours to develop graphic

Lead time required: 1-3 weeks depending on the complexity of the project. More time is always better.