Throughout the course of the pandemic, with staff, faculty, and students working and learning remotely, the demand for information, resources and reassurance reached unprecedented levels. The scrutiny by a world moved online, when responses seemed inadequate or circumstances changed quickly, were brutal. 


To address this rapidly evolving environment and attempt to meet the needs of our audiences, UMSocial dug deeply into visual content creation. Since August 2020, nearly 2,000 pieces of content have been developed and shared across main university channels regarding COVID-19, vaccination, masking, and general campus public health guidance. These resources have come in the form of interactive giphy stickers, animations, live panel discussions, still images, graphics, and most prominently, authentic and transparent videos created in partnership with campus leadership, experts, and staff.


Beginning in late December of 2020, UMSocial sought out to create a series that paired students with everyone from President Mark Schlissel to U-M Dean of Student Laura Blake Jones to host dialogues that addressed student and community concerns regarding the pandemic, online learning, and societal issues. As time went on, efforts to produce student vlogs highlighting crucial conversations surrounding mental health, inclusion, diversity, and an array of other important topics moved to weekly. As we prepared for fall term and the return of students and staff to campus, the opportunity to bring people together in person to proactively address anticipated concerns and questions in these tried and true formats became a focal point of our strategy.


Beginning with a foundational interview with Dr. Preeti Malani preparing students for what they would experience when they returned to Ann Arbor, and followed weekly by explorations into public health, public safety, community involvement, well-being, and more, UMSocial recorded, edited, and published nearly two dozen interviews during the fall semester. Accumulating more than 200,000 views and more than 100,000 impressions, the videos have played a prominent role in the President’s weekly campus-wide email communications, the University Record newsletter, campus social media channels, and even in-stadium at the Big House.


In October, the popularity of the series led to a cross-over collaboration with rival Michigan State University to educate both of our campus communities regarding safe celebrations and high-risk behavior leading up to a big game weekend. The video featured mascot favorite, Sparty, and was distributed across both East Lansing and Ann Arbor. That same month, we brought together academic leadership with the Vice President of Student Life to showcase North Campus culture and experience the excitement of a haunted campus activity. In November, with holiday travel on the horizon and booster shot recommendations breaking, we hosted a Thanksgiving roundtable discussion and recorded peer-to-peer advocacy messaging. 


Whether COVID-19 communications or campus community cultivation, these creative video efforts established a new level of engagement — and a new level of excitement from our leadership for connecting with our community. As we look to 2022, and how these efforts might continue to evolve, we are committed to the continued production of proactive conversations for the betterment of our many audiences, internal and external. In doing so, we hope to continue to make positive strides in our efforts to reestablish trust in institutional decision making and cultivating a community of collaboration.