A digital signage message at West Virginia University

Digital signage around campus, such as this sports marketing message at West Virginia University, Morgantown, can deliver a positive message and encourage school spirit.

Delivering the Message

An effective digital signage network (DSN) can enhance campus relations, as well as promote safety and security.

The office telephone rings on a peaceful spring morning. A person from the office of the university president delivers an assignment for you: Create a digital signage network (DSN) consisting of 10 digital signs across the campuses accompanied by an emergency messaging feature. You can hire one person, and the network must be installed and fully operational within six months.

Does that scenario sound familiar? It is happening on campus and in districts across the country. The 2007 shootings at Virginia Tech changed conversations on every higher-education campus in the country; and last month's attack in Newtown, Conn, has prompted education institutions to ask again: "How do we alert our campus community as quickly as possible of a pending danger or imminent peril?" Digital signage has become one cost-effective answer.

Starting points

It is no small task to create a high-tech integrated information network to cover a district or large university campus. Where do you start? What resources do you need? Where can you find instant knowledge to put the pieces of a large puzzle together? A little research can ease the tension and soothe spinning minds.

Every DSN begins with a simple strategic plan that considers who the important stakeholders will be in a successful DSN and how to obtain the necessary concept of "buy-in" by the administration.

Whether a campus has one or 100 digital signs on campus, the emergency messaging features are critical to an institution working to protect a community of thousands in the event of danger.

Digital signage also may be used as an outlet for delivering positive marketing messages and creating brand loyalty. Messaging does not have to targeted only to students; universities also want to communicate with faculty, staff and visitors about the great things happening on campus.

Digital signage can be an education ambassador that works for a school district or campus 24/7/365. The brand loyalty that that it helps build could mean millions of dollars to a university when students and faculty and staff members become alumni, retirees and benefactors.

Content creation

Once a school has a plan is in place and buy-in from administrators, the signs can be hung in strategic locations on campus. But what should the signs say? Often content creation is overlooked. Don't let just anyone put up whatever message they want to display on the digital signage. Content is king, and the wrong message may put the brand at risk.

With limited resources and design budgets, administrators may wonder how to create high-quality content. However, many schools and universities have more content creation resources at their fingertips than they realize. Every district and campus has a plethora of wonderful stories to tell, campus community members to recognize, grand events to promote, outstanding teams to cheer for, student organizations that recruit new members, and social media.

Digital signage with a social message at West Virginia University
At West Virginia University, Morgantown, digital signage often is used to give social messages, such as this one encouraging students to keep their electronics secure.

At West Virginia University (WVU) campus in Morgantown, for example, the digital signage network has grown to more than 100 digital signs, wayfinding, video walls and a 24/7/365 emergency alert feature in addition to standard WVU messaging and marketing on the WVU Information Stations network. WVU's model uses existing resources that departments, colleges and groups already are creating for their own integrated marketing purposes.

The WVU Information Stations team consists of a manager, an IT person and a content designer, who maintain more than 25 individual loops of content.

The messages are broadcast on the DSN based upon site-specific messaging selected by individual clients, such as the College of Business & Economics, the student union, or the College of Creative Arts. Each client loop incorporates about 30 percent general WVU content and 70 percent client-generated content that promotes messages at their own sites.

Graham II, DSCE, is manager of operating information systems for West Virginia University, Morgantown. He can be reached at spencer.graham@mail.wvu.edu.

Graham will be co-presenting "Digital Signage in Education" at Digital Signage Expo 2013, Las Vegas, Feb. 26-28. DSE is the world's largest international trade show dedicated to digital signage, interactive technology and out-of-home networks. For more information about DSE or to register to join this or any other seminar to learn more about digital signage in education go to www.DSEnow.com.

Follow Graham's blog: http://swgraham2.wordpress.com/category/digital-signage/

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