Late last year, I saw an opening on LinkedIn for the first Social Media Director at the University of Michigan. As my wife was originally from Michigan, I submitted a 10-page application with a two-page resume, cover letter, professional biography, and a 30-60-90 day business plan. I even placed Facebook and Google ads aimed at Communications Department staff at The University, which my wife said was complete overkill. Only last week did I hear back that the position had been filled – I never got called for an interview, and I found out why: because I was up against the likes of Lindsay Blackwell.
Last month, I was searching to see if the position had been filled and came upon http://www.dearlisarudgers.com/ - a website conceived, developed, and designed by Lindsay Blackwell and directed solely at Lisa Rudgers, the Vice President for Global Communications and Strategic Initiatives at University of Michigan and I was
stunned amazed floored.
Please take a few minutes to check out http://www.dearlisarudgers.com/ before coming back to finish reading this post.
The website was a huge success and completely designed and launched in a single weekend. The site went viral and she received lots of community support, from alumni and staff, and she did receive a first-round interview with The University. She did what someone in that role would do: use the power of Social Media to create a campaign that would get her noticed. Once I saw the site, I was rooting for Lindsay too!
Lindsay also received a lot of coverage from folks like Fox Detroit, Michigan Live, The Detroit News, and AnnArbor.com. A2.com also did a followup recapping Lindsay’s story (and conducted an interview with Jordan Miller, the person ultimately selected for the Social Media Director role – but don’t fret, there’s still a happy ending.
Q&A With Lindsay
Lindsay got called for an interview.So, how did the interview go? What happened? She keeps us up to date on the site itself, but I reached out to her via email to get the inside scoop. Here’s her story in her words:
Q: How’d you find out about the UM posting?
Lindsay: In the ultimate display of irony (or fate), I first heard about the job opening through social media. Several friends brought it to my attention on Facebook and Google chat. Several very wonderful friends. I probably owe them a few drinks.
Q: What made you think of approaching the application this way?
Lindsay: It wasn’t any one particular thing. I knew my resume wouldn’t speak to my abilities in this industry on its own, so I decided I’d need to cook up a better way to get the University’s attention–namely the attention of Lisa Rudgers, UM’s VP of Global Communications, who was leading the University’s search.
Q: How long did it take you from planning to launch?
Lindsay: I heard about the job on a Wednesday. After spending the better part of my Thursday evening reading articles and blogs about recent ‘new era’ job hunting efforts and coming up blank, the idea to create an interactive cover letter suddenly occurred to me for no apparent reason.
I came home from work Friday evening and immediately began building a site. Oh, and I bought http://www.dearlisarudgers.com. The best $11 I’ve ever spent (the domain is now worth approximately $4,000, according to the most recent Alexa rankings).
I worked more or less straight through the weekend (my best friend–and eventual campaign manager–forced me to take a food-and-oxygen break on Saturday afternoon) and launched the website around 4 AM Monday morning on Facebook, Twitter, and in an email to my family and friends.
After launch, I embarked–with the help of several dear friends–on a full-scale social media campaign surrounding dearlisarudgers.com. My campaign manager kept track of the campaign’s progress from 9 to 5 while I was at work, and every evening we debriefed on the day’s events–who was talking about or covering the campaign and why–to strategize next steps.
I launched several phases of the campaign in the weeks that followed, including the @dearlisarudgers Twitter account, where visitors to the site were encourage to write their own letters to Lisa; the “Updates” section of the site, where fans could follow my progress and press in real-time; and the video updates, to give my story and site an actual face.
Q: Did you produce all the creative/design/development yourself?
Lindsay: Yep! I’ve freelanced as a graphic designer since my last year of college. I’m responsible for the look and feel of the site, but I did use wix.com to create my template–I’m not that skilled in Flash. And yes, I know, Flash isn’t the best. But for a gal with minimal programming knowledge and a big idea she needed to get out of her head and onto the Internet–and fast–it worked. Web developers (and iPhone owners) weep.
I also am responsible for developing the campaign strategy and the different phases of ‘Dear Lisa,’ but I couldn’t have managed it without the help of several dear friends and family members, who helped me keep track of social sprawl and press coverage while I was at work. I’m forever grateful to every single friend, new and old, who helped to spread my campaign. The site has had over 22,000 unique visitors in 83 countries since its launch. It’s truly incredible.
Q: How did AASO (Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra, Lindsay’s employer at the time) coworkers hear about your application? What did your boss think?
Lindsay: I told them the day I launched the site. Everyone was very supportive, including my boss–they’ve all known since I started at the Symphony that my heart is in social media, and I wasn’t getting to do much of it there. And I’m working just down the street now, so I’m still very much in touch! They’ve just hired a wonderful replacement for my former position, too.
Q: How were you contacted by Ingenex (Lindsay’s New Employer)?
Lindsay: In another outstanding display of irony, Derek (the CEO and my new boss) first contacted me on Twitter. I had chosen not to pursue any outside opportunities until I heard back one way or the other from the University–but when January hit and I still hadn’t heard about a second interview (I’d been told I’d hear just after Thanksgiving), I decided to meet with Derek. Ingenex is an incredible company and Derek is a tremendously smart guy with an equally talented team–I couldn’t resist.
Q: How long have you been there? What do they do?
Lindsay: This was my first full week! I started last Wednesday, the same day I’d been already scheduled to speak about ‘Dear Lisa’ at LA2M (Lunch Ann Arbor Marketing, an educational nonprofit the Ingenex crew founded and runs)–everything about this process has been very fortuitous! Derek and I even share the same birthday.
Ingenex Digital Marketing is a leading internet marketing firm focused on producing results through social media marketing, web design, SEO, SEM, digital public relations, and web analytics. Basically, Ingenex is an agency comprised of a whole lot of people who are really, really, really good at anything and everything digital–their work speaks for itself.
At Ingenex, I’ll be responsible for creating, implementing, and monitoring comprehensive social media strategies for our clients–and working with the rest of the Ingenex team to ensure that our branding strategies are cohesive, consistent, and clever. Our focus in social media marketing is on utilizing the social space to create unique digital experiences for our clients, which in turn will cultivate better relationships between company and consumer.
Q: Do you have any advice for aspiring graduates or Social Media managers for producing campaigns that go viral?
Lindsay: Be honest. That’s solid life advice, too, but the same is true in social media and viral strategy. There will always be content that goes viral for its own reasons without any actual marketing efforts–but when you’re talking about crafting content with the hope of viral spread, I think the most important thing is to be genuine and transparent about your message, your company, etc. The Internet may seem vast and wildly temperamental, but at its root is a community of people–and people like to share stories about other people, not the prosaic content so many companies waste time pushing out to the public. Give people something to interact with. Social media is ultimately about conversations–construct your content in a listening framework, and you’ll invite success.
And there you have it. Lindsay didn’t end up with the gig, but she did set a new standard for Social Media job applications, and did end up with a new job afterall. Read more about her journey at http://www.dearlisarudgers.com/.
What are your thoughts and questions? Share them below!
Check out an UPDATE to story on Lindsay Blackwell where she’s interviewed on national news!