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Concordia earns 2 major communications awards

The university takes home gold for Best Practices in Advancement Services and bronze for the NOW newsletter from CASE District 1
February 15, 2019


District I of the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) has awarded two top prizes to Concordia.

Concordia earned the 2019 Gold Award in Best Practices in Advancement Services from CASE District I for its change communications campaign during the implementation of a new advancement information system (AIS).

The award is one of seven in the CASE International Platinum category, which recognizes the “best of the best” programs and practices in educational advancement.

Concordia also received the Bronze Award for Online News Sites and Newsletters in the Marketing and Communications category for the university’s NOW newsletter. Boston University picked up both gold and silver in the same category for its daily news website and research website respectively.

District I is the regional chapter of CASE, representing universities, colleges and independent schools from northeastern United States and eastern Canada. District I presents its annual Excellence Awards in the fields of special events, fundraising, stewardship, volunteer engagement, alumni relations, student alumni initiatives, advancement services and communications.

The awards follow a 2018 CASE International win, when a Concordia campaign geared toward preventing sexual violence and promoting consent received a Platinum for Best Practices in Communications and Marketing. The campaign also snagged the Gold Award for Best Practices in Communications and Marketing from CASE District I.

‘An authentic and transparent tone and approach’

The 2019 gold medal-winning change communications project highlighted the approach and outputs that targeted the AIS project team, steering committee and Advancement and Alumni Relations staff throughout the implementation of Gazelle, the new AIS.

The main objective was to support the team at a critical time, as it launched the Campaign for Concordia: Next-Gen. Now, the university’s most ambitious campaign in its history, with a goal of $250 million.

“With such a large-scale implementation project, it was important to engage all key stakeholders — from executives to end-users — to take ownership both of what we were building for the future and how we wanted to work together,” wrote Helen Downie (BA 11, MA 16), change management lead for the AIS project, and Ellen Gee, AIS manager, in the awards submission.

“Throughout the implementation, change communications came through formal and informal means, aspiring to maintain an authentic and transparent tone and approach.”

The strategies effectively exposed more than half of staff to the new AIS and the changes that would impact them before it went live.

“This exposure was facilitated by the ownership that business process owners, subject-matter experts and super-users developed both in response to the change communication strategy of the project team and the engagement of their own teams.”

A better, more targeted NOW newsletter

In 2017, Concordia’s e-newsletter, NOW, underwent a major redesign. The news team at University Communications Services wanted to increase the timeliness and targeting of student content so it supported them, while creating a more active and direct conversation with the entire community about campus life and research.

Example screenshots of the bulletins sent out to 35,000 undergraduate and 8,000 graduate students every week. Example screenshots of the bulletins sent out to 35,000 undergraduate and 8,000 graduate students every week.

“Our objective was to cement the NOW newsletter as the primary source of campus news that recipients look forward to opening,” says Tom Peacock, news team lead.

“We wanted the articles to convey enthusiasm and excitement about the things that define Concordia’s mission: forward-thinking teaching and learning, cutting-edge research and community engagement.”

Since the launch of the redesign in January 2017, there are six different versions of NOW being sent out to various audiences within the Concordia community:

  • Weekly to 35,000 undergraduate students
  • Weekly to 8,000 graduate students
  • Weekly to faculty and staff
  • Monthly to 8,000 first-year students
  • Monthly to managers
  • Monthly to the public

Special themed NOW newsletters are also scheduled for key times during the academic year. Notably, the first-year welcome specials in June 2018 had unique open rates of 108 per cent for undergrads and 116 per cent for graduate students, meaning that recipients forwarded them on to others who also opened them.

In 2016, NOW had 208,043 unique opens of the email newsletter in the spring term and 230,255 in the fall. In 2017, following the redesign, these numbers jumped to 334,366 and 378,048, and in 2018, they remained solid, with 323,477 unique opens that spring.

Find out more about Concordia’s Advancement and Alumni Relations. Sign up to receive the NOW newsletter by email.

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