When I joined the Husky Communications digital agency last fall, our client was a faculty-led initiative, the Northeastern Lab for Inclusive Entrepreneurship, which had just received funding from the university’s Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (ODEI) to conduct research on supplier diversity in higher education. The goal was to present the research findings at a May 2022 symposium.  

Our challenge was to build awareness of the lab’s work and boost registrations for the symposium. We started almost from scratch. The lab’s social media channels had fewer than 20 followers.  

 Over the next 6 months, our PR team combined market research, organic outreach, infographics, and pay-per-click ads to build the social brand and attract three times the expected attendance, both in-person and virtual, at the symposium.  

Here is the step-by-step process we followed: 

  • Know your client, their story, and their objectives 
  • Tell the story through on-brand infographics 
  • Utilize pay per click (PPC) on social media (LinkedIn for this project)
  • Monitor your online registration (Eventbrite in this case) and emails throughout the campaign 

Meet Your Client and Know Their Objectives

The Lab for Inclusive Entrepreneurship was created by a team of College of Professional Studies faculty to support Northeastern University’s commitment to supplier diversity. It’s a well-known fact that small businesses, especially those owned by women and minorities, face major barriers to doing business with colleges and universities. And higher education is a big business, purchasing billions of dollars worth of products and services every year. 

The faculty team wanted to explore the perceptions of diverse small businesses using a survey. Based on the results, they developed a report titled Promoting Supplier Diversity in Higher Education: Barriers and Opportunities. Their plan was to share the key findings of the research at a symposium and establish the lab as a ‘thought leader’ on this topic. 

As a team, we needed to spend time with our clients to fully understand the concept of supplier diversity. One of my teammates, who had not heard of the concept, was able to summarize why supplier diversity matters: “…[it] levels the playing field for all businesses, especially minority-owned ones who don’t get as many opportunities, … and provides a path to economic justice.”

Tell a Complex Story Through Social Media Graphics

Supplier diversity is a complex issue. Our challenge was to build awareness of why it matters for small business owners and the higher education employees who work with suppliers of products and services. We also wanted to highlight the credentials and experience of the guest panelists who would be featured speakers at the symposium. 

According to Sprout Social, good marketers educate and attract their audience, while establishing brand authority and adding value to the brand. Professor Christina Inge, who guided our project at Husky Communications, showed us how her own firm, Thoughtlight, helped a client with their event promotion using educational infographics. The client wanted to promote an event about combating internet misinformation, and Thoughtlight helped create educational infographics to promote the event on social media, resulting in high attendance and positive feedback.  

The lab’s faculty members reviewed the survey data they collected with us, and we were able to understand the struggles minority-owned businesses face. From there, we developed infographics to effectively illustrate supplier diversity challenges to those not familiar with the issue.

A couple of tips when creating content for your client: 

  • Make sure it is understandable to the target audience.  
  • Make sure it is on brand.  
That is, you follow the client’s brand visual template (font, colors, etc.) when choosing templates on Canva or other similar tool. Here are examples of a few different infographics created by our team. Our client uses a single Northeastern web creator, and we would need to use the same simple lines, fonts, and styles.

Monitor Registrations and Email Marketing Activity 

Once we had the materials ready, we promoted the event on LinkedIn using pay-per-click, in order to get email signups. Once we had an email list, we wrote emails to encourage people to sign up for the symposium to learn more about supplier diversity. We used HubSpot and Eventbrite for event promotion.  

For every email, we tracked down the numbers to see how we could motivate people to click on the links in the email through better designs and writing. HubSpot allows you to see how many people read through the emails, clicked on any link, or unsubscribed you.  

Eventbrite has its own analytics section, where you may monitor how many people viewed your event, registered, and where they came from (e.g., Google search, direct link, referral, etc). 

Assess the results  

The May symposium was a success. Our promotional campaign attracted 135 online participants, three times the expected attendance. As Francesca Grippa, the director of the Lab for Inclusive Entrepreneurship, commented: “Our Supplier Diversity Symposium was a great success. Many thanks to our wonderful speakers, whose incredible insights made the session truly inspirational and useful. And thank you to the PR students at Husky Communications for your dedication to forging new connections and spreading the word about the event.” 

Our first Supplier Diversity Symposium was a great success. Many thanks to our wonderful speakers… Your incredible insights made the session truly inspirational and useful. And thank you to the PR & communications students at Husky Communications for your dedication to forging new connections and spreading the word about the event.
Francesca Grippa

Northeastern Lab for Inclusive Entrepreneurship

Thank you to Northeastern University for inviting us to the Supplier Diversity Symposium for an important discussion about the small business community!… Todays conversation focused on providing accessible opportunities for MWBEs, the procurement process at the university and how small businesses are facing a lack of support and knowledge in the industry.
Margarita Polanco

Regional Supplier Diversity Manager at DPR Construction

By Xinyi Zhang

M.S. in Corporate and Organizational Communication CPS ‘22