A fond farewell to a colleague and friend

I'm back! Apologies for the brief blogging hiatus, but I was so swamped at work these past few weeks that I had to step back a bit in order to keep my sanity. The craziness is in the rearview mirror now, thank goodness, and blogging will return to its regularly scheduled programming.

BUT... before I dive back into highlighting examples of great social media work in the higher ed world, I am dedicating today's post to my friend and, alas, now former coworker Jeff Kennel.

A typical work day for me and Jeff. Also, this is probably the best photo I've ever taken.

A typical work day for me and Jeff. Also, this is probably the best photo I've ever taken.

Jeff is an amazing talent, and in just a few years working in higher ed marketing has won a cabinet full of CASE awards recognizing his work, including gold medals in both 2013 and 2014.

We've worked together for the past few years on a wide range of videos and photo projects, and I've learned an immense amount from him about storytelling, artistry, being "real" with the work we do, and the power of creating great content. I've been so lucky to have such a great coworker who has helped bring out the best in my own professional work, and as I reflect on the work we've accomplished together, I am seeing that I owe him way more than I even realized.

Friday was his last day at University of Portland, and he's heading off to work for the ridiculously fortunate marketing department at Humboldt State University, where his fabulous wife Mia will be starting an academic program.

Since this is my blog and my rules, I'm going to post a bunch of stuff that we have worked on together over the years, both as a way to look back over our times together and as a way to honor him and his ability as a photographer and videographer. He will be very, very missed... though I suppose I won't mind having our office to myself for a month or two.  :)

TV Commercials

In the summer of 2012, our wonderful boss Laurie (for reasons known only to her) trusted Jeff and me to create a series of commercials that would be shown locally during the summer Olympics and would help promote our upcoming athletics seasons. We ended up making five 30 second commercials that summer. These ended up winning several awards from CASE, including a Gold for this one featuring basketball player Korey Thieleke:

This commercial is near and dear to my heart not only because Korey is a great guy, but because of the ridiculousness of the shoot. The only thing we spent money on for these commercials was to have the audio professionally recorded, so Jeff and I had to get pretty creative. We really wanted to get some "dolly shots" with the camera moving parallel to Korey from all angles as he dribbled toward the hoop. But we don't have that type of equipment handy, so I ended up pushing Jeff around in a rolling chair, trying my best to keep it steady and straight. We also didn't have a ladder or lift that could get us high enough to get the top-shot of the dunk, and I'll never forget the image of Jeff literally standing on top of the backboard, with me holding his legs in a somewhat vain attempt to steady him as Korey kept dunking over and over. 

Our first foray into TV commercials was a success, and we ended up making two more new ones in the summer of 2013, this time for general branding of the University rather than highlighting individual students. It was a challenge, but I'm really proud of what we put together, and they are still airing regularly on TV here in Portland.

The first seven videos on this playlist are ones we created together:

Social Media Projects

Jeff and I both feel the same way about the importance of creating good, fun, and cool content for social media, so whenever we could carve out some time away from our other duties we put a priority on creating content specifically for social. Typical examples are this slow motion video booth and "What's the Last Photo on Your Phone?" video:

When we weren't making videos, we also did a lot of photo projects, including creating an enormously popular campus fashion photo series in which we would go out on campus on a sunny day every few months over the past two years to snap shots of stylish students and professors. A sampling (click on the photo to view more):

We would also did things like a Valentine's Day photo booth with props, and - most recently - a puppy takeover of UP's Instagram and Twitter accounts.

We also launched UP's successful Instagram page together at the end of 2012, and a few months ago - inspired by examples from other colleges - we launched a Humans of UP Facebook page and Tumblr that were instantly popular. Samples of photos from that (click on the photo to view more):


These photo projects often accumulate more than 100,000 photo views every time we do one - not too shabby for a Facebook page with only 15,000+ fans - and I was really excited when the UP Facebook page had well over a million total photo views in 2013. And so far in 2014 we're well on our way to surpassing last year's record amount... we're already at 625,000 photo views in less than four and a half months. (While I'm bragging on Jeff's behalf - our videos have also been viewed nearly 300,000 times since the start of 2013.)

Jeff deserves the lion's share of credit for these successes - he produces such great photos and videos that people want to share them, tag themselves in them, re-watch them, etc. Having a good idea will only take you so far... you also need to execute it.

Videos for Admissions, Development, and Athletics

Sometimes we would get called into duty to create videos for other departments, which would sometimes be fun and sometimes be annoying. (Annoying only because we felt like we did our best work creating content for external audiences rather than internal ones.) 

One of the more fun projects was making some videos for admissions. UP continues to get more and more applications from outside the Pacific Northwest, so they needed some videos to showcase the city of Portland and the surrounding area as well as the campus itself. Jeff and I ended up trekking all around the state (as seen in the photo at the top of the page), doing everything from wading through chest-deep water in a spectacular gorge to running around on the Pacific coast. Not a bad gig.

We also made a series of short videos for the development office to help promote a participation challenge to get young alumni to donate to a proposed new recreation and wellness center. Jeff and I fought pretty hard for the concept that we came up with - silly little clips that would make people laugh and (hopefully) share on social media. It took a bit of convincing, but they proved to be both popular and successful at achieving the task. Here's a playlist of them:

Lastly, we also were called to duty for the athletics department to make anything and everything from promos to intro videos to sponsor ads. There are a lot of things to choose from here, but here's one of the sillier things we did - an ad for SmartCar featuring our nearly 7 foot tall basketball coach, which also happens to be (I think) the second video Jeff and I ever worked on together:

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There is a lot more stuff I could showcase... this is but a sampling of the work we collaborated on and created together.

Jeff will be dearly missed, and I know this - if you aren't following Humboldt State on social media, you should do it know... they just hired an extremely talented and creative content creator.

To end this, here's a video about a remarkable UP student named Sam Bridgman that Jeff created for his journalism master's program. It has won several awards, including a Gold medal from CASE. (I wasn't involved at all in the creation of this video.) I think it shows Jeff at his best - as a storyteller and artist whose ultimate goal is to make a positive impact on the communities he lives in.

Farewell, Jeff! 

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