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Agriculture Communication

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Designing a Powerful Publication


Sept. 6, 2019 - Where do you begin when you start to design or redesign something? Whether it’s a “save the date” card or a flyer, the bullets below will help you move your design from amateurish to professional.

  • Sample Flyer

    Start with the focal point. Decide what it is you want readers to see first. Create your focal point with strong contrasts.
  • Group your information into logical groups, and decide on the relationships between these groups. Display those relationships with the closeness or lack of closeness (proximity) of the groups.
  • As you arrange the type and graphics on the page, create and maintain strong alignments. If you see a strong edge, such as a photograph or vertical line, strengthen it with the alignments of other text or objects.
  • Create a repetition, or find items that can have a repetitive connection. Use a bold typeface or a rule or a dingbat. Look at what is already repeated naturally, and see if it would be appropriate to add more strength to it.
  • Make sure you have strong contrasts that will attract the reader’s eye. Remember — contrast is contrast. If everything on the page is big, bold and flashy, then there is no contrast! Whether it is contrasting by being bigger and bolder or by being smaller and lighter, the point is that it is different and so your eye is attracted to it.
    Source: The Non-Designer’s Design Book by Robin Williams

To dig deeper into these concepts, go to Powerful Publications to learn how to make your designs more sophisticated.

Deb Tanner, Graphic Designer, 701-231-7891

David Haasser, Graphic Designer, 701-231-8620

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The Rule of Seven

The Rule of SevenSept. 5, 2019 - I recently judged the 4-H Beef Showmanship contest at the Minnesota State Fair. More than 550 contestants showed their animals in 38 classes. After each class, I asked the observers to honor the contestants with a round of applause as they exited the ring.

After about 12 classes, I sounded like a broken record and started to second guess whether I should keep asking the crowd to applaud.  My marketing and branding background quickly took over when I realized that even though I was saying the same thing over and over again, my audience was changing each time. As new contestants entered the show ring, new audience members sat down on the bleachers to watch. I could see the look of pride on the faces of parents, grandparents, 4-H leaders and friends, as they clapped for their chosen contestant. I learned that day that even though I was tired of saying the same thing over and over, my changing audience was hearing it for the first time.

The Rule of Seven is a marketing principle that says a potential customer needs to see or hear our marketing message at least seven times before they take action.

The same principle applies to our NDSU marketing and branding messages. It can feel uncreative and repetitive to use the same green and yellow color scheme and the same branded templates each time we create a promotional piece for a program or field day, but many times our audience is new and/or hasn’t noticed our message.

For example, let’s look at seven different ways an NDSU Research Extension Center could market and brand an upcoming field day:

  1. An NDSU-branded flyer posted at local agricultural businesses
  2. An NDSU-branded postcard sent to past field day participants
  3. A post on the REC’s Facebook page with a photo or graphic
  4. A news release sent to local media
  5. Asking the field day’s presenters to share about the event on their social media channels
  6. A blog post on the REC’s webpage
  7. Using NDSU-branded PowerPoint templates during the field day

Though we can’t guarantee that one person will see all of these marketing messages, we can hope a combination of these methods would help a potential field day participant make the connection that it is an NDSU event, choose to come to the event, and understand that NDSU research scientists, specialists and staff helped contribute to the educational experience.

The NDSU branding guidelines and the NDSU Extension branded templates are great resources to help you better market and brand our information.

Remember, just because we are familiar with NDSU doesn’t mean our audiences are familiar with all the programs and information we provide. We have to be diligent about helping them make the connection and subsequently recognizing the value and impact of our work.

, Information Specialist, 701-231-6136

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Cross Promote Your Web Updates and Social Media Posts (9/05/19)

Any time you update your website could be an opportunity to share an event or program on your social media channels (if it fits your social media strategy). For instance, if you embed a new video on your website, you can’t expect that people will just stumble across it while searching. “If you build it, they will come may work for baseball fields but not web updates.

Your website audience might differ from your social media audience(s) so it’s a good idea to cover your bases to ensure new web content is seen. For example, if adding a new video or a field day announcement, link to those as a social media post.

Likewise, your social media channels should link back to your website, whether it’s Facebook’s “About” page, “Link in Bio” on Instagram or web info on Twitter. 

This gives your social media followers a chance to learn more about who you are and what you do and another way to contact you.

Examples of links back to websites on social media:

Follow NDSU Extension on Facebook:

NDSU Extension Facebook

Follow NDSU Extension on Twitter

NDSU Extension Twitter

, Web Technology Specialist, 701-231-6403

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Write the Right Word: Spelling Can Affect Words’ Meanings

Just a few letters can make a big difference in the meaning of a word. Here are four examples:

  • Accept/except

“Accept” means to receive. For example: “I accept your offer to give me a ride.”

“Except” means to exclude. For instance: “I will take all of the books except the dictionary because it is too heavy to carry.”

  • Adverse/averse

“Adverse” means unfavorable. “I hope we don’t have adverse weather the day of the groundbreaking.”

“Averse” means reluctant or opposed to something. “She is averse to change.”

  • Allusion/illusion

An “allusion” is an indirect reference to something or someone. “He alluded to an earlier argument.”

An “illusion” is an unreal or false impression. “The painter created the illusion of motion in his masterpiece.”

  • Principal/principle

A “principal” is someone or something first in rank, authority or importance. “He is the principal at the new high school.” Principal also is the amount of money borrowed in a loan.

A “principle” is a fundamental truth, law, doctrine or motivating force. “All internal combustion engines work on the same principles.”

Ellen Crawford, Information Specialist, 701-231-5391

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Tips for Running Facebook Contests

FB Contest
A graphic promoting a contest on the Family Table Facebook page, featuring a photo of the prizes and instructions for entering.

If the engagement numbers on your Facebook Page are low or you just want get more people to follow your page, consider trying a Facebook contest. Facebook used to require pages to use third-party apps to run contests, but they have loosened the restrictions. Now you can run a contest with a simple post if you keep a few things in mind.

  • Don't break the law. For example, don't require contestants to spend money to enter. If you do, you might be breaking local, state or federal gambling laws.
  • Don't require people to share on their personal timelines or tag their friends. Facebook policy prohibits those practices. You can boil it down to don't be spammy or creepy. Allow people to enter by commenting on a post or posting to your Page's timeline.
  • Have a goal in mind. Let your goal dictate your contest rules. For example, if you want to boost your engagement numbers, ask people to comment on a post. if you want more follows, ask them to follow.
  • Keep it simple. Don't give people 3 or 4 different ways to enter. That will make it hard on you, and it may cause them to not enter at all because they can't choose which method they want to use. If you are using a single post for entry, make sure you pin the post to the top of your page, so people can easily find it for the duration of the contest.

If you want more tips and ideas, here's a great blog post from HootSuite with much more information.

Good luck!

Bob Bertsch, Web Technology Specialist, 701-231-7381

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Write the Right Word: Possessives

Possessives (indicating ownership) can be tricky.

When do I add an “s”? When do I add an “es”? Where does the apostrophe go?

Here are some basic rules:

  • If the word doesn’t end with an “s,” add ’s. For example: the alumni’s contributions, women’s rights, the church’s needs, the girl’s toys
  • Simply add the apostrophe if the word ends in “s.” For instance: churches’ needs, horses’ food, states’ rights, VIPs’ entrance
  • Add ’s if the word ends with an “x” or “z.” For instance: Butz’s policies, fox’s den, Marx’s theories, Xerox’s profits
  • For words ending with “ss,” add ’s. For example: hostess’s invitation, witness’s answer, witness’s story
  • With proper names ending in “s,” just add an apostrophe. For example: Dickens’ novels, Jules’ seat, Agnes’ book

, Information Specialist, 701-231-5391



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Your Email Signature Still Matters

NoBisonLogoJuly 2, 2019 - The bison logo. Crazy colors. Funky fonts. I’ve seen all of these things in email signatures. While it might be tempting to want to jazz up your signature to show off your personality, it’s important to follow the NDSU email signature standards

Remember, Bison mascot logos are trademarked and are the property of NDSU Athletics, and are not to be used in your email signature. They are to be only used for materials related to athletics, or with permission from NDSU Athletics. All NDSU departments, centers and academic units are required to follow consistent university branding guidelines and may not create additional logos.

When email signatures were originally developed, they were an easy way for people to include their name and contact information at the end of an email. Since then, they’ve evolved into electronic business cards.

Much of the work we do focuses on building connections, some of them through social media platforms. If you’d like to add appropriate social media icons to your email signature, Bob Bertsch has developed a tutorial.

If your email signature is consistent and looks professional it will convey that our organization is consistent and professional. Not only will your signature communicate your professionalism to anyone who receives it, but it will also provide instant brand recognition for NDSU.

If you have any questions about creating your email signature please let me know.

, Information Specialist, 701-231-6136

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Cache Might Be a Culprit


Your browser cache can sometimes cause problems while working in Ag CMS. Sometimes, your website changes are displaying. Or you may see some basic Plone themeing like this: Plone theme


Browser cookies and cache help you use the web more efficiently by not having to re-download websites after you visit them more than once. Bob Bertsch wrote a great article explaining this further.

So if you're seeing the above themeing or not seeing changes you made in Ag CMS displaying, try clearing your cache and cookies.

See this article on how to clear cache and cookies for the major browsers.

If you need help following any of those steps, contact Bob Bertsch or me.

, Web Technology Specialist, 701-231-6403

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Write the Right Word: More Sound-alikes

Don’t get tripped up by words that sound alike but don’t mean the same thing.

“Affect” and “effect” and “accept” and “except” are two prime examples.

“Effect,” as a verb, means to accomplish or cause something. “She will effect many changes during her term as 4-H club president.” As a verb, “affect” means to influence something or someone. “The weather affects producers’ planting decisions.”

“Effect,” as a noun, means result. “The cool, dry weather had an effect on forage production.” Avoid “affect” as a noun. It refers to an emotional state and rarely is used outside of psychological circles.

“Accept” means to receive something willingly. “I accepted his explanation for being late again.” “Except” indicates inclusion. “I can attend every meeting except the one this week.”

, Information Specialist, 701-231-5391


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Computer Security, Software and Support


Starting next month, Windows 7 will need a specific pair of security patches installed in order to continue receiving security updates.  This is due to new security changes Microsoft is rolling out to their update service.  While on-campus computers have already been patched, computers not connected to NDSU's network could be at risk.  To help you avoid these issues, we've created a support tool that will help identify at-risk computers and provide links to the necessary patches.  You can download the Windows 7 Security Update Scan from our website at


Please note that we recently began working with NDSU ITS to make the SAS 9.4 and SPSS 25 installations available via Microsoft Software Center.  Distributing it this way will provide people the ability to install it at their convenience without the trouble of knowing how to configure it or needing to schedule an appointment.

You can access the Software Center by clicking on Start -> Microsoft System Center -> Software Center.  Once the window opens, just check the box next to the software you want to install and click the blue Install button in the bottom right corner. 


Just a friendly reminder that our Support Guidelines are available online. If you're ever curious about what support we offer or what kind of computer you should buy, you might find many of those answers here.


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