Commencement season is one of my favorite parts of working in higher ed communications. Gearing up to send a fresh batch of Dukies out into the world, all glowing with accomplishment and brimming with promise, makes for a lot of work and long days, but is one of the most personally gratifying projects I work on each year.
And when your boss hands down the task of coming up with an innovative new way to announce this year’s commencement speaker, it’s time to get pretty creative. After all, we announce a commencement speaker every year, and we’ve done it the same way for as long as anyone can remember. But at Duke, we like to think of ourselves as “big idea people.” We aim for the Pie In The Sky and see where we land. We’re also fortunate to have an extremely supportive team of leaders who encourage us to think BIG and run with it. And this time we really went for it.
We learned that Apple CEO Tim Cook would be this year’s commencement speaker only a few weeks after the launch of the iPhone X, which gave Apple’s jazzy Animoji ads just enough time to make the rounds on social media. In our team’s brainstorming meeting, I threw out the idea of making something similar to announce Cook as this year’s speaker and things snowballed from there into the end result: two students and Duke President Vincent Price – and their Animojis – introducing Cook as our commencement speaker.
We could have rolled the video on our social channels and left it at that, but since we really wanted to make a splash with the students, we arranged to have the video on the jumbotron at Cameron Indoor Stadium during a Duke men’s basketball game. And the reaction was better than we could have ever hoped for.
What everyone didn’t see was the weeks of hard work and late nights that went into making this project. Here’s a look at some of the behind-the-scenes work (and play) that made the magic happen:
Even Duke’s President Vincent Price was game. Behold, a series:
And here’s a look at how those of us not lucky enough to be designated as “talent” spent the day: