Northern Alberta Institute of Technology

NAIT website wins international award

Techlifetoday earns kudos for external electronic newsletter or blog from CASE District VIII.

When it comes to telling NAIT's story, there's no shortage of material.

From enterprising grads breaking ground in alternative energy to alumni on the front lines of raging wildfires to expert advice about de-stigmatizing mental health, NAIT is a fount of compelling stories of learning and impact.

For its efforts in telling those stories, the polytechnic's brand newsroom, techlifetoday, won gold from the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) District VIII. The award recognizes excellence in external newsletters and blogs and featured competition from post-secondary institutions across Western Canada and the Pacific Northwest.

“New technologies have completely changed the world around us, especially when considering how we communicate with each other and interact with brands,” says Susan Cline, executive director of NAIT's marketing and communications department, which produces techlifetoday.

techlifetoday editors Scott Messenger and Sherri Krastel“The success of techlifetoday.ca as our brand newsroom speaks to the creativity and forward-thinking qualities of our team in understanding the steps we needed to take on digital platforms with shareable content, and with storytelling that speaks to the essence of who we are and what we do.

“I’m tremendously proud of our editor and writers and all of our content contributors.”

When it launched the website in July 2016, NAIT was among the first post-secondary institutions in Canada to fully embrace a brand journalism style of storytelling. Instead of publishing institutional announcements, techlifetoday focuses on telling compelling stories — like feature profiles of alumni, how-to and expert advice, student success stories and news about the institute of interest to the broader community.

Like any good story, the focus is about people.

"It's wonderful to have an opportunity to provide people with stories that are useful but also inspiring," says Scott Messenger, techlifetoday's editor and one of its primary writers. “From a storytelling perspective, it's great fun.”

Evolution of a brand newsroom

A "significant amount of work" went into researching, developing and launching the site — a process Messenger says took more than a year and involved collaboration between dozens of writers, videographers, photographers, designers, illustrators, marketers, brand experts and web developers. NAIT leadership also offered input and support.

"To have all the different perspectives from the very beginning made for a very robust storytelling platform," Messenger says. "We knew that if we got it right, we had an opportunity to be leaders in that space."

Having that digital space not only expands NAIT's presence in the community, it opens doors for other kinds of storytelling, Messenger says, from more timely subject matter not suited to print to video to social media content.

“Storytelling has become a real buzzword in corporate sectors, but it’s still important because that’s what your audience wants from you. It’s just how human beings relate to one another.”

Techlifetoday was also shortlisted for an award for best website from the Alberta Magazine Publishers Association. Winners will be announced on March 8.

CASE District VIII Awards were handed out Feb. 8 in Seattle, WA.

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