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Talking Human-Centered Tactics with Dayana Kibilds

Josie and the Podcast. Talking Human-Centered Tacts with Dayana Kibilds

Dayana Kibilds sees content as a tool for equity, and strives to help students access the educational institutions they deserve to be a part of. She is also living for unapologetic joy and keeping her work in marketing and communications human-centered.

Dayana, or Day, is strategy director at Ologie, an employee-owned marketing and branding strategy built for education. Prior to Ologie, Day led enrollment and digital innovation work at Penn State, Cornell and Western University in Ontario, Canada. Day is also the host of Enrollify’s Talking Tactics podcast, and is co-authoring a book about email to be released in spring 2024. 

From Mexico to Germany, Day’s career and homes have spanned the globe. And in this episode, we chat about them all. We’ll talk about making deliberate career choices and how she once left her job without a plan, how email is the ugly duckling of any communications or marketing mix, how her podcast Talking Tactics fills the gap she saw in higher ed, and a bit about how she is utilizing LinkedIn these days.

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Josie and the Podcast is produced in partnership with University FM, a podcast agency dedicated to higher education. University FM works with leading colleges and universities to tell stories on campus that build branding, drive engagement, and connect communities. Reach out to to connect on podcast strategy, production, and growth. We look forward to talking with you!

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Notes from this Episode:

More About Dayana Kidilds

Day is strategy director at Ologie, an employee-owned marketing and branding strategy built for education. Prior to Ologie, Day led enrollment and digital innovation work at Penn State, Cornell and Western (Canada). She regularly speaks about enrollment marketing, email strategy, productivity and stakeholder management at conferences worldwide. Day is the host of Enrollify’s Talking Tactics podcast, and is co-authoring a book about email to be released in spring 2024.

As a lifelong immigrant who has lived in six different countries, equity and diversity are really important to her. She sees content as a tool for equity, and part of her motivation to work in higher ed is to help students access the educational institutions they deserve to be a part of.

Connect with Dayana Kidilds

[00:00:00] Josie: Josie and the Podcast is produced by the team at University FM. They are a higher ed podcast agency, helping communicators build community, share research, and inspire thoughtful discussions with stories that resonate. Do you have a podcast idea and stuck on how to put it out into the world? Or, if you’re looking for help to grow your audience, they can get you moving in the right direction. Trust me, I know from personal experience. Podcast with ease and elevate your stories today. You can talk to them using the link in the show notes.

Hello, and welcome to Josie and the Podcast. I’m Josie, and I’m here to talk about what it means to lead in the digital space with heart and humanity. On my podcast, Josie and the Podcast, we’re answering this question with heart, soul, and lots of substance. My goal is to share conversations that encourage you, empower you, and entertain you to rethink digital strategy for yourself and the organizations you support.

Yeah, let’s get to know our featured guest today. Dayana Kibilds is a strategy director at Ologie, an employee-owned marketing and branding strategy built for education, prior to Ologie, Day, led enrollment and digital innovation work at Penn State, Cornell, and Western University in Canada. She regularly speaks about enrollment marketing, email strategy, productivity, and stakeholder management at conferences and on platforms like LinkedIn. Day is the host of Enrollify’s Talking Tactics Podcast and is co-authoring a book about email to be released in the spring of ‘24.

As a lifelong immigrant, she has lived in six different countries. So, we get talking about equity and diversity, of course, which are very important to her and myself. She sees content as a tool for equity. And part of her motivation to work in higher ed is to help students access the education institutions they deserve to very much be part of.

You can follow us both on all the socials. They’re linked in the show notes. The podcast is on X, Threads, and Instagram. I’m @JosieAhlquist, and Day is on Threads and LinkedIn. Everything we talk about — resources, people, and posts — are on my website, Enjoy!

Hello, Ms. Day!

[00:03:01] Dayana: Hi!

[00:03:02] Josie: I am excited to have you here today. I just rhymed. Not really, but…

[00:03:07] Dayana: That was beautiful. That was art, Josie.

[00:03:09] Josie: Yes, yes. I am… I’m a poet. That’s what this show is all about. I do think we’re going to talk poetry and writing and, I’m sure, a lot about email. But before we get into that, to get to know you a little bit more, I dug up some of your bios. And I know you have mixed feelings about Threads, but I did like your bio on Threads. It says, “Romeo’s mama, higher ed strategist at Ologie, host of Talking Tactics Podcast, living car-free, Latina, lived in, like, five different flag emojis, and now Canada flag emoji.” I know that one. React to any of those. Give us insight on a couple things and why you included it in your bio.

[00:03:58] Dayana: I mean, that used to be my Twitter bio, and I loved it, and I moved it over to Threads. So, it’s a good little snapshot of, I think, some of the most important things about me. First and foremost, Romeo’s mom. Romeo’s my son. I adore him. He’s my universe. I’m a higher ed strategist. I’ve been in higher ed for about 12, 13 years at this point, first working on campus, at Penn State and Cornell. And then, I moved to Canada and I worked at Western University for 5 years. And now, I’m actually agency side at Ologie, which means I get to work with dozens of institutions, which is great because you get to learn so much more.

In 2023, I launched a podcast with the Enrollify Podcast Network called Talking Tactics. We can talk a little bit more about that in a bit, too. But those personal things you mentioned at the end. So, I’m Latina. I was born in Venezuela. And I left when I was almost 10 years old. And I moved to the U.S., chasing the American dream, while my father was. And we were there for six years, and then we had to go, because we did not have permanent residency.

So, we moved to Mexico. And after Mexico, I moved to Germany to do my undergrad because I did not get accepted to any schools in the U.S., which is a whole story. And that’s why I talk a lot about content being a barrier because it was an admissions requirement mistake that I made. Funny that I do that now, right?

Then, from Germany, I moved back to Mexico, actually. I moved in with my high school boyfriend, who is now my husband. And we got married, and he got accepted to a PhD program in the United States. So, we moved back to the U.S. But in between that, I spent two months in South Africa, which is also a little flag emoji in my bio. From the PHD era at Penn State, we moved around in the U.S. quite a bit. And then, once he finished studying, he got a tenure track position at Western University in Canada. And that’s why we moved to Canada. And that was six years ago. So, yeah, it’s been six countries. A lot of states and cities in between, though.

[00:06:07] Josie: I have one of those boyfriend-to-husband move-in stories. I do not have all of these flag badges that I can now see the layers of richness of what you do and who you are contributing so much to, literally, your global influence.

[00:06:29] Dayana: I mean, honestly, those cultures all being so different, too. And I haven’t even ventured into, like, living in Asia or even visiting, but even just, like, Europe, North America, South America, like, you just very quickly realize you actually know nothing. And the things that you think are proper and right and obvious are not, are deeply not. It just really humbles you to move from culture to culture like that.

[00:06:56] Josie: Yeah. Well, we might have to circle back to that later with what you’re, what you’re getting into today.

[00:07:02] Dayana: Yes.

[00:07:02] Josie: So, you’re on a variety of different social media channels. On this podcast, we talk a lot about connecting life and leadership into what we do in digital spaces. I, of course, went scrolling through your stuff and found a couple of things. But was there something that you posted recently that you want to let us know what it was and why you shared it?

[00:07:25] Dayana: Yeah. So, there’s something on my mind right now that I posted on Threads very recently. And it came up for me because, well, obviously, we transitioned to a new year. So, we’re all reflective right now. But during this new year, transition and, obviously, the new year celebrations, we spent some time with family. And I got to spend some time with my nieces and nephews who are teenagers. And a lot of what is happening to them or in their lives right now, like, really made me reflect on when I was a teenager and, like, how embarrassing it is to show that you like anything, you know?

So, I posted something on Threads the other day that was like, one of the most horrible things that happens to us when we’re teenagers is that shame takes over joy, right? So, if you really like something, it’s like super uncool to really like something, you know. Like, for you to get excited, like, visibly excited about something is like a big no-no, right? So, we’re so ashamed to be uncool that we stop feeling these strong emotions.

[00:08:31] Josie: You have to play it cool.

[00:08:32] Dayana: Yeah. And I see it with them, like, they’re ice skating, or they’re in this beautiful Christmas market, or they’re taking Santa photos with their little cousins, and, like, they have to pretend it sucks, and that they don’t want to be in the picture. And you’re like, “No, this is actually magical at any age. Like, love it.”

That happens to all of us. I remember those feelings, like, oh, how embarrassing to really like whatever. And then, you know, moving from that, like, what the other part of the post is, like, the saddest thing that happens to us as adults is that it never goes away, right?

[00:09:06] Josie: Mm-hmm.

[00:09:07] Dayana: Like, we don’t go back and be unapologetic about our joy. Like, a lot of us are trying to save face or sometimes being overly enthusiastic about something or joyful about something. Like, other people might make fun of you or put you down. And it’s not so much that maybe we don’t feel the joy, it’s that other folks who haven’t realized, gotten rid of those shackles of shame, put you down for feeling joy. So, I’m like, “You know what? 2024 is going to be the year of unapologetic joy. If I like it, I am going to talk about it, and I am going to show you that I like it. And I don’t care if it’s uncool.”

[00:09:41] Josie: I love that. That has been a theme in all of my interviews, so far, this season, too. About being free, be yourself.

[00:09:49] Dayana: Yes.

[00:09:50] Josie: And again, this time of year is such a good opportunity to reflect and announce those things.

[00:09:56] Dayana: Yes.

[00:09:57] Josie: Well, let’s think about, Day, when you are the little, little, little cousin or kid. What was your earliest memories of using technology?

[00:10:08] Dayana: I love your questions, Josie. Like, you’ve taken me on this beautiful memory trip. My first memory, it was in the ‘90s, late ‘90s. No, early ‘90s. Doing the math right here. At our home in Venezuela, my dad was one of those early adopter types. So, he got a computer. It was, like, beige, you know, like, one of those, like, really old big computers. And all we had on it was this game that you played with a joystick that was like a prince that moved through different worlds, and Microsoft Paint. That’s all I used ever.

So, I would spend hours. And I’m talking, like, I must’ve been, I don’t know, seven, eight, very early computer time, not a lot of people had computers at home. Seven, eight years old, in front of the computer for hours, trying to recreate my favorite Disney movie posters on Microsoft Paint, pixel by pixel, like, pixel by pixel.

I, I was like, “I need this to be so precise.” I would zoom all the way in. And I remember vividly, like, Belle and the Beast, and, like, the yellow dress. And I couldn’t get her face defined enough. That’s my earliest memory of tech.

[00:11:22] Josie: This just explains so much why you’re a strategist.

[00:11:26] Dayana: I am unapologetically-

[00:11:29] Josie: I know.

[00:11:29] Dayana: … joyful about my nerdiness.

[00:11:34] Josie: Oh, my gosh. I love it.

[00:11:36] Dayana: Those were the days. Computers were so simple back then. It’s like, “I’m just going to click pixel by pixel and see what happens.”

[00:11:43] Josie: Yeah. Sometimes less options gives less. There’s literally research, the less options you have, the less anxiety and simplicity. Well, another theme of, well, the main theme of this season of the podcast has been time and change and transitions.

And obviously, the last few years we’re all making meaning or putting the pieces back together. And so, I’ve asked all my guests, like, what’s a transition or something around change in time that you’d want to talk about? And so, you’ve gone through some transitions and change, which I’m finding more and more common, especially on the marketing side of going from campus to agency and all around. So, let us know what that journey looked like for you.

[00:12:33] Dayana: Well, I’ll start with the overarching life transitions, because I think that creates a lot of context. So, obviously, like, an obvious part of having lived in so many countries is think of all the transitions I’ve had to go through from just completely starting over every single time, right? We got very few of those moves or continuations of the previous.

And I think what that has done for me is, like, it’s built this incredible resilience, sure. But it’s also, kind of, made me a little bit fearless, in the sense that I know, like, no matter where you land, you’re going to be fine, you’re going to find a way. So, I always talk about this, like, immigrant mentality that… and it’s, it’s part of it, is mentality and the grit of being able to move around and survive someplace you don’t know. But another part is, kind of, imposed by the system and society that, like, legally, you can’t work, you don’t have access to things unless you prove that you are better than everyone else. Literally, that is written in the law, right? Like, you cannot get a job in the U.S. if you cannot prove that there is no single U.S. citizen candidate that could do it, right?

Imagine what that does to you as a person, like, your mentality as a person. Like, it’s not that I think I’m better than everyone, obviously. It’s that you always have to strive and you have to prove and you have to start strong. And, like, my learning curves have always been super short and I’m always thinking of how to add value because that’s how you survive when you have all these transitions, right?

So, for, I would say, the first 35 years of my life, that was my main character trait. It’s striving. It’s doing more than that’s required. It’s being exceptional in every possible way that I could, whatever it took.

The greatest life transition, and I think this has to do partly with having a son and partly with what we all went through through the pandemic, has been, “Hey, I think I’ve arrived. You know, I’m really solid in who I am as a person in my career. I know what my area of expertise is. Other people recognize it.” That’s been, like, the biggest mindset transition for me, is, unless what’s next, what’s more, what other thing can I prove and more, okay, now that I have all these things, let’s share them. Like, I want to share them. I want other people to have what I have. I want other people to know what I know. And that’s, big. That’s really big, because it informs a lot of the decisions that we make as people, as a family, and me as an individual professionally.

So, that, kind of, manifested itself, I think, in two ways recently that I think are interesting. In the personal level, it was in the little bio that you read. We have, as a family, like, really taking seriously the fact that time goes on, right, like, our son is going to live longer than us. There’s future generations of people that are going to live on this earth. And, like, what are we leaving for them? And, like, what are we doing to make sure they have a healthy planet?

So, we’ve taken all sorts of measures to reduce our harm on the planet. And one of them is being car-free, which is not a hard thing if you’re in a city that has great transit. It is a very difficult thing in London, Ontario. But, you know, it comes from this mindset shift of, “What can I do to contribute? What can I do to give? What can I do to improve?” Instead of, “I’m just on the grind right now.”

The second thing is it was a career choice that I had to make. And that was about two years ago. So, as, you, kind of, were alluding to, a lot of us, this happened to many, many of us in higher ed, we were suddenly presented with, you know, obviously, we all went through the pandemic, right? And for those of us that were employed at a campus at the time like that, and especially me in enrollment, my team in enrollment, I was working 70, 80-hour weeks, because suddenly, we were in the middle of yield and you couldn’t do nothing, none of the yield things, right? None of the open houses and accepted student events. And we were all like, “What do we do?” So, you had to take everything you had and turn it into what was an online environment. Now, some of us were lucky that we already had, kind of, infrastructure set up and, like, digital first mindsets and all of that. But still, it was an incredible amount of work. I remember it vividly, because I also had a toddler, a one-year-old at home without childcare, right? We all went through that. Every single one of us. It’s not unique to me.

And then, coming out of it, I think we were all expecting a little something, right? I think we were all like, “Okay. First, we, kind of, proved that we could do incredible things digitally. So, like, let’s move in that direction, everyone.” It doesn’t mean like let’s ignore our brick-and-mortar in-person communities, but it means, like, think of what else we can do, right? There’s a lot of, at least for me, a lot of motivation in that sense.

But the other thing is, like, “Hey, schools, recognize us,” right? Like, “Recognize all this work that went into things.” And what happened to me is, like, exactly during that transition, I was in the middle of a promotion situation. And, you know, it all got put on hold because of this extra work we all had to do and all this. And I’m like, okay, just like I had always been, right, like, the immigrant mindset, you always have to do more, you have to prove yourself in order to reap the rewards. I had been operating like that that whole time.

And then, at least on my expectation, I thought the time had come to finally get the reward for that, that I had earned and worked for. And I was not given that. And so, I had to make a decision at that point to leave higher ed. And that was extremely difficult for me. After having been in the industry for 10 years, having gone to conferences, you start to build a personal brand, you have all your network, your area of expertise, like, the idea of letting all that go and starting over terrified me. And mind you, I’ve let go and started over many times.

I basically had to take a leap of faith and be like, “I just hope that I land somewhere where I can still continue to do this.” And I quit without having a job. Because in that moment, I think it was a lot more important for me to say, “I am not going to say someplace where, after demonstrating all this value, I am not going to get recognized for it.” And I, I really don’t think that story is unique to me at all. And that makes me a little bit sad. But that was a huge career transition for me because it’s the first time I had to make a big career transition, you know. And it was like a deliberate one. I wasn’t fired. I wasn’t laid off. Transitions that are also very difficult. I had to be like, “I’m closing this chapter without knowing what the next one’s going to be.”

[00:19:13] Josie: Yeah. Let me first address the car-free thing.

[00:19:16] Dayana: Oh, my gosh.

[00:19:17] Josie: I’ve seen you in snow and ice. And I’m out here in LA and being like, “I don’t want to walk over to the CVS, right?” And I’m like, “Day would be ashamed of me.” But we’re not shaming ourselves in 2024.

[00:19:32] Dayana: We’re not. You feel joy.

[00:19:33] Josie: I know I could, I could do better. Well, A, I just don’t want to go to the pharmacy.

[00:19:38] Dayana: I don’t want to go to CVS at all. Well, honestly, if it’s not a great fun, beautiful walk, right? If it’s not a walk on a shady sidewalk, you know, by past a few little cute shops, no one wants to do that. And that’s why it’s so hard to make this lifestyle choice in North America because cities are built for cars. So, you’re going to get me started on cars, Josie, and this is a whole separate hour of an episode.

[00:20:04] Josie: Oh, dear.

[00:20:05] Dayana: So, it’s more like it’s the scale, right? Like, a simple walk to CVS should take you three minutes, not 15, right? And so, it’s this idea of, everything is designed for, like, a car scale and not a human scale. And if you’re not in a human-scale city, it’s really hard to make the choice to not live without a car.

So, we are doing it. The hardest thing is not weather. The hardest thing is distance. With weather, I always say to folks, like, you people that have dogs, right, like, you walk your dog in the winter. It’s very similar to get on a bike in the winter. Very, very similar. Or people that go skiing and they’re on the slopes for hours. I’m not on my bike for hours. I’m on my bike for 15 minutes. Like, if you’ve ever gone skiing, you’ve done this. It’s not that scary, you know.

[00:20:55] Josie: Yeah.

[00:20:55] Dayana: It’s definitely a lifestyle choice, that we’re not going to go back. We don’t have a car. We’re not going to go back.

[00:21:01] Josie: It’s awesome. And I know the career journey. I mean, I’m just so excited to see where you’ve landed and now the flexibility and impact that you can make across many campuses. But even when you were at Western, I was talking to you about Reddit and Discord. It was in your DNA to, like, be very impactful in, in many ways.

[00:21:25] Dayana: I think sharing is important, right? Especially in an industry like this one, where we’re not really competing. Everything that we do, every single one of us is for the greater good, right? I really believe that education does that for society. And if we can all do it better, we get more people to value our schools and go through our schools, like, that’s just better. It’s just better for everyone, right? So, if something works for you, share it loudly. That’s just always been my philosophy. And it’s just, kind of, cool that people care, care to hear it.

[00:22:03] Josie: And talking about sharing it, you are writing a book.

[00:22:08] Dayana: Sharing is caring.

[00:22:09] Josie: Yes. Sharing is caring. And higher ed loves a good book. So, we’re going to talk about email for a little bit and the book.

[00:22:16] Dayana: Oh, man.

[00:22:18] Josie: So, where did you learn to write email? Like, did you have a class on it? Was…

[00:22:23] Dayana: No, um-hmm. So, yes, I don’t know. Where does one learn to write email? I don’t know.

[00:22:31] Josie: Like, early days.

[00:22:32] Dayana: I do remember, like, of course, I remember, like, my first personal email accounts, sure. Like, but when did it turn professional?

[00:22:39] Josie: What was it, an AOL or…?

[00:22:42] Dayana: My God, it was an AOL. It was, like, This was, like, 1995. And then, I had a Hotmail. And then, in early 2000s, I don’t know when Gmail started becoming popular, I claimed kibilds@gmail. com. So, like, I have my last name. And any other Kibilds in the world, sorry, it’s mine. There’s not a lot of them, but it’s mine. Early adopter, for the win.

[00:23:13] Josie: Branding.

[00:23:13] Dayana: I knew. I just knew from when I was 15. Anyway, so I was trying to think about, when did it turn professional? Like, when did email become like a professional expertise thing for me? And this was definitely, like, my first job out of university. I graduated from a university in Germany and I went back to Mexico because again, the high school boyfriend story. So, I’m back in Mexico. I moved in with him.

And I was like, “Okay. Well, I need a job, I guess.” And I started the way that that works in a place like Mexico is you ask people you know. Like, does anyone know anyone that’s hiring? Because sending resumes places is not… it did not work. Let’s just put it that way.

So, I got connected with this German man who led this subsidiary of an automotive aftermarket parts company in Mexico. I walked in for my interview. And he started speaking all German. And I hadn’t been in Germany for, like, about a year. And I’m like, “Oh, my God, this interview is going to be in German. I’m going to bomb this.” Like, I, I am not prepared to have an interview in German, right? But he hired me on the spot. I mean, I am pretty charming, I guess. He hired me for a job that was, like, finance controlling something—finance stuff, numbers.

And I’ve always had a very analytical data mind. So, I was like, “Sure. I can do whatever. I can do anything, really.” But my heart’s always been drawn to marketing. Always. So, you know, I started this controller operations job. I’m doing, like, Excel’s things, that I’m like, “Excel’s not powerful enough. Like, is there a way we can make these databases do things?” And I figured out I could use Microsoft Access to build, like, this incredible ecosystem of databases that did all these automated things for the company. It was amazing, like, still one of my proudest things ever.

But in the back of my mind, I’m like, “Oh, my God. Like, we don’t have a newsletter.” Or, like, this company was, we were selling German manufactured parts to a Mexican aftermarket. And the competition was cheap parts from other parts of the world, right? Like, nobody’s going to buy the original German product for 20 times the cost if they could just buy a cheap replacement, right? So, I’m like, I need to find a way to generate demand from the bottom, from the car owners, right, that want to replace their wiper blade or light bulb or whatever. And they go to the mechanic, and they’re like, “Oh, I want the original part, which is this brand, right?” That’s what I want it to do. So, I’m like, “How do I do that?”

So, what I did is I created a newsletter email. I created a blog when it wasn’t a thing. Social media wasn’t a thing then. So, there wasn’t, like, you can make a Facebook page or anything. You couldn’t do that, yet. I created a forum where mechanics could ask questions of our, like, tech service people. Like, how do I change the sensor? That kind of thing. And an online product catalog. So, I did all that in addition to my actual job. And I think that’s when I first started getting into email. I just started looking through my inbox because I’ve had it for a long time. And obviously, I was sending myself all the tests of these newsletters, right? And I’m like, “Oh.” Like, the very first newsletter, professional newsletter, I ever wrote is better than some of the newsletters I see nowadays. It’s not great. It’s not perfect. But I’m like, “How did I know to do this? Like, how did I know to do this, right?”

So, it’s just because you think about the user, Josie. If you think about the user and you’re like, “What does a person want to know,” and you write from that perspective, it just makes things good. That’s where it started for me. It’s one of the things that I was like, “How did I know to do this,” is the subject line. Like, it was a newsletter, right? And it was easy to do, like, March newsletter as the subject line. But I remember putting in the subject line, “The Top Story,” within the newsletter, which is something I still see people not doing today, right? It’s like, but nobody cares about your March newsletter. People want to see what the top story is to open this, you know.

Anyway. So, it just started there. And then, once I was in higher ed, I was in admissions and recruitment. So, email was a big part of the operation. And I do just start seeing what works, what doesn’t work. You try things, you don’t try things. And then, when I went to Cornell, I was doing the annual giving email solicitations. And I was like, “How do I get people to give money off this email?” And you would try different button placement, different things. It was really iterating until I really feel like I cracked the how—how do you make people actually engage with this thing? And that’s what the book is about.

So, I’m writing the book with my professional soulmate, as I like to call her, Ashley Budd. She’s like, “I don’t like the professional part, Day.” I’m like, “I don’t think we can say soulmate, Ashley.” But she is. You know, there’s people that come into your life that you’re like, “We are meant to be.” And she’s one of those people for me.

She also has been working on email for quite some time. She, to the book, she brings, like, the psychology of engagement, like, what makes people want to get content from you, what gets people connected to you, what type of content delivers on that, their expectation and nurtures the relationship long term. What I bring to the book is the, kind of, a little bit more tactical, like, okay, how do you move people through a funnel with email? How do you physically write the email to get them to do the thing you want? How do you improve that so that it’s perfect? And you get these super high-functioning, very effective emails.

So, together, it’s a really incredible collection of content that doesn’t exist. It just doesn’t exist out there right now. We’re so excited to have this book to share with people.

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The two of you, if it’s soul sisters or power couple or whatever you are, like, that book is going to be a fantastic resource.

[00:30:25] Dayana: I hope so, yes.

[00:30:26] Josie: You, kind of, mentioned a little bit about higher ed and what you wrote back in… it also feels like you’ve lived three lifetimes with, like, all of these series.

[00:30:36] Dayana: I honestly, kind of, does.

[00:30:38] Josie: No, I love it. It’s rich. What is higher ed’s soft spots—that’s a nice way to say it—in email? And what could be their secret sauce that may or may not be in the book?

[00:30:53] Dayana: Do you mean soft spot, like they have, like, a weakness?

[00:30:56] Josie: Weakness.

[00:30:58] Dayana: Are you trying to just say they suck nicely?

[00:31:02] Josie: It’s another S-word.

[00:31:04] Dayana: I’m sorry, what?

[00:31:06] Josie: Yeah. What’s [crosstalk 00:31:07].

[00:31:08] Dayana: Josie is just a very sweet person. Or, are you saying, like, oh, how do they feel tenderness toward…

[00:31:15] Josie: No, no, it’s not tender. It’s bad.

[00:31:17] Dayana: No, not tender. It’s bad. Oh, my god. So, okay, I’ll say this. What I think the real problem is, is that email is an afterthought for everyone, right? So, the soft spot or, like, what’s bad about it isn’t anything specific, like, oh, the frequency or the content or, like, those things can be bad, but they’re not bad across the board.

I think what is bad across the board is that it is treated as a complete afterthought and that, when email strategies are created, they are not user-centric. They are not user-first. And by user I mean our prospective students. Or, I’m not even talking just enrollment. Like, it could be our internal employee community or our current student population or whatever.

And, you know, like, one thing is enrollment emails, like, the emails we sent to 16-year-olds trying to get them to come to our school. That’s something to unpack. But what’s even worse in higher ed are the emails that departments had sent to faculty or the emails that our IT team sends to us when we need to update our two-factor authentication, those emails are abysmal, right? And it’s because those things are all treated as complete afterthought. Like, no one respects email. It’s the ugly duckling of any communications or marketing mix. So, I think that’s the issue.

When you think about what the secret sauce would be, it is prioritize it. When you think about an example of that is Cornell University. So, Ashley works in the advancement area. They went digital first many, many years ago before other schools did. And then, they really chose to invest in email. Like, if you were to ask Ashley, like, how many people are working on social versus how many people are working on email, it’s, like, orders of magnitude different, right?

Because they, before anyone else, has picked up on this, have decided, “We’re going to invest in this tool,” and, like, they make so much money off of these emails. Like, actual dollars that are gifts, right? I think that’s the secret sauce. Like, thinking about 2024, thinking about, I love social just as much as anyone, maybe more. Like, my entire personal life is through social media. My connections with everyone that I love is through social media, right? I love it. It can’t go away. But when we think about the platforms that we own and the content we can control and the things that are stable in our marketing mix and our operation, email isn’t going to go away. Email doesn’t have weird algorithm rules that are going to get, like, what’s, you know, the rug’s not going to get pulled from under us. Of course, there are things to figure out, like deliverability and, like, what the inboxes do, and all that, but it’s a lot more stable than some of the other tools, like, we jump right on and prioritize and make strategies for.

So, I just always felt like a little, I have a soft spot for email, which, like, that’s the tender one, because I really do feel like it’s the ugly duckling and nobody pays attention and it’s such a powerful tool if you actually prioritize it.

[00:34:14] Josie: Yeah, and so true that we don’t own social changes and… And I appreciate the simpleness of the tactic, too, is that you don’t let it be a afterthought to just actually think about what your strategy is and make it user-centric, audience-centric.

[00:34:35] Dayana: Yeah. And then, the other cool thing about it is how cheap it is, you know.

[00:34:38] Josie: Right.

[00:34:39] Dayana: The other cool thing about email is it doesn’t cost much. So, the ROI on that is just incredible. So, anyone could do it. It’s just not people are not doing it right until they get this book and they read it.

[00:34:52] Josie: Well, and again, how did you learn to write email, whether if it’s to, you know, your friends or to work? A lot of us didn’t. We just, kind of, sort… And so, you and Ashley now, we’re also doing some trainings. And obviously, this book will be a huge help.

[00:35:09] Dayana: Oh, yes.

[00:35:10] Josie: So, we are on a podcast. We are recording right now. You and I are both podcast girlies, also probably learning it on the go. Your podcast is called Talking Tactics. I absolutely love it. You do so much better job than I do, as, like, this is going to be short and it’s going to be bite-sized.

[00:35:33] Dayana: That’s the premise, yes.

[00:35:37] Josie: This last season, you did one tactic, especially, like, that, something that was really impactful that made it stick. So, I’d love to hear more from, like, behind the podcast screen, like, why you created it, what you’ve learned just about that format, or even, like, what you find tough. Because I get asked a lot about, “Oh, I’m thinking about starting a podcast.” And at first, I’m like, “It’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it.”

[00:36:07] Dayana: It’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it. I am just extremely fortunate that I have the support of the Enrollify network. So, that helps a lot, right? Because my responsibility is finding amazing people to talk to that are doing cool things and recording. And then, the magic happens. And I don’t know how it happens, but it happens.

So, the idea of the show for me… so it came up because I, like everyone else, listens to podcasts because they’re awesome. And I do it when I’m doing chores. Like, if I’m folding laundry or if I’m cooking or if I’m at the grocery store, like, I have a podcast in my ear. And every single podcast I had been listening to is great. It’s interesting. I’m learning. I learned something. Maybe, I remember one idea. But I’m like, “I can’t do that. With my resources at my campus, I can’t do that. Or, I love that idea. It’s very lofty, but we don’t have that budget. Or, that doesn’t apply to us. Or, we don’t have that position, or it would never get approved,” right? So, like, there were these barriers to implementing what I learned on the podcast. Even though they inspired me and I learned something, I couldn’t do anything with it immediately because I didn’t have enough authority. I didn’t have enough budget, whatever.

So, I was like, wouldn’t it be cool if there was a podcast that was like tactics, right? So, if you’re like, “Why are we not getting enough event registrations? That there would be an episode out there that was, like, how do you get more event registrations?” And very specifically told you what another school did, specifically. Not in platitudes, not, well, you need to engage more users. Okay, yes, but how? Like, how do you engage more users? How do you get them to actually do the thing, right?

So, I’m like, that’s missing. There’s something missing in this higher ed space that we have all these amazing, inspiring content creators featuring amazing guests that are incredible. But what’s missing is, like, the stuff for the entry level folks to be able to go to their office and, like, try the thing and see a 20% increase in registrations, right, immediately. And that’s what tactics can do, right? And the reason I wanted to keep it at tactics is because, ideally, at the beginning of the year, you know, you’re creating a plan, a marketing plan, an enrollment plan, or a strategy. You have this big strategy for the year. You’re targeting certain populations. You have these goals you’re trying to hit. But the tactics that you use to make that happen could change, right? You can try new things. You can try things with tools that haven’t existed before. Or, if a pandemic happens and you can’t do the tactics you were planning to do, then you try different tactics. And that’s all okay because it’s still within the framework of that strategy that you’re trying to follow and the goals that you’re trying to hit.

So, tactics, I think tactics are super flexible, right? And tactics are very much a, you know, ask-for-forgiveness-not-permission kind of thing, because often just try it and see if that, you know, posting that way got you more engagement. And, like, no one cares, right? Like, it’s not, we need to target a whole new population. It’s not these big strategic shifts, right?

So, I was like, “I want to make that. I want to make the bite-sized ‘try this thing, it might help you.’” And you can do it with limited resources. Like, so the big constraints of the show are that it’s one single tactic that moved an enrollment metric in some way. And it had to be limited resources. Because I want any listener to be able to take what they just heard in 20 to 30 minutes and be like, “I can try this tomorrow. I can set this up in the next week or so.”

I love it. It’s been so much fun to feature folks doing these things. What I have found really interesting is they often don’t realize how innovative and clever they are, trying some of these tactics. They’re like, “Oh, I’m just doing my job. Like, this is not groundbreaking. Like, I just changed the field on a form.” I’m like, honestly, maybe it isn’t groundbreaking, but if you got a 20% increase in submissions, someone else could get a 20% increase in submissions, and wouldn’t that change their world and the outcomes for their school and blah, blah, blah, right? So, a collection of tactics can have this huge impact, right?

[00:40:17] Josie: Yeah.

[00:40:17] Dayana: A lot of people are, like, really shy about sharing sometimes. And then, I also have, like, a really selfish motivation to launch this show. And it’s for me because I had to leave my campus job, right? And now, I work at Ologie and I love it. I love, love my work at Ologie beyond. Like, I feel so fortunate. And a lot of the work that I do with universities and colleges and schools and educational institutions in the U.S. are, you know, we’re making plans. I’m giving them strategies and tactics to try. But they ultimately can choose not to. And I don’t get to try them myself. And so, because I don’t get to try stuff, the learning stops, right? Like, at some point, if you’re not doing the work, how do you keep learning it, right? So, I’m like, I need to hear from folks doing the work so I can keep learning. And I can get tactic ideas.

[00:41:13] Josie: I totally feel that.

[00:41:16] Dayana: Right? It’s a big learning thing for us, right? Like, you get inspired by your guests. And yes, you’re the kind of face putting the content out there, but really, you’re just a conduit. You’re learning from folks yourself and you’re sharing that learning with others. And that… I admit it was a selfish motivation, but, you know, I don’t think that’s a bad thing, because it’s also putting good things out in the world.

[00:41:41] Josie: It’s self-work, it’s not selfish work.

[00:41:45] Dayana: Thank you!

[00:41:48] Josie: And I appreciate how it’s not just like ideas and busy work, you’re showing the outcome. And I think, with resource and time restrictions, that is very helpful, especially in a marketing and enrollment space.

[00:42:04] Dayana: So much.

[00:42:05] Josie: So, you’re cooking up more episodes. What are you continuing on the same drumbeat? Is there something new in ‘24?

[00:42:11] Dayana: Yes. The format is the same. It’ll just be one tactic per episode. The tactic had to move an enrollment metric, and it had to be done with limited resources. What I’m really excited about is the topics that are coming. So, one of the things that I noticed with the podcast is, often, some of these clever things people are trying are using new technology. So, there’s some AI tactics coming, there are podcast tactics coming. And some of these things, like, folks are trying things in higher ed and getting results, which is really cool, but it’s also very back to basics. So, I have event tactics coming. I have email, of course, tactics coming and social tactics. And so, it’s just a really good mix because it’s all very clever and very doable, and some of it is new tech, and some of it is back to basics.

[00:43:04] Josie: Well, once you get this email book out, this could be your next book, is all the theme tactics or, like, an online course or something. But anyway, there’s my business idea for you.

[00:43:14] Dayana: Love it. Thank you.

[00:43:16] Josie: Okay. I got to squeeze this one in because you have a billion tactics, too, that you’re doing. And I got totally engulfed in your LinkedIn page. So, yeah, I was your viewer. You know how LinkedIn says, like, “Oh, you’re getting so many views on your LinkedIn.” That was me. I get questions a lot about, what do I do on LinkedIn? Because it is definitely been a tool in transition of even, like, how it feels. But what are you finding are your tactics or tactic on LinkedIn? Because I also found these 10 days of work email series, which was super fun during the holidays. So, yeah, it could be just overall, or it could be something really specific that might give someone a light bulb.

[00:43:59] Dayana: I started leaning into LinkedIn when the Twitter situation happened. That’s why I’m investing time in there now. Like, I wouldn’t say I have a, a strategy, right? But the only rule I follow on LinkedIn is, if I want to share something, I do it. Like, I’ll post it. I don’t care. I’m not thinking, “Oh, my God, am I spamming people? I’m posting so much.” I’m not thinking, “Is this relevant? Is this whatever?” If I have a thought and it’s good content and I think it’s going to be relevant to at least one person, I will post it.

And recently, it’s been a lot of content about email because this email book is top of mind and we want to get attention for it, and we’re trying to get some support for our publishing. So, we want to promote our workshops and we want to promote the book so that we can fund the publishing of the book. So, I’m like, “Well, I’m just going to share stuff about email.” And it’s always top of mind for me. So, I’ve been doing that. Sometimes, I find an article and I want to share it, because it’s an important topic to me. So, for example, there was one. Sometimes people post things. And there was one recently about taking credit, that women often struggle to take credit. And not just women, but lots of people do. But it’s, kind of, like, it’s one of those things that, if you don’t talk about what you have done and what you have accomplished, no one else is going to.

And that’s a lesson I learned the hard way. Actually, in reality, back to that situation where I had to make that career decision, what ended up happening is, you know, I came to my supervisor for this promotion conversation with receipts, right? I’m like, “I’ve done this, this, this, this, and this.” And the response was, “Those were team efforts.” And I’m like, “Okay, they were team efforts, but, like, if I had, when it was happening, not covered for folks that didn’t do things and actually not letting people take credit for things they didn’t do, like, if I had done that, that wouldn’t have happened, right?”

So, I think there’s this weird sense of, if you brag about yourself or claim credit for something you actually did, that you’re not a team player. And I just don’t think these things are mutually exclusive. I know, I will say this, things are impossible on your own, right? Things are impossible to do on your own. Things with a team are better, bigger, smarter, right? But if you had the idea, it’s okay to say you had the idea, right? Or, if you contributed something that no one else could figure out, it is okay to say that you did that, at the same time, recognizing that the full result wouldn’t have been possible without the same smart ideas other folks had, right?

I, I really believe in that. So, I post things like that on LinkedIn. Like, today, I posted, I appeared on a podcast episode for the Education Marketer Podcast about content being a barrier. I talk about that a lot because I didn’t get accepted to school because of website content. Anything that is one of those things that I’m really passionate about, I just post about it on LinkedIn. That’s, that’s my only tactic on there. Like, if you know it, share it. If you feel it, share it.

[00:47:07] Josie: Again, give yourself credit for it. I, I edit myself often because of, like, the voices in my head or whatever. And so, you’re always a person I look to for, like… so, stumbling onto this post, I was like, “That’s right, Day. I need to give myself credit.” Because I find also when people are like, well, who, who is doing LinkedIn… and I don’t like to use this phrase, but who’s doing LinkedIn right? Because there is no right or wrong way. But your voice is there. Like, you can really tell it is authentic and timely and… so, anyway, I had to ask you about it.

[00:47:41] Dayana: Thank you. Well, the other thing I’ll say is that I resist the LinkedIn voice very much, you know. You know what I’m talking about the LinkedIn punchy sentence, punchy sentence, space, space, punchy sentence. Oh, my gosh, I can’t. So, I’m posting on LinkedIn 100%, but I am trying not to be a LinkedIn, like…

[00:48:04] Josie: Robot.

[00:48:05] Dayana: Yes, that’s the word. There’s one thing I do do, which is, like, if you post one line and then it get long, like, a line break, that’s what we’ll show in the preview. I do that. But then, I do paragraphs. And like, I don’t do the LinkedIn thing. I can’t, I can’t do it. I can’t do it.

[00:48:23] Josie: People are catching on to the LinkedIn robots or whatever.

[00:48:26] Dayana: I know. I can’t do it. I just, I feel, itchy if I try.

[00:48:32] Josie: Well, I think that’s the other thing, too, whether if it’s writing an email, getting on LinkedIn, doing a podcast, like, you have to… there’s definitely something in you that is cuing you in, tapping you in, to, like… you know, an intuition or maybe it’s all the places you’ve been in the world and the multiple lives you’ve lived, like…

[00:48:56] Dayana: I, I have lived many lives.

[00:48:58] Josie: That comes out in the work that you do.

[00:49:02] Dayana: Thank you, Josie. Yeah.

[00:49:03] Josie: I love it.

[00:49:03] Dayana: I, I think one of the things that I have learned to accept and honor is bringing my full self to everything that I do. And everybody goes through some presentation training at some point. And they tell you, well, you know, you have to be professional. You can’t stumble. You can’t make jokes. You can’t whatever. And I’m just like, “I don’t like any of that. I will break the fourth wall. I will make a joke. I will go back.” I, I want people to feel like they’re having a conversation with me, no matter how they’re consuming content that I create. So, that I laugh a lot and I make jokes a lot. And I say I’m not very professional, but it’s not that. I am exactly the person that I am on those platforms, at the conference stages, and in my living room.

[00:49:52] Josie: It’s inspiring. And I always get energized, just either being around you or seeing your stuff on social media.

[00:49:58] Dayana: Thank you.

[00:49:58] Josie: This has been fun. We’ve mentioned a few platforms, but how can people find you to connect on your bike? You have a website now, I saw?

[00:50:07] Dayana: Yes, I made a website, finally.

[00:50:10] Josie: For this convo, right? It was for this.

[00:50:12] Dayana: For this right here. No, I feel like such a grown up. I’m like, I’ve been wanting to make a website for two years. Last year, my New Year’s resolution wasn’t going to make it last year. I bought, like, three domains in the space. I did nothing. And then, this year, I’m like, “Oh, my gosh. I have one…” Literally, on December 31st, I’m like, “I have one day left and I have not made this website.” So, I cranked. So, K-I-B-I-L-D-S.C-O. Everybody, go check it out. You can find links to my LinkedIn there and a contact form. Otherwise, the best way is LinkedIn. And I do check it frequently. I reply to all my messages. And I love meeting people, especially people who have tactics to share.

[00:50:56] Josie: Love it. We’ll link it in the show. And then, as more information comes out about the book, we’ll get that and share that out, too.

[00:51:03] Dayana: Thank you.

[00:51:04] Josie: So, my last two questions I always end with about life and the afterlife and the many lives of Day. So, if you knew your next post on Threads or LinkedIn or even Instagram was going to be the last one, what would you want it to be about?

[00:51:19] Dayana: Oh, man. Josie, it would be about my son. I would write about how much I love him, because I would want him to know that that was the last thing I ever wrote, because it’s the most important thing and the strongest thing I feel at any given moment. I’m obsessed with him. I’m almost going to cry. And then, yeah, that would definitely be it.

[00:51:48] Josie: He is very lucky to have a tough mother like you. I think that’s what your sign says in the back.

[00:51:55] Dayana: It does. It says, “Tough as a mother,” behind me.

[00:51:59] Josie: Tough as a mother, yep. And tender.

[00:52:01] Dayana: And tender.

[00:52:02] Josie: So, for now, why do you choose to be active online? What is the impact you want it to make on the world? In other words, what’s your why for leading online?

[00:52:15] Dayana: I think, for me, it’s giving. I once went through an exercise with a personal coach to find my essence, my purpose word. And it was a really interesting exercise. Like, they really unpacked all the layers of why you do what you do and, like, what motivates you. And we landed at the essence. And the essence word for me is gift. You know, it’s, kind of, time, the threat of everything we’ve talked about today. After so many years of striving and climbing and having to prove myself over and over, now that I feel like people see that, now I want to give it all away. And so, for me, the purpose is giving. It’s sharing gifts.

[00:53:00] Josie: Well, you are a gift.

[00:53:01] Dayana: Oh.

[00:53:02] Josie: And I appreciate you so much and the time that you gave today. Again, I just get so energized. And it was neat to get to know you more, too, to realize, like an onion, you have lots of layers that also just make so complete sense for all the gifts that you have.

[00:53:21] Dayana: Thank you so much for having me on the show. This was really fun. You have some great questions.

[00:53:28] Josie: I try.

This thread was happening in the Higher Ed Social Facebook group, where there is a fan club that I am happily part of, of this woman. I am a stan for her. I may start a Facebook group just for Day. And no surprise if you heard all that goodness in this episode. We got talking right away about how she’s literally not just been around the world, but lived around the world, and how those multi-faceted experiences for me, now seeing that full picture, explains so much of how she approaches her work, her personality, and everything else in between.

She talks about the transition from living in different countries created resilience for her, made her fearless. Although, she was starting over, she would always find a way. And she attributes that to her immigrant mentality. And you may not have lived in that same experience, but I hope you can find inspiration, as this might be a time of year when you’re trying to rebuild resilience and literally trying to find a way.

And no surprise, we got digging into emails. And she started writing emails when she was working in Mexico, selling German-manufactured parts. Like, I would not have guessed that out of a hat for her. But now we all know that. And later, and we’ll link this, she shared that email on LinkedIn of the lessons. And I share this in our convo, that I feel like her intuition and gut around email and communication is… I want to say it’s trainable, because her and Ashley Budd are doing lots of trainings. But she has got this essence of how to humanize and write empathetic emails that actually work. She knew right away that it needed to be user-centric and you’re convincing the reader the importance. For example, with the German-manufactured parts, that why it’s important to buy the original versus cheaper, less expensive parts.

And obviously, in higher ed, we’re not selling parts, but there are lots of parts and processes and systems that we are trying to communicate. And all of that work led its way into her work at Penn, at Cornell. And of course, she’s writing that book. And once we know more about that, we’ll make sure to link it in there.

[00:56:07] And it does go back to psychology. And I’ve gone into human development, a little bit of sociology on this podcast. But maybe, if we dig a little bit more into psychology, because there is something happening in our brains when we look at email, whether we delete it, move it to junk, open it. And I love when she said, email doesn’t have weird algorithm rules that are going to get pulled from under us, you know, like, those Instagrams of the world.

Email is actually a lot more stable than other tools. It’s a powerful tool if you can actually prioritize it. It’s one of those tools that we, kind of, own versus these rented spaces, whether if it’s on Meta or Threads or X.

And as my podcasting sister, Day is putting out an amazing show, called Talking Tactics. Inspiration bite-sized education, she shares one tactic per episode. Please, make sure you go and subscribe, because she is just such a giver. And the people that she has on the podcast are so, so juicy.

[00:57:22] And as we ended the episode, we turned our conversation even away from email and to talk about joy and purpose. She said, “After so many years of striving and climbing and having to prove myself over and over, now that I feel people see that, I want to give it away. For me, my purpose is giving.” And her word for 2024 is “joy.” Well, not just joy, unapologetic joy, which I think has to be in the title of the show somehow, or at least in the subtitle. So, she’s going to talk about it and how she’s going to show you, “I like it, and I don’t care if it’s uncool. I’m unapologetically joyful about my nerdiness.” And Day, we are so thankful that you are unapologetically being Day.

So, y’all, do you remember when you learned to write email in a business setting, specifically for marketing? If you could dig up your first email for business or a marketing email, what do you think it would look like? That could be an interesting exercise to add on LinkedIn, too. And make sure to tag Day and I on that.

Make sure you’re checking out Days’ previous series, Day’s 10 Days of Email, which is a series on LinkedIn for your next email strategy, even though it was a holiday series, very applicable in 2024. I know I was soaking up all the goodness.

And y’all, for me, make sure that you’re visiting me at I do have a email. Well, actually, I have multiple emails. But I have a newsletter that goes out monthly, the Digital Leadership Download. Make sure you’re subscribed, so you can be as updated on all the things that I am cooking up over here Josieville Land.

Thanks again for joining me, Day. I am just so inspired by you. And I can’t wait to hang out with you at the next conference or gathering. If it’s digital or physical or whatever, I will take it.

And to you, listeners, thank you so much for checking out this episode. Such a fantastic conversation. If you enjoyed it, please share it with a colleague, make sure you’re subscribed, hit that five-star button, give a review. I would be so appreciative. And make sure we’re connected, so you don’t miss any of the goodies.

If you’re interested in learning more about my world with speaking, consulting, and coaching, or my book, Digital Leadership in Higher Education, check me out at

Thank you so much to our sponsors, University FM and Element451. I am sending digital hugs, loves, and waves to whatever corner of the world you’re listening in from. This has been Josie and the Podcast.

About Josie

I’m Dr. Josie Ahlquist—a digital engagement and leadership consultant, researcher, educator, and author. I’m passionate about helping people and organizations find purposeful ways to connect, engage, and tell their unique story. I provide consulting, executive coaching, and training for campuses, companies, and organizations that want to learn how to humanize technology tools and build effective and authentic online communities.

My blog and podcast have been recognized by EdTech Magazine, Inside Higher Ed and the Chronicle of Higher Education. My book, Digital Leadership in Higher Education, was published in 2020 and was listed as a #1 new release for college and university student life. I have been growing my consultancy since 2013 and am based in Los Angeles. When I’m not helping clients lead online, you might find me training for a triathlon, spoiling my nieces and nephews, or exploring with my husband and our rescue dogs in our new RV called Lady Hawk.

I’d love to connect! Find me on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook.

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