4 Ways to Host Graduation Ceremonies–While Social Distancing

There are several ways to conduct a graduation ceremony while social distancing. And since there are so many creative schools out there, new approaches are being developed every day. They all begin with one of four basic platforms: 


A webinar format is a great option for an organized live event. Have participants join the event via a webcam and microphone from their own homes. Commencement speeches can be pre-recorded or executed live during the webinar. If you activate chat functions within the webinar, it adds a great interactive element too. 


Pre-produced video can offer a lot of flexibility while providing a controlled, well-developed experience for all participants. Various elements of the ceremony – like commencement speeches, video montages and photo slideshows – can be video recorded and pre-edited for a seamless presentation. The final production can then be unveiled at one or more live, social-distance physical gatherings, on various social media sites or via a live web streaming platform. Plus, students will always have a digital copy of their big day to re-play for years down the road.

3.Live On-Site

With social-distancing restrictions honored, a live production can still be executed in various ways. An elevated stage can be set up in a large school parking lot. Graduates and their families can safely watch the ceremony from their cars, or by spreading out in a responsible way. Utilizing a low-power FM transmitter to relay the audio to car radios is a great live technique, as are large-screen displays for videos, slideshows and pre-recorded messages from graduates. 


Some smaller schools have opted for a drive-through graduation experience. Students get engaged and have fun by decorating their cars for drive-in graduations and a parade-like procession into and out of the ceremony.


Pulling off a fluid virtual graduation is no small feat. It takes planning, communication, technical knowhow, a lot of passion and diligent project management. 

To make the most of the planning and execution time available, CTV North Suburbs is here to help. Our vast knowledge of technology, media and live web streaming can make this graduation year an historic and heartwarming event. 

To learn more, write us at

Northwestern student news continues to produce stories while social distancing

When college campuses started closing and moving online for the rest of the semester, journalism students across the nation struggled to comprehend how they were going to find and create their stories and newscasts. Unable to use their school’s resources, check out equipment, and go outside to find stories, students like Tori Hoehne thought it would be impossible to continue creating content for the news. Despite these challenges, Hoehne’s news organization found a way to still put their stories out– just a little differently. 

Changes on Campus

Eagle 7 News video chat on Zoom

Hoehne is a senior at the University of Northwestern- St. Paul studying public relations. She is an executive producer at the campus’s news broadcast organization Eagle 7 News. Eagle 7 News covers Northwestern- St. Paul news stories such as sports, music, and other happenings on campus. Hoehne’s job is to put together news teams, choose the stories for the newscast, write scripts, and direct the weekly broadcast. 

When Hoehne heard that campus would be closed for two weeks after their spring break, she initially thought everything would be back to normal after their extended time off. Then campus officials announced that they would not be returning at all and instead classes would be held online. With this being her last semester at Northwestern- St. Paul, Hoehne could not believe what was happening. “I never never would have expected to be experiencing something like this in my lifetime, let alone months before I graduated,” said Hoehne. With the news team not being able to use Northwestern- St. Paul’s studio, video equipment, and other resources, Hoehne assumed Eagle 7 News would be cancelled for the rest of the semester.

Student News is Vital

Most student journalists depend on their colleges to provide the necessary tools they need to create stories for classes or campus news organizations like Eagle 7 News. Hoehne along with the rest of Eagle 7 News staff came together to brainstorm how and if they could continue producing news while school was physically out of session.

Their adjunct professor Dave Berggren who leads the organization ultimately decided that they should continue producing content. He argued that more than ever, people are seeking out information and stories of inspiration and hope, and it’s the media’s job to bring this to the public.

Learning New Tools

Instead of recording an entire in-studio newcast, student reporters are now creating their own individual news packages which are then uploaded directly to their Facebook page

Eagle 7 News staff collaborting

This new format has encouraged reporters to get creative with their production process. For example, one student reporter recently covered a story about Netflix party–a browser extension that syncs up two different Netflix accounts so that friends and family who are apart can still watch movies or TV shows together. To film this story, the student reporter created a makeshift tripod with a stack of books and propped her phone on top to film. “That was totally thinking outside the box and an example of using what you had to still get the shot you needed for your story. It’s been cool to see students produce pretty quality content with the few resources that they have,” said Hoehne.

Beyond equipment challenges, there have been other changes to Eagle 7’s production process. Before, Hoehne would put together teams to take on each story, usually creating these groups based on each individual’s strengths. Teams would typically include someone who would focus on the reporting and someone who would focus on the editing. Students can no longer hone in on one skill, because they are unable to come together and collaborate. Now, students need to take on every role in the production process and become a one-person team. “I think this is really pushing us to be more creative,” said Hoehne.

Although they have run into many challenges, Eagle 7 News is doing the best they can to navigate through these unusual times. “It’s a learning curve for everyone. Everyone is figuring this out for the first time. Nobody has the perfect answers to all this,” said Hoehne. 

Eagle 7 News plans on continuing to post as many stories as they can in the upcoming months. Even though they’re not physically on campus, they still want to have a presence there. “We’re still a community and we still care about what students and faculty are doing, and we want to highlight that through our news channel,” said Hoehne. 

4 Tactics Community Media Can Use in Times of Uncertainty 

One thing is for certain, the world will not go back to operating as it once did. We are executing our daily duties from our kitchen tables, and substituting staff meetings with Zoom calls. It feels so temporary, yet permanent. 

As nonprofit leaders, we need to lead our organizations through change, align our value propositions, and lean into our mission more than ever. Here are some tactics CTV is using that will hopefully grow us as people and an organization. 

1. Stick to the Mission

Look to your mission as the guiding star. In times of crisis, it is common for organizations to experience mission drift due to fear. As a leader, you must reiterate your mission to the team, why it is important, and why your team is valuable.

PRO TIP: Send a weekly email focusing the team on what is important for the week. My weekly team email has 4 items that we need to focus on, in order of importance.

2. Communicate with Stakeholders

Our organization represents nine cities. Each week I email or call them to check in on their needs related to communications. Every time I speak to an administrator I can find a way to help them or their city. 

PRO TIP: Set up a weekly zoom meeting with your stakeholders to communicate changes and updates with the organization. 

3. Identify Engaging Content

Not all content is created equal. If the content you are putting out is not resonating with people, it’s not them, it’s you. Evaluate the content you’ve put out that has gotten the most views and engagements. Why did that happen? Rinse and repeat! Also remember to be consistent! 

PRO TIP: Connect with social media influencers to have them share and push your content. 

4. Evaluate your Value Position

We are in a world-wide health crisis. I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again, community media needs to reinvent itself to fill the current needs of the community you serve. Now is a great time to communicate with stakeholders and find out what your organization can do to support them.

PRO TIP: Double down on what you are good at, and punt what you’re weak at. 


What tactics are you taking with your media center? What is working?

5 Takeaways from the CTV Annual Report

It seems a good a time as any to look back on some positives from 2019. Our annual report is not like other annual reports. We swear! It’s short–just 7 pages, including the title. And it’s visual. You can see it here.

Below, read  five major takeaways from the report.


1. CTV has overcome huge funding challenges

“We have increased our earned revenue by over 70% since 2018, but we

must not be complacent with the initial revenue growth. Continuing to grow this

will be key to ensuring our partner cities continue to receive strong value.” 

-Dana Healy, CTV Executive Director


2. We produced A LOT of content

We covered 233 events in 2019, and  reached 358,397 people on Facebook. 


3. We founds some great stories

From the student led climate protests to new playgrounds and splash pads, to the State Fair–we were there. Just look at the highlights on page 4. 


4. We are continuing to build strong partnerships with local business

We had 25 businesses sponsor our programming in 2019, and gave out our first Sponsor of the Year Award.   


5. Our internship program continues to grow

We had 10 interns in 2019, all of whom increased experience in shooting, editing, studio and/or truck shoots. 

5 Ways Media Centers can Lift up Local Businesses

Friday night, I always get Banh Mi sandwiches from my favorite New Brighton Vietnamese restaurant. Since COVID-19, I have continued to get take-out and purchase gift cards from this restaurant. That is something we can do as individuals. As media centers, we can do more. 

1. Human Interest Videos 

Before the Minnesota Stay-at-Home order was issued, we produced a video about two local restaurants giving back to the community, The Eggroll Queen, and Granite City. Both of these businesses were making and giving out free lunches for children. Highlighting the impact they had on the community while also giving them a PR push is a win for everyone.

PRO TIP: Keep the content focused on the community so it doesn’t come off as a commercial. 


2. Chamber of Commerce Collaborations

Chambers are built on face to face networking. As media centers, we can provide creative resources to help the chambers continue to fulfill their mission. One example is a weekly virtual networking event. Business leaders can log into the meeting, and hear updates about the state and federal business regulation directly from the CEO of their chamber. 

PRO TIP: Offer your chambers tools without expecting anything in return, like a sheet explaining how to use Zoom or Skype effectively for a meeting.


3. Business Resource Shows

Similar to collaborating with the Chambers, we’ve facilitated a weekly live show via Facebook, called Check In, that allows businesses to directly speak to representatives, chambers, and other business resources in this ever-changing environment. 

PRO TIP: Do this show every week. The landscape is changing so quickly; more information is needed. Also, quickly take down any outdated information. 


4. Check in with your Sponsors

We have numerous fiscal sponsors. We have called all of them to see how they are doing, and if there is anything we can do to help. This has also helped us “story spot,” which is finding human interest stories that can bring attention to what they are doing. 

PRO TIP: Givers Gain. Call and check in on them without asking for anything. Offer resources if you know of any. They will remember this.


5. Work on the County Level

We have a close relationship with our county, Ramsey County. Check in with them on updated resources, such as interest free loan programs, or a free program like Open to Business. Share those resources in your e-newsletter, social media, or work together to create a live program. 

PRO TIP: Don’t wait for your county or state to come to you, seek them out with ways to help them. 


Continue to reach out to your local businesses, and sponsors. They were there for you to sponsor your football games and graduations, now it is your turn to be there for them. 


How has your media center helped the business community?

7 Surprising Ways CTV Has Helped the Community

It took a pandemic to see the value of community media. In the past, I have routinely fielded the question, “Who even watches your stuff?” Over the past two weeks however, it has become obvious that A LOT of people watch our “stuff.” In the past week, our social media following has increased by 11%. In one week! One of our recent city meetings had over 300 viewers within an hour. Beyond just the “watching” of local content, we are bringing our community together.

 Here are 7 surprising ways CTV has helped the community during this pandemic. 

1. Education of Open Meeting Law

The current Minnesota Open Meeting Law is built to maintain open and transparent government. There are many barriers related to virtual, or telephone meetings to maintain transparency. The meeting law was not built for a pandemic, it was built to keep citizens informed and engaged in their government. We have worked with the League of Minnesota Cities, and lawyers to fully understand the law and execute virtual meetings while continuing to engage the public. 

2. Showcasing Local Businesses

At a time where businesses are literally shutting their doors, we have stepped up to record their origin stories and educate the public on the awesome things these businesses do for the community.

3. Executing Virtual Public Meetings

Pat Cook–a longtime CTV employee who deserves a shout out–has worked tirelessly with our cities to bring their City Council Meetings onto a digital platform like Zoom. Our mission is to bring information to the community, that is why these meetings are so important. 

4. Relay Reliable Resources

We have started a partnership with Ramsey County to deliver the weekly COVID -19 Update through our social media. This is a great way to conserve resources, while delivering timely information from a reliable source to the community. Remember to check your sources of information

5. Watch Parties of Sports Games

We have been getting so many requests for classic sports games through our Forever Downloads option on our website. Parents are hosting watch parties of the children’s old sports games with their friends. What a great way to connect!

6. Media Copies for Educational Instruction

Our educators are getting creative with delivering curriculum away from the traditional school setting. We are truly appreciative for our teachers and the work they are doing. We have helped copy and find resources for teachers to get content to their students. 

7. Keynote Speaker Presentations

We are in the process of recording keynote speakers in a virtual setting now. Events like Tuesday’s Scholar, and Chamber of Commerce events are going to be delivered digitally.


This is a different time, but we must find creative ways to help our communities. Continue to social distance and reach out to us if you have suggestions on ways to connect the community. 


Our Governor announced media to be essential staff. We have been working with our city leaders to execute LIVE virtual meetings.

Fact Checking COVID-19: What to Listen to and What to Ignore

There has been a flood of information about COVID-19 on social media in recent weeks, some of it reliable, some of it not. Below, we fact checked some commonly posted items about the virus.     


Young and healthy people are not at risk of contracting COVID-19.  

Ignore. While older people and those with chronic health conditions are at a higher risk of developing serious COVID-19 illness, anybody can become sick and spread it to those around them. Take precaution and keep your distance from others, especially those in vulnerable communities. 


You should avoid gathering in large groups of people for the next few months.

Listen. The virus is spread respiratory droplets from a cough or sneeze of an infected person. This means coming within 6 feet of infected people, or touching surfaces that have not been sanitized puts you at risk. To protect yourself and others, stay at home. Health officials say to “assume you are contagious, even if you feel fine.” 


Hand dryers can effectively kill the virus.

Ignore. A video on Facebook claims that high temperatures such as those used in a hand dryer can kill the virus. The virus can survive in all extreme temperatures. Instead wash your hands often with soap and water and hand dry them with a towel. 


Symptoms can occur up to two weeks after you contracted the disease.

Listen. Once someone contracts the disease, symptoms can appear between 2-14 days after exposure. These symptoms include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, or if you’re not, but believe you could have contracted the disease, call your doctor for medical advice. 


If you drink water frequently, you can stop yourself from contracting COVID-19. 

Ignore. This facebook post says if you keep your mouth wet by drinking water every 15 minutes, the virus will be flushed into your stomach and killed. While staying hydrated is important for every-day health, there is no evidence that says it prevents you from getting the disease. 


Traveling in crowded areas such as airports may increase the likelihood of getting sick.

Listen. Airports are full of people who are coming from places all over the world that may be affected by the outbreak. Waiting in tightly crammed lines and compact planes gives you a higher chance of coming into contact with an infected person and contracting COVID-19. Play it safe and only fly if it’s an emergency. 


At-home thermometers can detect if you are infected with the disease.

Ignore. While one of the main symptoms is a high fever, thermometers cannot tell the difference between COVID-19 and a regular high fever. If you have a fever, isolate yourself from others, and monitor if you develop any other symptoms such as a dry cough. The only sure way to tell if you have contracted the virus is to call your doctor.  


As of right now, there is no vaccine for COVID-19.

Listen. Medical professionals have yet to find a vaccine to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Because of this, it’s important that we continue to follow the CDC’s guidelines on how we can protect ourselves. Wash your hands, avoid close contact with others, and stay home if you’re sick. 


How CTV is Supporting our Cities During COVID-19

With crisis we see humanity. Local restaurants providing free meals for kids despite their hardships. Teachers assisting parents with homeschooling curriculum. Neighbors leaving supplies on stoops for their elderly friends.

CTV is your neighbor. These are some of the steps we’ve taken to help the communities we love.

1. Connecting County to the Communities

We established a relationship with Ramsey County early. In an effort not to duplicate communication efforts, so we found a way to present the community with the most updated COVID-19 information. On Tuesdays, the Ramsey County Commissioners meet for their meeting. During the meeting they have dedicated a COVID-19 segment. Through our partnerships with Ramsey County, and the City of St. Paul, we were able to get the most up to date information directly from the County out to our cities.

2. Guiding Leaders through Open Meeting Law

This is unprecedented times. Open Meeting Laws are in place to ensure government bodies are including citizens’ voices and conducting business in a transparent way. With the pandemic, and social distancing measures we need to examine how to conduct meetings according to the Open Meeting Laws while maintaining safety. CTV has worked with numerous legal entities as well as the league of Minnesota Cities to ensure our cities are being open and transparent according to the law.

3. Providing Tools for Virtual Meetings

Cities focus on providing services for residents. Shifting a public meeting to a virtual platform is complicated and time consuming. We have worked diligently with our cities to find solutions related to this technology. Utilizing Zoom, Google Hang Outs, and Webx have been a few options.

4. Building Forums to Inform Businesses

Chambers of commerce are built on networking events. Halt the networking events, businesses are less likely to connect and build relationships. Working with our local chambers like the Twin Cities North Chamber  and the St. Paul Area Chamber of Commerce, we are building forums and virtual gathering spaces to host businesses, our sponsors and answer their most pressing questions.

5. Producing Videos about Humans

Restaurants that aren’t allowed to have diners, but are still supplying lunches for kids. These types of stories about our community is what we are currently covering and will continue to cover during this period of social distancing.

6. Offering Tools for Distance Learning

Working with our schools, we have offered tools for distance learning like recording keynote speakers, or offering our Tuesday Scholar series as a resource. Our schools and teachers are overwhelmed, and we want them to be able to lean on us to deliver content.

7. Sharing Content on Social Media

Information and misinformation has been circulating on social media. We post content only from reputable sources, and fact check our own content. Guiding people to consume information responsibly is important to our work.

CTV is here to support the community through factual content, virtual meetings, and technology solutions. If there is something CTV can help your community with, please reach out.

6 Ways Community Media Centers Can Offer Support Amid COVID-19

I walked into a big box store last night to purchase some last minute supplies. Shelves were eerily empty of canned goods, cleaning supplies, and most notably hand sanitizer and soap. Photo is courtesy of Adam McCune of Goffstown, New Hampshire.

Our communities are preparing for the Coronavirus through social distancing and encouraging good hand washing. Our media centers can help amplify these messages and provide value to connecting accurate information to our local community.


1. Re-Tweet and Re-Share City Event Cancellations and Prevention Efforts

Your social media audience is a powerful tool to reach the community. Re-tweet and re-share messages directly from your city officials to your own page, neighborhood group pages, and personal timelines. We need to amplify accurate messages to provide residents tools to make good decisions.

2. Reach out to City and State Officials to Record Announcements

Our State Officials are swamped with constituents asking for information. Reach out to them and lay out an easy plan for them to record a video announcement, and how it would be distributed. Move quickly on this.

3. Offer to Record Keynote Speakers in Lieu of Canceled Events

Events are getting canceled daily. Reach out to the event organizers and offer to record the keynote speaker and send out the presentation digitally. This can be a live webcast, or a paid-for download.

4. Create Animations About Hand Washing and Sanitation

The CDC is putting out new videos regularly. Use their video or have fun creating your own. Be creative. I recently saw song lyrics posted in a bathroom that lasted 20 seconds when you sing it. Now I sing Queen every time I wash my hands.

5. Translate Content to Multiple Languages

Content needs to be translated into multiple languages. Who are your largest demographics in your area? In Minnesota, we have a large Hmong, Karen, Somali, and Spanish population. Get information out in those languages as well. TPT just released a toolkit to help with this. The toolkit has social media posts related to washing hands and travel restrictions.

6. Provide Technology Options for Sick Legislators to Stay Home

Research you open meeting laws and the technology to make remote meeting attendance possible. Provide a one sheet description on how to execute a remote meeting options for legislatures. Last thing we want is our leadership to get sick.

This is the time where we can showcase the value we bring to the community. Don’t wait for people to reach out to you, be proactive. In what ways is your media center preparing for CONVID-19?


6 March Activities to do Around the North Suburbs

Although parades and festivals seem far away right now, there’s still lots going on in the nine northern suburbs, so you don’t have to wait until spring to have some winter fun. Here are six different winter activities taking place around the area in the next few months.

1. Introductory Vegetable Gardening Class in Falcon Heights

The city of Falcon Heights is teaming up with the University of Minnesota Gardener Volunteer Program to teach a gardening class for beginners on Wednesday, March 18 from 6:30 to 8 p.m.. If you’re interested in learning more about where to plant your garden, which plants to choose, and how to keep your garden thriving all season long, come on out!

2. Home Alone in Mounds View

Is your child getting to the age where they can start staying home alone, but you want to make sure they are prepared for it? If your child is between the ages of 9-12, sign them up for Home Alone with the city of Mounds View on Thursday, March 12 from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.. This is a one day class that teaches kids the skills they need to know to stay safe while home alone such as first aid and how to talk to a 9-1-1 dispatcher. The cost of the class is $20 and you sign up through the Mounds Views Community Center!

3. Coffee with a Cop in Mounds View

The police officers of Mounds View want to meet and converse with the people of Mounds View at Coffee with a Cop on Friday, March 20 from 9 to 10 a.m.. There will not be any speeches, agendas, or meeting minutes at this meeting. Come and enjoy a cup of coffee and a conversation with a Mounds View police officer at McDonald’s to start your morning.

4. It’s Tapping Time in Roseville

Even when temperatures are low, you can still get outside and enjoy the winter time with Roseville’s Harriet Alexander Nature Center’s event It’s Tapping Time! Learn how to collect sap from maple trees and make it into delicious maple syrup. This event will take place on Saturday, February 29 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., but if you can’t make that date, you’re in luck, because the Nature Center will be hosting this event again on Sunday, March 1 from noon to 4 p.m..

5. Let’s Hygge in Roseville 

If you haven’t heard of Hygge yet, this is the perfect event to attend to get introduced to the concept. Hygee is a lifestyle practice that comes from Danish culture that refers to the feeling of contentment that comes from being comfortable. At the Roseville Cedarholm Community Building, there are many different relaxing activities such as snowshoeing, kicksledding, and shelter building and speakers to help you feel relaxed and cozy. This event will take place on Saturday, February 29 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m..

6. Daytrip: Russian Art & Murray’s Steakhouse in Arden Hills

Take a day trip to have lunch at Murray’s Steakhouse and then visit the Museum of Russian Art on Wednesday, February 19 from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.. With the help of guide, you’ll be able go through the permanent soviet-era exhibit and even get to see their special exhibit: Documenting Chernobyl, After the Explosion. This trip is $80 for residents of Arden Hills and Shoreview and $90 for non-residents.