The office telephone rings on a peaceful spring morning. A person from the office of the university president delivers an assignment for you: Create a digital signage network (DSN) consisting of 10 digital signs across the campuses accompanied by an emergency messaging feature. You can hire one person, and the network must be installed and fully operational within six months.

Does that scenario sound familiar? It is happening on campus and in districts across the country. The 2007 shootings at Virginia Tech changed conversations on every higher-education campus in the country; and last month's attack in Newtown, Conn, has prompted education institutions to ask again: "How do we alert our campus community as quickly as possible of a pending danger or imminent peril?" Digital signage has become one cost-effective answer.

Starting points

It is no small task to create a high-tech integrated information network to cover a district or large university campus. Where do you start? What resources do you need? Where can you find instant knowledge to put the pieces of a large puzzle together? A little research can ease the tension and soothe spinning minds.

Every DSN begins with a simple strategic plan that considers who the important stakeholders will be in a successful DSN and how to obtain the necessary concept of "buy-in" by the administration.

Whether a campus has one or 100 digital signs on campus, the emergency messaging features are critical to an institution working to protect a community of thousands in the event of danger.

Digital signage also may be used as an outlet for delivering positive marketing messages and creating brand loyalty. Messaging does not have to targeted only to students; universities also want to communicate with faculty, staff and visitors about the great things happening on campus.

Digital signage can be an education ambassador that works for a school district or campus 24/7/365. The brand loyalty that that it helps build could mean millions of dollars to a university when students and faculty and staff members become alumni, retirees and benefactors.