Telling Our Story: Meet the PR Interns for Fall 2014

by Cathy Day

Screenshot 2014-12-11 10.17.46

(l to r) Taylor Wicker, Becca Austin, Lauren Lutz, Daniel Brount

Did you notice a difference this year in the English Department?

If so, it’s because of this group of students.

These are the #bsuenglish PR Interns. Supervised by me, the Assistant Chair of Operations, they coordinated the internal and external communication needs of the department.

Let me explain to you their specific duties as members of the team and what they accomplished in a relatively short amount of time.

Note: They worked 10 hours a week. Their first responsibility was to complete office tasks. Then they were ALL MINE. (evil laugh)

Daniel Brount

Daniel was our InDesign guru.

He also posted events to the Google Calendar on the department blog.

Let’s say I get an email from a faculty member that she is bringing a speaker on October 13. Can we put it on the calendar and make a poster?

Daniel starts that process.

He also created our new blog banner, our new social media avatars, as well as promotional materials and handouts.

He had a vision for the “look” of our online presence that was consistent, clean, cohesive, welcoming. Some folks call this “branding,” and well, it made people think that we had our s*** together.

Daniel also took pictures at a lot of our events and created FB photo albums (which we then repurposed for our alumni e-newsletter).

Yes, our first ever e-newsletter. He worked with Alumni Services to design the header and navigation buttons, and he worked with me to organize and edit the content.

NaNo Project: Then there’s this: Daniel decided we needed to organize a NaNoWriMo competition. All I had to do was book a room for Weekly Write-Ins, but Daniel and the other interns did everything else. Daniel figured out how to publicize the event internally and externally.

I’m sort of heartbroken, but not surprised, that he’s leaving us to take over as the Managing Editor of the Ball State Daily News.

Thank you, Daniel.

Lauren Lutz

Lauren was our social media guru.

That faculty member who’s bringing the speaker on October 13? Lauren uses social media to promote the event. Tweets, FB posts, FB events. (It’s hard to get people’s attention these days.)

She also sent out gentle reminders about registration and other departmental happenings, like dissertation defenses.

She promoted events across campus that were of interest to English department faculty and students: symposiums, speakers, films, and local cultural events. This built cross-disciplinary and “town-and-gown” relationships. Because we shared their stuff, they shared our stuff.

The English department’s many good works are now visible outside of Robert Bell, and that’s a very good thing.  

Lauren interacted with students and faculty, liking, favoriting, and retweeting. Her weekly Storifies are a thing of beauty (and often great comedy).

NaNo Project: Lauren helped Daniel with publicity and figured out how to engage current students and alums.

She changed the voice and persona of our online presence. 

A former student told me last year that she thought of our department’s voice like a megaphone, and its persona was a little imposing. Lauren changed that. Now, our persona is both smart but also funny and approachable.

I feel like Lauren’s work has changed how people feel about the department, but also how they feel about themselves as English majors.

Something you need to understand about our department is that there is pretty much nowhere for students to hang out except on the floor in the hallways. What Lauren did was create an online space and online community (since we lack the IRL space) which made students feel connected to each other.

I’m sort of heartbroken that she is graduating.

Thank you, Lauren.

Becca Austin

Becca was our blog guru. 

IMG_1310 2We developed a social media/blog content calendar (see picture to the right) which went something like this:

Mondays:  People Posts: alumni posts or new faculty profiles or “where are they now?”

  • New Post on blog, promoted on FB and Twitter.

Tuesdays:  Good News Day

  • No blog post
  • Good news shared on social media and then archived for once-a-month good news blog posts that are then repurposed for the alumni newsletter.
  • I convinced faculty and students to share their good news with me in exchange for NOT sending them pesky emails once a semester asking them for that information. “Share it as you get it,” I said. And they did.

Wednesdays: Events or Recommended Reads Day

  • Event promotion or Recommended Reads post on blog, which we promoted on social media.
  • Honestly, we had so many events, we didn’t do any RR’s this semester.

Thursdays: Throw-back Thursdays: A Trip Through Our Archives

  • No blog post
  • We repurposed our extensive archive, trying to “piggy back” on upcoming events.

Fridays:  A week of #bsuenglish via Storify

  • Post Storify to blog and promote on social media.

My interns didn’t really write much for the blog. We asked others to do the writing, and then Becca formatted and made it reader friendly.

Check out this post from a few years ago to one that Becca worked on.

She understood intuitively what needed to be done with submissions, that writing for the web is different from writing for the page. It was an enormous relief to me that I didn’t have to insert subheads and hyperlinks and colors and pulled quotes and images or add good intros and conclusions–all the things that make blog posts more readable and share-able.

NaNo Project: Becca found a WordPress plugin that imported all the competitors’ NaNo widgets so that everyone competing could see where they stood in relation to the other competitors. Check out the page! 20+ people, including visiting writer Michael Poore.

  • This made me so happy. My interns took the initiative to make something happen. Everyone chipped in to make it work. They took ownership and that’s wonderful.

The blog is our hub, and Becca managed it well. I’m sort of heartbroken that she’s taking the next semester off to focus on graduating–but I don’t blame her one bit.

Thank you, Becca.

Taylor Wicker

A late addition to our team, Taylor was our Research and Bulletin Board guru. 

When we needed someone to go through all the “Life After Ball State” blog posts and find the money quote and get all the info together for Daniel to make posters, she did that.

She did all the research so that Daniel could make this.

Yeah, that took awhile.

She made bulletin boards.

FullSizeRender

Never underestimate the power of a good bulletin board.

 

Taylor has worked in the English office for awhile, and she was an invaluable resource to me. I don’t have to explain things to her. She’s seen “behind the curtain” and knows a great deal.

Thank god she is returning next semester, because otherwise, I’d be in trouble.

Thank you, Taylor.

What they accomplished!

This semester, they increased our department’s ‘reach’ by 740 people.

Each week during our meeting, we’d begin by checking our stats. Between July 28,2014 and December 9, 2014:

They added:

  • 99 Facebook page likes
  • 166 Twitter followers
  • 25 blog subscribers
  • 450 weekly page views (350 a day to 800)

Made the department (achievements, events, etc.) more visible by:

  • consistent use of social media and blog to promote events
  • better, more eye-catching posters
  • use of calendars–internal and external. Now there’s always a place (besides your inbox) where you can go to see what’s happening in the department.
  • first e-newsletter, (Re)Vision

Increased attendance at events. Most were standing room only.

Alumni Outreach. They helped me to build a system whereby we can interact with alums and gain from their wisdom. This benefits the current students and demonstrates that we have positive career outcomes and all that jazz.

This team has improved the student experience in measurable ways, and maybe that means that 5, 10, 20 years down the road, they’ll remember us well.

The reason I’ve written all this out

I want my new team (Taylor Imus, Jeff Owens, Emily Griffis, and Taylor Wicker) to see what they’ll be doing.

I want people to understand that I didn’t do this work. They did. I just bossed them around.

I want other departments–at Ball State and elsewhere–to see what might be possible in their own front office.

I also want to thank Dr. Adam Beach who started all of this and left me with so much to work with!

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