Reflections on how My Strategic Campaigns class helped #StartCT

This past semester was the inaugural offering of Comm 470 Strategic Campaigns in the Department of Communication here at Shepherd. And with that, I’d like to offer a brief reflection on the experience. It was a great learning and growing experience for both me and the students!

We were extremely fortunate to have worked with Discover Downtown Charles Town, an awesome cause that seeks to promote and help revitalize a wonderful small town near our campus: Charles Town, W.Va. We got to meet and work with Van Applegate and Patrick Blood, two of the awesome people who helped turn this cause into a recognized not-for-profit during the semester (and have gotten a good bit of positive coverage for it along the way).

I’ve taught courses before that have worked with clients in the past, like our Social Media and Social Movements class that did some great work for the American Conservation Film Festival a few years ago. But this semester was special for me because it represented the first time students were taking the seminal course in the Strategic Communication concentration I officially added to the curriculum in Fall 2013. So it gave me an opportunity to see what the students had learned and how they had matured over the two and one-half years of taking my classes. In a sense, it was the first ‘graduating class’ of the concentration (though not entirely as a few of the students have not yet taken all of the classes).

It is always a different animal when your class is working for a client for an entire semester, especially when the client is participating not just with the goal of helping students learn but with the hope of implementing some of the ideas and work that comes out of the class! The high stakes and knowing that if they produce high-quality, professional materials that meets the needs and goals of the organization, it could be more than just an assignment – it could be implemented by the client! -, are a great experience and motivator for the students. And I’m proud of how well the students came through!

I was impressed by the students’ ideas, creativity, and execution. Both teams dug in and did some great background research and produced strong proposals based on the goals the client and I established before the semester. After their proposals, they followed through and created the materials based on their strategies and tactics for DDCT to implement. I pushed both groups because I knew what they were capable of and they both probably they found me a bit demanding and overbearing at times. 🙂

Our campaign goals were:

  1. Help articulate the Charles Town Now brand and what its mission is
  2. Raise awareness of Charles Town Now and its mission among local businesses and community stakeholders such as the town council.
  3. Get local businesses to buy into Charles Town Now’s efforts to assist downtown Charles Town businesses to expand and grow.

A major emphasis was to find ways to bolster the success DDCT is already having through their Charles Town Now (#StartCT) social media campaign and augment or provide a number of things they were in need of. One part of this included bridging their highly visible social media presence online with the analog world, where what they are doing is a lot less obvious to the person walking the street of downtown Charles Town.

In short, the teams proposal and thus final implementation materials included:

Team A:

  • Monthly email newsletter offering an additional avenue to stay in touch with residents, visitors, and shop owners (with added benefit of reaching the demographic that doesn’t use social media).
  • Monthly calendar of events in Charles Town to be distributed with email & downloadable as a photo to smart phone
  • Proposed new blog for DDCT including sample posts – purpose of which is to tell the unique story of the people of Charles Town and what makes living, working, and owning businesses in Charles Town so unique and special.
  • DDCT branded window-signage for businesses downtown to promote their social media and promote awareness of DDCT.
  • Letterhead

Team B:

  • Proposed new blog for DDCT including sample posts – with the same purpose in mind as above.
  • Media Kit
  • Letterhead
  • Boilerplate
  • Proposal on how to better make use of Instagram, a social channel identified as an underutilized opportunity for DDCT
  • Tip sheet for local businesses on how to use social media for their business
  • Sticker designs for businesses and for residents to promote awareness of and demonstrate support for DDCT and #StartCT

Both teams also produced a targeted media list of legacy and new media outlets using the CisionPoint software, but those were only turned into me as an assignment and were not distributed to DDCT per the CisionPoint education program terms.

I hope I’m not forgetting anything. 🙂

The students got some great feedback and kudos for their ideas and their work. I’m proud to say that some of the materials the students created from their campaigns are already being used by DDCT. And I know the students are proud as well!

I want to thank Van and Patrick from DDCT for volunteering to work with our class, taking the time out of their busy schedules to do so, and for the amazing learning opportunity they provided our students!

Congrats to all of the students who participated in Strategic Campaigns this semester! Great job!

I am looking forward to continuing to grow and enhance the concentration and the classes. And I feel a great sense of pride in what our students have already accomplished in the brief time I’ve been offering these classes!

I hope everyone is enjoying the winter break and staying warm!

-Cheers

Matt

Note: I’ve written a bit more about our client and the course project here.

And a copy of the Strategic Campaigns syllabus and an overview for Fall 2014 are available here.

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