Monthly Archives: June 2011

Is central Iowa home to the next great media brand?

For a journalism student, the blogosphere lately has been full of conversations that should lead to some reflection opportunities. First, there’s been the debate surrounding Washington Post columnist Gene Weingarten’s public claim denouncing journalists’ personal branding. Then yesterday, Jeff Jarvis posted a less talked about, but insightful, post on Buzz Machine dealing with the value of relationships in journalism versus content. Two seemingly different topics, however, for my peers and for up-and-coming journalists at Simpson College, they weave themselves together in a discussion that’s worth taking apart.

To sum up Jarvis’ “Content Dethroned” post in a paragraph (be sure though, to go and read the post), today, it’s not articles, photos or video in and of themselves that attract people to our journalism. Content now, Jarvis argues, is user generated (i.e., status updates on Facebook) and it’s everywhere. Now, value comes from creating relationships and extracting connections from the mass amount of data that users create. He sites a study in which researches were able to predict the rise and fall of the Dow Jones Industrial Average based upon Twitter conversations. Interpreting and reporting these types of connections is the direction in which Jarvis says journalists must realign themselves.

It seems that those on the forefront of new media certainly agree with Jarvis and give credibility to his claim. Keeping that in mind, I’m going to make what may be a radical claim. I think it’s possible for the next great media brand to come out of Simpson College. I’ve been around the people enough to know that the potential is there. Here’s my reasoning.

First, if there’s one thing a liberal arts education prepares you for, it’s making and drawing upon connections between multiple disciplines. It certainly happens in Simpson’s classrooms, but a few students are carrying these connections to the web as well. Check out Senior Erin Guzman’s sites, including her blog and tumblelog. Often, she writes about her studies as a religion major or her world travel and she integrates Twitter (amongst tweets about her roomates’ summer adventures) as a tool for philosophic discussions. It’s personal, but also has journalistic merit and draws connections in a way that is meaningful for readers.

Second, fortunately, we’re in an area of the country where people are building technologies that are fundamentally meant to connect people. This, I think, was highlighted at Macy Koch’s Startup Storm event in April, where speakers such as Dwolla‘s Ben Milne discussed entrepreneurship and startups. While these companies have little to do directly with journalism, the sounding board for ideas that Des Moines-based professionals can offer could be a huge resource for students if they reach out. It’s one personal goal of mine to become more aggressive in networking and I’d love to have more join me.

Also at Startup Storm, Lava Row founder and CEO Nathan Wright complimented Simpson students on being extremely active on social networks, specifically Twitter. While there’s always room for improvement, I think Simpson has some serious momentum on Twitter. If students would readjust their focus on how they use the network, they could be exposed and expose others to the ideas and conversations from which future media brands will grow.

I hope that there are a few others in the Simpson community who see this happening and who recognize the potential for growth. This brings me around to my final point, launching the next great media brand from Simpson College. In one of the many blogs arguing Weingarten’s anti-branding stance, I read a quote from Forbes editor Lewis DVorkin. “Pandering for traffic is not brand building. Winning the respect of your audience is.” To win respect, there must first be a relationship. Simply combine the understanding of relationships and the resources I highlighted above with the passion for communicating and community that I’ve seen multiple times from Simpson students, and you have the recipe for a great brand, right from the “small” school in the middle of Iowa. And who knows, this brand could be developed through the efforts of an enterprising student, or through the team efforts of The Simpsonian (I think it’s poised for great things this year). All that matters is that somebody gets out and does it.
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Ankeny Summer Sounds with The Eldorados

If you haven’t listened to any Sun or Chess Records material lately, The Eldorados are a refreshing reminder of why guys like Carl Perkins, Elvis Presley and Howlin’ Wolf are legendary. Now, it might be considered tame, but then, this stuff was reckless.

I shot this video with a Canon Vixia HF s20 and a Rode shotgun mic, trying to capture all the sights and sounds of the event. Enjoy, and keep an eye out at 1:59. I think that might be George Jones in the audience.

Turning Simpson College students into brand ambassadors

I’ve been at my internship with the City of Ankeny‘s public relations department for just under a month now and I couldn’t even begin to detail the things I’ve learned about effective marketing and brand development. Of the many insightful conversations I’ve sat in on and the experiences I’ve had, one of the most interesting projects I’ve seen is one that did not even begin with the city.

Earlier in June, the city asked citizens to post pictures and stories from Ankeny parks on its Facebook page. One response came from a woman who, along with her kids, had made it a goal to visit all 37 of the city’s parks in one summer, blogging about their adventures along the way. Another group of women had the same goal and ran a Facebook page dedicated to the challenge. Effectively, these women were acting as brand ambassadors for the city, positively promoting Ankeny’s parks via social media. It goes without saying that having this sort of engagement with an audience can be a powerful tool for a marketer.

All this lead me to think about my experiences in Simpson’s PR department, where, essentially, I worked as a paid student brand ambassador, developing videos and stories on life at Simpson to give prospective students a glimpse inside the Simpson Experience. This is a great program, however, I’m imagining the promotional campaigns that could be achieved if more of the college’s 1,500 students became engaged as brand ambassadors. Is it possible to engage students in a way that is both beneficial to the college and fun for the student? I’d say it’s certainly possible with a little resourcefulness and it wouldn’t even require many resources on the college’s part.

For Simpson College, it could be beneficial to follow the same model as the City of Ankeny. For instance, it would be simple to set up a competition during homecoming, asking students to post their pictures of the week’s activities on the school’s Facebook page and then offering a prize (a gift certificate to La Casa) for the student who provides the best picture. Not only will that generate attention for the college’s Facebook page, but those students’ friends (many of whom may still be in high school) will see the pictures in their news feed. Perhaps Simpson’s new and improved dining services could offer a hot Foursquare special, which would surely be promoted through students’ Twitter feeds.

None of these ideas are extremely original and they’re being used by all manners of organizations with success. No reason Simpson College shouldn’t be getting in on the action- but I bet there are a lot more original ideas out there on how students can be utilized as brand ambassadors. So, feel free to comment and please be creative! You never know who may be reading!