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!

5 responses to “Turning Simpson College students into brand ambassadors

  1. >I think before any of that can happen, Simpson College has to learn to embrace students' "free pr". Often I feel that students try to hold events, write blogs, or start Twitter discussions, yet nothing comes of it due to the lack of support from PR. They become concerned that students would post something "unprofessional" rather than thinking that students could post something really great. And heck, it could be both, but with the right person overseeing submissions or conversation, it's easy to get over those who can't handle it correctly.

  2. >I would also add that I think a narrative needs to be set on what the "Simpson Experience" really means. It seems to be somewhat of an empty phrase and truthfully, even a punchline. However, if, for instance, the college could come up with a concrete set of characteristics that defines the experience, students could be equipped with the right talking points to be able to adequately relate the Simpson Experience to others. Thanks for reading!

  3. These are great ideas and observations to act on!

  4. That’s about to change! This Fall Fampus.com will be launching on Simpson campus. What is Fampus? Fampus.com is a web site developed to enhance the college experience by informing students about events happening in the campus community and recommending events that interest them. Fampus allows users to collaborate their images, comments, and experiences at those events in one digital community. Imagine if Facebook, Twitter, and your campus calendar had a love child… I see great things happening this next year! I’m hoping that Fampus will also help stimulate chatter on Facebook and Twitter.

    You have some great ideas, and I would love to help in any way I can this Fall. Great blog by the way!

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