Now that the site has been formally established, the design has been updated and improved, and we have accrued a sizable amount of content, thus begins the next phase in development: marketing. Marketing is often used as an organizational function and a set of processes for creating, delivering and communicating value to customers, in addition to maintaining and developing customer relations in a way that best serves the product, company, or brand. In our case, we’re not really trying to appeal to “customers” per se, because they do not buy our paper and we do not make money off of them. The student body of SLC can be seen somewhat like “customers” in that they are consuming the product (the paper and online content) that we produce. With a new staff, an entirely restructured press cycle, and an entirely redesigned web platform, we need to not only brand ourselves anew but market and advertise ourselves to a community that 1. is generally apathetic 2. has historically held unfavorable opinions about our publication and 3. does not know much if anything about our publication, its history, its staff, and its mission.
Because of the integration of the online platform, this marketing and public relations campaign will begin using internet mediums. As of now, we have established a Facebook Page and a Twitter account. Throughout the week, we tweet out links not only to our site main pages when we refresh them, but also to specific articles and photographic content that we want to promote. Ideally, because of the nature of the Twitter platform, we want to generate most of our buzz here. Twitter is easy to use, broadly accessible, and the hashtag functions makes it easy for us to connect with people that may be outside of the Sarah Lawrence sphere. Unfortunately, we have not developed a wide-enough Twitter following (and not enough SLC students have and regularly use their Twitter accounts) for this to be widely effective.
Thus the use of Facebook. Our Facebook page functions a little bit differently from typical institution pages. We do not have “followers” that “like” our page, we have “friends.” Our page is unique in that in half functions as typical Facebook user profile, and half functions as a business page. While at first this type of page gave me qualms, as it turns out this was the best option for our uses. By utilizing this kind of page, I can go online and actually personally “friend” Sarah Lawrence Students. This may seem creepy but it’s actually very effective: students see the personal invitations that I send them and feel as though they have been awarded special attention. It is also way more likely for a student to agree to a Facebook “friend” invite than to respond to an invitation to “like” a page. In the span of a few days, I was able to “friend” way more people than have ever been associated with our Facebook page. We are able to engage with and disseminate content to a much wider audience. This type of page also allows whoever is using The Phoenix’s Facebook account to privately message individuals. This is useful for when we need to professionally, but more quickly and effectively, communicate with people about publication business.
Because of the personal nature of Facebook and because so many students regularly check-in online, when I post content to our Facebook page it is seen by a wider audience of people. By utilizing Facebook, I have been able to increase site traffic exponentially, sharing content with a much wider audience than before. Users can engage with the content on Twitter, but Facebook provides an easier platform for commenting. Since beginning to heavily utilize our Facebook page, our articles have received way more attention, people have actually shared links on their personal Facebook pages (without me having to ask them haha!) and many have commented.
Originally I thought that by providing commenting and sharing options on the site, the majority of conversation would take place their. Since using Facebook, this has not been the case at all. We have received a few very long, very detailed comments on the site but most of the commenting happens in the comments section under the links on Facebook. Some of the commentary has been negative, but a vast majority has been very positive. This is another marketing boon: when people are positively commenting on articles, other people see that and then their image of our brand is improved. On Facebook, hundreds of people see these comments. Even if comments are negative, I’m still happy because that means that people are reading our content, the content is evoking a reaction, and then individuals are responding and acting upon that reaction.
Though the pathways that our readers take to engage with that content is not what I had originally thought would happen, they are still engaging with the content and ultimately this is all that matters. When other people comment and share links on Facebook, they are marketing our brand for us! And that’s awesome. The whole purpose of creating an online platform was to generate an online public forum—a digital space where our content would evoke discussion. The goal was for users to read content, engage with the content, and then bring discussion from real life online and vice versa. And that’s exactly what’s happening. Going forward, our marketing strategies for online communications will mirror these trends. We will continue to promote links on Facebook and Twitter, but individual editors and writers will also share links—ideally from the Facebook page so that not only will their Facebook friends be directed to the site, but will also be directed to our Facebook page. In theory, this should not only increase site traffic but also increase our followership on Facebook as well.
Beyond online and social media marketing strategies, we are also working on advertising and marketing campaigns in non-digital spaces. This will namely be in the form of word of mouth information propagation and flyers. Our flyers are especially important because they will direct people to our site who are not necessarily within our sphere of influence online. There are many individuals who we are not connected to on Facebook or Twitter, and who may never happenstance stumble upon a link to our site. These flyers are also important because, graphically, they are helping to define our brand. A really important aspect of our branding strategy is the graphic design of our site and our print publication. We emphasize clean, clear, minimal layouts with black and white and cream and forest green (our school colors) tones. Advertisers aim to make their products instantly recognizable to their markets. Hopefully, by propagating our cream and forest green-toned graphic of a phoenix rising out of the ashes, our readers will be able to see a flyer or see our site up on a computer screen and be able to instantaneously recognize it as The Phoenix. Our flyers are going to go up everywhere: in all student-run spaces, all dining halls (including the Heimbold Atrium Café and Hill to Go), all community message boards, the Library, and pretty much anywhere else that we are physically allowed to put up flyers.
Further marketing strategies that we are devising will include publicity stunts (to be determined, we have talked about running around the North Lawn throwing papers and flyers in the air a lá Mean Girls but there is still much discussion on the topic) and public arts projects such as painting the community boards by Bates and Hill House and arranging white stones on either the North or South Lawns (or both) that spell out The Phoenix. We want to get our newspaper as much visibility as possible. Not only to grow readership but also to improve our community standing. Ultimately, our goal is that this will increase the number of students who are willing and excited to write for our publication, leading to more content, more variety, higher quality writing, and our ability to produce more stimulating news.
While all of these methods sound fine and dandy in theory, they are just our plan for now. We hope to adapt these campaign strategies as we go and see exactly how the community is responding. If something is not working, we’ll fix it or come up with something new. Young people are fickle, and we have to be able to almost instantaneously adjust how we are appealing to them in order to not lose our readership.
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