My friend Dick Jones of Dick Jones Communications was instrumental in getting Mansfield University international publicity on our first year of sprint football. I asked him if he would adapt a query he developed to be used as a guest blog here. A lot of pros in the business have noted the decline in the print industry. Dick gives a behind-the-scenes explanation of why print is still important.
Any college or university that isn’t using Web 2.0 to its fullest is falling behind. We all know that. Colleges need to be rssing, digging, tweeting, blogging, social networking, virtual worlding, podcasting, flickering, Youtubing, and wikiing. (My apologies for creating new and possibly horrific verbs).
But they also need to continue to pay attention to the stodgy old traditional news media. There follows a tale:
Mansfield University, a public institution of 3,400 students in Mansfield, PA, this fall became the first school in the nation to have sprint football as its only football program. Others playing the sport also field heavyweight teams. MU also is the sole public university in sprint football. Sprint, which has one full-time employee (the head coach), no scholarships, little recruiting budget to speak of and no “extras” such as spring and pre-season practice, is much cheaper to run than is regular football. On the field it is identical to the regular game except the players are smaller. The other schools playing it are Princeton, Penn, Cornell, Army and Navy.
To attract students to play sprint football, Mansfield put a page on its website for high schoolers to submit an inquiry/information form. The page went active shortly after MU announced that it was starting sprint football in autumn of 2008. Over the winter, spring and summer it yielded 175 electronically submitted inquiries, according to MU’s Director of Athletic Operations Steve McCloskey.
When Mansfield’s sprint football team took the field for the first time in September 2008, the unusual program was the subject of news stories on The Associated Press wire and on the front page of The Wall Street Journal. Web metrics at Mansfield track a significant spike in page hits just after the stories ran. But that’s not the real payoff. In the month after the publicity, an additional 150 inquiry/information forms were submitted electronically.
So following the news media attention nearly as many inquiries were generated in a single month as had been produced in many previous months that the site was active.
What happened here? We all know that kids are not reading The Wall Street Journal. Nor are they scanning the news outlets where many of the AP stories ran. Conventional wisdom is that young males do not pay much attention to news in whatever form it is delivered. Yet there was a clear spike in interest after the publicity occurred.
My hypothesis: Parents and grandparents saw the stories. Uncles and aunts saw the stories. Neighbors saw them. And they showed the stories to the kids. Others, McCloskey says, alerted high school football coaches who told their squads about this opportunity. And the kids did what kids do; they went to the web to check it out.
The old media still have a lot of clout. They provide an approval that is important in an era awash with information sources. Young people may not pay day-to-day attention to the news, but they do value the third-party endorsement of a positive news story when it is called to their attention. It is not perceived as the institution saying good things about itself. Thus it has more credibility.
The moral: tweet while you toil. Wiki while you work. Have a nice first life while you’re in Second Life. But don’t forget the power of the traditional media. Do that and you’ll be as snug as a pea in a podcast.
In the next post I’ll look at the”halo effect” of sprint football and some very personal marketing.