Endings and Beginnings

With final exams and graduation right around the corner, I have begun to reflect upon my experiences as an undergrad, and how all of these moments have contributed to preparing me for the next step in my academic career. Serving as an intern with the writing camp has been one of the defining experiences of my undergraduate career, and it has been a great way to end my time at Duquesne University.
Although the internship duties will continue until the end of the camp, a large part of the marketing work is beginning to wind to close. Mass emails have been sent, Facebook posts scheduled and posted, and the fundraising campaign is finally live. I will continue to update social media and send emails, but the challenge of getting the camp’s name out there has been accomplished. The whole experience has been fantastic, and it has allowed to me apply many of the ideas I learned in the classroom to a “real world” setting. From this experience, I have gained confidence in my abilities to adapt to different environments, to apply my liberal arts degree in unique ways, and to make a lasting impact on the communities I am a part of.
Coordinating the marketing campaign efforts has been an exciting and informative experience. Although I had worked on numerous marketing campaigns before, marketing for the camp was different than any of my previous experiences. The target audiences of teens, parents, and high school teachers were more widely varied than the groups I helped shaped campaigns for in the past, and it took some creativity to reach all three groups. Admittedly, some of the process was trial and error, and it strongly reflected the editing process. I would try one thing and then adjust accordingly until the final project captured whatever it was we were trying to promote. I found emailing teachers directly was the most effective at increasing inquiries from parents, and flyers seemed to be most effective when distributed by guidance counselors. Guidance counselors were a source I originally had not even thought about, but their involvement in student life proved to be quite beneficial to the camp recruiting process. By viewing the work I was doing as continually open to revisions, I found the outcome to be a strong, constantly improving campaign.

One of the goals I set for myself upon entering the internship was to increase viewership by 25% on Facebook, so I am proud to see this goal has been surpassed. Now that I have made many posts on social media, it is possible to see just how our impact has changed over the last semester. The analytics on Facebook show that viewership of our posts have increased by 35% and interactions also increased by 12%. The audience members interacting with the posts mainly fall into the 30-45 age demographic which shows we have been reaching users in parent age demographic. These numbers support my original thesis that Facebook would function as a great tool for reaching parents, and it shows how important knowing one’s audience can be when executing a campaign. The posts made on Facebook were specifically tailored to a more mature audience than the posts we made on platforms like Instagram, and they took on the language of the audience. As I continue to maintain the Facebook page, I will be sure to keep our audience in mind and provide informative posts to continue to bring in more applicants.

As stated previously in this post, the fundraising campaign is now live! The following is a link to the site:

Thanks to my fellow intern Jamie Crow and :lexicon Editor-in-Chief Victoria Wilson, the video on the website perfectly captures our mission. So far, this video and link have been shared 13 times on Facebook, and three people have donated. Following our return from Easter break, our marketing efforts will focus on promoting the campaign to current English students, alumni, and parents of current students. I encourage anyone reading this blog post to check out our website, consider donating, and share the campaign on social media! I am very proud of how all the materials have come together for this fundraising campaign, and hopefully, we can raise enough money to send at least one student to camp on a full scholarship!

I am grateful the Duquesne undergraduate English program gave me the opportunity to apply my education outside of standard classes while receiving credit for my work. This opportunity allowed me to explore other careers and possible applications of my degree I may not have previously been exposed to. I normally think of myself as more of an academic person, but forcing myself out of this box and into the realm of marketing was beneficial in showing the wide range of applications for my degree. Marketing is only one possibility among countless others, and this experience shows there is no need to try to justify the practicality of my English degree as the opportunities I have received speak for themselves.

My final semester at Duquesne has been bittersweet in many ways. I have enjoyed my time here, and although I know the next step in my journey will only take me down Forbes Ave to Carnegie Mellon’s Literary and Cultural Studies MA program, I cannot help but think of all the unique opportunities Duquesne has provided. The writing camp internship has been one of these unique opportunities, and it has proven to be the perfect finale to my undergraduate experience. On May 10th, I will no longer be a Duquesne English student, but it is from the end of this journey that the first steps of my next adventure will take shape.

-Catherine Evans

The Joys (and Challenges) of Planning a Fundraising Campaign

Since returning from spring break, my main project has been planning a Spirit fundraising campaign in connection with :Lexicon to benefit the summer writing camp. Spirit is Duquesne University’s crowdfunding platform for student organizations, and it is an awesome tool for any organization within the university that is seeking financial support from outside sources. I decided to pursue creating a fundraising campaign for the camp after reflecting on the high cost of attendance for students and the inaccessibility to programs like ours. Within the first couple weeks of the application period, I had numerous parents asking about scholarships and expressing regret at the fact they would be unable to afford to send their teen to camp. I, personally, believe in the accessibility of education to all populations, and it saddens me that the high costs of most summer camps exclude those who do not come from places of privilege. I want our camp to respond to this issue and take an active stake in combating it.

Three years ago, the past camp coordinator and editor-in-chief of :Lexicon ran a successful Spirit campaign in which enough money for one full-tuition scholarship was raised. By looking to that campaign for inspiration, the process for executing the campaign has already been carved for me. I hope, that by running another Spirit campaign, we will be able to offer scholarships for the upcoming camp. Our goal for the campaign is $1,000. If we achieve this goal, we will be able to provide one full scholarship, two half scholarships, and still have money left over to help lower the overall cost of hosting the camp.

Planning the campaign, so far, has relied heavily on coordination with :Lexicon. :Lexicon has provided a strong team for promoting the campaign across social media. By connecting to the editorial staff who are all very committed to promoting creative writing, we are able to use the already well-established group as our foundation. Student involvement is something that will be key in raising attention across all platforms. The current editor-in-chief, Victoria Wilson, has aided greatly in this process of planning and coordinating. We both agreed that the campaign will be beneficial to both organizations, and by working together, we are able to promote unity between two important English department projects.

Upon looking at the past campaign, I constructed different donation levels to help personalize the act of donating. The levels range from $5 donations which would cover a snack for one day to $475 donations to cover a full scholarship. There are levels everywhere in between, and by strategically personalizing the amounts, I hope to draw in more donors. In fiction workshops, I learned we connect better to individuals than to vague concepts. The more specific the details, the more likely the reader will be invested in the story. It is the same with fundraising. By framing donating as a personal tie to the camp, it should help to draw in more potential donors. 

Another challenge we have faced with the campaign was deciding on our main target audience. A crucial part of writing is knowing your intended audience and tailoring your piece to resonate with this group. With fundraising, you do not want your audience to be too small as you then risk losing potential money. However, if your audience is too large, you also run the risk of setting impossible standards. When I started contemplating which groups to target and how to tailor posts to each group, I thought of the task similarly to how I think of the audience in relation to my writing. This proved successful at placing the daunting task into perspective, and the outcome was a decision to target three main groups: English or journalism program alumni, current students in liberal arts programs, and alumni who were involved with :Lexicon. Although the first two groups are larger in numbers, they both establish a clear bond to writing and the arts. Alumni likely are employed and willing to give back or at least share the campaign with others. Current students have connections to family members and other potential donors. The smaller group of alumni who were involved with :Lexicon during their academic career leaves us with a guaranteed group of supporters. In executing involvement with all three groups, I plan to start by targeting alumni of :Lexicon, then expanding to current students, and then to general alumni. By starting with an intimate group and growing our involvement, we will be able to keep our momentum going throughout the month-long duration of the program!

The campaign is set to take off in April, and I am very excited to watch it grow over the next couple weeks. There is still a lot to be done in the meantime, but it will all be worth it if we can afford to send even one more hopeful student to camp!

                                                                                                          Catherine Evans

Creating and Maintaining a Presence

With the semester flying by, the last month has been filled with plenty of work and creating a presence for the writing camp has been one of my top priorities. It is always a challenge to get the word out about events, but keeping the momentum going is equally as important as establishing it. The camp doesn’t start until June, and a lot of parents and teens are not yet thinking of what the summer months have in store. For this reason, it is vital that the promotion of the camp continues at a strong pace.

Over the last month, I have been working with my advisor, Professor John Fried, to cultivate the presence of the camp over social media and around the Pittsburgh area. Our social media accounts have been well established at this point, and we have run several advertisements on Facebook. Physical flyers have been hung around local libraries, virtual flyers have been posted in various groups, and posts are regularly being made to our social media accounts. However, in order to extend beyond these efforts, I have been working on some new advertising ideas in addition to maintaining our other efforts.

My first attempt at trying a new advertising approach off of social media has been in conjunction with local parenting blogs. Several blogs have agreed to add the camp to their calendars, and with their large, faithful audiences, I hope to reach more parents. When thinking about the genre or mode of delivery for our advertisement, it is important to think about the different impact each style can make and which audiences each platform is most likely to draw.  In the English classroom, genre is a frequent discussion as is the intended audience of any piece.  Deciding where to advertise and how relates directly to these in class discussions. While different forms of social media draw different audiences, different genres of literature spark stronger interest from certain groups. When thinking about spaces for promoting the camp, I purposely chose these blogs due to the ability to reach parents with potential campers. Although parents frequent social media, places like Facebook and Instagram are huge, and even with directed promotions, there is a good chance the camp will be overlooked there. On these blogs, however, there is a direct connection to parents who are already dedicated to their teens and actively searching out opportunities for them.

Writing for an online space is different from writing for print, just as writing for a blog is different from writing a social media post. When developing the different advertisements, I had to pay careful attention to the little stylistic choices and overall format of the posts. As an English major with a writing concentration, I have been exposed to the importance of these things in multiple genre writing classes, and the skills I developed through these classes are proving to be very useful. When writing for social media, the posts change depending upon the platform they are on. On our Instagram, I focus on creating short captions with colorful photos. While on Facebook, I focus more on presenting the information in a condensed, eye-catching format. For the blogs, I was given 300 characters total to present our message. It was a bit of a challenge to condense down every amazing thing about the camp to these 300 characters, but ultimately this led to the creation of a condensed message that is tailored to the blog. Genre plays an important role in advertising among different spaces, and I feel better prepared for creating and managing advertisements because of my English major.

As has been done in the past, I am preparing to mail out many physical flyers to local schools this week. This should help to draw in the attention of high schoolers directly. I am hoping that by reaching both the parents and the children, we will increase our chances of them registering. Parents have the final say in if their child is enrolled in the program, but the camp is designed for those who already have an interest in writing. A large number of past participants indicated that they heard about the camp through their school. For this reason, it is very important that we maintain our presence in local high schools. The flyers will be sent to guidance offices, English teachers, and school librarians in order to target teenagers with an already established appreciation of writing. By targeting this group, we should be able to capture the attention of the teenagers who would be the most likely to enjoy and benefit from an experience like the one we are providing.

Hopefully, the momentum the camp currently has continues and applications will roll in during the following months. I am going to continue to explore new outlets for promoting the camp while continuing to maintain our existing platforms. I look forward to continuing to cultivate a presence around the Pittsburgh area, and my excitement is growing every week as the camp start date crawls closer. 

                                                                                                             Catherine Evans

First Week Thoughts

With snow finally deciding to stick to everything in sight, my final semester as an undergraduate is underway, and I am finding many different ways to apply the skills I have developed over the last several years to the workplace. The critical thinking and writing skills that I have developed in my English and writing intensive courses are proving themselves practical in my role as a marketing intern.

My duties as an intern for the Duquesne Summer Writing Camp have begun, and so far, I have spent the majority of my time planning and preparing for the marketing campaign to come. My ultimate goal is to ensure that as many students as possible hear about the program through the wide variety of outlets we have access to. The camp may not start for the students until June, but there are a ton of behind the scenes tasks to be completed in the months to follow. Hearing the amount of work that goes into making this summer program happen has given me a new-found sense of appreciation for the staff members of summer camps I attended years ago.

Over the last week or so my advisor, Professor John Fried, and I discussed different ways of marketing the camp to teenagers and their parents, as well as the challenges associated with reaching each group. The program is relatively selective, and the number of students attending each year is small. However, its success lies in getting enough students know about the program for it to grow. The conversation reminded me of discussions in various Fiction writing courses on the importance of remembering your audience when developing a piece. The same challenge is present when developing a strategic marketing plan.  Prior to this internship, I have held various other marketing positions, but never one where the primary audience was teenagers and their parents. I quickly realized appealing to this group would bring about its own sets of challenges.

After some thought, I developed several potential flyers for distribution to multiple local schools, libraries, and other points of interest around the city. My advisor and I ultimately decided upon the flyer that was the simplest in design. We did so after factoring in how its clean appearance and neutral colors would draw the attention of a wider range of students without losing the interest of parents who may encounter it. The content of the text was just as important as the design, and several rough drafts later, the final version was sent off to print. The experience of creating several drafts with slight variations reinforced my understanding of the importance of editing and how subtle changes can make, or break, a campaign.

The final design of the promotional flyer

I also worked on constructing a list of cost-effective advertising spaces. The camp already has several social media accounts that I plan to utilize, as well as a website, but just posting images of the flyer is not enough. I decided to turn to Facebook groups in the surrounding area to appeal to the parent population of Pittsburgh. I ended up creating a list of 25 potential groups to share the program in. These groups range from “Pittsburgh Moms Connect” to “Parents of Pittsburgh Public Schoolers.” I was a little surprised to find so many virtual communities with similar missions, but I expect these groups to serve as vital platforms for promoting the program to a wide range of parents in the Pittsburgh region.

So far, my work has entailed a lot of planning and strategizing, and I am looking forward to putting these plans into action. I am extremely excited for the journey that lies ahead, and I couldn’t imagine spending my final semester doing anything else. I am interested in seeing how the skills cultivated in my English courses continue to apply throughout the experience, and I am looking forward to contributing to a very successful program!

                                                                                                Catherine Evans