Social Media Success: Sport PR Students Bring ESPN’s College GameDay to Wichita State University
By Andrea N. Geurin
In the past, Mike Ross’s sport public relations classes at Wichita State University typically completed a social media assignment centered on a fictitious topic such as an imaginary Heisman Award campaign or Naismith Award campaign. In the fall of 2014, however, Ross saw an opportunity for his students to make a real difference for the university, and the assignment turned into one that led to WSU hosting ESPN’s College GameDay show in February 2015.
To achieve their goal of bringing the GameDay show to Wichita, the students were divided into groups to design social media strategies for Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Pinterest. Each group was required to submit a planning module outlining their strategies for each individual social media platform. The groups took turns managing each platform, and by the time the assignment was completed, their campaigns had garnered over 89,000 impressions on Twitter and nearly 7,000 followers on Facebook.
Ross said that the groups were graded in four areas – planning quality, evaluation quality, execution of their plan on each platform, and creativity.
“I did very little to limit what they could and could not put on social media throughout,” said Ross. “I did give one parameter in that we were not going to be negative towards ESPN, other fans, etc., regardless of what they posted.”
The hands-on semester-long assignment led to a great deal of positive feedback from the students, who said that they felt as though their knowledge on the subject matter increased and the project itself helped them understand how the course content related to the ‘real world’.
“Our students need to know how to operate on social media, film and edit video, and know how to write for various audiences. The chance to give them a hands-on experience with these things in the class can only help them down the road,” said Ross.
The campaign not only helped bring GameDay to Wichita, but it also resulted in a great deal of media coverage and publicity for Wichita State’s sport management program, particularly Ross’s sport public relations class. Newspapers, websites, and television stations throughout the state of Kansas picked up the story and interviewed Ross and students in his class.
Ross’s background is certainly conducive to teaching a course on sport public relations. Prior to his career in academia, he spent nearly 10 years in media relations with Wichita State’s athletic department, as well as serving as the media coordinator for the 2011 NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament site in Wichita, a role he will take on again in 2018 for the men’s tournament.
“We are all working to prepare the next generation of sport managers, and each of us do it differently,” said Ross. “The end goal is to provide a solid foundation for students to build upon once they complete our programs. That, to me, was why the project and campaign were successful.”