Missing Baton Rouge? Helping BRAC showcase the best of BTR using SCVNGR

I am a transplant to Baton Rouge. I was not born a Southerner. I was born and raised in Wisconsin and then lived in North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri and West Virginia for the first 35+ years of my being. As you can see on this map, I spent most of my life living above the Mason-Dixon Line.

Image from SonoftheSouth.net

Image from SonoftheSouth.net

As someone new to the area I want to take in everything I can of the culture, the cuisine and the surroundings. But, it isn’t easy to find out more about where you live. Often, many of the things you ask about people who have lived there forever either: 1) take for granted and don’t tell you about it ’cause they think you already know it, or 2) don’t know “why” a thing is the way it is. Things have been lost over generations. Stories that used to be passed on about local legends have been forgotten. While there are sites such as this one that help collect local folklore, the stories listed there are sparce. As you can see from this Louisiana listing, not much has been handed down and posted to the site.

Now, when it comes to the local cuisine, Southerners can tell you EVERYTHING. Where to locate the best, what spices they use, how to make it yourself at home, etc. Recently, a friend showed us how to do a proper Louisiana Crawfish Boil — and Wowee was it amazing!!!!!

Image from Commons.wikimedia.com

Image from Commons.wikimedia.com

Getting to better know my surroundings has been a bit more difficult. I want to visit all those places that make Baton Rouge unique. The places that aren’t necessarily listed in the brochures at the hotels:) That’s where the Baton Rouge Area Chamber (BRAC) and SCVNGR come in.

BRAC is currently working to promote Baton Rouge as the Creative Capital of the South. They are working with local businesses to bring new talent to the Baton Rouge area. To promote BTR they are using interaction, engagement and yes, even the geolocation-based mobile gaming application, SCVNGR. As part of the service-learning component of my MC4001- Public Relations Writing course at the Manship School of Mass Communication, students are building mobile treks to help BRAC showcase the best of BTR. Their hope is to get talented individuals to re-locate here permanently.

The treks BRAC and my students have planned are:

  • Discover/Re-discover BR
  • Nightlife
  • Arts and Culture
  • Get out of Town

Each of these will help people who are transplants (i.e., completely new to the area) or boomerangs (i.e., once lived here and are coming back) find out about established locations as well as new places they should try out.

So whether you are a boomerang who is missing your roots in Baton Rouge or a transplant who is missing out on Baton Rouge — we have you covered.

Continue following our progress on this project by checking out my students’ blog (see blogroll on left). You can also follow me on Twitter (@jensenmoore) or find me on LinkedIn.

Formative evaluation and the SCVNGR service-learning project

I believe in formative evaluation. I don’t believe in completely re-inventing the wheel and recreating a course every time you teach it. I believe there is something good from every program, campaign, course, etc. that can be used again, improved upon or scrapped. Student feedback is an important part of this process. By this I do NOT mean the numbers students fill in on an evaluation form — I mean the comments they take the time to write.

Don’t try to re-invent the wheel. Get students to tell you what worked and what didn’t.

I generally use my end-of-semester teaching evaluation comments to help me make revisions for the next semester. Now, don’t get me wrong there are some suggestions I blow off — especially the ones that suggest changing my hair or clothing style. But suggestions regarding the content of the course or my teaching effectiveness definitely receive my attention.

Last semester, my public relations writing students made the following of what I call Most Valuable Suggestions for improving the course:

  1. Spread out assignments a bit more.
  2. Re-vamp the way the mini-campaign works.
  3. Have the teacher find a nonprofit client for each group beforehand.

Other suggestions included: dropping the personal branding project from the beginning of the class (which I did), removing the mini-campaign (which I did not do), providing detailed grading rubrics/checklists for assignments (which I did), lessoning the amount of writing assignments due each class period (which I did), and firing this teacher (which I decided not to look into further:).

With my MVS in hand I set out to revise the course.

This semester the public relations writing students (Manship Class MC 4001) are once again using the SCVNGR geolocation-based mobile gaming application for their mini-campaigns. During the summer I sought out four very different service-learning clients to work with (rather than have students put together a marketing plan and pitch to different nonprofits – item #3). The four nonprofits are: Louisiana Northshore Quilt Trail Association, North Rampart Main Street, Inc., SmokingWords, and Susan G. Komen of Baton Rouge.

I made several changes to the service-learning aspect of the course (the mini-campaign) so that students would understand what it truly means to learn through service. While the deliverables they create are wonderful items to put into a portfolio, students need to understand the importance of using their skills to give back to the community. So, this semester I have them using blogs to reflect on what they are doing for the nonprofit clients, what civic engagement means, professionalism, ethics and social responsibility. I also have them engaging with one another by reading and commenting on one another’s blog posts (item #2). Finally, I have them working together instead of in silos on each part of the mini-campaign.

I removed some of the “busy-work” writing assignments (previously there was one or more writing assignments due each class) and focused on giving them an overview of the different types of writing they will be expected to do in PR (item #1). In addition, I made some changes to the deliverables due to the client during the mini-campaign. Not only did the number of deliverables decrease, but I’ve given the students greater control over what they create for the client and how many they need to use in their digital portfolios. I’ve also taken the time to make it clear to them that the mini-campaign addresses the top 10 competencies employers look for (across disciplines – Korn Ferry/Lominger Model):

  1. Action orientation
  2. Dealing with ambiguity
  3. Creativity
  4. Decision quality
  5. Problem solving
  6. Motivating others
  7. Planning
  8. Priority setting
  9. Strategic agility/thinking ahead
  10. Time management

It is my hope that each of these changes improves: the students’ ability to work with the SCVNGR app.; the quality of observances students make regarding service-learning; the quality of work students deliver to the nonprofit clients; and the quality of work they have to put into their own portfolios at the end.

Follow us on this journey via Facebook (Discover Baton Rouge with SCVNGR) and Twitter (@discoverBTR).

Preparing future PR professionals using SCVNGR (and politicians)

As educators there are a lot of things we want to accomplish. We want to develop critical thinkers. We want to encourage students to go out and behave ethically and contribute to society. We want to create situations where students feel that what they are learning in the classroom directly relates to what they will be doing in the real world.

This semester I am teaching PR Writing at the Manship School of Mass Communication at LSU. As in previous semesters, I began with the fear that the writing course would become more of a “survey” of writing tactics used to get messages out to internal and external publics. I usually worry that having the students do a news release one week, a social media release the next week, and a feature release the following week is not providing them with enough of an opportunity to REALLY learn these important tactics.

So, this semester I have made some changes to the PR Writing course. Instead of having them write one of each tactic for the client I am having the students write their first news releases, media kits, pitch letters, etc. for the presidential candidate of their choice and then having them complete a “mini-campaign” built around a local nonprofit using SCVNGR (a geolocation-based gaming application) to engage its audience members. This way they get to practice (and receive feedback) in the classroom before they are expected to write for a client as well as get more practice using the tactics we go over in class.

Based on the SCVNGR partnership, for each Baton Rouge nonprofit client they are expected to create a minimum of eight from the following list:

    • Bio Sketch
    • Media Kit (with Fact Sheet & Backgrounder)
    • News Release
    • Feature Release
    • Social Media Release
    • Advertisement (television, radio or print)
    • PSA
    • Newsletter
    • Position Paper
    • Speech
    • Website Plan including Web Blog
    • Event Plan
    • Any other creative assignment the client might want (i.e., postcard, brochure, flyer).

It’s my hope that this combination (practice in class and then create for real-life) moves PR Writing past being a “survey” course. I also hope that it encourages students to develop the critical thinking skills, ethical and professional behaviors and skills they will need to be successful in the real world of public relations.

Follow us on this journey via Facebook (Discover Baton Rouge with SCVNGR) and Twitter (@discoverBTR).

I’m baaaaaack with another dose of SCVNGR!.

Actually, I moved — to Louisiana. However, I am back this semester with another SCVNGR project thanks again to an amazing grant opportunity from SCVNGRU.

Last semester I wrapped up the SCVNGR at West Virginia University (Morgantown, WV) project. The students were split into groups focused on adding for-profit clients in the categories of: restaurants, bars, services, entertainment and retail. In the beginning each group had to sign up 10 clients for each category. A task that was seemingly simple — after all, the accounts were free, the students were going to create the promotions for the client, and they were going to get each client media coverage. However, we soon discovered that even though something is free (and we would do all the legwork) clients were hesitant to sign up. SCVNGR, as well as other geolocation-based mobile gaming applications, were such a “new” concept in Morgantown that clients didn’t want to sign up.

Also, it took students sooooooooo long to get clients on board (we eventually had to limit the project to five clients signed up for each category) that they had so little time to concentrate their efforts on getting them media coverage about the project/SCVNGR. The class was PR Writing and Applications, therefore more of the focus should have been on the media coverage aspect.

So, this semester I am at Louisiana State University’s Manship School of Mass Communication in Baton Rouge, LA with a different take on the project. Instead of multiple clients, each group of PR Writing students will approach ONE Baton Rouge non-profit and set up a TREK for that client. They will design multiple CHALLENGES (e.g., take a photo, list your favorite, answer a question, etc.) for smartphone owners to complete at that non-profit. Once they sign up their ONE CLIENT the groups get to spend the rest of the semester focusing on a “mini-campaign” to get that client media coverage.

It’s not unheard of for mobile gaming applications to be used by non-profits. SCVNGR has successfully been used by the following non-profits:

The class is a bit overwhelmed at this point, but are starting to get excited about the possibilities this gives them. We are the only class in the U.S. that has been awarded this type of SCVNGR grant making them unique going into the workplace. They will already know how to set up mobile promotions, get audience engagement and promote a non-profit using a new type of digital technology. Employers should love this!