Student Engagement: Lessons From David Meerman Scott

Foreword: I’m a “Junior – and – a – half” (graduating in December) at The College at Brockport, State University of New York. I’m often discouraged and even amazed at the levels of student engagement and excitement among not only students at my school, but all colleges. I hope the following post does not offend anyone, as it is somewhat strongly worded. The topic is simply one that I am very passionate about.

As a college student, I recognized that myself and my classmates are a part of something bigger. We are not always going to be students and we will not always be entry-level professionals. Rather, we are the future. We are the next generation – one that will be responsible for continuing growth and development of our community, our country and our world.

That is a scary thought to me because I know what the typical college student looks like and what their abilities are.

I’m not talking about grades. College courses are difficult and it’s perfectly fine to not be a 4.0 student. What concerns me, though, is the level of student engagement that I see across college campuses.

Student Engagement

I love college because I literally view my campus as my playground. There are opportunities for me everywhere. Between the clubs (Brockport PR Club) and honor societies (Lambda Pi Eta) that I am a member of, room for independent studies, and the support from faculty and administration to find internships with organizations in the area I am able to design and craft my own undergraduate education specifically tailored to my interests and skill set. Nobody will ever go to school and have the same education as I have had – how cool is that?

College is my playground because I can join clubs and decide what I really want to do. Then, I can make it happen with my peers. Faculty doesn’t have the ideas, nor do professors guide me through the process. In short – I really can do anything I put my mind to.

But college isn’t a day-care program. Nobody has ever offered me the opportunities I have had. Instead, the responsibility to have an outstanding college experience is on each and every individual. And quite frankly, not enough people take that responsibility seriously enough.

If you’re a student, what do you say when someone asks you, “what are you doing at school this semester?” If your first instinct is to tell them what courses you are taking, you’re doing college wrong. No, really, trust me – you were mis-informed somewhere along the way. Classes are important, sure, but aren’t you bored? I’m willing to bet your grades aren’t spectacular, either… because you aren’t engaged.

How many students are studying the same thing as you at your school? Or even in this country? What makes you any better than the rest of them? It certainly is not the .1 difference in GPA that you boast on your resume that will get you hired after graduation. Instead of looking at your campus like a classroom, look at it like a playground. What are you doing that sets you apart? What are you doing that you truly enjoy that will be the difference between you and everyone else? Ask yourself each and every day, “why would someone hire me?”

Until yesterday, I was afraid to graduate from college because I thought I would miss having the ability to look at my life like a playground and having the ability to really experience and do all of the things that I wanted.

David Meerman Scott, Author of The New Rules of Marketing & PR

Then, I met David Meerman Scott.

If I look at my college campus as my playground, this guy looks at the globe as his. Just like calling me a student doesn’t capture everything that I do at school, calling Scott an author doesn’t capture everything that he does in his career. He’s an author, sure. But he is also an internationally recognized speaker (soon to have spoken on all 7 continents), a blogger, a marketing strategist, and even an actor among other things.

David Meerman Scott is in the position to pick and choose the experiences that he has and the people that he works with each and every day, just like I can. The difference is that he does it on a world-wide scale.

Everyone needs to ask themselves where they want to go in their lives. If you think about your destination in this world as a cubicle on the third floor of an office down the street, working for a company you don’t love, performing a task that essentially anyone could do – please continue skipping half of your classes, getting mediocre grades, and not doing anything that sets you apart from anyone else.

But – if you have ambition and aspiration, if you want to look at the country or the world as your personal playground – the time to start that journey is right now. Join clubs, plan events, meet professionals, learn new things, start a blog, read books, teach others, and never stop.

Playground

If it sounds like more fun than work to you, then you have found your playground.

 

 

 

Constitutive Rhetoric to Recruit Faith

Palm SundayWhile enjoying a particularly meaningful church service on this Palm Sunday, I had a bright moment of clarity that presented itself to me in almost tangible form. I did not see God, though. On the contrary, my realization is one that the pastor who was speaking and my parents would be a bit less thrilled with (though my Rhetoric professors at school would be pretty happy with me).

Speaking in generalities – something that I’ll admit can’t be done by someone trying to actually convince someone else of any kind of factual truth – the churches that I have always attended use inclusion and exclusion in their dialogue. Religious messages are often based on assumption that essentially works to recruit individuals to join the faith.

Example: these are all actual quotes copied from this morning’s service, given by Pastor Tom Stroup at Brockport Free Methodist Church. In bold are the portions of the sentences that were left in the sermon notes as blank lines, intended for the audience to fill in.

  • “Sometimes I think God has forgotten about me BUT God never forgets me!”
  • “Even when it seems life is hopeless, hope is what I have in Christ!”
  • “Caiphas would Kill Jesus to save Israel from Rome, BUT Jesus died to save us from our own sinfulness.

It’s subtle, but do you see what they did, there?

Churches frequently use words like I, WE, and US to formulate an in-group and out-group. The in-group are those that believe in God, have hope in Christ, etc. The out-group, obviously, are those that do not. If you had attended church this morning at BFMC, you never had the chance to decide which of those groups you belonged to. They actually decided for you. Even more – you wrote the words on the blanks, participating in the process.

It’s a fallacy of assumption, and it works.

Let’s brainstorm a few individuals who could have been in the pews this morning.

  • A child too young to completely understand religion, too young to have made any of his or her own decisions in regard to what he or she believes in.
  • A recovering alcoholic who was urged to pick a church and find God by a friend of his that goes to his Alcoholics Anonymous classes.
  • An atheist who believes in seeing both sides of an issue and therefore attends different churches from time to time.

Would we consider any of those individuals to be part of the in-group? I would not.

This is the point in the blog post at which I need to give readers notice of two things:

  1. Though it may seem like I am writing in a tone of disapproval of this inclusive language and rhetorical technique, that is not true.
  2. This is a Marketing blog. Occasionally, I am inspired to write things that are more religious, political, or cultural in nature, and when I do I usually have them posted on Trova101 (Thanks, Mark Trova!). This one, though, is here on Millennial’s Marketing. That’s because there is some marketing insight quickly approaching.

Not to take any sanctity out of religion, but… by engaging in this practice, churches are only  tapping into widely used marketing techniques.

In the fields of persuasion, like advertising and public relations, marketers are selling something. It might be an ideology, a product, a service, a human-being, or a cause, but they are selling something just the same. When you tell someone something about them-self, it is only a matter of time until they begin to believe it and use it to construct their own identity. I believe that participation in the message itself only accelerates that process, which can be seen in this morning’s church example. The equivalent, in marketing rather than religion, are social media channels.

Don DraperDon Draper once famously said, “People want to be told what to do so badly that they will listen to anyone.” Is your church and religion as a whole led by an incredibly faithful individual, or an expert marketer?

Probably both.

 

 

College organizations compete for sidewalk real estate

Chalk isn't only a children's toy.

As a college student, I’ve been exposed to an interesting communication tactic while at Brockport. Many clubs and on-campus organizations use sidewalk chalk to get the word out about their events and causes. But is the tactic effective?

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