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Research

Prior to the start of the campaign, the Arizona in Italy Facebook page was serving as the

primary source for updated program information and had cumulated a following of 2,588 page

followers. Although the page had established a large following base, the percentage of applicants

was not consistent with the number of followers. As the program has repeatedly received a low

percentage of applicants for the preceding fall and spring semesters. On top of the issue with low

application rates there is difficulty seen in crafting posts that ensure valuable publicity among the

program’s target audience. As a PR professional in the making, I have identified a public

relations situation that needs to be addressed. For my campaign I will launch a one-time effort to

revamp the Arizona in Italy Facebook and revive the program’s name among UA

undergraduates. As program alumni have been very open about their amazing abroad experience

in Orvieto and it is important for the students to be aware of a program as special as this one.

A possible challenge that I may encounter with this campaign is not meeting the needs of

the program’s target audience. As the physical distance conjoined with the time difference makes

it difficult to get research data from a broad arrange of UA students. Although the best method to

reach students in Tucson is through the Facebook channel, so I will still be able to get their

information and incorporate their feedback into my campaign strategies.

As for primary research I thought that the most productive approach would be to use a

mixture of quantitative and qualitative research techniques. My goal for the pre-campaign

research was to get an idea of the level of awareness of the program, the usage of the AZ in Italy

Facebook and the retention level of the program’s key messages. To gather the quantitative data I

used both an online survey and feedback forms. I conducted the online survey with students who

I believed to be our target audience, by posting it on the UA Class of 2018 and 2019 Facebook

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pages. I then asked 12 current fall semester students to complete feedback forms, as they are the

best representatives for our target audience. To gather my qualitative data, I conducted two

interviews and one focus group with 7 of our fall semester students. In regards to the interviews,

I thought that it was important to understand the demographics of the UA students that do study

abroad, so I interviewed a UA Study Abroad Coordinator as well as a current fall semester

student. Explicit details about research procedures and findings are provided below.

For the purpose of efficiently targeting the AZ in Italy publics, I looked to two other

external sources to gain additional information on the topics of the benefits of studying abroad

and the gender gap explaining why more women study abroad then men.

Looking first to gain research on the benefits of studying abroad I looked at an academic

article published on the Wiley Online Library titled, On the Cognitive Benefits of Cultural

Experience: Exploring the Relationship between Studying Abroad and Creative Thinking by

Christine S. Lee, David J. Therriault and Tracy Linderholm (Lee, et al, 2012). The article

introduces the idea that when students are able to cultivate a consciousness and appreciation for

various cultural perspectives, they are often more equipped with the skills needed to be

successful in our current cross-cultural job market (Lee, et al, 2012). The article goes on to

describe a study conducted to measure the creative thinking process of three groups of

undergraduate students. One group was made up of students that had studied abroad, one group

of students who were going to study abroad, and the other was students who had no plans of

studying abroad. After being asked to complete two tests the conclusion of the study was that the

students that had studied abroad scored significantly higher in areas of creative thinking and

adaptability skills (Lee, et al, 2012). This information will be helpful for future posts because I

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can highlight the development in thinking capabilities that comes with studying abroad, which

will be attractive feature to parents and potential applicants.

Next I looked for an explanation as to why so many female students participate in study

abroad programs versus the small population of male students that do. On the online academic

website Times Higher Education the article, “US men aren’t interested in ‘life-changing

rhetoric’ of studying abroad,” by Ellie Bothwell. (Bothwell 2015) proposes the idea that US

universities are marketing the wrong aspects of the study abroad experience to males, which is

why there are smaller numbers of male students abroad. The article speaks to a census taken in

2014 about the population of students that go abroad, “ According to the Institute of

International Education’s Open Doors 2014 report, 65.3 percent of US students who studied

abroad in 2012 - 13 were female – a figure that has remained relatively stable for the past

decade(Bothwell, 2015, p. 1). A n explanation for why there is a high percentage of female

students that participate in these program s, is due to the fact that they are more aware and

receptive o f all of the benefits that come with studying abroad (i.e . academic, employment

opportunities, increased cultural awareness, life- long friendships) . The article touches on

GPA as another possible deterrent for males to not go abroad, as most programs have a

required GPA in order to participate. Studies have shown repeatedly that male students

typically don’t have as high GPA’s as female students (Bothwell 2015). Therefore to

increase the number of male students in abroad programs, universities should send out

more messages that center around the academic benefits of going abroad. From this I have

learned some valuable informa tion. Like most other study abroad organizations, Arizona in

Italy is primarily dominated by female students. To increase the participation of UA male

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students, I can create messages that highlight course material that will be covered in

classes in Orvieto.

Looking to get some statistical data , I created a specific Program Awareness Survey

that I posted on the University of Arizona Class of 2018 and Class of 2019 Facebook page. I

strategically choose these two publics because the most popular time for students to go abroad is

between their sophomore and junior year of college. By using this survey as part of my pre-test, I

was able to compute a baseline of awareness for the AZ in Italy study abroad program, the

official Facebook page and was able to pin-point program-related topics that students were

interested in receiving more information on. The results of the survey showed that out of the 38

total participants (22 students from the Class of 2018 and 11 students from the class of 2019),

63.1% of the students had seen or visited the Arizona in Italy Facebook page but only 39.4%

knew what the program was about. Additionally, 55.2% of the participants were interested in

learning more about the field trips, 39.4% were interested learning more about the program

location and 5.2% were interested in learning more about the academic culture in Orvieto. From

the results of the survey, I gathered that it was important to reinforce the program’s key

messages in my posts as well as make sure that I put together a photo album for almost every

field trip, as potential students are clearly interested in seeing more of where we travel too.

I also thought it would be beneficial to get some data from the current fall semester

students that are studying in Orvieto. So I created feedback forms that measured their sense of

program awareness and usage of the AZ in Italy Facebook, using the Likert scale. Out of the 12

participants that responded with feedback, 66.6% (8 out of 12) put down “agree” that they picked

up on the sense alumni enjoyed their time in Orvieto through content provided on the Facebook

page, 58.3% (7 out of 12) put down that they “neither agree nor disagree” that they the AZ in

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Italy Facebook Page did a good job of putting out the programs key messages but 83.3% (10 out

of the 12) put agree to being interested in seeing different information from what was already

posted on the Facebook page. Through this feedback, I realized that every week I need to try and

feature different types of posts, so people don’t just get sick of seeing the same thing.

In order to fully understand my quantitative results I thought that it would be integral to

the campaign procedures to know the current demographics of Arizona students that study

abroad. So I interviewed Renee Griggs, a Study Abroad Coordinator at UA who shared with me

that only 5-6% of the student population studies abroad. The reason for this low percentage is

due to the low in-state tuition compared to the higher cost (for in-state students) of the study

abroad program. Which is why a majority of the students that make up the 5-6% are out-of-state

students, as the price of the program is significantly lower then the cost of a normal semesters

tuition. Of that 5-6% approximately 60% are female students that go abroad and 40% are male

students that go abroad, which she believes is due to the fact that some majors like Engineering

and other hard science majors make it difficult for the students to get credit for their coursework

abroad. From this information I think I will see the most results if I stick to targeting the female

audience, as I know that they will be easier to persuade to participate in the program.

For my second method I used ethnographic techniques that were discussed in lecture

(King, 2014) to organize a focus group. With a total of 7 current fall semester students (6 girls

and 1 boys) I began the session by asking easy questions to promote creative thinking and foster

a comfortable environment for free discussion (i.e. What comes to mind when I say Orvieto?).

Through the time spent in the focus group, I was able to gain a deeper understanding of what

attracted other people to this program as well as gain some inspiration for ideas to create

valuable publicity. As the results of the focus group showed that prior to arriving in Italy, the

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current students had a good sense of what the Orvieto “small town atmosphere” consisted of and

the structure of the program regarding the mandatory class attendance and strict no skipping field

trip policy. I noted that a majority of the focus group participants had gathered the information of

the class and fieldtrip attendance through previous alumni rather than through content on the FB

page. Something that stood out during the discussion was that many people in the group were

surprised by the workload as they were expecting it to be significantly easier then courses taught

at UA. Which reconfirmed for me that there had to be an increase in academic/course related

posts (i.e. What’s on the agenda this Week in Orvieto?).

Lastly, I sat down for a purposive interview with Melanie Cady, a senior at the University

of Arizona studying abroad in Orvieto this semester. We disused her motivations for choosing

this particular program, what type of student she thinks would do well studying abroad in

Orvieto, and how we can best utilize the Facebook page to facilitate the application process.

From the interview, I concluded that many students aren’t aware of how easy the application

process is. There is the misconception that applying to study abroad is a huge ordeal, but in

reality if you work on the application a little in advance it’s a piece of cake. Using the

information gained from Cady, I could create posts that specifically list out the steps for potential

applicants, showing students that it is only a four-step process. Which will hopefully eliminate

the idea that it is long challenging process.