Communication class helps Mercer agencies boost online presence

A Mercer student conducts an interview for the social media management in spring 2018.
A Mercer student conducts an interview for the social media management in spring 2018.

Four Mercer agencies have a full social media plan and eight podcasts ready to roll out this school year, thanks to the hard work of 16 upperclassmen.

These students were in the social media management class, offered every other year and taught by Department of Technical Communication instructor Dr. Jennifer Goode, last spring. The course contained a podcast component for the first time.

“We have such a social media-oriented world nowadays,” said junior Emma Mercer, a technical communication major who took the class. “You really can’t avoid marketing through social media. I felt like having experience with that would give me some valuable skills and assets to any future employers I might pursue.”

Throughout the semester, students in the 400-level course worked in groups with four university clients: Mercer On Mission (MOM), Mercer Innovation Center (MIC), Quality Enhancement Plan and the Master of Science program in Technical Communication Management.

They became proficient in a variety of social media platforms, analyzed their clients’ online presence, and planned social media content and campaigns to cover at least two months during fall 2018 or spring 2019. They learned how to present messages with a consistent voice, clear purpose and strategic initiative, Dr. Goode said.

“I wanted to learn how social media is used in a professional way,” said Mason Mishael, a senior technical communication major who took the spring class. “All I’ve known is just socializing with my friends online. I figured it would be overall a valuable skill to have.”

The students said the podcasting portion of the class was their favorite part. The Department of Technical Communication received a grant for professional podcasting equipment for its studio, and the social media management students learned how to use the devices.

Mercer students work in the technical communication studio in spring 2018.
ABOVE: Mercer students, from left, Moriah Roberts, Emma Mercer and Mason Mishael are shown in the technical communication studio in spring 2018. TOP PHOTO: Student Moriah Roberts interviews Stephanie Howard, Mercer Innovation Century Deputy Director.

Mishael wants to pursue a career in audio production, and he has worked previously in the technical communication studio. In fact, he helped set up the new equipment for the social media management class. This was Emma Mercer’s first experience using any kind of audio equipment, and she would like to do more audio projects in the future. It was the first time either student had created a podcast.

“Because podcasting is such a widespread, highly used and pretty easy entry form of content development, it seemed like a natural fit as one of the social media management components of the course,” Dr. Goode said.

The students scheduled and recorded interviews with experts or guest speakers and then used sound-editing software to put together podcasts that were eight to 10 minutes long. The clients will decide how and when they want to use the podcasts in the future.

For Mercer On Mission, the students created episodes that explain the program and tell students what they need to know before they go on the trips.

The podcasts were themed around entrepreneurship for the Mercer Innovation Center, including one episode that talked about side hustles verses dreams, said MIC Deputy Director Stephanie Howard.

Other episodes featured interviews with young business owners, such as MIC Fellow Shane Buester with Z Beans Coffee and Newt Technologies’ Jonathan Kent and Brandon Hancock, who won the Next Big Idea Competition last April.

Mishael and Emma Mercer were on the team that worked with Howard. One of their main goals was to market the MIC to people outside the University to broaden their clientele, Emma Mercer said. Many people don’t realize the center is open to the community, not just students.

Mishael said they wanted to help get the word out about how the Mercer Innovation Center can help young entrepreneurs and share testimonials from people who had already been involved in the program.

“It was a very realistic model for how you produce content under a timeline and to standards of excellence,” Dr. Goode said. “There were a lot of moving parts, but I would say overall they really did well in how they managed it all and they gained a lot from it.”

Howard said the social media management students wrote text and prepared graphics for social media that she’ll use in the spring, when the 2019 Next Big Idea and fellowship competitions happen. The podcasts also will be released at that time.

“The social media plan was great, but they took it a step further and prewrote and produced everything,” Howard said. “It’s just going to save us time administratively. I can spend more time working with the companies because that part of my job is done.”

The clients received a lot of valuable feedback and said they would implement many of the suggestions. Many of the students who completed the course are interested in pursuing careers that involve social media or audio production. They now have a great foundation of best practices to carry into the real world.

Mishael and Emma Mercer said the course allowed them to acquire valuable professional skills that will be useful in their futures.