Jacket Copy: The People Behind #bsuenglish

An Interview with Amanda Kavars

So, what is Jacket Copy?

Well, it’s an immersive learning class, and it’s a marketing internship. It’s about learning the workflow of an organization and working in teams. You don’t just study principles and strategies of communication–you actually apply them in real time.

The client is the Ball State English department, and students serve as the in-house communications interns. We run the department’s social media and blog, send out a weekly digest email, and plan, promote, and publicize events.

Why is it called Jacket Copy?

All books have jacket copy, those words on the inside flap that help you decide whether or not to read it. This class teaches you how important and persuasive “front-facing” communications really are.

How is Jacket Copy different from most classes?

You work in groups, but this feels different from most group assignments because the projects are for a larger audience than just the professor. Your projects are out there for the world to see, in a tweet, a blog post, on the digital display boards in the halls of Robert Bell and other buildings on campus.

Your work contributes to the success of events, promotion of new classes, or a well-deserved shout out to students and faculty for their success.

What have you learned so far?

  • Why it’s important to have a communication strategy
  • How communication plans come together
  • How to manage workflow
  • How to write for social media
  • How to write for a blog
  • How to write an influential email
  • How departments collaborate
  • Why it is important to really get to know your audience
  • How to market events
  • How to plan an event

What’s a typical week like in this class?

Here is what we do; we exchange ideas, collaborate, assign tasks, and develop a workflow. We evaluate. We look at what went right and what needs improvement. We break down the plans and strategies for communication and then rebuild them. We work on writing and design and discuss the department’s identity, tone, and voice. The work is comprehensive and the skills are applicable to hundreds of jobs!

What’s been most satisfying to you?

It is amazing to see the pieces come together. For example, if a speaker is coming we need to advertise. First, we write a blog post about the speaker. That post is then included in a Facebook event. We also share the blog and announce the event on Twitter. We tag the speaker and include hashtags that build community and excitement around the event. We create a slide for digital ads in the English hallways. If it is relevant (and it usually is!) we share the slide with other departments in the University so their students know about it. We remind students in the weekly department email to attend. We live Tweet the event and we share photos to show how great it is to be a part of #bsuenglish!

These small moving parts of communication add up and play a big role in organizational strategies. The detailed work of the class supports the overall goal of engaging students in the department. That engagement turns into increased enrollment and more alumni engagement can even turn into donations–of money or just expertise.

Students in the class get to see the fruits of their labors and learn how their work can make a difference.

Why did you take Jacket Copy?

There are two kinds of people in this world: those who grew up using social media and the web, and those who didn’t. And I’m the latter. I took the course as professional development.

I logged into my first email account in 1997 as a college student. In the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, the majority of college students did not own a personal computer. Instead, students hung out in large computer labs to check their Hotmail, chat on AOL, and type and print their papers in Word.

Today, my third and sixth grade daughters bring home school-assigned iPads. Students and teachers use Canvas as a portal for handing out assignments, class communication, quiz taking, and homework submitting. At a recent middle school parent meeting, cell phone use in class was on the agenda!

It is fascinating to look back on the transformations in technology over such a short time period. It is hard to imagine that social media as we know it today has only been around for two decades.

In the last ten years, social media has become a vital platform for communication. Businesses, organizations, and educational institutions have no choice but to include social media as part of their communication strategies.

Being a young adult at the start of these technological advancements, I have a fair amount of experience as a consumer of social media.  However, staying on top of web-based marketing trends has not been a part of my specific job duties.

But recently, my job title shifted to Communication Specialist, and I found myself at the intersection of communication plan development and social media integration.

While I have 15 years of real-world experience, my degree is in Geography and my experience is in meeting and event planning. I was hunting for professional development that could help me understand the ways new and traditional communication plans are developed and executed to compliment my new role at the University. I could have chosen from a slew of classes in marketing and public relations, but I wanted more than just learning theory; I wanted a chance to apply the skills and theory that I had learned.

I’m glad I found Jacket Copy!

Is that a lot of pressure, running the communication strategy for a real department?

A bonus to taking this class is that it is a safe place to fail. There are a lot of opportunities to try different strategies or test out ideas. Earlier this semester, we thought a particular tweet was great, but it was misinterpreted and generated a negative comment. We had so many events to promote and cross promote one week, it seemed like we were just a giant megaphone, which is not what we hope to achieve. These learning opportunities come without fear of an angry boss or missed promotion. It is a great space to become familiar with your communication strengths and weaknesses. It is also a great place to build some confidence!

Who should take this class?

This class is for students young and old. Do not be afraid to take this class as a working professional to gain some deeper skills and a larger knowledge base of incorporating social media. If you are a traditional student, this class is a great resume builder!  It will help you develop the skills employers are looking for. Everyone who takes this class will learn how to build community and that is what communication is all about!

There are seats available in the Spring 2019 section of Jacket Copy. Contact Prof. Cathy Day to learn how to sign up.

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