By Jason Klaiber
In the pursuit of heightened engagement with its residents, the Village of Fayetteville may just find some helpful pointers thanks to local college students.
A course taught at Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications called the “Advanced Public Relations Writing for the Digital World” has centered this semester around the creation of social media campaigns for clients in the Syracuse area.
With their classmates aiding St. Joseph’s Health and La Casita Cultural Center, two groups of students have taken on the Village of Fayetteville as a client for the public relations course.
The students have had discussions with village officials on strategies that could be used to expand Fayetteville’s social media presence, which is currently defined mostly by Facebook usage and Mayor Mark Olson’s account on Twitter.
“There’s a chance for us to be doing so much more outreach via social media,” Olson said.
The aim will be to attract more residents to village-sponsored events like block parties in Limestone Plaza as well as trustee, planning board and zoning board of appeals meetings.
“People aren’t always that invested, so we’re really working hard to get some content out there that helps people better understand why they should be going to those meetings and having a voice,” Kelly Gaggin, the instructor of the Newhouse course, said.
Gaggin, herself a Fayetteville resident, said Instagram has been mentioned as a way for the village to showcase visuals and reach younger demographics.
On such a platform, the municipality’s leaders can better express their personalities, she said.
In addition, she said hashtags on Twitter could lead followers and others to learn more about life in the village.
“Through social media, we’ve taken down obstacles,” Gaggin, an assistant teaching professor, said. “[It’s] such a great way to be transparent and to earn credibility with your audiences. I send out a tweet and tens of thousands of people have the capacity to see it.”
She said social media outlets also allow the implementation of components like GIFs into posts.
According to Gaggin, her course teaches non-traditional media tactics and writing skills for the web through experiential learning.
She said that the students will concurrently build relationships within the Central New York community and provide a service throughout the semester.
“This really is one of the more cutting-edge classes that the students have the opportunity to take during their public relations education,” Gaggin said. “It is designed to prepare them to hit the ground running when they graduate.”
As part of the course, the students assigned to focus on Fayetteville conducted social media audits, scouring the internet to compile as much information about the village as possible and later turn out a report amounting to a minimum of 10 pages.
Gaggin said her classes have access to “top-level” metric and analytic software, such as the data-collecting feature Social Studio offered by the enterprise system Salesforce.
At the end of the semester, the two groups of students—one focused on reaching current Fayetteville residents and one focused on reaching prospective residents and business owners—will present their final plan to Olson and deputy clerk Karen Shepardson.