For more than a decade, Proctor Academy’s Chuck Will has been the leader in social media amongst educational institutions—well before the term was even coined. Cleary University’s Amanda Chaborek, who first heard about Chuck’s Corner at a CASE District I conference in 2004, interviews the veteran blogger and director of communications for Proctor below.
AC: When did you start Chuck’s Corner and what exactly is it?
CW: I started Chuck’s Corner in 1998 and according to MStoner, it is the longest running education blog in the world. It’s about trivial stuff—what’s going on in the dorms, science labs gone awry—the every day stuff. I think it’s important to show that we are not perfect here…that we are a real school with real students.
AC: What is the readership of Chuck’s Corner?
CW: We have tens of thousands of regular readers.
AC: What other social media initiatives is Proctor Academy currently engaged in?
CW: On the front page of our website, we have a major Twitter presence (if anyone mentions Proctor Academy via hashtags, retweets, etc., it shows up); Proctor In Focus, a Flickr stream which enables anyone in the world to download pictures for free; a Facebook fan page which alumni regularly use for networking and event promotion; LinkedIn; UStream, which we use to stream online major events such as commencement; and customized web pages directed to different constituents in lieu of magazines and newsletters. The customized web pages have been a huge hit in terms of stewardship. For example, if someone donates to ceramics and dance, he or she would receive a customized web page with info/updates/news on those specific programs. We also use Flickr to archive school photos.
AC: Are social media initiatives integrated into your strategic communications plan? If so, how?
CW: Our communication plan is relatively organic, evolving as we identify new opportunities and resources. Right now, Facebook plays a significant role with alumni communications; Chuck’s Corner is first and foremost an admission and current parent blog; Twitter informs parents, alumni and other schools of school news; and Flickr is meeting image archival needs while documenting campus happenings. What is important is that a communication plan is responsive to emerging opportunities.
AC: How are your social media initiatives organized and resourced?
CW: It is all about decentralization! I am the content generator and the photos are all cataloged in LightRoom.
AC: Where does the buck stop when it comes to social media decisions?
CW: Our Development and Communications Team meets somewhat regularly to brainstorm ideas. There is no formal committee for Chuck’s Corner, but if someone has an issue with a post, their requests will be taken into consideration. This may happen once or twice a year at most.
AC: What have you tried that you think hasn’t worked, and why?
CW: Student Voices (student blogs) has traditionally been hard to get students involved. We’ve had to use English classes to pull content. Twitter has only been marginally successful.
AC: Looking forward, what social media initiatives are you considering or exploring?
CW: We’re looking at students using Flip Cameras to interview players during practices before big games and right after the games to stream through the homepage.
AC: What social media resources have you found to be invaluable (i.e. what resources would you recommend to your peers, and what resources do you wish were available)?
- Twitter: Seth Godin, Huffington Post
- Seth Godin’s blog
- “Smart Marketing Practices”
- Read other blogs!
AC: What are the two most important pieces of advice you would give to someone planning to launch any type of social media initiative today?
CW: Demand the freedom to be creative AND transparent. Also, look at the skill set of the people in your department. Pair them up with what they are good at and what they enjoy versus compartmentalizing people into job descriptions.
Finally, if you are setting up a blog, start with pictures and then work in blog content. The writer and photographer should be the same person.