NOLA Notes: Applying ‘resource velocity’ to our most important resource: student journalists

Another in a series of posts drawn from my notes at the National College Media Convention in New Orleans.

Arvli Ward, the student media director at UCLA, is far from the first speaker at a college media convention to talk about the importance of recruiting, training and retaining student journalists. But he’s the first I’ve heard who talked about maximizing the “resource velocity” of those students.

In fact, Ward recruits his student resources by treating them as customers. I thought that was fascinating and so pounded a lot of notes into my laptop. Here are some lightly edited highlights, along with related points I heard later from Candace Baltz of Washington State University:

 Notes from Arvli Ward, UCLA Daily Bruin:

  • Customer = participant, reader, advertiser. All are people we compete for.
  • For each, we need compelling customer value propositions (CVP).
  • Why join your organization? Can student media be transformative and a place where student’s personal narrative develops and flowers? That’s a CVP.
  • One of his key processes is training students to do things.
  • His “workshop curriculum” is one of his key resources. It’s a recruiting tool, and it helps make inexperienced students productive sooner.
  • Prospective staff members for The Daily Bruin must go through 16 hours of workshops, all on weekends. (See lots more on organized methods to train new staff at my earlier post on “News Academy” programs.)
  • Increase resource velocity: How quickly can we get students to point where they’re creating value?
  • Ward says student staff “customers” pass through the stages of any product’s users:
    • Aware
    • Intrigued
    • Trusting
    • Convinced
    • Hopeful
    • Satisified
    • Passionate – they tell others, so those people become “Aware”
    • You want to take students all the way from student body to a process where eventually they are alumni supporters

Ward will spend money to make the student media jobs more appealing:

  • Ward pays the salary of a Daily Bruin intern at Variety. Variety pays for a second intern.
  • A  Daily Bruin scholarship fund pays for reporter/photographer teams to go abroad and do a story. A team went to Malawi and reported on UCLA aid programs there.
  • “Spaces that inspire.” They’ve made offices nicer — not plush, but sofas. And lots of laminate whiteboards from Lowe’s for $11.98 each.

Some other important steps:

  • Now getting college career office to design custom placement operation around what student media does.
  • Created website for Daily Bruin applications. Abolished paper applications. Applications for all student media increased from 240 to 410.
  • Building database that will track the applicant all the way from first application to alumni supporter.

For more on Ward’s talk and a LOT more on innovation, see Ryan Frank’s excellent notes, slides, videos and more from the full-day “Reinventing College Media” workshop and Frank’s other sessions at NOLA13. (I’m quoting Ryan in some of my blog posts, but I highly recommend you go straight to the source if you’re interested in innovation.)

Notes from Candace Baltz, general manager Washington State Daily Evergreen:

  • Look for people who “have the spark, who have intrinsic motivation. They want to improve themselves, and/or they want to change the world.
  • Wrong: Telling students they’ll have fun and get perks. If you start with that, you get people who aren’t in it for the challenge to improve themselves.
  • Teach your students the elevator pitch for working at the paper.
  • Baltz: Students value their legacy. So she encourages staff to recruit and train their replacements by saying, “You don’t want this to fall apart when you leave.”

Food is important:

  • Baltz has Doughnut Friday. (No paper to do on Friday, so she brings in doughnuts. Students will come in and get doughnut and have time to think and bond and plan. Very cheap way to build morale and team.)
  • Baltz holds alumni-taught workshops always at noon or around 4 p.m. so it’s a meal. Free food.
  • Ditto from Ward: “We spend a lot of money on food.”

Firing people:

  • Baltz: You’ve got to get rid of the people who gossip, are unreliable, do not meet expectations.
  • She has a 3 strikes policy. Verbal warning, written warning, fired. Gossip is written up as “you created a hostile work environment.” All this is done by editors in Baltz’s newsroom.
  • Kenna Griffin, the student publications director at Oklahoma City University, says she handles the first verbal warning on her campus.


About adviserdavid

Student media director, Georgia Southern University

Posted on November 6, 2013, in Financial sustainability, Leadership, NOLA Notes. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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