GIS Day 2011 at UWFox: Publicity

So, as I’ve already written, we’ve been working on putting together a GIS Day at UWFox for the past couple of months. We’ve encountered certain challenges, which we’ve tried to stem by using a variety of strategies. Check out my entry on our preparation of this event for more on how we’ve designed our event for 2011.

I did want to make a special entry, though, to mention some of the publicity efforts that we’ve been working on to get the word out about GIS Day. One of the biggest challenges in the past for the Fox Valley GIS User Group has been capturing an interested audience. With my arrival at UWFox this year, we’ve managed to expand our methods of publicity for the event substantially. Of course, with the event still a day away, we don’t know (yet) if our labors will be fruitful.

Publicity within UWFox

Our primary audience for this event was students, and our secondary audience was faculty. To do this, we combined some high-tech methods with some decidedly low-tech ones. All of this stuff was free, or mostly free.

A good month before the event, I sent out an email and an Outlook invite to the entirety of the teaching staff at UWFox. I explained in a fair amount of detail what GIS is, and how it could help many disciplines. That was free, and effective, because I got immediate response from over a dozen attendees. I chose a month early to allow interested instructors the chance to build GIS Day into their schedules if they so chose.

Then, beginning November 1, I had the IT department at UWFox start running this slide on the hallway Virtual Bulletin Board System (VBBS):

VBBS Slide
There are approximately ten flatscreen VBBS monitors around the campus containing a variety of announcements. While opinions amongst the staff are divided about how effective these messages are, I figure posting one to advertise our event couldn’t hurt. I tried to capture the essence of our event, which is that GIS can be used in many different disciplines and fields.

In case those screens are mostly ignored (as some staff believe), I followed up the screen with some old-fashioned flyering. I combined the editable packet of flyers that were produced for GIS Day 2009 (which one of the FVGISUG members luckily had… Esri didn’t provide much new stuff for this year) with a simple, bolder and clearer flyer to ensure direction to the event.

This is what I came up with:

…and I posted one of these on EVERY SINGLE BULLETIN BOARD on campus, at least the ones that weren’t reserved for other things. I know now that there are 36 such cork boards. Good to know! I have a feeling I’ll be needing that information again sometime.

Yesterday, I sent the entirety of the teaching staff a follow-up e-mail, reminding them that GIS Day was upon us, and listing a set of topics that the FVGISUG was covering in their presentations. As I said in the entry about preparing the event, the topics we chose were cultivated from the course schedule, hoping that there could be significant overlap to encourage attendance. A little later that afternoon, I announced it to the campus-wide collegium as well. If anyone knows that this thing is happening, it’s the faculty and IAS at UWFox.

Of course, I can’t force all of the students to come… but I can force my students to come! So, I did! My GEO 123 class, which is Weather & Climate, is required to attend GIS Day during when their class would meet from 9-10 am. They have to complete the worksheet I created for the event to get credit for attending, equivalent to one lab. My other class, Cultural Geography (GEO 101) is a night class. While I couldn’t require a night class to attend a daytime event, I did offer them extra credit, for which they need to complete the same worksheet. Of course, I offered the worksheet to the remainder of the faculty in case they wanted to offer credit for the event as well.

Publicity to the Larger Fox Valley Community

We’re fortunate at UWFox to have an active Director of University Relations and an awesome and responsive web staff. Within a day of getting in contact with these folks on Tuesday, November 8, we had a GIS Day Press Release put out to the local press outlets and media partners and had a big feature on the main page of the UWFox website:

Yep, that’s my ugly mug under “What’s New@UWFox” for the whole world to see. The big GIS Day Image, and the What’s New story both link directly to the aforementioned GIS Day Press Release.

The event also quickly and repeatedly appeared on the UWFox Facebook:

…and the UWFox Twitter Feed:

But! That’s not all! Probably the thing I’m (perhaps oddly) proud most of is the appearance of GIS Day on the UWFox Marquee Sign. The campus is located next to Wisconsin State Route 441, which is one of the busiest roads in the Appleton-Menasha area. It’s an interstate-quality highway with thousands of cars driving by per day, and UWFox has a large sign and marquee along this road. Well, thanks to the Director of University Relations, we got GIS Day up there, and GIS Day was the only thing up there.

It might be geeky that I’m this geeked about something that’s… well, really geeky. So what? Here it is:

Personally, I think having it on the marquee is AWESOME.

So, quite frankly, I’ve promoted this thing just about as much as it can possibly be promoted. Now, with the event tomorrow, I’m nervous that no one will show up, and that all of that was for nothing.

Here’s hoping!

Author: Andrew Shears

Andrew Shears is an Assistant Professor of Geography at Mansfield University in Mansfield, Pennsylvania. His research interests lie at an intersection of the human-environmental nexus, and includes branches of mapping, technological, memorialization and urban geographies. He lives in Wellsboro, Pennsylvania with his wife Amy, a professional photographer.