Are you there Duke?  Can you hear us?

Sometimes—actually all of the time—it can be difficult for a student organization or event on Duke’s campus to really stand out.

This isn’t surprising.

Think of how often we are bombarded with concerts, speakers, events, parties, and so much more.  It can be, at best, extremely overwhelming.  Which makes the daunting task of having an event stand out among a sea of others even that much more difficult.

So the question that the Ragtime Marketing Team, and especially myself, are trying to figure out is how to make the Duke student body listen, recognize, and know everything they can about Ragtime prior to opening night.

Through my own experiences with other student organizations and using some outside research, I’ve come to realize that there is a right way and a wrong way to reach the student body here on campus.  Sure, having banners in the Bryan Center and “spreading the word” to friends are both helpful, but there are many other—and more successful—ways to reach Duke students.  Here’s what I’ve figured out so far:

1)   Know your audience– Duke students love a good time (Shooters II anyone?)  which is why when we came up with a concept for the student-oriented marketing campaign, we tried to connect the early 20th century America depicted in Ragtime to today. By having principal characters, who are also well connected on campus, pose in Duke-friendly places (the Link, Shooters!, and Von der Hayden to name a few) we can guarantee some quizzical looks and second glances to Ragtime marketing materials.  It’s not often you see Duke women in vintage dresses breaking it down in the cage or riding the bull.  Understanding our audience and knowing what grabs their attention guarantees us better student-oriented publicity around campus.

2)   Social Media– I can’t name a single person who hasn’t checked their Facebook accounts at some point during a class.  While much to the dismay of the professors, this seemingly natural step in the progression of boredom is the perfect way to capitalize on Duke students.  By creating a Facebook page, uploading fun photos and videos, and bombarding people’s home pages with statuses, we are guaranteed at least some form of impression that can (hopefully!) equal a ticket sold.  Not to mention, think of all the people sitting behind that person staring at their screen who will also see the logo and website.  Talk about ­­­­­­maximizing opportunities!  This idea of viral marketing has taken over large-scale Broadway productions as well, as discussed in a 2008 New York Times article “Broadway’s Marketing Turns Interactive.”[1]  Using social media as “another creative outlet” doesn’t just inform Duke students about boring information, but connects with them in more real, interactive, and fun ways.  SO LIKE THE FACEBOOK PAGE Ragtime at Duke!

3)   Be Innovative and open to collaboration!-  As Ragtime grows in presence on campus, we will continually be tested to go above and beyond your typical Duke-oriented marketing.  Launching a sticker campaign is just one example of our innovation.  Hosting an opening night party at a local venue is another. Besides consistently promoting Ragtime on our own, the Marketing Team has reached out to other student organizations like Duke Student Broadcasting, Duke Marketing Club, DMIX Magazine, and events like Blue Devil Days and Springternational.   Our collaboration is guaranteed to reach more of the student body and as I like to tell myself,  “Teamwork makes the Ragtime dream work!”

Understanding what a production of this magnitude requires in terms of Marketing and PR is crucial to not only garnering the desired financial success but also in reaching the largest number of people possibly.  Understanding your audience, using social media to connect with them, and maintaining constant innovation in addition to widespread collaboration will help make Ragtime one of the most successful shows ever brought to Duke!