Friday, August 7, 2009

Marketing of Extension

[this post is primarily aimed at fellow ACES employees]

The number one thing we need to do to make campus (and the public) aware of Extension is the same as any other organization…take advantage of free public opportunities to make a positive impression.

Seems generic and simple enough, but making it happen is different. It seems that administrative folks spend so much time worried about budgets and programs and personnel that they become institutionalized (thanks Jason). So when there’s a meeting by department heads and administrative leadership where there is the potential to promote “Auburn” or “Extension” it is tough to get visionary, fresh, promotional ideas. How to fix that long-term is a problem for later. There are things we can do today.

Auburn University will have some sort of a ribbon cutting ceremony for new buildings and green spaces near the new student union building on Sept 23, 2009. As I understand it, the theme will be “Green on Green.” It will be an opportunity for Colleges and departments on campus to make displays and recruit students, while promoting environmentally friendly projects. Seems like a great place for a display about Extension, and a nice warm-up for the Sunbelt Ag Expo on Oct 20-22, 2009—where Auburn’s theme will be “Sustainability” (this is still open to some debate, since it isn’t necessarily good to jump on the buzzword bandwagon).

So what would make a good display, promote Auburn, and invite people to learn more about Extension? [Biosystems Engineering has already committed to both events with the gasifier, a photovoltaic demo, and the biotruck. It is expected that Fisheries will again bring the fish tank.] Couldn’t Extension, Agronomy, Master Gardeners, and others combine to make a very nice display? Perhaps a water cycle demo, with new low pressure irrigation, plants, a mini-lawn, a rain barrel, a sand filter, and a re-circulating pump? (with related publications about each) Last year AU had a stationary bicycle powered generator, where you pedal to light up various electrical things (light bulb, fan, TV, etc). The generator is expected to be back.  How about a flip-flops display? That was the hottest AU story of 2008.

The question is, who is willing to promote what they do in Extension in an organized, coherent fashion, as part of a group project? What are you doing for local fairs, shows, events, etc? How could you contribute (that?) to a University/ACES sponsored display? What can you do to remind college students of the good times they had in 4H? How could you relate that something you are doing now, or to something they’d like to do?

Assuming that our University is training leaders for tomorrow, all we’d have to do to connect Extension with main campus (and beyond) is take advantage of opportunities like the “Green on Green” ceremony to (re)make the connection for students. After that ceremony the Sunbelt Ag Expo is a tremendous opportunity to be seen and heard. Since preparing displays for these expos normally seen as drudgery, I think any and all Extension personnel would be more than welcome to contribute. If you’ve got ideas, please contact me or your supervisor, or department head, or someone. Your administration isn’t going to pull an idea out of thin air and expect you to do it. Maybe sometimes, but probably not this one.