Alex Hicks: Ole Miss Social Media Ambassador. It’s a pretty cool title, right? Well, let me tell you, the experience I had as an ambassador this past semester was everything I could have imagined and more.
This past semester, I was chosen as one of two ambassadors for the Ole Miss Communications Department. This was the first time this position had been offered, so we were considered the test subjects for this program. Will Hamilton, communications specialist for Ole Miss, came to my public relations class to advertise the position. It sounded like an awesome internship, and since I am a senior, I knew this would look great on my resume when applying to grad school.
But, part of me thought this position was too good to be true. Am I even qualified for something like this? I mean sure it’s all ‘a learning experience’ when it comes to interning somewhere, but since I had never previously worked with public relations in any company before, it scared me. After a lot of deliberation, I finally decided to apply, and I filled out the application soon as I got home. I heard back about a week later with news that I was being offered an interview. I scheduled the time, went in for the interview and skills test, and heard back the next day that I had been offered the internship.
I was so excited, but I truly had no idea how rewarding this experience would be.
During my first day in the office, we were given the grand tour of the Communications Department. If you don’t know where it is, like most students, it is located in Sam-Gerard Hall, which is right across from Kinard. Downstairs is the printing workshop, where all of the brochures, posters, cards, pictures and basically anything you could ever think of is printed for the university. Upstairs on the left is where all the public relations gurus and communications specialists are located, and to the right are all the writers, graphic designers, videographers, photographers and web page designers. Basically, the Communications Department is home to some of the coolest and most talented artists behind the University of Mississippi. After introducing myself to all of these really important people, we were told what would be expected of us this semester.
As a social media ambassador, you are the eyes and ears of the university. They needed a student’s perspective, and we were the ones to offer that. If there was something cool happening around campus, we were told to snap a picture and tweet about it. We immediately sat down and brainstormed creative ideas we had for social media along with campaigns and ways for students to be more interactive and connected with the social media accounts.
It did not take me long to feel comfortable at the Communications Department. We developed a routine, and it immediately began to feel like home. Every week, we would come in and create our social media calendar for the week. We would go through our WordPress site looking for interesting content that we could use on Facebook or Twitter. We would take a look at the university calendar and plan accordingly based on what events were scheduled. Then, we came up with any other creative ideas we had, and we threw those into the mix. After that, we would split up the days and write the posts for each piece of content we were sharing.
This was definitely a learning experience for me. It sounds easy, but there are so many small details you have to remember when writing these. There are different audiences for our different outlets, which means you have to adjust the way you say things and the language that you use. Also, for Twitter, you often use abbreviations or more casual slang since there is a limit to how many characters you can use. Eventually, I got the hang of it, and it ended up being one of my favorite parts of the internship.
We learned how to work with the analytics software that the university uses for the social media accounts. I love working with numbers, so this was so interesting to me. It is really cool getting to see the statistics behind the posts that we share. These programs allow you to see how many people these posts reached along with the demographics of these audiences. This helps you create insights about your target audiences and what posts to consider sharing next time. You can also see who is mentioning our university and if it is negative or positive which is extremely helpful for the people who are monitoring our sites.
During Chancellor Vitter’s investiture, we were able to work on behalf of the Communications Department. We were handed our media credentials and placed at the front of the auditorium with the rest of the professionals and representatives from other media outlets. We took photos and videos and sent them to our boss in the sound room at the top of the auditorium, where they tweeted them out from there. Working the investiture was something that I never would have had the opportunity to do if it weren’t for this position. It was truly an incredible thing to be a part of.
In my interview, I mentioned that I loved creating videos. So, they allowed me to work alongside the videographer on a few occasions. I learned so much about filming and producing, and I had a lot of fun in the process. I helped shoot some of the “This Week in the Grove” videos, and I actually got to star in one of them when we had trouble finding someone. It was definitely an experience that I would not have had the opportunity in doing if it weren’t for my position.
One afternoon, the other intern and I thought of a cool idea for National Cake Decorating Day. Our boss bought us a cookie cake and some icing, and we did our own little photo shoot. I took still shots of the cake while the other intern decorated. After that, I created a time-lapse video from the shots, added some music behind it and shared it on our social media accounts. Before Thanksgiving break, we thought it would be cool to go around and ask students what they were thankful for this holiday season. The videographer helped us shoot the footage and they handed it all over to me to create the video. This was by far my favorite experience. I edited all the footage and created the video from scratch. I was so proud of my work, and I absolutely loved the way it turned out.
We had ideas for National Taco Day, Daylight Savings, National Smile Day and so many others, and we were the ones to make it happen.
Representing the Communications Department as a social media ambassador has been an amazing experience to say the least. The staff is incredible, and they teach you so many things that you would never learn in the classroom. I would do it all over again if given the opportunity!
Ole Miss Communications is looking for two more social media ambassadors for the spring, and you don’t want to miss out on this opportunity. If you are interested in public relations or social media, I suggest you head over to www.news.olemiss.edu/sma/ and apply today! You will learn so much and meet so many awesome professionals throughout this internship.