University of Delaware is no Penn State. Don’t get me wrong — we love our Blue Hens, but we’re fully aware that a blue hen is much less intimidating than a Nittany lion or a wolverine or a tiger. We may not fill the student stands shouting “We are…Penn State,” but we still come out to support our team..at least for the first quarter or so.
However, student attendance at home football games has been extremely low so far this semester. When we played Old Dominion on Sept. 24, only 1,403 students (out of almost 20,000 students) made the trek down to Raymond Field to support our team, which was the lowest overall attendance since November 1998. So, why such poor turnout?
Over the past two weeks, university admin have certainly asked themselves that question and developed a solution, a promotion called “Cockpit Drive For Five.” Their actions demonstrate the importance of analyzing your audience, knowing what the causes of the problem are, knowing how to fix the problem, and knowing how to communicate that solution. Here’s how the university communication team dealt with this issue, as well as steps all PR pros should take when analyzing an audience and a problem:
1. Define your primary (and sub-) audiences. It seems obvious, but this is an essential first step. Before you can start communicating, you must know who you’re communicating with!
In this case, students are obviously the primary audience. However, good audience analysis doesn’t stop with the obvious; it’s important to define sub-audiences, as well. For example, which students are most likely to be persuaded to attend the game? Freshmen or seniors? Athletes or non-athletes? Knowing which sub-audiences are most likely to act upon your “call to action” is key to successful message development and promotion.
2. Analyze and establish the causes of the problem. After knowing who is involved, establish what causes an issue or problem. Why is there a problem? What factors contribute to that issue?
For UD students, one of the biggest inconveniences is the advance pick-up ticket policy, which requires students to go to an on-campus box office and pick up a football ticket before that weekend’s game. Because lines can be long (especially between classes), students have to set aside a considerable amount of time to pick up a ticket, which is an overall inconvenience.
3. Remove barriers or “causes.” After analyzing and establishing the cause of the problem, PR pros must figure out how to solve the problem. Most often, this means removing any barriers keeping individuals from embracing or adopting an event, product, or behavior.
In our “Drive for Five” example, the main barrier to attending the games was inconvenience and hassle. To address this issue, university personnel decided to revert back to the football ticket policy the school had prior to the 2008 season, which allowed students to go directly to the game and simply present their ID for entrance. No waiting time, no inconvenience.
4. Promote your solution, and tell your audience what to do. As communicators, one of the most important last steps is to communicate your solution with your target audience using the mediums and channels they use most. In addition, the best solutions often include an implicit “call to action,” telling your audience exactly what you want them to do.
UD developed the “Cockpit Drive for Five” program to help promote their latest ticket policy. The program encourages students to attend the game and help fill the student section (lovingly referred to as the “cockpit”) up with at least 5,000 students. With the new ticket policy, the largest barrier to entry has been removed, and the program name is a clear call to action. In addition, they’re promising one lucky student $5,000 in cash and other prizes.
They communicated the new program with students via a back page ad in The Review (our student-run newspaper), posters around campus, a large banner outside the student gym, and social media — all places students are most likely to be.
Will it work? We’ll know on Saturday when UD takes on the Tribe of William & Mary at 6 p.m.