Describe your role as Communications Manager at Michigan State University Extension Communications. How long have you served in this position?
Jamie Wilson (JW): I’ve been in my role with MSU Extension Communications for three years. In this role, I manage the marketing and communications needs of MSU Extension’s children and youth programs – helping to tell the impact of our work, promoting events and programs, and building awareness of MSU Extension and 4‑H. As our larger youth development program, Michigan 4‑H is my primary focus, although some of my time is dedicated to our early childhood initiatives as well.
Why is it important to Michigan State University to grow awareness of Cooperative Extension’s 4‑H programs in counties across the state of Michigan?
JW: The mission of MSU Extension’s children and youth programs is to ensure that every child in Michigan has the necessary skills, knowledge, and tools to lead a healthy and productive life. These programs benefit not only the youth who participate in them, but their families, schools, communities and so much more. In fact, by preparing the state’s young people for the future, MSU Extension’s children and youth programs bring significant value to the Great Lakes State as a whole. It is because of this that growing awareness of Michigan 4‑H – our primary method of delivering these youth programs – is so important to MSU and MSU Extension.
Can you describe your recent efforts to align your state’s 4‑H marketing efforts with the national 4‑H Grows Engagement Campaign?
JW: MSU Extension and Michigan 4‑H have invested whole-heartedly in the 4‑H Grows Here Campaign. We’ve taken nearly all of the resources available in the MORC and added our strong university brand to them, making them into ready-to-go tools for our program coordinators and educators across the state. From banners to flyers, yard signs to social media tools, we offer all of the MORC resources, complete with MSU Extension branding, to Michigan 4‑H staff.
In addition to “Michigan-izing” all of the MORC resources, we’ve also used the campaign to create some new tools for Michigan 4‑H staff. We designed a youth and volunteer recruitment brochure, and display panels that reflect the 4‑H Grows Here Campaign. Counties are provided free copies of these materials, helping to ensure there are no boundaries to implementing 4‑H Grows Here locally. We’ve also created customizable campaign ad, brochure, event flyer and bookmark templates for county staff. These tools allow staff to market their unique local events and programs while also providing a connection to the state and national 4‑H Grows Here theme.
Michigan State University is one of 29 universities that is making a long-term investment in the 4‑H Grows Engagement Campaign to build the brand and raise resources to help grow the 4‑H program and positively impact more kids in the future. Can you tell us more about your marketing and alumni engagement plans in the coming months?
JW: Michigan 4‑H is very focused on expanding our alumni engagement efforts over the next few months. Utilizing the alumni contacts we received from National 4‑H Council in 2016, we will be hosting our very first alumni event on January 22 and are excited to have more than 100 people scheduled to attend. Throughout 2017, we hope to continue growing our alumni database by making alumni registration a part of several statewide outreach events and utilizing county fairs as another means of reaching 4‑H alums. We plan to engage these alums through events, updates and social media interaction, helping to grow a base of 4‑H supporters who will advocate for our organization, give their time and talent as volunteers and encourage children in their families and communities to join our program.
In the coming months, we also plan to work with our county staff to determine what additional tools are necessary to help them implement the 4‑H Grows Here Campaign locally. We want to ensure we provide them with whatever tools they need to help make this campaign successful at every level of our organization.
Are you satisfied with the progress of this 4‑H partnership and the work to date?
JW: Yes, it has been great to have a plethora of ready-to-go creative tools at our disposal and a series of campaign activations that provide 4‑H’ers, alums and supporters with an opportunity to engage with 4‑H. I have also enjoyed the close working relationship with my field marketing director, who has helped to ensure we can capitalize on every available opportunity and work hand-in-hand with national efforts.
What are you most excited about as it pertains to this new 4‑H campaign?
JW: As we complete the start-up year of the 4‑H Grows Campaign, I’m excited to begin working on elements of the campaign for a second time. In the year ahead, we can take lessons learned from the launch year and enhance our efforts in 2017. This will allow us to “make the best better” as we strive to grow a strong brand for 4‑H and MSU Extension in our state.