Cooley is a Good Fit for Augustana
June 28, 2013
When she started at Augustana as a student in 1995, social media was just born. Recently, Meghan Kelly ’99 Cooley, Augustana’s director of recruitment communications, was awarded the Gold Award for Best Use of Social Media by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE).
Cooley’s brainchild, the Good Fit T-shirt contest, beat out Princeton University and Johns Hopkins to earn CASE’s highest award in that category.
She explained the contest’s beginnings. “In 2007 I knew we had limited resources and funds, but the college needed a reason for prospective students to invite friends and family to get to know Augustana, to interact with our brand,” she said. “So, I approached my supervisor with an idea. Since we already provide visitors with a shirt, we could host an online photo contest with students wearing their Augustana shirts.” Cooley added, “They could submit photos in one of four categories: action shot, at another college, with an alum and in a famous location. And one category of the competition would be based on a people's choice vote.”
The People’s Choice category encourages participants to invite others to the Augustana website.
Cooley said, “This subtle promotion of Augustana—a student’s willingness to share publicly that Augustana is a choice— accomplishes two things. First, it creates a stronger bond between Augustana and the prospective student and their family. And it promotes Augustana to all those they contact about voting. Students’ second-party endorsements are often worth more than any direct promotion.”
Cooley is quick to explain her work today is a representation of the best of what Augustana is: creative, active, clever, community. “It showcases the future of our student body and is far-reaching. I love how much fun it is to highlight certain entries, to promote creative work and celebrate the winners. I also like how easily this contest has worked as we adapt to social media and the ease of smartphone photography.”
For Cooley, the payoff for the contest started to become apparent about two years ago. “We put considerable effort into encouraging contestants to ‘get the vote out’; this really increased the level of participation in voting. When our winner had over 5,000 votes and said her principal had announced the contest and encouraged voting every day at her high school, I knew the point of the whole contest was a success.”
The people’s choice category of the Good Fit contest has seen tremendous growth over the last couple of years. For instance, in 2011, the people’s choice winner garnered 109 votes. In 2013, the winner amassed 9,812 votes, and the individual in second place collected 8,356 votes.
Has the contest reached the end of its life cycle? Not in Cooley’s eyes. She’s looking ahead, and she said, “We’d like to redesign the web page to showcase previous years’ entries. I think we could use this to reach out to alumni. We can use Twitter and Facebook more.”
An advocate for the liberal arts, it’s easy for Cooley to reflect on how her years as a student continue to impact her work today and the Good Fit contest: “Augustana taught me to analyze, think creatively, involve community and work hard. It provided mentors to shape my growth, to encourage and foster new ideas and make a difference. I think my career has shown those attributes to be great assets.”
Director, Public Relations and Arts Promotion