Localizing a National (or International) Story to Your Campus

How do you localize big news for your campus? It’s not something you can do for every huge story or piece of breaking news, but occasionally, you can dig up a local connection or expert to contribute something that ties a national (or international) story to your campus. And that’s often worth doing for a higher ed social media audience, because while we may not feel a personal connection to such a large story, we do feel intimately connected to our alma maters (lit. “nourishing mother”). If our alma mater can provide a frame for an event or news, it helps us relate and personalize the experience.

I had that opportunity today, with the passing of Dr. Maya Angelou. In general, it doesn’t fit into Chico State’s social media strategy to do sympathy posts for every major figure who pass away, but, as we all  know, there are exceptions to the rules, and, most recently, we did post something about Nelson Mandela’s passing. Usually, we’ll try to tie the figure through a quote or photo to education.

Today, with Dr. Angelou’s passing, I realized we could do more to localize this for our campus audience. Dr. Angelou visited Chico State twice, once in 1995, and again in 2011, and we have many students, alumni, and community members who saw her speak.

This morning, my colleague asked our Public Events department if they could dig up a photo of Dr. Angelou from one of her visits, and within the hour, I was handed a thumb drive with a few photos to choose from and information about the dates of her visit.

Unfortunately, the backstage photos from 2011 weren’t of high quality, so, in an Instagram-inspired move, I applied a black and white filter in Photoshop. With a little tinkering, I had a much classier-looking photo, and to dress it up even more, I added a quotation from one of her poems, And Still I Rise. The result, a shareable image prepped for social media distribution.

I posted the image with simple text (varying slightly by platform) like, “Chico State had the privilege of hosting Dr. Maya Angelou on campus twice. She was an inspiring figure, and will be missed by all. Photo: Dr. Angelou backstage at Laxson Auditorium in 2011.”

It’s been well-received across FB, Twitter, and Instagram, and prompted some really nice responses from our Twitter followers:

@chicostate And thank you for that. I was there one of those times and seeing her live moved me to my core. @DrMayaAngelou

As a student at @chicostate in the early 1990s, I read @DrMayaAngelou’s I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings in an American Autobiography class.

So, is the Photoshop job hokey? Sure (I’m not a designer!). But, this small gesture, a 1-2hr project for me, served as a way to remind folks not only of the innumerable ways Dr. Angelou changed our world at large, but also how Chico State was a part of bringing her to our community.

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