On May 4, 2016, the OU Office of Web Communications, Marketing & New Media accomplished a goal they’d had a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away….see what I did there?! In all seriousness, our hosting an open casting call solves the long-time problem we’ve had of last-minute scrambling for talent when shooting photos and videos. For a department so closely aligned with campus, we have relatively limited direct contact with and access to students.
Our goal was bring the students to us and create a resource that includes students of all shapes, sizes, orientations, races, etc. who want to participate in campus marketing/promo video and photo shoots. The info we collect also includes their contact information and schedule (here for the summer?). In addition to us using it on our projects, other departments on campus can use it as well when needing talent.
It’s a win-win because we get the willing talent we’re so desperately needing and students who are interested get to do something they’re excited about doing – being a face of the school they attend and love.
As marketers, we have a different perspective on who we are showcasing and continually try to showcase the diversity on this grand campus. What we were encountering was a lot of the same people we’d use in video projects over and over.
Steps we took for a successful open casting call:
- Determine who in your office will need to help with the casting call. For us it was me (Candace) and Morgan for logistics, organization, promotion, etc. As well as Kam and members of his team: Ame, Drew, Mason, Sara and Jesse for organizing the shooting of head shots and test video reels for each person and then cataloging them after. Sara and Kam also determined what the prospective talent would read during the test shoot – a line from Hi5OU. You should also determine what you want from the casting call – is it for something specific? multiple projects? a time frame?
2. Find a date all involved parties are available. We were faced with a quickly approaching dead week, finals week, commencement and graduation, so we knew we wanted to avoid as much of that chaos as possible and scheduled for Wednesday, May 4, 2016, from 9 a.m.-noon and 2-5 p.m. We wanted to allow as much time for students to come and go as possible, but also wanted to have time to eat lunch, get our usual work squeezed in, etc.
3. Create the application. We used Wufoo for this. Our form can be accessed via the direct link: https://uofoklahoma.wufoo.com/forms/ou-casting-call/, and is also embedded within the feature story Morgan wrote, which provides more information and details. Once up, I created a custom link to use on social media: http://link.ou.edu/OUCastingCall
4. Promote, promote, promote! In addition to the feature on the homepage, we used social media to spread the word. As you can see in the posts above, we used photos we already had as a way to give an example of what kind of thing you could expect to be doing with us if you come to the casting call. And as you’ll see below, we found a lot of success marketing the casting call on social media.
5. Reach out to your network. Social media is awesome but sometimes not as good as ole fashioned word of mouth. I enlisted the help of people across campus to help us spread the word and spread the word they did as you’ll see in the data below. Never be afraid to get creative with your social media marketing – even if it means going completely outside the boundaries of traditional social networks.
6. Get snacks. We missed the deadline to order through OU Catering but Morgan and I did enjoy selecting treats at our local SAMs Club. Special note: College students LOVE doing the Dew and fruit roll ups.
7. Signage is helpful. We were holding the casting call in our office, which is above Chipotle at Norman’s historic Campus Corner. Our building is kind of confusing so we had ample signage leading the way to our location.
8. Print the applications and talent releases ahead of time. We printed the applications from wufoo.com and then got really clever and ran them through the printer again, adding the talent release to the back. Then our interns alphabetized them.
9. The morning of the casting call, I used their preferred method of contact (text/email for most) to send them a reminder. This allowed them to have contact with a real, live person if they had questions. Many said the reminder was helpful and I got several emails with questions throughout the day.
10. As students showed up, Morgan, our interns Ryan and Ramsey or I would ask their names, pull their apps, have them fill out the talent release and then take them to the studio, where the video team would snap a quick photo, have them read a quick line from one of our Hi5OU videos and then they’d be on their way with snacks in tow.
11. Follow up. I received many questions via email after the casting call. Rather than email each individually – and because they were basically all asking about next steps – I send another mass email (BCC) thanking them for attending and telling them the next steps. Essentially they can be contacted by us or another department any time throughout the coming summer and 2016-2017 school year.
13. Sara created a spread sheet using the applications of those who attended so she can select from the archive and then easily find their contact information to get them scheduled or to give to other department seeking them for talent purposes.
14. Write a blog post to sum up the experience.
In their own words
We asked them why they want to be the face of OU. This wasn’t something that would make or break them. It was more for my
morbid curiosity research purposes. I was not disappointed. These student see the big picture – many wanting to step up as a diverse student in an effort to help us showcase diversity on campus. See for yourself:
The Breakdown: OU Casting Call by the Numbers
On the custom Bit Link, 954 people clicked. Of those, 166 people filled out the application and out of those, 98 people showed up for the casting call. At first glance, I was not completely happy with this – especially considering we reach roughly 2 million people a week on social networks and that doesn’t even factor in homepage traffic. However, 98 people did come and that’s 98 more people than we’ve ever had access to before. We’re swimming in talent and the other numbers are possibly just the figurative cost of doing business ratio: We had to reach thousands to get hundreds of clicks to get 100+ applications to get almost 100 participants. Math, yo.
To further illustrate our success, almost 60% of applicants showed! I’d say that’s pretty great – especially given all the other demands college students on their time this time of year.
As we want this to be a living resource – not to mention a wise use of our time – we wanted to target a younger group. This worked out well. Focusing on freshman, sophomores and juniors was ideal and the majority of the seniors who applied are going to be fifth years. We also, unexpectedly, picked up a few high school seniors who will be incoming freshmen in the fall…and came to the casting call. What?!
For the most part, the breakdown in percentages of those who applied to those who attended the casting call mirror each other. We have a nice spread of years in school with many freshmen which equals, many years of opportunities for us to work with them going forward.
Something I found especially interesting and helpful in my class this semester is texting my students. They all had my cell phone number and would text me for help if/when they needed it. It was SO efficient. I’ve also been reading more and more about how the future of social networks is “closed networks.” So I was not at all surprised to see so many preferred to be reached via text. That’s my preferred method of contact also! Asking how they preferred to be contacted was helpful for me when sending reminders the morning of the casting call and will be especially important for Sara when contacting them to schedule a shoot.
Now to discuss how our applicants heard about the casting call. Initially, I posted Morgan’s story to the usual places: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. We had applications coming in but I felt it could be better. So I enlisted the help of my friend/coworker network across campus, emailing 100 people. They must have gotten to work spreading the word because almost immediately, a flood of applications came in. And as you can see in the chart above, they were the one avenue that packed the biggest punch.
And as you can see in this chart, referrals held a terrific retention rate for those who attended the casting call. To all who shared with students THANK YOU! Thank you all! You made the difference. We invite you to view and utilize the archive as you need it: https://www.flickr.com/photos/142539743@N06/albums/72157667509725980
Though we did have a pretty stellar first run, if/when we do it again here are some things I’d consider changing/adding:
- The Application:
- I’d ask for their hometown on the application to further highlight the diversity of our campus. Additionally a map chart would be a lovely addition to the ones above.
- I’d also ask which semesters they’d be available for the coming year (summer, fall, spring)
- Lastly, I’d ask for one detail about themselves they’d like us to know – hidden talents, phobias, massive number of followers on social media, etc. You never know when inspiration might strike or what potential content stories you’ll uncover.
- Though more difficult for us, if we were looking to find a massive number of individuals, I’d extend the days and times to accommodate more people and their schedules.
- A sheet for them to take with them with next steps and our contact information could be helpful in addition to the followup email.
- There are many opportunities for free T-shirts on college campuses. This might be another one and would be a cool way 1) to allow students to show off that they’re “OU Talent” and 2) for us to continue to spread the word about the Open Casting Call and our office.
There were many students who emailed after and said we were the friendliest casting call they’d been on. My first reaction was “how/why are so many students doing other casting calls?!?!” but closely followed by “you caught us!” #TeamWebComm is all about the students at OU and I’m so glad that came through when they were in our office. We love working with students and ultimately, they’re why we’re all here.
Happy casting and may the fourth be with you,