Next to word-of-mouth, flyers and posters can be the next two best ways to promote your group. This publicity can help you recruit new members, improve attendance at meetings, and even raise money. Posters are cheap to produce (you can copy a couple of hundred for just a few dollars), easy to change or update, can be put up for free, and can be distributed by your own staff or members.
But if your campus is like many others across the country, when you put up a flyer tonight, tomorrow morning it will be plastered over with ads for fraternity parties and upcoming meetings. "The only way to find a clean place to post at the University of Florida is to light a match," jokes Mike Eisenberg, president of Collegiate Promotions International, a postering company in Tampa, Florida.
That's because most student groups are unsophisticated and haphazard in how they poster — they give members a stapler, copies, and say "Go to it." "You don't have to be professional to be effective, but you need to be efficient," says Stephen Crockett, president of Mid-South Marketing in Tennessee. If you're courteous to other groups, keep track of where you put your posters, and monitor boards regularly, you can get a lot of attention through your flyers. Putting up posters the right way around campus can be well worth your time and effort.
Tip #1: Get permission first
Some schools first require that all posters and flyers be approved by the dean's office or by student activities, then stamped with an official seal. "At our school, students have to get their posters stamped at each building, which has control of how its posters are distributed," says Cynthia Kane, assistant director of Student Activities at Seton Hall University in New York.
Tip #2: Don't hog the boards
Never put more than one or two posters on each bulletin board. You'll get a bad image and create hard feelings among other student groups if you blanket the boards with your posters.You can put up more than one if it's a short-term event, like an election, a concert, or a fund-raiser. But then immediately afterward, take them down.
Tip #3: Remove your old posters
Don't wait months to take down your flyers. "At one school, I found posters that were 18 months old, 30 layers thick," Mid-South's Crockett says. "If it looks messy, people will poster over top of you. A lot of students aren't going to check before they post you over." The University of Texas at Austin has developed an innovative postering technique that has helped prevent a lot of unsightly trash around campus. "Students used to put posters anyplace, on trees, trash cans, basically anything that didn't move," says Jerry Harrison, UT's manager of landscape services. "But a few years ago, we built some kiosks which are barrel-shaped, made out of redwood. Every six inches, we have these large elastic bands that are permanently attached. Students can slip the posters under it. They work great."
Tip #4: Walls are no-no's
Nearly all colleges and universities across the nation prohibit clubs from sticking posters to interior or exterior classroom walls. Taping or stapling posters to walls eventually will peel off the paint, can damage drywall, and could end up costing your school and ultimately raise your tuition.
Tip #5: Never use glue or staple guns
Heavy-duty staple guns are a no-no because they tear up the boards. Instead, use an office stapler, such as an Arrow stapler, or a "light-duty" staple gun. Don't use glue on plexiglass or on glass — it's almost impossible to remove without damage, which angers the "owner" of the board or newspaper box.
Tip #6: Keep track of the best locations
Spend an hour or two going around your campus to do a bulletin board inspection — where they are, how heavily covered they are, and how well they're maintained. Keep detailed notes about your observations of each location. While sitting for an hour or two visiting with friends, studying, or reading, monitor "traffic" in front of certain board locations. Write down how many students walk by the boards and note how many actually stop for a minute or two to read posters. If you don't keep these records, when your leader graduates, transfers, or leaves school, then you'll have to start over from scratch.
One time-tested option is to place posters on the backs of stall doors in restrooms, if it's permitted. These locations are the ultimate captive audience. "Since Simmons College is all women, this works really well," says Karen Boss, a former student activities employee at Simmons. "People will always read what is in front of them."
Tip #7: Target your audience
Target your market, just like in a political campaign. Don't put posters in areas and buildings that don't relate to your organization. It doesn't make much sense to put engineering club posters in the business building or flyers for the chemistry club in the political science department.
Tip #8: Classrooms vs. breezeways
In classrooms, students are stuck in one place for an hour or more. If you place your posters inside classrooms on the small bulletin boards near the doors, you'll get the whole class's attention. "If you're looking for maximum exposure, breezeways may be best. But classrooms are better for reaching specific majors," Crockett says. "You may get 200 kids through a classroom in a day, but you may have 2,000 students walk down a hallway, which is way more competition, but also a lot more traffic."
Tip #9: When to poster
Ideally, start putting up posters one week before your event. Don't wait until the day before or it'll be too late to attract much attention. On the other hand, if you start too far ahead of time, you'll get posted over. Put up your posters two days in a row — classes usually run Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, then other classes are on Tuesday and Thursday.
Tip #10: Best time of day to poster
Go late at night or early in the morning. "We try to get out at 4 or 5 a.m. and leave enough of the board exposed so that anyone posting later will likely leave some of our posters," says Charles Grapski of the Independent Student Coalition at the University of Florida. "Sometimes it's a chore, but it can be fun."
Tip #11: Where to post on a board
Try to put your posters at eye level and remember than everyone isn't the same height. Some people are taller than others, while others use wheelchairs. "One of the most unique means of attracting attention that I've observed on our campus is when groups place a `Burma Shave' type display on stairs," says Ken Peress of Susquehanna University in Pennsylvania. "You can't miss them when you start up the steps. Mounting this type of poster is more difficult than posting traditional flyers, but it gets a lot of attention."
Tip #12: Who should poster?
Unless they understand what you're trying to accomplish, not every member of your organization should be allowed or asked to put up posters. If they break the rules, it may be your group's reputation that could be tarnished.
Tip #13: What if somebody posters over you?
If someone slaps their posters over yours, remove theirs. You have that right. But knowing how much you hate it when this happens to you, don't perpetuate the problem. That's precisely why you shouldn't post over someone else's flyers.
Tip #14: Postering gets your members involved
It's actually a good way to get your members and volunteers involved, to motivate them, and to help them develop a sense of being valued by your organization. There may be people who don't want to do fund raisers or a discussion seminar, but who may be real happy to poster.
You can get better attendance at club or organization meetings and more attention for events if you develop a strategy about when, where, and how to display posters and flyers on campus to get the most exposure possible.
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