Senior marketing students from California State University, Northridge are working closely with KCSN 88.5 FM/Los Angeles, the public radio station broadcasting from the university’s campus, and its social media accounts to expand the station’s audience to include millennials.
“When professor Kristen Walker approached KCSN with the idea of utilizing the insight and talents of the Digital Marketing 459 class, we were thrilled,” said Sky Daniels, program director at KCSN. “Who better to help KCSN develop social media strategies than these students who continue to explore and discover new and better practices in fostering brand awareness every day?”
During the fall 2016 semester, Walker met with Daniels, CSUN Vice President for University Advancement Robert Gunsalus and KCSN Assistant Program Director Jeff Penfield to discuss plans for having KCSN as the client for the social media marketing class.
The class is taught as a seminar and project-oriented class, which builds on the marketing and business coursework students already have completed and provides useful analysis and applications for a client.
The undergraduates were tasked with creating and developing integrated marketing campaign concepts to increase millennial awareness and engagement for KCSN’s programming.
“This project is the perfect coalescence of key campus constituents — students, faculty, administration and ultimately, the community of listeners,” Walker said. “This community of listeners is important for KCSN and the university in terms of awareness and notoriety. The quality programming and the experienced personalities enhance member support, which is a challenge for any public radio station. After all the research, the class is determined to help millennials recognize the quality programming at 88.5 and become part of the community of listeners who continue to provide support to the station.”
KCSN is a noncommercial radio station and receives all of its funding from government sources, memberships or one-time donations from its listeners. With help from these marketing students, KCSN staff said they hope to build a stronger affiliation between a younger listener base — millennials — and the radio station, in order to develop lifelong listeners.
The marketing students began by conducting a situational analysis, which involves reviewing the radio industry’s internal and external environments and factors that are relative to KCSN. They identified KCSN’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as the station’s opportunities in the market and potential threats.
“It’s going to be a real challenge for us to come up with strategies to improve their appeal to their audience, in comparison to other commercial radio stations,” said marketing major Robert Rubalcaba. “I hope they can benefit from our recommendations from what we see in the radio industry — both commercial and noncommercial — and help them strategize to appeal to their target audience.”
The recommendations and social media strategies students have been developing over the past couple weeks are not available at this time, but will be after they present their findings to KCSN.
Walker said projects like this one are notoriously demanding for students, due to the fluctuating environments their clients face. However, she said, this challenge is the project’s most rewarding aspect.
“They force students to be adaptable to changing information and, as a result, flexible with their campaigns,” she said.
Students had to overcome obstacles such as working with teammates who do not always see eye-to-eye, and long, sleepless nights while researching and fine-tuning their work, but many said the payoff has been well worth it.
Brandon Stables, a marketing major, said working on this project has taught him a few things about the business industry and being a marketer.
“One thing is being able to communicate effectively — developing those interpersonal communication skills is really valuable,” Stables said. “The second thing is familiarizing myself with the methodology for researching a company and market. It is paramount that when you’re developing a marketing plan or strategy for a company that you holistically look at the market and understand all the moving parts that are involved.”
Aarti Khurana, a management major with an interactive marketing minor, said she is glad she took the class because it has been a great hands-on learning experience.
“This is my last semester here,” Khurana said. “After this, I’ll be going straight into the business world, and this class really gives a glimpse of what real-life clients expect from us as social media consultants.”
The students’ industry findings, social media strategies and recommendations will be presented to KCSN during finals week on May 16.
“They work incredibly hard the entire semester, and it is only after their final presentations when they recognize how their hard work has paid off,” Walker said. “I am incredibly proud of their efforts this semester.”