Editor's note: The AS Review is part of the Publicity Center, and utilizes some of the programs that are the focus of this story. In addition, Jeff Bates is the adviser of the Publicity Center and the Review. He took no part in the editorial process.
Communication is a fundamental aspect of the Associated Students. Without functional and effective channels of communication, it would be nearly impossible for the multitude of different offices and positions to exist and work as a whole.
More than 230 clubs are recognized and managed by the AS each year. The AS pays for three particular subscription software services that help facilitate communication and organization for many of these clubs through social media: OrgSync, Basecamp and Fancorps.
The programs — OrgSync, Basecamp and Fancorps — cost the AS $5,264 per quarter in subscription fees.
These fees, like all AS activities, are funded by students in the form of the Student Activity Fee. For the 2010-2011 three-quarter academic year, full-time students paid $169 quarterly for this fee, totaling $507 a year.
Here’s a breakdown of how this money is being spent and how AS employees and volunteers rely on it.
Before OrgSync, club management consisted of manually entering data multiple times to keep an active list of clubs, student activities coordinator Casey Hayden said. Now with the subscription, clubs organize themselves and are provided with an online environment.
According to the AS Board Proposal for an online organizational tool that was prepared by Hayden, the Viking Union professional staff first became aware of different online platforms available in 2007.
The investigation of the platforms and discussions continued until spring of 2011, when the motion to allocate $42,000 for a three-year subscription to OrgSync passed by the AS Board of Directors. This cost breaks down to about $4,667 a quarter.
The funds required for the subscription also paid for an on campus-training day, to show students how to use the software.
Fairhaven Free Press Editor Kyler Barton attended the training day, that was mandatory for all clubs held during the club kick-off event.
Barton recalls the kick-off event having OrgSync representatives, facilitating a lecture about how to use the software. After they finished, students were required to make an account for their club.
“We went upstairs and sat in a computer lab and had to go through and set up our own accounts,” Barton said. “This was frustrating because I didn’t feel prepared to fill out all the preliminary information to make the OrgSync account.”
The site functions similar to Facebook but for clubs, Barton said.
Students can ask to join a club profile to be a part of that club and can join as many clubs as they please, Hayden said.
“When you log in [to OrgSync] for the first time you’ll be a part of Western Viking, and if you’re a part of another organization, let’s say the Black Student Union, you can ask to join their club page,” Hayden said.
OrgSync comes equipped with features to help coordinate groups such as electronic checkbooks, a community calendar, unlimited file storage similar to Google Docs and a to-do list function, Hayden said.
“[The document function] is helpful for transitioning officers, so all your club’s documents are in one place,” Hayden said. “And the to-do list is helpful because you can delegate tasks to members of your club.”
Though OrgSync has all of these capabilities, Barton rarely uses the profile at the Fairhaven Free Press.
“The Free Press isn’t really a club that holds events or needs consistent exposure or advertising,” Barton said. “Initially, OrgSync just seemed like another hoop to jump through.”
Maddy Vonhoff, AS club coordinator, encourages clubs that are unfamiliar with OrgSync to seek help.
“The thing is that having over 200-plus clubs on campus, some are not going to utilize the program,” Vonhoff said. “If they are frustrated with [OrgSync] I help clubs set up their profile again.”
Even though some clubs do not use OrgSync to its full potential, Vonhoff said the program still helps the AS and clubs communicate.
“Before [OrgSync] all the contact information we had from a club was the president’s email, and if the president graduated then we had no way to contact the club,” Vonhoff said. “Now the profile for the club is taken over by then next president. It’s improved communication.”
Barton does not feel that the cost of OrgSync or the mandatory involvement has benefited The Fairhaven Free Press.
“My guess is that some clubs probably have benefited from OrgSync, but it would have been nice if some clubs could have chosen to opt out,” Barton said. “I think [the $42,000] is a high price to pay.”
Hayden emphasizes the ability for clubs to maintain a website through OrgSync.
“Unless they paid out of pocket, clubs couldn’t have a website [before OrgSync],” Hayden said. “Now clubs can have a lot more information publicly seen.”
“The online site helps clubs recruit new members,” Vonhoff said. “Instead of the blurb on the AS website, now there is a page of information about them.”
Three years ago, employees and clients of the AS Publicity Center used a whiteboard on the wall to keep track of the many projects and deadlines for posters, banners and artwork. With more than 100 ongoing, active projects at the Publicity Center and only 25 spaces on the board, communication and organization was chaotic. In 2009, the Publicity Center implemented Basecamp, a project management software program to help facilitate its day-to-day operations.
The AS pays $447 a quarter for the Basecamp subscription. The program is an industry leader in project management software, and is used by large companies such as Warner Brothers Entertainment, Kellogg’s, Adidas and USA Today.
“It’s quite well-used and well-vetted [in the industry],” Publicity Center Coordinator Jeff Bates said. “That’s one of the things that we were impressed by.”
There are many steps between a Publicity Center client’s initial order for a banner or poster until the final product is printed. Art orders must be approved, design concepts must be communicated to designers, and clients want to know how a project is doing throughout the entire process. Basecamp acts as a hub where Publicity Center account executives, designers and relevant clients can all communicate about and monitor a project through its production.
“It’s [the production process] just simplified so much because Basecamp consolidates everything,” Alex Bacon, a Publicity Center account executive said.
Every project production activity is monitored and recorded in Basecamp. Bates and the account executives can set deadlines for certain aspects of a project as well as milestones for completion. These are then displayed in Basecamp’s calendar, showing when certain things are due and naming the person responsible for its completion.
“It’s a real great way of tracking who’s responsible for what and when those deadlines are being met,” Bates said. “It creates much more accountability for us.”
Basecamp helps keep Publicity Center clients accountable as well. Clients can see what designers may need for a given project such as an image for a poster through Basecamp. Clients must check off on the final product before it is printed.
Basecamp allows users to comment and communicate with each other, ensuring that everyone is on the same page with a certain project and eliminating the need to meet face-to-face.
“That has really allowed us more time to focus on getting things done instead of constantly being at the window showing people where their projects are,” Bacon said.
Bates, who has worked in the Publicity Center for 21 years, said Basecamp’s social media-styled application helps ease previously complicated and oftentimes frustrating communication procedures. He also said that by eliminating the need for constant manager-oversight, Basecamp helps empower the student role within the Publicity Center.
“I used to have to go out and check in with people,” Bates said. “Now I do very little of that. Instead, I just kind of stay in the background and I can watch the conversation from a distance and intercede if I need to.”
The Publicity Center also uses Basecamp for data analysis. Applications within the program allow the Publicity Center to see how many jobs have been completed, where errors happened within the production process and who was responsible for them, as well as the average time it takes to complete a project.
“Basecamp is a lifesaver,” Bacon said. “I don’t know how I’d be doing my job without it.”
Banners, posters, handbills and tabling used to be the only forms of promotion for ASP events. For the past year, the office known for putting on shows, concerts and events throughout campus has left a lot of promoting activities in the hands of its 73 active, volunteer members of the ASP Street Team.
Anyone is free to join the Street Team, and ASP likes to let everyone know that. On almost every piece of ASP marketing there is a reference to asproductionsstreetteam.fancorps.com, the Fancorps website that provides ASP with what ASP Director, Shalom Long, said is their most effective form of marketing.
The AS pays $150 per quarter for the Fancorps subscription.
“Something like a street team not only gets students engaged in what we’re doing, but also, it is a more effective way of marketing,” Long said. “We don’t have to pay for word-of-mouth.”
Since the beginning of winter quarter last year, ASP has been using Fancorps and the Street Team as a way to spread the word about events through social media. The site itself resembles a social network, with members of the Street Team each having their own profile. From there, Street Team members complete missions created by Mikaela Trott, the ASP logistics and volunteer coordinator, in order to earn points they can redeem for ASP “swag items” and special privileges or access to ASP events.
“It’s a great way for students to get involved without doing a formal volunteer experience,” Long said. “Students’ workloads vary from quarter to quarter. They might not have time to commit, but they still feel a sense of community in being a part of the Street Team.”
Fancorps is a popular tool within the entertainment industry. Lady Gaga, Beyoncé and the widespread non-profit To Write Love On Her Arms all have street teams managed by Fancorps. The missions posted on ASP’s Fancorps are intended to promote events and build a larger fan base. ASP usually creates a mission for every major event, as well as some missions for the Underground Coffee House and some ongoing missions. Street Team members are often asked to post event information on Facebook or refer their friends to a site.
“I try to make [missions] creative, fun and something that people would enjoy doing in their spare time,” Trott said. “Something that would catch the interest of somebody else like their friends to get them involved, too.”
Street Team members get prizes for earning points delegated by Trott. They can win lanyards, water bottles, drawstring backpacks as well as VIP access to ASP events. The Street Team member who completed the most team missions got free seats for two on a red couch in a roped-off, front-row section at this year’s Last Comic Standing provided with free drinks.
“It’s just the nature of competition in general. People like to see that they’ve achieved something,” Long said. “It promotes healthy competition in a way that’s benefiting the office and the events we’re promoting.”
Last year, ASP was only able to attract about 23 active Street Team members. Despite the jump to 73 members after marketing at Info Fair, the ASP Fancorps site shows a steady decrease in user activity since the beginning of the year. Trott said that this is due to the usability of Fancorps.
“It has been a challenge to learn,” Trott said. “I’m not going to say it’s been easy, but the staff has been really good at Fancorps and they let me call them whenever I need help. I have them on my speed-dial, basically.”