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Tuesday, April 5, 2011

An important lesson from two Connecticut universities


When I was in high school in New Haven, Connecticut, and it was time to apply to colleges (early 1964), those of us who had dreams of attending "good" colleges, were also advised to apply to one or two "safety schools."

A safety school is a college with relatively low entrance requirements, where almost anyone would be admitted. They provide little or no status, but they can provide a bachelor's degree. (In actuality, a safety school can provide an excellent education, and many grads will attest to that. If you attended one, please don't complain about my classification.)

For kids in Connecticut, our major state school, The University of Connecticut ("UConn") -- located in a nowheresville called Storrs -- pretty much had to accept any high school graduate who lived in the state. Within Connecticut, the school was largely known as a school for farmers, and a place to get good low-priced milkshakes at the store on the experimental dairy farm.

Outside Connecticut, UConn was often confused with "Yukon." The athletic teams -- called the "Huskies" -- added to the confusion, and many Americans assumed the college was located in the 49th state -- not in one of the 13 original colonies.

Sports forever and significantly changed the visibility and image of UConn. By becoming frequent champions in both women's and men's basketball, UConn is probably known to most American high school students -- and the number of applicants grows and grows. Along with visibility, and status, UConn has attracted a better faculty, and is now much more than a safety school. Sports coaches are sometimes paid more than college presidents, and they may be worth it.


A few miles north of New Haven is the suburban town of Hamden. It was home for another, but smaller safety school: Quinnipiac College.

"Quinnie" was considered even less desirable than UConn, because most students would continue to live at home, just like in high school. Being a student at Quinnipiac seemed like thirteenth grade, whereas UConn had dorms -- just like a real college.

Today Quinnipiac College is now the highly respected and widely known Quinnipiac University. Its visibility and subsequent  increased status and academic ranking were boosted not by basketball, but by gathering and analyzing statistics. Hardly a week goes by without major media mentions of the latest Quinnipiac University Poll.
  • Kodak camera sales are boosted by the Oscar presentations at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood. I have several Kodak cameras. So do millions of others.
  • Staples probably sells more staples, paper and computers because of the visibility of Staples Center in Los Angeles. It is the home of four professional sports teams, and has won two consecutive "arena of the year awards." I buy a lot at Staples.
  • Every Saturday morning I listen to "Wait, wait, don't tell me" on NPR, and I am frequently reminded that it is being broadcast from the Chase Bank Auditorium in Chicago. I have multiple accounts at Chase Bank.
  • The New York Mets play at Citi Field. I don't care about the Mets, but I do have several Citibank credit cards.
  • Online dating site Ashley Madison reportedly made an offer to rename New Jersey's  New Meadowlands Stadion "AshleyMadison.com Stadium." I have no interest in cheating on my wife, so I don't use Ashley Madison.
While some companies have millions to spend on "naming rights," fame doesn't have to be expensive.

The basketball players who first made UConn famous did not go there because the school was already famous and had big-buck coaches. They may not have had athletic scholarships.

The early Quinnipiac polls were student projects, announced with inexpensive or free press releases.

Unless you win Olympic gold or kill someone important, fame doesn't come quickly. It can be built gradually, and inexpensively. Think about what you can do to establish yourself as an expert on something, to get your name inextricably linked to some subject you want to be associated with.

Write blogs. Constantly post on Facebook, online forums and newsgroups. Tweet. Publish websites. Get listed on Linkedin and other social websites. Join associations. Write book reviews. Write blurbs for books. Send out press releases. Participate in panels at trade shows and conventions. Write letters to editors. Get interviewed. Do something, everyday.

Google shows nearly 100,000 links for my name. A few are for a shrink, but most are mine. Amanda Hocking has over 800,000. Ernest Hemingway has nearly 7 million.

The idiots at Outskirt Press describe Monica Bouvie as a "self publishing success story." Her last name is really Bouvier. It ends with an "r" -- like Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis and Marge Bouvier Simpson and sisters Patty and Selma -- but Outskirts can't be expected to get anything right, even on its home page.

Despite being affiliated with an inept publisher, Monica does have 126 Google links.

How many do you have?


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