What started as an awareness raising and ethnographic styled walk through Sierra Leone, this site now details the encounters of a not so academic academic who spends more time occupying Wall Street and squats than a university...

Monday, June 28, 2010

Marketing and PR

Hand-in-hand with communications is of course the promotional/marketing aspects of the journey.  The cornerstone is of course the website.  All information would theoretically flow through there.  Obviously though, as information is posted on it, who then reads it?

The plan at this point is largely grassroots, and hopefully will eventually become somewhat exhaustive.  For everyone that gets invovled it would be hoped that they would bring their networks in.  Obviously these days facebook is an incredible tool, as are things like twitter and other social networking sites.  These would all be used to maximize exposure.  There is some difficulty with these situations though as I have found that these mediums tend to be more about individuals than about causes or ideals.  I always say that facebook is about sports, spouses, babies, and parties - the fun things, the distractions.  It's rare to see political messages and the such, but this journey through Sierra Leone is actually going to be a personal journey.  It is one person undertaking a challenge in an effort to bring other people closer to not just that individual's challenge, but to the challenges faced everyday be the whole of the people there.  Life is about personal contact and personal attachment.  The more people that become that much closer to those in need, means more care will be shown.

Every web post will automatically be linked to facebook and twitter.  This will basically provide 'teasers' for anyone following the project or affiliated with it that would then bring them to the website.  Search engine optimization (SEO) will also be worked on in an effort to have searches not just for "Walking Lion" but for "Sierra Leone" to be high in searches.  This however, requires a great deal of things that are not all completely under the influence of any one person.  It requires traffic and lots of searches, hence the promotional campaign needed.

So if friends and family will be reached by grass roots and social networking sites, what about people interested in Sierra Leone, charity, and hiking?  Again, the website is the medium of information, but we will need to bring them to the site.  There are certainly going to be people interested in the country itself - that are either from there or for other reasons affiliated with it that will be targets.  For this there are a number of existing websites that would be notified and approached.  Getting invovled with the US and European based Sierra Leonean communities will be a key aspect to the project, both in legitimacy and in terms of support.  I already have started a list of local communities and websites worth contacting once the project gets further along.  The aid community will also be a good avenue to follow.  The key is to get linked in to a number of their websites as this both raises the SEO of our site and brings more people into the project.

Another avenue that I thought would be very interesting is to contact local schools and approach grade levels that might be interested in following the journey in an effort to learn about the country, Africa, and/or other places and cultures of the world.  I think this would be a huge learning opportunity for children - especially elementary school aged children.  I am not sure how this process will work, whether we would need to go through schools or teachers, but it would be a very worthy line of inquiry.  If you had several classes of children reading the blog everyday this would raise the awareness and impression numbers tremendously.

The project would also be using social media and other automatic notifiers as press releases for local mainstream media.  Of course it would be great if large publications such as the New York Times would follow the journey, perhaps giving interviews throughout or after, but more realistically it would be local papers and Sierra Leoneon focused publications that would be more specifically interested.  For example, I live in the Poughkeepsie area of New York.  I would send releases to the local newspaper and - though mostly unlikely given its readership - perhaps this paper would follow a 'local' person on this kind of journey.  An article or two would be wonderful to bring people to the site.  More realistically, it would be publications of altruistic and/or hiking minded people that would be interested in the journey.  This will all need to be researched.         

Though not exhaustive or even extensive, this is a brief sketch of some options to be followed in terms of marketing, if you have any additional suggestions, by all mean pass them along...

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