Institute of Politics Continues to Increase its Social and Digital Media Efforts

After two years of revamping its virtual presence, the Institute of Politics will launch its latest social media initiative next week to better connect undergraduate members with students beyond the Institute.

Under the student-run “Digital Brigade” campaign, a group of Harvard undergraduates will use various social media outlets, including Twitter and Facebook, to publicize IOP events.

About 15 students have pledged to man the Digital Brigade, but IOP Student Communications Director Kathryn G. Walsh ’14, who is managing the group, hopes to soon double that number.

The Digital Brigade is the most recent of a series of social and digital media upgrades implemented by the IOP to modernize its mission of inspiring “undergraduates to consider careers in politics and public service.”

Improvements began two years ago when the IOP’s governing body—the Senior Advisory Committee, chaired by Caroline B. Kennedy ’80—requested an audit of the IOP’s internal operations.

The strategic audit revealed flaws in the IOP’s communications strategy that staff have since attempted to remedy, according to IOP Director of Communications and Marketing Esten Perez. When Walsh joined the IOP her freshman spring, for example, the Institute’s use of social media was largely under the radar.

“I couldn’t have told you if we had a Twitter,” she said.

Twitter now plays a noticeable role in IOP Forums, an improvement championed by Kellie A. Ryan, the IOP’s first social media coordinator.

Since Ryan joined the IOP in October, subscriptions to the IOP’s YouTube channel have more than tripled. Last month, Ryan also oversaw the launch of the IOP’s blog, which currently has 5,600 views.

The IOP is using its digital campaign as a mechanism for reaching out to students “beyond the IOP, beyond Harvard,” Ryan said.

Social media also gives more students access to the Institute, said IOP Director C. M. “Trey” Grayson ’94, calling the initiative “an attempt to address the reality that people have short attention spans.”

“People aren’t likely to sit at a computer for 90 minutes to watch a Forum,” Grayson said.

This realization inspired the “3 With IOP” series that now airs on YouTube. Each segment is three minutes long and poses three questions to IOP fellows and visitors.

“[Social media] amplifies the ability to share my expertise and my experiences with a broader group of students,” said current IOP Fellow Karen Hughes, a communications expert and one of former President George W. Bush’s top advisors.

The IOP plans to continue elevating the quality and quantity of its virtual presence, Perez said.

As the initiative moves forward, Walsh said that she hopes to see the IOP use online strategies to clarify its mission and program offerings for students.

—Staff writer Steven R. Watros can be reached at watros@college.harvard.edu. Follow him on Twitter @SteveWatros.

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