College media staffs have been tasked with reporting critical health and safety information since last spring when COVID-19 sent students nationwide to virtual classes.
At the same time, student editors found themselves working with smaller staffs as students tried to figure out how to do coursework online and adjust to their altered living situations.
Now, as we make plans for an uncertain fall semester, student editors are trying to rebuild their staffs.
While it’s normal to recruit new staffers at the beginning of every semester, there’s nothing typical about trying to do so during COVID when students may or may not be on campus and universities likely aren’t hosting or allowing the types of orientation events we usually use for recruitment.
In short, staff recruitment is just one more thing college media staffs have to adjust during COVID.
I too am concerned about staff recruitment, so I’ve been thinking about it a lot and gathering ideas from other advisers and student journalists. Here are some of the best virtual recruitment ideas I’ve gathered.
Determine your openings
The first thing you need to determine is how many people you want to or can feasibly hire. Once you see what positions are available, I encourage you to go back to the good staffers you lost last semester as a result of COVID. Ask them if they would like to come back for the fall. Given the craziness of the pandemic, it seems only fair to approach them first. After that, start your recruitment.
Consider reading: Why You Need To Stop Saying “We’re Always Hiring”
Focus on video
Current staffers are your best recruitment tools. Consider having editors and other staffers create videos to promote the staff. The idea is to have the closest thing to face-to-face communication that we can have right now.
The videos should include:
- the staffer’s full name,
- classification and major,
- job on the staff, perhaps with a brief description of what that title means,
- what they see as the purpose of student media on your campus, and
- why they joined or love it.
Consider developing an elevator pitch to discuss with the staff beforehand that includes your organization’s mission. But, more importantly, have them tell their own story.
These videos do not have to be professional broadcast quality. It’s more important to get them out than for them to be perfect. They can be recorded on Zoom, if necessary. Be sure your staffer writes a script before recording and doesn’t just ramble. Consider having an opening and closing screen that you edit in. The final screen should include a link to your online application. If you don’t have an online application, you need to set one up now.
Reach out online
Promote specific openings on your staff via social media, on your student media website and in your newsletter. Be sure to include:
- the staff title,
- a brief description of the job, why someone should want to get involved,
- how they get involved,
- a link to your online application, and
- the video described above that’s either of someone in a similar position or the editor the new staffers would work with.
Ask your staffers to share this information on their personal social media accounts to increase reach.
A common way student media staffs recruit is by getting permission from professors to attend the beginning of classes and give their hiring pitch. Obviously this may not be feasible during COVID. Instead, contact professors in key departments (i.e., journalism, public relations, English, graphic design, photography) via email and ask them if you can make a pitch at the beginning of their online class. If they aren’t willing to give you virtual class time, as them if they would distribute your video described above and a short message to their class.
Partner with other orgs
Every organization on your campus has the same recruitment problem you have right now. What opportunities might this create? Could you share recruitment videos or posts on each others’ social media accounts to reach a wider audience?
Get a list
Some universities have students list their high school involvements or interest on their applications. Contact your admissions department and see if they will share emails with you of:
- freshmen who listed newspaper, websites, yearbook, broadcast, radio, photography, podcasts, debate, graphic design, etc. as their interests or activities, and
- students who declared journalism or journalism-related majors.
Send a personalized email to each of those students, sharing your video and inviting them to join your staff.
Ask for help
Consider whether there are entities on your campus that will promote your organization for you. For example, would your journalism program promote your staff recruitment efforts in a newsletter or email or on their website or social media? Would other programs? What about the university’s public relations or student affairs departments? Call in favors to help you recruit.
Participate in virtual events
Some universities are hosting virtual organizational fairs to help student entities recruit. Inquire about whether university officials plan to move your typical in-person recruitment opportunities online. If so, sign up to participate.
Host virtual events
If your university isn’t hosting a virtual organizational fair, consider whether student media should. Such an event could help you and many other student organizations recruit. Plan it now.
Also, if you usually host a newsroom open house, you can host that as a virtual event too.
This is always my favorite recruitment method. Identify—with help from advisers, professors and friends—students who have the skills you need on your staff, then sorority rush them. Find those students on social media or reach out to them via email. Tell them what it is about them that makes you want them on the staff and why student media is a perfect fit for them. Then ask them to apply.
Remember that recruitment doesn’t stop after you have candidates. Reach out to each person who applies to give them further information and plan a Zoom interview. Vet each candidate the way you would in person. Don’t let out of sight mean out of mind.
This academic year already is filled with a lot of uncertainty, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t contain opportunity. Student media staffs have to adjust many of our traditional ways of doing things, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Virtual recruitment is not the same as face-to-face recruitment, but there are ways to make it work.