Audience Engagement, School Spirit Style

Purple versus Gold. Image by Vickie Bates.It’s such a small thing. Yet, when it comes to engaging your audience, it’s huge.

Did your alma mater have school colors? Did it divide the student body into Blues and Yellows or Reds and Greens? Were there points awarded all year for various activities – academic, athletic, volunteer work? Was there cause for celebration among fellow Greenies when your team won the end-of-year tally?

This type of thing was a big deal at my high school, culminating in Field Day – a full day of sporting competitions with the largest pool of points on the line.

So it baffles me why I should receive a request to donate to the annual fund accompanied by a photo of present-day students, grinning from ear to ear, like they’ve just emerged victorious from the traditional Field Day tug-of-war, adorned in Gold.

I was a Purple, you see.

It’s not like this should still matter some unmentionable number of decades later. And it doesn’t really. I’m long past reliving any high school athletic glory or Purple-Gold rivalry.

But engagement is all about speaking to your audience about what matters most to the audience. Not what matters to you or what’s convenient for you. How hard would it have been to line up four Purple kids and snap the exact same photo, then sort alums by school color, and send a customized appeal – Gold kids to Gold alums, Purple ones to Purples? With spreadsheets and mass email systems?

Easier than beating Golds at tug-of-war…

8 thoughts on “Audience Engagement, School Spirit Style

  1. If I remember correctly, I was a purple! I don’t remember getting that donation request, but wouldn’t have noticed the faux pas anyway. I remember those field days and not so fondly!

    • Hi Virginia,

      Thanks so much for your comment, which gave me a chuckle this afternoon.

      I think today a lot of schools award points for more than just athletic events, and include things like academic achievement, artistry and volunteer work. That seems to be more inclusive of different types of students and student strengths…and (one can dream) reduces the agony of Field Days.

      There’s one sure thing…high school brings up a lot of memories for people!

  2. Hi Vickie,

    When I saw the purple and gold I couldn’t believe it—those were my high school colors too! But unlike your alma mater my high school didn’t divide the student body by color.

    I agree that in this computer age it should be easy to fine-tune appeals to a specific audience.
    Speaking of customized appeals, another thing that really annoys me is when Tim’s alma mater—Penn State University—addresses its financial appeals to him as “Mr.” He earned both a Ph.D. AND an MD from Penn State. Not to be “uppity” about it but you would think someone could take the time to address his mail to “Dr.”!

    • Hi Rita,

      Purple seems to be a popular school color – I never knew; it always seemed odd to us as students, while the administration acted a little embarrassed about it (too hippy-dippy for the ’70s, I imagine!).

      I don’t think you’re being “uppity” at all. It’s a sign of respect to call people what they want to be called – and you’d think it would be pretty darn easy for Tim’s alma mater to know which degrees he received on graduation day!

  3. So true! Doesn’t matter how long ago I finished highschool, i’m loyal to my school house which was also purple!

    • Hi Hannah,

      Love your comment – it brought a big smile to my face. We purples have to stick together… :-)

  4. Couldn’t be truer! So often when I receive appeals they’re not speaking to me. The same school you’re referring to in the gold v. purple business used to send out photos of boys prominently in the appeals– yet when I was there it was a girls’ school. And I’m more willing to give money to educate girls than boys. Just my opinion!

    • Hi Debra,

      Thanks so much for your comment!

      And, yes, I too grind my teeth when appeals from my alma mater are full of photos of boys – not because I think the education of males is any less important – but because the mission of the school used to be about educating girls, and it’s depressing to see them not be at least equally represented.

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