“Student Critic Contest” utilizes print and digital campaigns to build audience engagement with journalism students.
“Student Critic Contest” utilizes print and digital campaigns to build audience engagement with journalism students.

Trish Wallace, marketing and entertainment representative at The Courier-Journal, often works hand-in-hand with consumer brand marketing to create new value exchanges for our readers and relevant promotions for our clients.

In some cases, we’re able to do both. Such was the case with Newsies.

When our clients and good friends at PNC Broadway in Louisville, Leslie Butler and Matthew Porter, mentioned that Disney’s Newsies was coming to town, we instantly exchanged knowing looks. We know a no-brainer when we see it!

You see, Newsies is inspired by the real life Newsboys’ Strike of 1899, when newsboys Kid Blink and David Simons led a band of orphan and runaway children on a two-week-long action against newspaper publishers Pulitzer and Hearst.

This show — set against the backdrop of the newspaper industry in New York City at the turn of the 20th century — was the perfect opportunity to partner on our “Student Critic Contest.” We jumped at the chance and brainstormed a winning co-promotion.

It started with a print and digital campaign with a call for entries, inviting area high school journalism students to participate and making sure to get contest information in front of parents.

With the promise of having the winning written and video reviews published in The Courier-Journal and at courier-journal.com, however, these high school kids didn’t need much cajoling from mom and dad.

Arts Reporter Elizabeth Kramer and Videographer Scott Utterback conducted a student workshop to offer training to our budding journalists. Our partners at PNC Broadway in Louisville secured refreshments and space at the Kentucky Center for the workshop, and Disney provided a study guide.

The workshop was followed a few days later by a moderated conference call with the lead actors in the production, during which our student journalists were able to ask interview questions directly. That was quite the experience for these kids!

“Student Critic Contest” utilizes print and digital campaigns to build audience engagement with journalism students.
“Student Critic Contest” utilizes print and digital campaigns to build audience engagement with journalism students.

On opening night, we threw a pizza party for our student journalists and their guests before the show in a private space at the venue. Elizabeth and Scott provided some last-minute tips, and Scott assisted our young videographers with shooting some stand-ups.

After the performance, our students returned to the private space to work with the material still fresh on their minds. Our Courier-Journal journalists stayed on hand to offer advice and feedback.

Students had 24 hours to turn in their projects and judging took place over the next two days. The winning review was published in its entirety in the next week’s Sunday newspaper along with excerpts from our honourable mentions.

The winning video project was published at courier-journal.com, as were excerpts from every single review submitted. In total, 18 students completed the project.

As part of the promotion, PNC Broadway in Louisville provided The Courier-Journal a page in the programme guide for a “History of The Courier-Journal” article, which outlined our 10 Pulitzer Prizes and other key moments in Courier-Journal history.

Another full page in the programme for their next production was dedicated to congratulating the contest winners and thanking The Courier-Journal for the partnership.

Our Student Critic Contest was a case where the audience, event, content, and client aligned perfectly. In such cases, doing the basics well creates a big win. Our client, PNC Broadway in Louisville, was thrilled with the contest and promotion, and the concept has now been adopted by the Disney Theatrical Group Education Department as part of the touring production of Newsies.

We already have some cool new on-site activiation ideas for when Newsies comes back. So if Newsies is coming to your town, it’s a winning opportunity for a partnership.

Read the winning review here.  See the winning video review here.