PRSA WV honors Fairmont State University at 2021 Crystal Awards Ceremony

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Fairmont State University was recognized by the West Virginia Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America at its annual Crystal Awards Ceremony, which celebrates the campaigns and tactics work of public relations practitioners, agencies and college students throughout the state.

During the Crystal Awards virtual celebration on February 10, Fairmont State’s University Relations and Marketing Department was honored with both a Crystal Award and received Honorable Mention in the Single Issues Publications and Digital Newsletters tactics categories, respectively.

The Fairmont State University General Viewbook 2019-20 received the Single Issues Publication Crystal Award for 2021. 

“Our viewbook is a comprehensive, 36-page recruitment publication that seeks to demonstrate the unique spirit and huge heart of Fairmont State University,” said Visual Media Design Manager and Senior Designer, Katie Mallonee. “The book not only provides vital information for prospective students and their families to help them make crucial decisions regarding college selection, but it also articulates the University brand and helps the University meet its enrollment needs.”

A general viewbook had not been produced since 2017, and since that publication, a robust University rebrand – including new logos, identify marks and brand positioning – had taken place. Therefore, the need to redesign the piece altogether was identified.

Mallonee spent many hours spanning several months designing and refining the viewbook, working directly with other members of the URM team including Editor-in-Chief Dan Shea, Photographer Jared Tadlock, Digital Content Specialist Derek Overfield, Visual Media Designer Zach Alderson, Printing Services Manager Lynne Conrad and Vice President for University Relations and Marketing Lyndsey Dugan. 

The Fairmont State University fall 2020 enrollment numbers indicated the viewbook was an essential tactic that aided in reaching prospective students, and helped them make the decision to attend the University. Nearly 70% of applicants who received the publication became admitted students, and more than half of applicants who received the publication made their decision to attend Fairmont State by replying to their offer of admission by June 15, acting faster than students who did not receive the publication.

The University also received Honorable Mention in the Digital Newsletters tactic category for the Keeping the Campus Safe Through COVID-19 Communications. 

The University has acted out of an abundance of caution to protect the campus community from the start of the pandemic, and quickly established clear and frequent communications to internal audiences as a priority to support these efforts. As a result, the Fairmont State COVID-19 Campus Update internal newsletter was launched at the start of the fall 2020 semester, which was distributed to more than 4,000 students and employees on a weekly basis each Sunday evening.

“The start of the fall semester for higher education and education in general was a very unpredictable time in the pandemic. Active cases were staying steady, the idea of a vaccine seemed a lifetime away and conversations surrounded many different pathways for institutions,” said Fairmont State Senior Director of University Relations and Issues Management, Jessie Sharps. “Fairmont State had a commitment to uphold to our students and that was to safely provide opportunities for in-person education.”

The weekly e-newsletter played a key role in safely returning students to campus for in-person instruction, affording the opportunity to provide on demand information to the campus community. A strategic hierarchy of information was created for each edition, allowing room for flexibility to include new and changing information as needed each week.

The newsletter template and all content were managed in-house, and boasted 42,456 total views throughout the 2020-21 academic year. In addition, the average open rate was 48%, surpassing the higher education average of 19.55%.

“Fairmont State University is a community filled with amazing people,” said Fairmont State University President, Mirta M. Martin. “This unique place and its wonderful people have extraordinary stories to tell – stories about transformation, success, community, and most of all, family. The professionals in the University Relations and Marketing Department are keen storytellers, and their work promotes the Fairmont State story far and wide, leading to increased enrollment and retention, as well as brand awareness. I’m so grateful for their efforts, and I congratulate them on these prestigious honors.”