As PR professionals, we all know the importance of monitoring mainstream and social media for mentions of our clients. But does your monitoring system include the comic pages?
Don’t ask my students that question. They don’t read “dead tree” versions of newspapers, and they surely don’t bother with the funny papers. In fact, most will tell you the comics aren’t the least bit funny.
But when today’s edition of Crankshaft mentioned Kent State, one of my Baby Boomer colleagues fired off an email alerting me to the “PR problem” it could create. “What should be do about it,” she asked?
Rather than post my response, I’m asking the ToughSledding faithful for some feedback. What would you do?
The Backstory. Crankshaft is a strip about about a crotchety old bus driver, Ed Crankshaft, who lives with his daughter and son-in-law in a small Northeast Ohio town. The strip is a spin off of Funky Winkerbean and was created by two Kent State grads, Tom Batiuk and Chuck Ayers.
Long story short, Crankshaft’s granddaughter, Mindy, has just graduated high school — but barely, it seems. Her lack of focus and poor grades has parents, Pam and Jeff Murdoch, wondering if Mindy has a future beyond flipping burgers.
Yep. Little Mindy — she ain’t the sharpest tool in the shed. So what will her future hold? A life of servitude at White Castle? Jeff and Pam ponder her fate:
But then…good news from the mailman in today’s strip!
If you follow the Crankshaft story line, you know that Mindy’s admission to Kent State is — well — not good news for those who embrace academic standards. Mindy is an underachiever and a below-average student. And for too many years she was precisely the type of kid associated with our university.
Admissions standards have stiffened over the years, which has led to better quality students. But we all bristle at that old saying from the 60s and 70s: “Kent Read, Kent Write, Kent State.” Arrgh! It even hurts to key it in, and I’m sure a few administrators will be pissed that I mentioned it. But it’s one of the demons Kent State battles as we try to build more positive perceptions of the university.
Let’s not sugarcoat the issue. Kent State has some highly regarded programs — one of which I’m proud to be a part of. But our overall public image is so-so at best, and most high school seniors see Kent as a “second choice” to in-state competitors Ohio U, Miami U and Ohio State.
The admission of Crankshaft’s Mindy Murdoch, though it’s only in the funny papers, adds salt to an old wound. It reinforces a perception Kent State has been trying to escape for decades.
So help me out. Tell my colleague, and anyone else who’ll listen, what Kent State should do to combat this PR problem in the comic pages. I’ve already told her, via email, what I would do. But I won’t share it until I hear from you.
Any Crankshaft fans out there? How about Kent State fans? How about students currying favor with the old professor? Alumni who need job leads? Anybody?