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U of M invites prospective students to "Express Yourself"

By Greg Russell

The University of Memphis has added a little funk to its student recruitment efforts.

Songwriter Charles Wright’s soulful “Express Yourself” is the centerpiece of a new campaign the University is currently airing on television, YouTube and the U of M website.

U of M videographer Marty Deull films student Tyler DeWitt as part of the University’s “Express Yourself” marketing campaign.
U of M videographer Marty Deull films student Tyler DeWitt as part of the University’s “Express Yourself” marketing campaign.

"Today’s students live their lives out loud through Twitter, YouTube and Facebook so we built the campaign around the ‘Express Yourself' theme. Our students express themselves through student leadership, athletics, arts, theatre, music, community service and a lot of other ways," said Linda Bonnin, interim vice president of the U of M’s communications, public relations and marketing division.

Bonnin came up with the concept, wrote the scripts and selected the students. There are currently 12 students featured in commercials.

"We selected students who had a story to tell and who believe that the University of Memphis has changed their life in a significant way,” Bonnin said. “We also wanted to show our diversity so you won’t see two students with the same major. We also achieved a good balance of gender and race, and we featured students from both public and private high schools.”

Bonnin interviewed each student to determine what to include in their script.

“I chose to come to the University of Memphis because I wanted to do something big,” student Ashley Durham states in one commercial. “I’m grateful to the University of Memphis for helping me make my dreams come true.”

Durham, a native of Adamsville, Tenn., was first runner-up in Miss USA this year after being crowned Miss Tennessee.

“Ashley had already been selected before she almost won Miss USA,” Bonnin said, “so that was just icing on the cake.”

In addition to the commercials which are airing in the Memphis metropolitan market, students from Middle Tennessee are being featured on Nashville television stations. One such student is Mandy Martin of Dickson who is performing in this month’s The Phantom of the Opera and says she came to the U of M because of its nationally recognized theatre department.

Bonnin notes that the commercials were all produced in house with the University’s videographer, Marty Duell, handling the filming and editing.

By all accounts, the campaign is successful and the U of M continues to experience record enrollment though Bonnin is quick to spread the credit.

“The commercials are certainly raising our visibility and they have generated a lot of buzz, but there are a lot of other factors at work, including the tireless efforts of our recruitment and admissions staff,” she said.

Charles Wright’s catchy tune, which easily embeds itself in the minds of listeners, was recorded by the U of M’s Sound Fuzion last spring and that version serves as the audio track for the commercials. Bonnin says she has asked them to go back into the studio this spring to record an “unplugged” version of the song for next fall’s campaign.

“We’re taking the campaign to a whole new level this coming year,” she said. “There are so many great things going on here at the University and we need to keep telling our story.”

Stay tuned.

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