Pandemic pushes MFL MarMac to increase its digital presence

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Since the start of the pandemic, MFL MarMac has increased its digital presence. Cheri Moser, shown here with her home office setup, has helped with marketing and promotion. (Submitted photos)

A video highlighting student Keaton Warrington, who did a virtual presentation to his class about his dad’s service in the Navy, is one example of the engaging posts shared on the MFL MarMac Facebook page.

Live stream events have been one of the district’s biggest and most popular undertakings. This screengrab shows the camera set up in the auditorium for the high school winter concert.

By Audrey Posten, Times-Register

When the COVID-19 pandemic forced schools to close last spring, districts around the country began devising ways to stay connected with students, parents and their communities. 

MFL MarMac was no different. A committee planned teacher car parades, socially distanced window scavenger hunts and weekly spirit activities.

“There were so many ideas floating around,” recalled the district’s teacher librarian, Melissa Haberichter, who was part of the group.

Perhaps the most important development, though, was a new commitment to marketing and promotion—what Haberichter described as a structured and unified approach to communicating with the public through posts and videos on MFL MarMac’s website and social media platforms.

“We became proactive with information rather than reactive, and it had a calming effect. People knew it came from the school, and the nice, stylized videos and graphics lent credibility. The community felt proud of the school and part of the team,” she said. “It’s really opened our eyes.”

According to MFL MarMac Superintendent Dale Crozier, the district began increasing its marketing presence several years ago, after it was noted in a strategic plan. The 21st Century Skills Committee had similar goals.

Haberichter was one of the marketing pushers, helping MFL MarMac develop a new website, a unique Bulldog logo for unified use throughout the district and consistent interior and exterior signage.

“I’ve always been interested and really believed in marketing,” she said. “If you don’t sell yourself, no one’s going to do it better.”

Marketing wasn’t viewed as a priority, though. But then came the pandemic.

“Until we needed it, it never 100 percent took off,” Haberichter quipped.

So far, MFL MarMac has utilized its digital presence to share everything from Return to Learn updates and photos of fun classroom activities to videos, virtual awards ceremonies and livestream concerts.

Doing a large part of the work is Cheri Moser, a McGregor resident and MFL MarMac grad who’s now part of the marketing committee with Haberichter, technology specialist Ryan Martindale and paraprofessional and support specialist Brandi Crozier. She officially started working for the school in May to help produce a live virtual senior awards night and virtual 2020 graduation. 

“I was an executive news producer at the ABC station in the Quad Cities 10 years ago, so it was fun to get back into the producer’s chair,” Moser said. “Since May, I have produced well over 100 live stream events for different organizations. I also have a video editing business, Cheri Moser Productions, and have been working in graphic design and social media marketing for a few years, so I was excited to get to use what I have learned to help out my alma mater.”

In her role, Moser works with the MFL MarMac staff to showcase all the great things they are doing at school and the great ways students are learning and reaching out to our community. 

“We do this via email, the website and Facebook. I also started an Instagram account for the school as a platform to keep the current students, recent graduates and young adults informed of all the school happenings,” she explained. “Basically, if someone within the school needs to communicate something to a group of people, I’m happy to help them figure out the best way to do that effectively.”

“Facebook is more for parents and the community, while Instagram keeps the kids interested,” Haberichter added. “We’ve constantly got kids liking things. They like seeing news about themselves.”

Moser estimated half of what she posts is requested or created content and the other half comes directly from the staff. 

“Our educators do some really great things inside and outside of the classrooms, so it’s great when they snap a photo and we get to share that with the community,” she said.

Haberichter and Brandi Crozier play a more behind-the-scenes role, passing along ideas or encouraging staff to share activities. This was happening before, to an extent, but Haberichter said Moser adds a cool, creative flair to the content.

“Her video skills have really upped our game,” she added.

While Moser has a lot of knowledge in the marketing field, she’s also learning new things. That includes re-teaching herself how to build animations, which she hadn’t done since college. 

“It’s also been a lot of fun to see all the new live streaming platforms that are popping up. They each offer something different and it’s been fun figuring out what works best for each type of live event,” she shared. “I’ve also never worked in the education field, so that’s been a learning experience. I’ve always appreciated educators for what they do and, this year, I’m getting to see it all firsthand, which makes me appreciate them even more.”

Of all the things she’s worked on, Moser said producing virtual live events has been her favorite. 

“It’s tough right now for the many people who aren’t able to be at the ceremonies, concerts, games, etc. I enjoy being able to help them feel like they are experiencing the event as it happens, even if they are stuck at home,” she said. “I try to build animations, edit videos and make special graphics to make each event feel important and special.”

She’s appreciative of Martindale, who has been a great tech guy and floor manager at each live event. 

“Ryan sets up multiple camera shots and makes sure everything is working smoothly so the audience at home has a great view at all times,” Moser said. 

In addition, she’s enjoyed putting together virtual choir videos. 

“Music is my passion, so getting to take a bunch of individual voices and make it into one beautiful piece of music—both vocally and visually—has been a lot of fun.”

Moser thinks it’s been important for the MFL MarMac community to see what the next generation is learning and how they are growing. 

“There are so many times when school events bring our community together, and the school often needs the community’s support,” she said. “So many people are on social media, so I think it’s a simple way that everyone can feel like they know what’s going on at the school on a daily basis. And the students and staff get to see all the love and encouragement from the community when people engage in the content online.”

“The addition of livestreams have not only allowed people in our community to stay home and watch, but it’s allowed alumni and extended family members to be a part of MFL MarMac events as well,” she added. “Never before has the world taken video and live video so seriously.”

Even when the pandemic subsides, she and Haberichter believe this aspect will be here to stay.

MFL MarMac’s capabilities will set the district apart, noted Haberichter.

“Now that families can telework, they don’t have to live in a city. When they’re looking at where they want to settle, they can come here,” she said. “When they’re searching for schools and get on our social media and website, we want them to say, ‘Look, they’re doing cool things.’”

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