Marketing students spotlight St. Louis businesses in new video series

by | Nov 12, 2020

The monthly series gives students an opportunity to gain real-world video production experience and provides exposure for local businesses during COVID-19.
Morgan Noll

Morgan Noll showcases Record Exchange, a St. Louis business, during episode one of the “What It Do in the Lou” video series. The series is part of the Social Media Strategies class, giving students real-world video production experience and highlighting local businesses that may interest college students. (Screenshots from video)

For most college students, learning takes place primarily in lecture halls and in front of computer screens. But those enrolled in this semester’s MKTG 3722/5722 Social Media Strategies class in the College of Business Administration venture outside the University of Missouri–St. Louis borders to gain real-world experience.

In October, Chris Henry, Harrison Heitert, Alex LaPorta, Morgan Noll and graduate assistant Kevin Reilly launched “What It Do in the Lou,” a video interview series highlighting small businesses in the St. Louis region.

The project, which features monthly videos running between three and four minutes long, provides students an opportunity to develop their video production skills throughout the semester.

“Projects like this are important for students to learn the art of the interview, how to get important information, how to write, produce, direct and distribute content,” Assistant Teaching Professor Perry Drake said. “That’s really critical today for any business owner, any marketer. This is such a great way to give them that capability.”

"What It Do in the Lou"

“What It Do in the Lou” is a monthly video series that features St. Louis shops and restaurants.

The series’ first episode spotlighted Record Exchange and its owner Jean Haffner. The business was founded in 1977 and boasts one of the largest record collections in the United States.

Noll, who served as the episode’s host, attributed the choice of a subject to Reilly’s interest in music. She pointed out that the business fit two major criteria. It would interest their target audience of college students and wouldn’t be familiar to a majority of viewers.

The group spearheaded the project from idea generation to the finished product.

“The video team gets along really well, and we had a good time during the first shoot,” Noll said. “For most of us, it was a learning curve. We just jumped in with all the equipment and everything. But we’re all feeling a lot more confident after the first video.”

During the shoot, students rotated roles, from handling the camera to setting up lighting, in order to gain experience with each piece.

COVID-19 restrictions presented a few challenges, such as some local restaurants offering only carry-out options. The pandemic also provided an opportunity for students to support the community by providing exposure for local businesses that may be experiencing decreased sales.

“From the beginning, we made sure that the owners were OK with us coming in,” Noll said. “We reached out to a lot of people, but for some it wasn’t a good time.”

To remain safe, the students wore masks and maintained social distancing. When possible, filming took place outdoors.

The videos were inspired by “Cool in Your Code,” a weekly hip series produced on an independent network in New York City, where Drake lived and taught for 14 years at New York University prior to coming to UMSL. It was a 30-minute show where each episode highlighted boutiques, restaurants and shops located around the five boroughs of NYC.

“What It Do in the Lou” is set to continue on a regular basis, with episode two featuring Mac’s Local Eats – a restaurant located inside Bluewood Brewing Company – known for its award-winning burgers.

In addition to the video series, the group is also tasked with creating the annual holiday video for the College of Business Administration.

Throughout the semester, they’ve been given opportunities to explore podcasting and blogging as well. Students in the class were split into four groups, each focusing primarily on a different subject – video production, podcasting, blogging and social media – and students rotate to create content in each of the four forms.

“Through the new video series, the businesses will gain exposure,” Drake said. “They want this content to push on their social media channels, and hopefully we’ll build a lot of traffic. It’s a win-win for UMSL business, for the students and for the business owners.”

Watch episode one of “What It Do in the Lou.”

Karen Holman

Karen Holman