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Discovering a trend News hits, Photography, PR musings

Next time you’re hanging out in Java Wally’s or Crossroads, take a look around. You’ll see tons of laptops—which is obviously no surprise. But take a closer look. Notice anything different?

Yup, stickers.

College students today are using the covers of their laptops the same way people use the bumpers of their cars—to personalize them. You’ll see political bumper stickers, band logos and wacky messages. Apparently, plastering stickers on your laptop is the new cool thing to do.

And the New York Times agrees. Well, at least once we brought the trend to its attention.

The Times publishes a quarterly student life section. Part of that section is a photo page that visualizes new social trends among college students. So, four times a year, the Times sends a query to college PR folks around the country, searching for these trends. It’s a great opportunity for us to get a placement in one of, if not the, most prestigious newspaper in the world. It’s coming up with the trend that’s the hard part.

I first noticed the stickers when I organized a group of students to watch the State of the Union address and give their feedback to Channel 8. One of the students had several stickers on his laptop. I thought it was odd. Then I started noticing them around campus. So it didn’t take long to think of those laptop stickers when the Times sent its query several months ago.

The Times contacted me shortly after I responded to their query. They liked the concept, but needed to weigh it against others and said they’d get back to me. I thought it was a lost cause when I didn’t hear from them for more than a month. Then, a few weeks ago, they contacted me. They liked the idea and wanted us to find a student photographer who could photograph the trend for them. The project, however, was commissioned “on-spec.” Meaning, they liked the idea, but wouldn’t commit to running the photos—or paying the photographer—until they saw the finished product.

That’s when I turned to Kelly—who covers the College of Imaging Arts and Science. Kelly reached out to professors in our photography program and asked for recommendations. The only problem was that this was finals week…and the Times wanted the photos within days. Kelly reached out to four of the students and asked them to send examples of their work to the Times. The newspaper then selected the student it wished to hire. Photo journalism student Katharine Sidelnik was the lucky winner.

Kelly and I were pretty lucky, too. Not only is Katharine a talented photographer who was a pleasure to deal with, but she wasn’t bolting out of town for spring break—eliminating a potentially sizeable headache for us.

So Kelly and I arranged a time to meet up with Katharine and help her shoot the assignment. We were a touch worried that we would struggle to find students because it was finals week. So, we split up and stayed in touch with each other by cell phone. Turns out it wasn’t so difficult, after all. Within the first two hours, we landed six photos. Katharine spent the rest of the day wandering around campus on her own. And she did a tremendous job.

The Times contacted us this week and said they loved the photos. Without promising anything, I was told that RIT’s students—and Katharine’s photos—would almost certainly appear when the section runs sometime in April.

Stay tuned, RIT should be getting some national play in the weeks to come—thanks to Kelly, Katharine and a seemingly inconsequential observation

  1. Paul Stella
    Mar 19

    My favorite laptop sticker-- "I brake for penguins." It just so beautifully random!

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