The Tiger at Clemson scores with special championship edition
When the Clemson Tigers surprised the Alabama Crimson Tide by winning the college football National Championship, the staff of The Tiger surprised themselves by not only covering the game (before even being back on campus), but by producing a special edition in record turnaround time.
Most students were still on winter break, the game was in Tampa and funding was low. But the staff managed to send a photographer, coordinate social media coverage and was ready to roll when the football team pulled out the win.
Despite having a smaller staff than usual, Saavon Smalls, Tiger editor in chief, said he wasn’t worried.
“I had two big things in mind: what exactly should we cover and who could best cover it,” he said.
After the initial coverage proved popular, Smalls said the decision to produce a special edition was pretty easy.
“From the Sikes Sit-In, to Dabo’s comments on Colin Kaepernick, to our top 25 public university ranking, this past year has shown that we cover Clemson in both the good and bad,” he said. “So when we win our second ever National Championship, it’s too much of a historic moment not to document it.”
The turnaround for the edition was fast, and the advertising goal was higher than the staff was used to, $5,000 in 24 hours.
“I was stunned because this was a tall order regardless of the time frame to achieve it,” Lillian Poston, public relations consultant, said.
She said the staff had to think out of the box to try to meet the goal, but originally fell short.
“We immediately emailed our clients from the fall,” she said. “We also delivered thank you notes to our more constant clients. In the end we did not meet our goal but we did better than we expected considering the deadline.”
While they didn’t make their initial advertising goal, to cover expenses they decided to sell additional copies of the special edition that had a press run of 10,000 copies.
“We are selling the special edition to anyone who wants it that doesn’t currently go to Clemson University,” Franklin Fowler, marketing/sales director, said. “We have gotten plenty of requests and most of them buy more than one copy.”
The Tiger still provided free copies to the on-campus community, and handed the issue out at the victory parade.
“We allotted some for normal distribution, some for the parade and some for sell only, this allowed us to maintain tradition by offering the free copies as well as additional for purchase as keepsakes,” Poston said.
The sales and marketing teams had concerns about the quick turnaround and student interest, but said they felt they did well given all the constraints.
“The only criticism I have received is that we should have printed more copies because they disappeared from the stands almost instantly,” Poston said.
In addition to being incredibly popular, Smalls said the edition also shows the human element of Clemson.
“It shows that our school is complex and that [The Tiger] is always recording it,” Smalls said.
He said he was most proud of his staff for being “all in” even with all the extenuating circumstances they faced.
“It was easy from them to say ‘we only agreed to do online content, this is too much’ or ‘I don’t do sports, so I’m not of help,’ but they didn’t,” Smalls said. “They put 110 percent into this because they love this paper, this school and what we do.”
The championship brought a lot of good for the campus, but also for The Tiger.
“In the short run, students will be more excited about our products because the special edition was one of the best editions we have put out so far,” Fowler said. “In the long run, this will make students want to join our organizations and also create something special in the future.”
Smalls agrees the special edition impacted the staff beyond just coverage and revenue.
“I’ve been the new EIC for a few weeks now and I’ve been preaching that we should be a staff that takes our work seriously, recognizes that we’re all students, has fun together and creates a tight-knit community within itself,” he said. “I think that this issue was a great way to show that we’ve taken heed to that.”
For a look at some of the coverage Smalls and his team curated, check out these links.