marketing

Now a New York State Certified Women-Owned Business Enterprise

I am pleased to share that Rachel Reuben Consulting, LLC is now a New York State Certified Women-Owned Business Enterprise.

For state agencies and other organizations needing to meet a business requirement to have a certain percentage of work being contracted to someone with this certification, particularly in the areas of marketing and communications, I’m your gal!

New York State Certified Women Business Enterprise (WBE)I can and have worked with larger marketing firms who need to exert good efforts to sub-contract part of their larger contract to achieve a participation goal of a certain percentage for Women-Owned Business Enterprises in New York state.

In the higher education vertical, I excel in marketing staff assessments and audits, presentation of strategy and recommendations to key stakeholders on campuses, assessment, and review of current brand assets, developing a detailed college-wide brand rollout plan, and delivering on-campus training and workshops to marketing teams and college-wide stakeholders.

I also have extensive work experience with nonprofits, entrepreneurs, and faith-based organizations. Check out some of my work under my Marketing Tech Therapy umbrella.

Please contact me for more information and to talk about your next project.

Career Services and Marketing – the new peanut butter and jelly?

I recently conducted a market research project for a company who is looking to extend their existing product to provide better solutions for career services offices and help universities tell better stories to key audiences. Their product is currently in use by more than 300 colleges and universities nationwide, primarily in the marketing/communications area. As someone who has worked in marketing in higher education for nearly two decades, it was fascinating to talk to thought leaders in career services and learn just how similar many of our challenges are. I also realized what great opportunities are ahead for stronger partnerships between these two groups. Marketing staff are storytellers. They seek out stories to help raise or change the perception of their school with prospective students and their parents, to raise money and reinforce associations for alumni. They need to showcase what their students do while enrolled, and more than ever, share outcomes to prove the value of a degree from their university.

Marketing staff are storytellers. They seek out stories to help raise or change the perception of their school with prospective students and their parents, to raise money and reinforce associations for alumni. They need to showcase what their students do while enrolled, and more than ever, share outcomes to prove the value of a degree from their university.

Career services offices are also seeking out stories to share to help build strong internship and employer relations programs, and they too want to showcase first destination and post-graduation outcomes. Stories walk into their door every single day.

Imagine the collaborations if these two historically siloed departments worked closely together to craft strong stories that would benefit both of their offices and the college/university overall? And, imagine if they even shared data? Break down the divisional silos, befriend each other (and your CIO), draft a vision that doesn’t get hung up in multi-year committee chaos, and make it happen. Add Alumni Relations to the mix and you’ll be the superheroes of your university.

 

This post originally appeared on SimpsonScarborough’s website.

It’s not just about Print and Web

Over on the Intermedia blog, Charlie Melichar recently posted Integration & Separation – print and web. I’d like to expand further on that with my thoughts.

When I was first hired as a Web Editor for a university in 1998, my position was created to re-purpose print documents for the Web. Print drove everything. Twelve years later this is still quite the hot, and rather unresolved, topic. The  transition now seems to be primarily financially driven. Due to budget cuts many are cutting back on printing to save money.

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Reach More Students Without Leaving Your Office

Looking for something new to try this spring for your recruiting efforts? I recently saw a demo for CollegeWeekLive and was quite impressed with its features and the possibilities it creates for recruiters across the country.

Side note: This may seem like a sales pitch, but it’s not. I don’t work for CollegeWeekLive, nor am I a current client. I’m just an impressed individual who works in marketing and communication at a university, and wanted to share this with you, as I hadn’t heard much about them before seeing this demo.

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Help Me Help You: Social Media Education

Are you a resource on your campus for all things social media?

Yes? Let’s brainstorm about how we can best react to and assist people on campus who come to us to ask for guidance with some ideas they have.

No? Let’s pretend. Play along with us here — the more collaborative minds we put together, the better.

The primary purpose of this post is to flesh out  the best response to this type of question:

“I want to create a Facebook Page for my [department/program/event/service] and thought I should probably coordinate that with you. Where should I start?”

I understand this may not be as likely to happen on larger campuses as it is in small to mid-size campuses. The point of posing this question is to talk through the best ways we can help educate and partner with people on campus who want to embrace social media.

I usually start with this first question:  Who is your audience?

Then I move to:  What are your department’s/program’s/event’s/service’s goals? Let’s start with the end result and work backwards.

Spokes in the marketing wheel by Rachel ReubenNext, I tell them social media may or may not be the best tool for them to use. This usually stumps them. Yes, I present at a bunch of conferences on social media. Yes, I did a research paper on the use of social media in higher education. Yes, I’m an active user of many social networking sites. However, as I say in just about every presentation I give — social media is not the be all end all. It is just one spoke in our marketing wheel. It may or may not be the right tool to use for a particular department/program/event/service — it all depends on your audience and your goal(s). It can be a very powerful medium that can reach very targeted audiences, but may not be the right tool for every audience and strategy.

“But I want my event to go viral.”

Just because you want something to go viral doesn’t mean it will. It takes a dose of effort and a pinch of luck, along with a powerful strategy and commitment, to really make this work.

Let’s keep exploring. Next steps:

  • Educate them about the art of listening. Chris Brogan has a great post I regularly point people to — “Grow Bigger Ears in 10 Minutes.” In addition, Kyle James wrote a post about monitoring your online identity that provides additional ideas and details. Listening first gives you a sense of what is being said about your department/program/event/service. It may also give you further ideas for content generation (see next step), and gives you an opportunity to join in existing conversations.
  • Content issues: Where will the content come from? Who will be responsible for maintaining your content and your presence? How will you engage your audience? Having a presence is not nearly enough – you must commit to fresh content that would be of interest to your audience.
  • Integration: How will you integrate this effort through the other mediums in your marketing wheel? Things to consider — mentioning in e-mail newsletters, e-mail signatures, print publications, ads, Web sites, blogs, admission tours, etc.
  • Measurement: How will you measure if your effort is successful? Were goals achieved? Is having a dollar value ROI important? (If so, see Karlyn’s presentation on Eye On the Prize.) While there is great value in calculating ROI, I also like to focus on the “I” as “influence” — looking at the long tail effect. For example, in our Café New Paltz community for fall 2009 accepted students, I’m interested in tracking the different impacts on student service offices from their typical routine and schedule over the summer and early fall. Students in this community were figuring out as early as January who they wanted to room with, instead of waiting and scrambling during Orientation in July, taking a load off Residence Life and Student Development staff from what they’re normally used to that time of the year. Students are asking questions earlier about paying bills, setting up meal plans, and how to accept financial aid packages. There likely won’t be as big of a rush in these offices at the end of August, as we’ve been answering their questions months earlier. How else can you measure your success? I posted some other ideas in “Café New Paltz: A Yielding Success” that might give you some additional ideas. 

What steps did I miss? Do you have other strategies you employ when faced with a similar question? Do you make an concerted effort to coordinate all of the individual social media outposts on your campus, or just concern yourself with the big picture presence?

Café New Paltz: A Yielding Success

Cafe New Paltz

Since my last update a few months ago about Café New Paltz, our online Ning community for fall 2009 accepted students, we’ve completed this year’s traditional recruitment cycle. We’re extremely pleased with the results and continued growth of this community.

The community continued to grow from February through the mid-April, as our undergraduate admissions office sent email invitations every couple of weeks to the latest batch of students accepted to our university.

At the end of April we had a slight mishap that we ended up turning into a great opportunity. During one of our routine exports from Banner, our student record system where we pull email addresses for the latest batch of accepted students, we accidentally included “all” accepted students, not just first-year students. This resulted in inviting 400 recently accepted transfer students. A large majority ended up accepting our invitation and started forming their own groups organically. While we initially panicked, we realized this was a good thing. They have many of the same concerns as first year students – meeting new people, starting classes at a brand new campus, figuring out the maze of offices to contact for various questions/concerns, etc. The only major difference is that we don’t provide on-campus housing to transfer students — and this turned into an excellent opportunity they seized by starting groups related to finding off-campus housing and roommates.

We continued to provide video updates by our two baristas throughout the semester. According to Ning’s usage stats, their viewership was not significantly high enough for us to want to put a great deal of resources (time, human and money) into this effort in the future, should we do this again.

My love letter to Ning

Ning makes it very hard for us to measure our success in a quantitative way. We have tied in our Google Analytics account for basic Web stats. Within Ning, I’ve been able to grab oodles of qualitative tid-bits I’ve been able to grab from various forum posts, live chats and direct messages, but I want more. Here is my kind request to Ning:

Dear Ning,

It would mean the world to me if you would give us access to member usage data. My wish list includes the ability to track the most active member(s), the least active member(s), percentages showing how often people log in (x daily, x weekly, x monthly), and how many times they’ve logged in overall.

We love you dearly and are grateful for all you’ve helped us accomplish, but we need more.

With much love and respect,
Rachel & her colleagues

May 1st was the national deposit deadline, which we also use. I was interested to see how the membership data correlated with the statistics of those students who paid their pre-enrollment deposit (PED).

Since Ning does not connect directly with our student records system, I was still determined to find a way to get some data out of the email address export I can get from Ning. I worked with my colleague in undergraduate admissions and our Web Programmer, and developed a list of areas I wanted to be able to report on by matching email addresses exported from Ning with email addresses in Banner. Here’s what we were able to get from the list of 690 members we exported from Ning on May 4:

  • Paid PED: 357 – 52%
  • Did not pay PED: 283 – 41%

 

May Stats Snapshot

  • Members: 711
  • Photos: 1,114
  • Videos: 22 (6 by members of the community)
  • Forums: 8

70 % of the members of our Ning community who paid their PED were from our highest admission selectivity group. The yield of our highest selectivity group took a significant jump from 30% last year to 37% this year. The Ning community was one our largest efforts to increase the yield of this highly selective group and based on the participation in the Ning and our significant increase in yield for this group we would consider it a great success.

I was also able to get three separate e-mail lists: first-year students (742) and transfer students (526) who paid their PED but did not become a member of Café New Paltz, so we can send them a special re-invite; and those accepted students who joined Café New Paltz but opted not to pay their PED or attend SUNY New Paltz (283). We will use that final list to purge members from the Café. Unfortunately, this is another limitation of Ning – we have to do this manually, one-by-one. To give these numbers a bit of context, we have roughly 15,000 freshmen applications, accept around 5,000, and our first year class for fall 2009 will be around 1,100 students. We received about 3,200 transfer applications, accepted about 1,100 and just over 600 will be joining us this fall.

Next Steps

We started a forum in mid-March asking the members to tell us if they wanted Café New Paltz to continue to be available, and we received about 30 responses strongly encouraging us to keep it open at least through summer orientation, and some requested to continue through their entire first year. Undergraduate Admissions is turning over their role to the Student Affairs division, whose efforts will be largely led by their Coordinator of First Year Programs. Café New Paltz will continue to exist at least through the end of this calendar year at this point. We’re going to re-evaluate its use and effectiveness in October/November to determine whether it is worth continuing for the spring 2010 semester.

The community responds

Our two current baristas are moving on — one graduated from graduate school with his MBA, and the other will continue his active membership in many student organizations and being a student ambassador. He’s also going to be a blogger for us next year on http://npbloggers.newpaltz.edu. The Coordinator of First Year Programs will take the lead on the occasion that responses will be helpful from staff at the college, and she will be joined by a few other students later in the summer that will fill in the barista role. One student is an international student from China who will cater specifically to international students in the Café. The other two are this summer’s senior orientation leaders that all first-year students will meet throughout the summer.

Will we do this again?

Good question! Café New Paltz has exceeded our wildest expectations. We have no regrets and could absolutely forsee doing this again. However, we won’t decide until October/November. January 1, 2010 is too far ahead to plan in this social media space, in my opinion. Who knows what the next best thing will be then…

Reining in the outliers for a university-wide cohesive social media presence

image of social media iconsEarlier this week we talked about a cohesive university-wide Web presence. Today we’re going to take that same theory, but explore it in the social media space.

The ease of access of social media tools, including blogs, Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, etc. have enabled people with little to no Web development or marketing experience to create an online presence for your institution. Most do this with the best intentions in mind, but many don’t have the skills or knowledge needed to make them truly useful and successful.

I believe the central Web and/or marketing units of a university should also be the campus experts to create and maintain a strong and effective social media presence. They should coordinate campus-wide efforts and serve as consultants to individual departments to help them with their efforts.

In recent months I’ve led social media workshops for our athletics department, which included just about every coach and administrator, and for faculty and professional staff who attended a full day of technology-related workshops.

The goals of these workshops were to:

  1. educate them about the tools available
  2. show them examples and best practices of these tools in use related to their specific interests
  3. have brainstorming sessions to determine which tools would help them better connect with their constituencies 
  4. develop 1-3 short term goals and implementation schedules

Secretly (or not so, since I’m saying it here in such a public forum), I also lead these workshops to establish my office as the a resourceful unit that others will come to for assistance in learning more about social media, and to help in determining how and if they can best leverage it. Others on campus have heard about these workshops, and I am now in the process of scheduling them with other units.

Whether you reach out to the first unit that you think could utilize social media, or whether they approach you – the ultimate goal is to not have competing efforts on various social networking sites. In addition, not every department/program/unit needs to be using social media. Take a step back, listen to what their goals are, and help them find the right mix of tools that will implement them. This may or may not include social media.

For most small- to mid-size universities, I think a tool like Facebook can be seen structurally as the university Web site. There is one main home page, otherwise known as a Fan Page on Facebook, for the university. That hub should provide easy access in a box on the Page with links to other university outposts on Facebook. Most of these are best done as groups, but there is becoming more and more value for other units establishing Pages, such as being able to view Insights (statistics) and target messages (updates).

Be a partner. Assist other units in setting up their outposts. Encourage them not to duplicate existing efforts. Help them think of ways to be unique. Social media is not a space to treat like Times Square or the bulletin boards scattering your campus. It’s not for the “hey look at my program,” or “hey, look at this awesome event we have coming up.” It’s for building relationships around them. Alumni who have graduated from the program and feel a strong allegiance to it are likely to talk about their experiences, and look to network with others that have previously gone through the program to assist in future career opportunities. If the event is a reunion, they may be more likely to rally around it to catch up with classmates in advance of the actual event. A one-time concert may not have that kind of pull into social media.

Regardless of the tool used and the way it is implemented, it needs to be done in a cohesive way that doesn’t create multiple outlets for very similar purposes and further disjoints the community using these tools. We have a discussion related to this going on the cuweb.ning.com site, as well.

Is it a wild, wild west show when your prospective students search for your university on Facebook, Flickr, YouTube, etc.? Is it easy to tell which is the official university presence vs. individual units within the campus, or other user-generated content? Or, do you think having a central presence is not even necessary? Let’s talk.

Highlights from E-expectations: Class of 2009

Stephanie Geyer, Associate Vice President for e-strategy and Web development at Noel-Levitz, released their latest E-expectations survey of 1,005 college-bound high school seniors in 2009 at the OmniUpdate Users Conference this morning. This is their fourth year doing this research study in conjunction with James Tower and the National Research Center for College and University Admissions. This survey is done by professional telephone counselors.

This presentation was jam packed with great insights and nuggets that I found enlightening, and some rather surprising. 

Demographics:

  • 250 from each of the four geographic regions in the U.S.
  • 50/50 male/female
  • 53% caucasian, 16% African-American/Black, 10% Hispanic/Latino, 9% multiple ethnicities, 4% Asian, 3% Indian/Native American, 3% declined, 1% other
  • Grades: A – 39%, B – 48%, C – 12%
  • Family income: 25% less than $50k, 23% between $50-75k, 11% between $75-100k, 7% between %100-$125k, 4% more than $125k, 29% don’t know/refused
  • 77% connect via DSL or cable, 11% phone modem, 3% handheld device.

When asked if the current economic crisis caused them to reconsider the schools they were applying to or may attend, 64% said no. 

62% said their parents/family are helping them with research and/or paperwork. Of that group, 21% say they help them look at Web sites and go on campus visits with them.

Content is king! Prospects are taking time to read details about cost and processes. 

content is king

 

50% said colleges and universities should use young, edgy and bold designs for their sites. 43% said schools should take a more traditional approach with their site design. When I tweeted this tid-bit, @KarlynM said it would be interesting to find out these students definition of body and edgy. 

Navigation and information architecture is so important. 85% report the links should take me right to the answers to their questions, where 15% said they don’t pay much attention to the link choices and head straight for the search box or site index. Either way – making information easily findable and searchable is key.

41% found your school via Google or another search site by typing in your school’s name. 38% use services like Zinch, MyCollegeOptions or College Board to match them to your school. Only 13% referred to a printed document with your URL on it. May be time to re-think handouts, such as postcards, just to advertise specific Web sites.

They want to do fun stuff. 42% say they want to find more to do on a college site than just click and read. 

What do they want to do most? I’m most shocked by “RSS feeds with admissions info and campus activities,” and where it fares in the list! They actually know what RSS feeds are? I’ve gotten the impression from other articles and survey results I’ve read that most don’t know, that RSS is just the plumbing behind the scenes. They may be using it, but they aren’t aware of it. Maybe they are, now?

what they want to do

 

Social Networking

And, the ever-popular Facebook vs. MySpace debate. 50% listed being on Facebook and 52% said MySpace. For the Facebook group, 56% were A students, 47% B students, 41% C students. Northeast, midwest and south all more likely to be on Facebook than MySpace. For the MySpace group, 65% black, 70% latino vs. 44% white and 43% Asian. 47% were B students, 58% were C students, and 44% were A students. Only 2% reported not participating in social networking. When asked if colleges and universities should create a presence within social networks/communities to promote their programs, 70% said yes! In addition, 75% said schools should create their own private communities, like Cafe New Paltz, that are password protected and for invited students only. 51% said they wouldn’t mind school representatives contacting them directly via a social network.

What content will make a different to them on a social network? They’re most interested in discussions about courses and academics (3.74, mean 1-5), student activities and extracurricular options (3.65), and insight into the school’s culture and diversity (3.37). They’re interested in communication with current students and faculty (3.10), communication with prospective students (3.01), profiles of current students and faculty (2.88), and posting profiles as a student who may attend (2.88).

 

Very few reported text messaging as a method they’d prefer for admissions transactions such as answers to questions or  acceptance notices. For all transactions, their preferred method was online over in person, phone, mail or text.

87% are willing to give their e-mail address to a school to communicate with them. 45% of them do it at the inquiry stage, 28% when they’re ready to apply to the school, 15% after they’ve been accepted, and 9% after they make their final decision.

Summary:

  • Economic issues mean that Web sites will have to work harder in lieu of visits to ensure prospects see value and compelling details.
  • Parents and families are inextricably linked and we should be talking directly to them — and often!
  • The experience prospects have on our site matters in their decision whether to probe further into your programs and offerings, and how they’d fit on our campus.
  • We need to focus more on content. Content, content, content. Make it readable, printable, referenceable, searchable. 
  • Focus on your navigation. Test it with college-bound students. Don’t use internal lingo. 
  • Focus on your design. Take a leap. Go bold.
  • Find your place on social networks. Be social. Be helpful. Find the right fit for your campus with the various tools out there. Re-read the demographics above – different sites work for different institutions, depending on their typical student base.

Reining in the outliers for a university-wide cohesive Web presence

A prospective student does a Google search for “English composition [university name]” and is brought to your English department’s site. While there, they find the program that intrigues them, and decide to jump off course to learn more about tuition and fees, housing, and dining services. Along they way they bounce through three additional department Web sites, but the prospective student feels like they’ve been to three completely different university sites. Each step along the way they have to figure out where the navigation and search bar have moved, how their content is organized, what lingo they use, and likely have a completely different experience on each site. Sound familiar?

photo of a cowboy with ropeDeveloping a university-wide Web design template that is flexible enough for all departments, programs and units to use is one behemoth of a challenge. In the case of large institutions where there are usually multiple Web offices throughout the institution, it’s even more challenging and unlikely to find. Small- to mid-size colleges/universities with a centralized Web and/or marketing unit can make this happen – but it takes quite a bit of work, commitment and patience.

Five steps to rein in the outliers

1) Create a strong template
Create a visually appealing, yet flexible enough template that is customizable for each unit. The flexibility needs to range from having a small to large menu of options, the ability to manage rapidly changing content areas, and be able to use customized photographs and images that best represent the unit.

2) Create a strong policy
Create a strong, clear, concise policy that is enforced, endorsed and supported my upper management. Make sure this policy is brief, yet contains information about why and how using the standard design template will benefit them and their audiences.

3) Blame the law
Many states, as well as the federal government, have policies and standards related to Web accessibility. Some are more complex and intricate than others. Regardless, the average faculty and staff member who is not a Web developer for a living will likely gloss over these laws, and not be able to produce sites that are in full compliance of them. Let them know you and/or your staff have become experts, or perhaps have even attended seminars to learn these laws inside and out. Encourage them to focus on the content and messages they want to deliver, and to let you (and your staff) handle the technicals.

4) Make the case
Don’t make it personal. When initially communicating with the department, don’t make it personal, don’t be defensive, but do expect resistance. Always phrase your statements in ways that remove yourself, as well as the other individual, from the equation. Using the standard template is in the best interest of all parties involved – it supports the university-wide branding initiative, the users of the site will have a much easier time hopping around from site to site when a common template is in use, their site will be in compliance with local and federal laws, etc.

Talk about the benefits of cohesiveness. Talk about their audiences. Talk about the strengths of the overall university brand that will help their department/program/unit.

Compliment things they’re doing well. Empathize with them. Become their partner. Get them excited about the variety of options the new template provides – being able to use the content management system for quicker updates, being able to easily post and update news whenever they want, the ability to quickly and easily add videos, photo galleries, etc. Whatever the benefits are of your template – make them known. Make sure if they’re doing “cool” things in their current site, they’ll be able to continue to do them in the new template.

5) Don’t pull rank.
We all know universities are filled with politics. Tread lightly, but don’t pull rank. Avoid involving “higher ups” and keep it at your level and below whenever possible. If you’ve truly tried everything you can at your level, only then should you take it up one level to your direct supervisor. Doing this may give you a fresh perspective and approach to try that you hadn’t thought of previously.

Vassar College is an internationally known institution with approximately 2,500 students, but they made a strategic decision to not impose an institutional layout. Their college’s site is one of the most well-known in the industry. They have a centralized Web office with five staff members. What do you think about this approach?

As I mentioned before – I know this is hard, if not virtually impossible, to do at many institutions. But, it has been done. Tell us who you are – I know you’re out there. Are there steps or tricks I’m missing? Can you share any secrets you keep up your sleeve?

 

Flickr photo by sibhusky2

Creating an exclusive online community for fall 2009 accepted students

A couple of weeks ago I argued reasons why it might be more effective to piggyback on existing strategies that exist at your institution rather than create a stand alone social media strategy. In this post I alluded to considering your Facebook Fan Page like a Cafe, which was inspired by Chris Brogan’s post entitled, “Cafe-Shaped Conversations.” After putting the two together, and brainstorming with some colleagues, we came up with “Cafe New Paltz,” an exclusive online community for fall 2009 accepted students. We’re using Ning and will launch this on January 2.

Cafe New Paltz

I teamed up with a colleague in our Office of Undergraduate Admission (Shana), who I’ve worked closely with on our Facebook Fan Page over the last year, among other eRecruiting-related initiatives, as well as my graduate assistant. My Senior Web Producer has an uncanny way of seeing inside my head and making my visions become a design reality (see graphic on right).

The idea Shana and I pitched her boss builds on their strategy to increase the academic quality of our incoming fall 2009 student body. There are more specific goals within that overall theme that I’m not going to disclose here, but this is a trend we’ve been working on for many years.

We’re going to start by inviting the ~1,400 early action accepted students into this community when we send them an e-mail through Ning’s invitation feature on January 2. Around March 1 we plan to invite the general accepted students pool to join in.

My graduate assistant and Shana’s intern will be serving as the community’s “baristas.” They have been working together to develop ideas for the content they’re going to produce inside this community. They will have weekly videos called “Flavor of the Week,” and every video will end with an actionable request to engage the accepted students to produce content of their own within the community. Shana is even sewing them custom aprons to wear. 🙂

This is an exciting new adventure for us, although I know there are many universities have created communities for accepted students for the last few years. I plan on this being the first post in a series of posts about “Cafe New Paltz” that will document this project and the milestones along the way. I’m hoping it will be a resource for those who have not started something like this, and can be a place where we exchange ideas to build stronger communities for our students. Given the tight budget climate, this is the type of initiative that can score big for little financial investment.

This project is extremely timely given the recent Facebook scandal for the class of 2013 groups. I know these accepted students will still use Facebook, but I’m glad we’re giving them a safe, gated community to interact with each other without any squatters trying to take advantage of them.

Tell us about your community! Or, are you trying to start one for the first time?