At the start of each semester, a social media professor at Emerson College assigns his students a simple, yet daunting task: to convince a celebrity to meet with the class.
Professor David Gerzof Richard’s request may sound impossible, but his students have made it happen before. Past classes have met with Chad Ochocinco and Rob Gronkowski, Gerzof Richard said. This semester, his students are trying to persuade comedian and Newton native Louis C.K. to visit.
“The class is very much a hands-on experiment,” Gerzof Richard said in a phone interview Wednesday.
There is one requirement: the students are only allowed to use social media, he said.
One student has already received a response from the students’ runner-up choice, Boston Bruins player Andrew Ference. On Monday, Blair Mosberg tweeted at Ference, saying that she wanted him to visit the course. She later tweeted, "sadly, you were outvoted,” and added that the class chose to pursue Louis C.K. instead.
Ference tweeted back, “Good choice, he’s way more funnier.”
Mosberg said in a phone interview that even though Ference was her first choice, she is pleased the class decided on Louis C.K. because he will be harder to reach.
"I'm glad we have something a little more challenging," she said.
“Social Media: Connectivity, Interactivity and Buzz,” is a serious, 300-level course for marketing students, Gerzof Richard said. The project, he said, is a unique way to get his students excited about branding within the realm of social media.
In addition to the celebrity project, students complete a number of assignments, including one in which they act as social media consultants to local companies. His students have consulted for clients such as Bertucci’s, Sprint and Boston.com's Your Town sites.
“This is not celebrity stalking 101,” he said.
Gerzof Richard said his students gain skills that are very marketable after graduation. Some of his former students work in social media jobs for companies such as Google and HubSpot. And Gerzof Richard said that if a student impresses him, he may offer him or her a job at his marketing company, BIGfish.
Gerzof Richard also said that although past classes have been successful, others have failed in their endeavors to attract celebrities. In the spring of 2011, his class was unable to connect online with basketball player Shaquille O'Neal. Then in spring 2012, the class conversed with Red Sox player Curt Schilling, but did not meet him in person.
This is the first time the students are striving for a non-sports celebrity, Gerzof Richard said. Capturing the attention of Louis C.K. will be no easy task for several reasons. First, although he is from the Boston area, he is not based in Boston. Additionally, Louis C.K. uses social media, but he is not extremely active online.
Gerzof Richard also said the fact that Louis C.K. is a comedian is both an advantage and a disadvantage. His students will need to be funny to garner his attention, and if Louis C.K. does not find their efforts to be humorous, he might not visit the class.
“Because his trade is wit and humor, it’s a double-edged sword,” Gerzof Richard said.
But trying to connect with a celebrity is arguably easier with the use of social media, he said. Now, people can get past the publicity teams and talk directly to the celebrity.
“The goal is to connect with the individual and break through the noise,” he said. “To come up with some creative, witty way to catch their attention.”
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