Merit, whose online platform “connects the dots” between high school, college, and career for millions of students and hundreds of institutions, today announced enhancements that will enable sports information directors (SIDs) in college athletics departments to promote and share stories of the success of individual student-athletes with critical outside stakeholders.
More than 250 colleges and universities already use Merit to highlight the accomplishments of students — including student-athletes — and share those achievements directly with each student’s former high school, local legislators, hometown media outlets, families, potential employers, and other key audiences. Merit’s new enhancements will make it easier for SIDs to connect stories of student-athletes that they’re already creating to a broader audience, and will also help showcase every student’s athletic accomplishments alongside their academic ones on each student’s online Merit page.
Sue Robinson, senior director of marketing for the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), explained that telling the stories of students — both on and off the playing fields — is particularly important for marketing the opportunities in athletics and academics offered by the 247 colleges and universities that are members of the association.
“The NAIA doesn’t have a multi-million-dollar advertising budget. We rely on grassroots campaigns both to motivate high school students to pursue the opportunities to play in college and get a great education at an NAIA institution,” Robinson said. “Recognizing students for their athletic, scholarly, and character achievements and connecting those stories back to people who know those students can help prospective high school students see what they might be able to achieve in the NAIA.” The NAIA, a governing body of college athletic programs that engages 65,000 athletes, is currently evaluating how it can use Merit to promote NAIA-awarded accomplishments for all NAIA student-athletes.
SIDs at institutions already using Merit, including more than 20 NAIA member colleges and more than 150 institutions who are members of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), can now take content they already regularly produce, like game recaps, tournament results, and scholar-athlete awards, and transform it into personalized stories for every member of a team roster. Merit’s “Direct to Sports Desk” feature turns that content into customized press releases for each athlete and delivers them to the sports reporter at each one’s hometown newspaper. In addition, Merit sends the story to the student’s former high school and publishes an online copy to the student’s Merit page, which can connect to social media to reach an even broader audience. The ability to save and reuse team rosters in Merit means SIDs can quickly and easily repurpose existing content into personalized outreach that’s focused on each individual student-athlete.
Institutions are already using Merit to highlight student-athletes who are named to a team, are awarded athlete-of-the-week or all-conference honors, are recognized as scholar-athlete teams, or place in tournaments or win championships. Each student’s athletic accomplishments, in addition to being delivered to hometown audiences, appear on a personalized Merit page online, alongside academic achievements like making the dean’s list or being inducted into an honor society.
Chad Waller, NAIA’s director of communications and sports information, noted that more exposure for student-athletes and their accomplishments is key for both schools and the NAIA. As with campus SIDs, the NAIA’s sport information staff is continually seeking ways to be more efficient with the enormous quantity of information they disseminate.
“Athletics are the ‘front porch’ of an institution,” Waller said. “Sports information is a ready-made content pool of student accomplishments. An SID wears many hats, so tools that extend the reach and awareness of the university are important. If we in sports information don’t have to research media outlets and keep contacts updated, it saves us time.”
Colin Mathews, Merit’s founder and president, said, “At the end of the day we are automating the process so that even smaller colleges with limited SID staffing can become sports information powerhouses with minimal effort and maximum results. These newest enhancements make it faster and easier for SIDs to document, promote and share every student-athlete’s activities and achievements with highly personalized stakeholders. We help the students at their former high schools see role models for college success, allow legislators to understand the positive impact of their funding decisions, create records of success for future employers, and otherwise tell every student’s story in ways that were not previously possible.”
Earlier this year, Merit announced the rollout of free Merit accounts for more than 28,000 high schools, enabling them to see, share and promote the everyday outcomes of each of their alumni at colleges and universities throughout the U.S. The free high school Merit accounts include regular, real-time updates added by colleges and universities about each school’s alumni; a directory of every college in the Merit network with analytical tools to discover alumni based on their interests and accomplishments; a customizable public Merit page for each high school that they can use as a landing page for students, families, and friends to discover stories about alumni; and more.