ST. CLOUD - A St. Cloud State University mass communications class got hands on public relations experience by working to promote the Northstar Commuter Rail this semester.

The semester long campaign focused on ridership and raising awareness about the Northstar line, specifically for students who commute to and from the University. The Public Relations Cases and Campaigns class is taught by Dr. Lisa Heinrich. Heinrich says the main goal of the course was to raise awareness.

Together the class came up with the slogan "Start Your Day on Track" as a catchy way to promote the train. Students created a promotional video, conducted surveys and set up information booths around campus to spread the word. The students also teamed up with the St. Cloud Tech Northway Group to create buttons and posters to promote the usage of the train.

(Dan DeBaun, WJON News)

The campaign emphasized that the trains are new, clean and quiet with a dependable 95 percent on time record.

The students worked closely with Jill Brown, the Public Information Consultant for the Northstar Corridor Development Authority, and Stearns County Commissioner Leigh Lenzmeier. Lenzmeier says a class campaign from last year created a significant boost in ridership by promoting Wi-Fi services on the train.
At the end of the semester, survey results revealed that their campaign led to a 3 percent increase in awareness on campus. The results also showed that the campaign increased campus awareness of the name Northstar, and that 80 percent of students would consider using the train service if it came to St. Cloud instead of only Big Lake in the future.

While the campaign did raise awareness, Heinrich says more importantly, the course gave students a crucial hands-on learning experience.

Northstar is Minnesota's first commuter rail line and provides a cost-effective option for commuters, fares range between $3-$6. The train runs seven days a week from Big Lake to downtown Minneapolis.