Simply put, the 2000 CareerBuilder College Bus tour was a success. Using a highly-interactive forum – a custom-built coach bus with live Internet access - to engage a select and targeted audience, allowed CareerBuilder to realize significant increases in brand awareness, site traffic, and registered users.
In the dot-com arena, the competition is perhaps most fierce in the online recruiting space.  With millions of visitors (and dollars) at stake, competitors are turning to more effective and innovative measures to get the attention of employers and job seekers.  A key audience for online recruiters is college students, based on the concept that helping a student get his or her first job out of college will build brand loyalty for a lifetime of career changes.
The main objectives of the campaign were to raise brand awareness among college students, resulting in greater traffic to the CareerBuilder site, to generate “mycareerbuilder”  registrations from students,  to develop relationships with campus Career Centers and Counselors, and to create a local buzz by inviting media to each university stop on the College Bus Tour.
Research supporting the Bus Tour program -
According to a report by Jupiter in 1999
  • 90% of 15 million college students use the Internet – more than any other demographic
  • College students are active Internet users: 66% of college students online made a purchase during the first six months of 1999
  • According to CareerBuilder:
  • More than half of CareerBuilder’s audience is in the undergraduate and graduate student age bracket
  • 45% of employers are looking for entry-level professionals, especially those with college degrees
  • Only 25% of college students use their university career centers to find a job
CareerBuilder and Fleishman-Hillard (FH) began by identifying a vehicle that would grab attention, speak to the Web site’s quality, store thousands of giveaways, transport tour staffers, serve as a billboard and at the same time be “cutting edge”. The choice: a massive custom-built coach bus with the CareerBuilder logo wrapped around the exterior.  FH contracted with the top custom coach company and redesigned a 40 foot long private bus into a unique cyber café/mobile lounge. 
Previous CareerBuilder tours had been concentrated in the western and southwestern parts of the United States. This tour looked to new territory in the Midwest and the East Coast, in close coordination with the sales force. Beginning in Michigan and ending in Florida, FH and CareerBuilder developed a schedule targeting 34 schools, with undergraduate enrollments averaging more than 14,000 students.  Nearly three months of planning went into identifying high-profile locations, optimizing the mobile technology, and creating a funky but quality experience for students.

To address this audience, CareerBuilder created an “On Campus” section of their site devoted to college students and offering internships, entry level positions and tips on the interview process, resumes and cover letters.  With counsel from FH, CareerBuilder realized that reaching the college market required more than Web content: it required a grass roots effort that would create one-on-one access and relationship-building with college students.  Thus, FH developed the “Hit the Road to Success” campaign -- a College Bus Tour to 34 colleges across the Midwest and East Coast. As part of the tour, the CareerBuilder bus also appeared at seven NCAA football games.
CareerBuilder boasts being the “quality” job site in this market, and it was important that “quality” be one of the key messages of the tour, exhibited in all of the details. Thus, the messaging for the tour had to be consistent from the Web site to the corporate spokesperson to the bus driver.
This message was also carried over into the bus environment. The space was designed to feel hip and give the feeling of being “inside” the Web site.  Decorations were in shades of orange and blue (CareerBuilder colors), and included rolling countertops, a coffee bar, four flat-screen computer workstations, a satellite dish for live Internet connection, leather lounge chairs, and funky lights and beads.
For the campus visits, the tour needed to be sanctioned by a university office (preferably the career center) to ensure an optimum location on campus and ease of entry to the schools.   The pitch was subtle and serious, promoting the true value-added service for the college student.  While it was critical to promote the tour as revolutionary, diplomacy with the career centers was equally critical to positioning CareerBuilder as a free service – not a competitor – to the career centers.
Once all the school locations were identified, and the bus was in production, FH initiated contact with each college -- 34 universities spanning 13 states. Each school’s career center was approached, via phone and/or email, with the pitch, “We are rolling into your town and want to give your students an incredible experience. Career experts will be on hand to answer all your student’s questions, in a unique, hip environment.”  We often sent follow up pitches and fact sheets via fax, and then mailed a Campus Media Packet. 
Once the tour started, the fun began. The bus rolled into a school’s campus early on the designated morning and set up, a process that included aligning the satellite dish for Internet access.  The bus was open for business most of the day, with young tour staff talking to students, music playing and coffee brewing.  A kiosk was set up just outside the bus with marketing and sign-up materials for the passerby, and where staff members invited passing students onto the bus to experience the site.  Each day the staff gave out a prize of a Handspring Visor or a Razor Scooter, chosen from a drawing of those who signed up for CareerBuilder’s free services.  The staff also handed out brand building materials, including t-shirts, Frisbees, pens, and key chains. 
To connect the tour with the Web site and enhance the college-focused content, students were videotaped giving “career confessionals,” which were posted on the site as streaming media files. Bus staffers kept a tour diary updated on the site, and a Web cam gave site visitors a live view of activity on the bus.
The tour addressed multiple audiences. Much of the tour was targeted toward college students, the primary audience.  In addition to the bus environment, brand building materials and prizes, it was important that each student interaction with staff members was unique. When students boarded the bus, discussions ranged from finding an internship to posting a resume online.  Every presentation was tailored to accommodate the individual’s needs.  Also, when working with the career center, tour staff willingly handed out their materials along with CareerBuilder’s.
As the secondary audiences, the general public and employers were reached through press coverage of the school visits, in addition to presence of the bus on campuses and on the road between colleges. Local media were alerted to every visit, and CareerBuilder spokespeople conducted on-camera and print interviews in the majority of major markets visited by the tour. 
Just by looking at the raw impression and audience numbers, the tremendous impact of the tour is obvious: the “Hit the Road to Success” tour achieved significant success in bringing CareerBuilder out to college students and bringing college students back to CareerBuilder:

  • 854,400 – estimated impressions generated by visits of the CareerBuilder bus to 34 colleges and universities, including 7 NCAA football games
  • 4,500 – new students signed up for a CareerBuilder PSA
  • 792,000 – estimated audience of the media coverage generated by visits to the bus by television, newspapers, and radio
  • 130,000 – CareerBuilder branded premiums given away throughout the tour
62% – increase in traffic to the “onCampus” section of CareerBuilder’s site.