BHS Digital Marketing Meets Main Street

Photos by Luke George Photography

At the end of the 2023 school year, Benicia Magazine was invited to attend the final presentations of Benicia High School’s Digital Marketing class.

The students, we were told, had been grouped into teams that functioned as miniature digital marketing firms, and paired with a local business or organization. Each marketing team would do a thorough digital marketing audit and analysis on its assigned organization, complete with suggested actions for improvements.

Benicia High’s Digital Marketing class is part of the CTE (Career and Technical Education)  program at the high school, through which students can gain transferable education and hands-on experience related to various career paths. Local businesses are always encouraged to contribute to the CTE program by providing real life perspective through guest speaking or even offering internships. While involvement in this way can lead to benefits in the form of a primed and ready workforce down the road for these businesses, it is rare to get direct and immediate benefits like this Digital Marketing class project offered.

The class is led by teacher Jesse Zitrin, but the project was the brainchild of David Batchelor, whose charity organization, Benicia Community Foundation, was a participant and beneficiary of the project.

Other participants included Pacifica Pizza, Benicia Chamber of Commerce, Pups ‘n’ Purrz, Lucca Bar and Grill, Benicia Main Street, and Hire My Husband, among others.

Mr. Zitrin’s students took what they learned through the course, including how to do website, SEO, and social media audits, and reviewed the online presence of their “clients.” Being real-life case studies, each business had unique issues along with a few commonalities. Through the process, students got to experience what it’s like to work with a real client in business, managing deadlines and schedules, learning what their pain points and limitations were, and learning to communicate across generations (these students are digital natives, whereas their clients ranged from proficient to digital novices).

BHS digital marketing students sit outside to audit Lucca Bar and Grill

We spoke with Sonya Battersby, general manager of Lucca Bar and Grill about her experience with the project.

She explained that the students pointed out some areas of improvement on their website, like the viewable menu, and with their social media strategy. Said Sonya of the experience, “It’s interesting what you find when you search your own business online, and I actually have never viewed our business as a customer. Sure, I have read our reviews but never dug deep into what pops up when you type different types of food and or restaurants in a search bar.” She appreciated having a fresh set of eyes on the business’ online presence strategy. “They were able to give me more ideas that took thinking outside the box.” Sonya says that while she has not had the chance to implement some of the changes her group suggested, she looks forward to working with one of the team members again soon to do just that. “Overall,” she says of the project, “I believe it was great for both the students and us.”

One group was assigned to a local business with virtually no online presence, whatsoever. This group had many suggestions for their business owner, but soon realized she needed help getting her digital footprint off the ground. Going above and beyond what the project required of them, the students took it upon themselves to create a basic website and a new social media account for the business, and set up a GoFundMe to raise money for a digital marketing campaign idea they came up with. One of the students in the group also agreed to intern with the business over the summer to help get the ball rolling.

Yet another group learned that working with small businesses isn’t always easy.

Unable to get a meeting with their local business on the books, the team had to get creative with their research, diving deep into the company’s web presence, talking to employees, and doing competitor analysis to construct a working image of the company’s standing and strategy. Remarkably, they were able to pull together a complete and successful project, just the same.

In general, the project seemed to be quite successful. The students learned how to parlay their digital fluency into skills that would give them a leg up in the marketing world, and participating businesses gained valuable insights and a fresh perspective on their digital marketing strategies that will likely have tangible results. And in the instances when students went above and beyond their assigned tasks, the project shined a spotlight on Benicia’s youth giving back to our community.