In my spare time, between a day job and running a coaching business, I am an adjunct professor for the Reynolds School of Journalism at University of Nevada. Nearly each semester I take on the overflow class in any of the three required sequences in public relations instruction. Spring is always the Case Studies class, second in the series-follows introduction and prior to a full campaign. Over the years the structure of the class has morphed. We used to study old cases. That was boring. Then the content was shifted to run the class as in-house talent for an imaginary client. The last couple of years, the course is structured so that students present to actual clients. For the length of the semester the students learn strategic planning: research the client’s audience, assess and analyze the situation, provide a solution with an ambitious goal, defined strategies, with measurable objectives, incremental tactics and effective evaluation that includes identifying outputs and outcomes. They need to consider budgets or at least costs for every element of recommendations and provide a timeline to anticipate milestones. Each has a real client to present and individual plan as mid-term; then a team effort for a different real client for finals.
It pays off for the clients and the students. Some bright spots from this year’s crop of students in no particular order:
- Students recommended the “journalist rapper” who does social commentary hookup with mixtapes to connect to his audience and tour with politically minded college groups as they gear up for the presidential election.
- A bamboo construction specialist was advised to “like” interior designers on the business Facebook page rather than his personal favorite band to generate interaction with prospective clients. Their research showed the significant power of Facebook and how interior designers look for visual content and use the internet to connect to products and clients.
- One client with a variety of business entities on one property was encouraged to focus promoting and developing those elements that met the values and vision of the artistic ventures and less on businesses that detracted from that.
- Another client was encouraged to change the tone of the message to meet a different audience. The client offers a unique self improvement service and was targeting the under aged 35 market. While the message worked for that market, students revealed that market couldn’t necessarily afford to invest in the workshops; changing to the 40+ market with a softer message would likely reap benefits for business owner and customers alike
- The team that advised the performing arts group targeting youth to do old-fashioned PR–attend assemblies with mini-performances and hold open houses. They researched recommendations on local publications that reached the k-12 student population. The client was also given tips on how to develop relations with the media, researching styles, story content and connection points to open the door with different reporters and media.
- The final group worked with a non-profit trying to create a sustainable event in the community. Their solution was actually board development and creating structure with delegated responsibilities so three key individuals could set the vision and find others to help implement, thus expanding from their personal nucleus of contacts for support.
The recommendations ran the gamut from media relations, marketing communications implementation, internal board development, community relations and message development. The students made the grade–does your business?