Posted: February 26, 2014, 2:03 p.m.,
by Jonae Shaw.
This summer, undergraduate integrated marketing communication students from Wichita State University are taking their communication campaigns class on the road. They will be traveling to promote WSU’s Geology Field Camp, with the main goals of raising awareness about the camp at a national level and increasing enrollment for next summer.
Dr. Lisa M. Parcell, assistant professor in the Elliott School of Communication at WSU, is teaching the course, and is very excited about the new initiative.
“I am energized by classes that challenge me daily, where the unexpected is expected,” Parcell said. “I’m looking forward to watching this project grow from the chaos of brainstorming in the beginning to finished pieces students are proud to put in their portfolios by the time we head back home.”
Parcell teaches courses in integrated marketing communication, communication history and strategic communication at WSU. Before teaching, she worked as a public relations professional for the Sierra Club, Georgia Tech Research Institute and Alabama’s Small Schools Cooperative, PACERS.
The on-campus IMC campaigns class she regularly teaches is set up like an agency, with Parcell as the president. Students are divided into teams that include an account manager, writers, designers and PR specialists. The students typically work with three nonprofit clients in Wichita with each student team assigned to one client. This structure allows the students’ work to be approved and used by the clients.
A different approach
The on-the-road campaigns class is in its first year at WSU. It will allow the students a similar experience as the usual agency class format, except instead of doing all of their work in Wichita, the students will be able to experience what it’s like to be a part of Geology Field Camp. In doing so, Parcell believes her students will develop a stronger understanding and more effective campaign for the Field Camp.
“We will immerse ourselves with the students taking Field Camp to get the inside perspective on what attracts students to this experience,” Parcell said.
The students will wait to develop the specific strategies and tactics for the campaign until they meet the Field Camp students. However, since the WSU geology department’s budget is very limited, the use of social media and the geology department website are possibly their main tactics to get the message out.
“Most likely we will create a visual campaign (photos with limited text, and videos) that showcase students at Field Camp and their experiences,” Parcell said.
The trip will be a little over a week, as the students will be visiting the mountains just north of Cody, Wyo., then traveling to Yellowstone for two days and the Tetons for another two days.
“My hope is that this experience will give us the ability to really showcase all the aspects of Field Camp and will give us a nice variety of scenery in our shots,” Parcell said.
Different is effective
In public relations, campaigns take place every day, and the best way to stand out is to do something different. This on-the-road approach is a new take on a student campaign, by venturing out of the classroom and having students experience hands-on what their client wants them to promote.
Although this campaign is student-run and curriculum-based, Parcell believes it will still be beneficial for both the students and the client.
“Traditional lecture classes definitely have a place in the curriculum, but I find that students gain so much more by jumping in and doing professional work for a client,” Parcell said.
Macaela MacKenzie, creative assistant and manager of Ketchum’s Mindfire, feels this type of campaign could also be very beneficial. Mindfire is a student contributor program that allows students to share insight and ideas about the real-time challenges of the firm’s clients. She works with more than 50 universities and 800 students as they build campaigns for various clients. She expressed that having the students of WSU right there in the heart of the Field Camp could really benefit their campaign.
“The best way to come up with a creative and compelling campaign is by immersing yourself in the mind of your target. Rule number one is to always try to experience the product/message firsthand,” MacKenzie said.
WSU’s new take on a campaigns class will hopefully be just what the WSU geology department needs to raise awareness and help attract students from across the country to take Field Camp.
“The best campaigns are grounded in solid consumer insights. Then take it a step further and break through the noise,” MacKenzie said.
The undergraduate students from WSU are definitely taking it further — traveling all the way across the heart of the Wyoming Rocky Mountains to be exact.