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UC P.R. certificate students take the wheel in creating Acura campaign

Competition gives real-world marketing experience to A&S students

By Monica Huzinec

When Delaney Souder first enrolled in the Public Relations Certificate program at the University of Cincinnati’s McMicken College of Arts and Sciences, she didn’t think it would involve working on a marketing campaign for one of the world’s premier automakers.

But the senior communication major now says that she has never taken a class “that had prepared me for the PR industry better than this one.”

“From the planning stage, to the budget, to the implementation, we were provided with the opportunity to learn transferrable skills that we may take into the work field," communication major and junior Kulaya Pickett added.

As the culmination of their public relations certificate, students participate in the department’s PR Campaigns class taught by Suzanne Boys, professor of communication. The course teaches students how to conduct applied market research. Students learn how to develop goals, objectives and tactics tailored to a client's PR situation and how to pitch an integrated communications strategy to the client.

This year, for the fifth time, the PR Campaign students were invited to participate in a nationwide marketing campaign competition for Acura. In two of those years, A&S students have placed and been invited to present their work to industry and government leaders in Washington, D.C.

A&S Communication students standing by an Acura ILX.

A&S Communication students participate in Acura PR contest.

This semester’s team was tasked with creating a campaign to position the Acura ILX as an affordable, luxury vehicle to millennial college students. The class was given a $2,000 budget to implement its communication plan. The plan consisted of five campus events, the creation of social media accounts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter (@GoodBetterILX), designing print materials, buying and distributing swag, developing contests and shooting videos.

Additionally, students learned how to manage a budget and track marketing metrics. Boys said that this class — and specifically the Acura campaign — has given students “phenomenal hands-on experiences. They have essentially become a P.R. agency for the past semester.”

The interdisciplinary mix of students in the class made the team stronger, Boys said. The class was composed of a multicultural group of communication, journalism and engineering majors.

“This diversity has proven to be an asset time and again,” Boys said. "Our brainstorming, networking and implementation have all been stronger for it.”

“The most challenging part of this experience was starting the project," said Cameron Panley, a junior communication major. "Most of us had very little real-world experience before this campaign and were timid. We all have come out of our shells now and are more confident in both our work and communication. I learned what it’s like to be in the marketing/PR field. It gave me applicable experience and insight into my future as to if I want to pursue a career in the field.”

If the UC campaign is selected as one of the top-three of the 20 teams participating in this competition, students will have the opportunity to present their campaign to Acura’s board of senior executives in California and win a $5,000 grand prize.

“I hope they take away memories of how fun it was to do," Boys said. "I also hope they take away a sense of confidence in their skillset. These students have a body of very market-relevant skills. This has been a good chance for them to see how they will use their skills after graduation.”