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Client Puts PR Class to Test in Image-Making

Date: Dec. 9, 2002
By: Marianne Kunnen-Jones
Phone: (513) 556-1826
Photo By: Marianne Kunnen-Jones
Archive: Campus News

The 13-year-old Imagemaker Awards turned to a class full of UC public relations students this quarter to help them increase awareness about their multicultural recognition program. Sallie Elliott, publisher of the awards sponsor Applause! Magazine, came away from the students' final presentations last week with two new public service announcements - including one that is all set for TV - as well as a new Web site design, new logos, a jingle, a suggestion for a new name for the award and binders brimming with action plan ideas, pitch letters and news releases and other recommendations.

Logo suggestion"Thank you for all this material. I'll be reading it all over the weekend," Elliott told members of the class.

Their work is the result of a course called PR Campaign, taught twice a year by UC Department of Communication undergraduate director Lisa Newman. The course always puts UC students to work for a real client with actual problems to solve. Hoxworth Blood Center, the Cincinnati city manager, a no-kill animal shelter and UC's public safety department are among the previous projects.

Newman traditionally divides her students into three teams, who then spend 10 weeks conducting focus group and survey research, developing an evaluation and action plan, brainstorming and implementing their ideas. Their final challenge comes at a formal, competitive presentation for the client and a panel of judges.

This quarter's trio of teams made final presentations Dec. 5 in Room 309, Braunstein. Their judges were Greg Hand, UC associate vice president for Public Relations, and Mike Wallner, PR/marketing manager for Cintas. Clients in the audience included Elliott, Jack Overbeck, chair of the Imagemaker Awards board and retired Kroger vice president, and Margaret Horton, a member of the awards board.

Logo suggestion

Teams this fall, as a part of their action plan, contacted more than 150 different cultural organizations to help spread the word about nominations, which are due by Dec. 15. Channel 5 producer James Getgy is excited about several teams proposals and plans to implement some of them, according to Newman. A TV commercial created by student Steve Zugelter, a member of the I.D. ology team, pleased Elliott so much she planned to contact Channel 5, the awards co-sponsor, to use it.

One team, Spotlight Solutions, recommended a new name for the awards - Pangea, a Greek word meaning "all land" and the name applied to the supercontinent that is thought to have joined the Earth's land mass millions of years ago. Another group created a jingle featuring lyrics and music created and performed by team member Marissa Woodly.

Sarah Cunningam, of team I.D. ology

In the surveys that student teams conducted for the Imagemaker Awards, findings proved to be strikingly similar. About 55-58 percent of the city is not familiar with the annual recognition program, which used to be targeted to Cincinnati's most outstanding African Americans but has recently broadened in scope to honor high achievement in a variety of ethnic groups of the Tristate. Two of goals for this year's class were to broaden the diversity of the nominees even more and to increase the number of nominations.

"This class is an awful lot of work, but all in all, especially for me, it was a great experience," said Rose Dizon, a member of the Rainmaker Media Group team. "Intro to PR was a requirement before you could take this course. In the intro course the background was quite good but hypothetical. In this class, we worked to solve problems for a real client."

On the night before Rainmaker's final presentation, "We were in Braunstein 309 until 1 o'clock in the morning trying to get our final presentation worked out," Dizon said. In addition to the class time, most of her teammates spent from about 50 to 71 hours each outside the class to work on the project. "All of us kept time logs," she said.

When Dizon talked to her intern supervisor at Luxottica Retail about the course and some of the problems her team was encountering, the supervisor reminded Dizon that it was great preparation for the real business world. The challenges of reaching contacts, getting them to respond and getting things done on a deadline were exactly the way the real world works, she told the communication senior.

All of the hard work by Dizon and her teammates paid off in high praise from their client. After their presentation, Imagemaker Award board chair Overbeck congratulated the students. "It was totally impressive," he said. "I made notes and wrote 'useable, useable, useable' all the way through."

Newman serves on the Imagemaker Advisory Board and will be following through on the students' work in future weeks as well. The client for Newman's spring 2003 course will be Cintas Corporation, while the client for fall 2003 is the Center for the Holocaust & Humanity Education at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion.

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