IMC Capstone: PR Lab

PR Lab, one of five capstone courses in Integrated Marketing Communications, provides students with practical, critical-thinking skills, and theoretical concepts within the public relations discipline, along with hands-on experience with real-world organizations. The students learn the evolving and dynamic field of public relations and its role in IMC in a challenging, intellectually rigorous environment. Within this engaging class structure, the students hone their strategic planning and writing skills, developing work that has a lifespan beyond the classroom as creative samples that can be added to their portfolios, which are valuable tools in securing internships and entry-level positions.

Professor Arhlene Flowers, who was a public relations practitioner before joining Ithaca College in 2006, brings an international, multicultural perspective, as well as a mastery of analytical, strategic, creative, managerial, and tactical skills. She held senior management positions at leading global companies on both sides of the business: creative agencies serving a variety of clients, including publicly traded and privately held companies, nonprofits, and government entities; and in-house corporate marketing departments. She was based in New York City and Toronto, the major media markets in North America, and conducted business on all continents, except for Antarctica.

Flowers said, “Active experiences with companies and nonprofits are a win-win proposition for all concerned. Students gain valuable experience with real-world clients to build teamwork, develop problem-solving skills that bring class lessons to life, and meet with professionals in various industries for feedback in a supportive environment. Businesses and nonprofits receive free public relations services and future recommendations—and they also learn more about the ‘digital generation,’ which is a target market that many organizations are trying to reach."

Representing Real-World Clients

The PR Lab students have helped such organizations as:

Parakeet Feet is a children’s footwear boutique located in Cayuga Heights, Ithaca, selling popular accessories and children’s footwear ranging in shoes sizes, newborn to youth size 3. Co-owner Suzanne Patterson said, “You obviously put so much time and effort into this project (it was apparent throughout the semester)…you have no idea how much this has helped us! We appreciate everything you did throughout the semester; you were consistent, punctual, professional and a pleasure to work with. The team really nailed it—you understood what we were looking for, and made it happen!”

Based in Ithaca, Emmy’s Organics produces all raw, vegan, gluten-free and non-GMO snacks and desserts. Samantha Abrams, an alumna of Ithaca College, built Emmy’s from the ground up with her partner, Ian Gaffney. Emmy’s Organics now sells its products throughout the U.S. The PR Lab account team created enhanced media relations tactics, such as media lists, pitch letters, press kit suggestions and the Halloween “mommy-blog” campaign, in addition to various social media campaigns, promotional materials and guerilla marketing ideas. Co-founder Abrams said, “I am so grateful to you for your support and having your students support us as well. Thank you again, the students were lovely and so hard-working.”

Located in Corning, N.Y., the Corning Museum of Glass is a one-of-a-kind museum that is dedicated to telling the story of glass. The PR Lab team focused on social media recommendations for Pinterest, Reddit, Tumblr and Instagram; PR strategies to reach the college market within driving distance; and PR recommendations during the construction phase. The museum's senior manager of communications said, “Your students have been a joy to work with…I thought the social media recommendations were very helpful…This was a good experience...I find it really helpful to get that fresh perspective on what we do, and it’s also very good for me as a communications professional to understand what’s of interest to the next generation of students.”

“The Elephant in the Room: Practical Advice When the Diagnosis is Cancer“ is a collection of previously published advice columns compiled by Bob Riter, the executive director of the Cancer Resource Center of the Finger Lakes. The book provides advice on breaking the news to parents and children, including tips on what to say and what not to say, and examines nontraditional cancer therapies, doctor-patient interactions, survivor’s guilt, the after-treatment blahs, and cancer as a chronic disease. “The Elephant in the Room” is a useful resource for cancer patients and their friends and family who are looking for tips to help them cope with this life-changing diagnosis. Riter described the student’s PR support to promote this book as a fundraiser for the Cancer Resource Center as “terrific work…that was very professional and very helpful."

The HEADstrong Foundation is a Pennsylvania-based charitable organization founded in memory of Nicholas Colleluori, who passed away from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma at the age of 21. The foundation generates funds for cancer research, offers assistance to survivors and families who have been affected by blood cancer, and provides scholarships for students in the field of medicine. PR Lab students assisted this nonprofit with new promotional materials and social and traditional media. “The feedback has been taken into consideration, and we do plan to implement most of the ideas and recommendations as the Foundation continues to grow,” said HEADstrong President Cheryl Colleluori. “They did a remarkable job!” 

Maple Hill Creamery is a family-owned, certified-organic farm in Little Falls, New York, that prides itself on producing high-quality European-style “cream on top” whole milk yoghurt in a variety of flavors. Maple Hill Creamery products are available in more than 10 states, and the brand is quickly expanding. Maple Hill Creamery is committed to producing natural, healthy products using milk from 100% grass-fed dairy cows. After working with students in the PR Lab, the founders of the Maple Hill Creamery were pleased with the student’s new press kit, visual materials, and future PR recommendations to help this company expand throughout the Mid-Atlantic and New England. Co-founder Julia Meck said, “It was an absolute pleasure working with all of you.”

Project Look Sharp is a nonprofit organization committed to increasing public knowledge about media literacy and helping people develop the ability to access, analyze, critically evaluate, and produce communication in a variety of forms. Based out of Ithaca College, Project Look Sharp creates educational curriculum kits on a wide variety of topics that are relevant to educators at all levels. The students designed a media relations campaign and new press materials for Project Look Sharp, and one student continued as an intern to focus on generating stories to reach students, parents, and teachers alike.

Nationwide Competitions

In addition, PR Lab students have participated in nationwide competitions. A student team won a bronze in the Direct Marketing Educational Foundation's Collegiate ECHO 2007, which is a nationwide student competition, incorporating strategic planning, direct marketing, and other marketing practices, such as public relations. Another team received honorable mention in the national Public Relations Student Society of America’s Bateman competition in 2008, receiving a score of 95 out of 100. A PR Lab student also was named one of five national finalists as PRWeek’s Student of the Year 2011.   

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