FAMU’s School of Journalism and Graphic Communications public relations students rounded off the spring semester by completing the nearly three month long St. Jude PR Challenge Project.
Twenty one students enrolled in the Critical Issues in PR class had the opportunity to gain real-world industry experience by participating in teams to create a comprehensive PR plan. The St. Jude PR Challenge Project focused on launching a new influencer relationship supporting St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, with the goal of deepening brand engagement with their Gen Z audience.
The fundraising and awareness organization for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, and the largest health nonprofit in the United States, ALSAC, began an educational partnership with FAMU’s School of Journalism & Graphic Communication (SJGC) and the School of Business and Industry (SBI) in 2021. Through the partnership, St. Jude sponsors a membership for FAMU to the Association of National Advertisers and provides access to marketing professionals to serve as guest lecturers, panelists and resources.
“The goal is to help provide real world examples and discussions to bring the course content to life, or in other words, to bridge the ‘campus-to-career’ divide,” said Jerica Philips, Senior Director of Strategic Communications at ALSAC.
The partnership is mutually beneficial for ALSAC and SJGC. Students gain public relations industry experience and cultivate connections with experts in the field while sharpening skills in writing, strategic planning and the execution of thoughts and ideas. This opportunity also allows ALSAC to gain a deeper understanding of the next generation of communicators and marketers, how they engage new audiences and how they find relevance in our mission, Philips said.
Now in the second year of the program, St. Jude worked with Dr. Hsuan Huang in SJGC to create a custom class project – the St. Jude PR Challenge Project. Students in Huang’s Critical Issues in PR course created teams and took on the role of a public relations agency. As part of the challenge, students created a pitch for a new influencer relationship to help St. Jude deepen its relationship with younger audiences and develop a plan to generate at least 100,000 new supporters.
“My team and I proposed actress, icon, and mega influencer, Keke Palmer,” said junior public relations student Markayla Oats.
Her team proposed a “Jump In” jump-a-thon social media live stream between Palmer and St. Jude that implemented a donation bank to increase donations while generating website traffic for the nonprofit. The idea was based on the actress’ 2007 Disney film of the same name.
“We evaluated the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats of St. Jude, gave a detailed overview of Keke Palmer, vetted her, proposed a pitch of the partnership to her, developed a launch plan and press release, distinguished the different forms of media we would use to generate donors, and proposed events based on Keke Palmer’s iconic movie and tv show roles,” Oats said.
Oats and her team members Germanie Bozeman, Jordan Joseph, Marlana Lawrence, and Brandi Roman came in first place for the St. Jude PR Challenge Project in their class. All 21 participants of the challenge received feedback and guidance on their strategies, pitches and project executions from the St. Jude team.
“It was inspiring to observe the creativity and ingenuity demonstrated by the student teams as they each approached the project with a sense of purpose,” said Philips. “My experience with this project sparked a renewed enthusiasm about how students can help drive innovative marketing strategies to engage new influencers and audiences.”
Oats said her experience throughout the challenge is one that she’s grateful for and that she “wouldn’t change it for the world.”
“All of the dedicated time, the dedicated energy, and the strategizing, it was an experience that truly improved my PR knowledge,” she said. “Working with the St.Jude’s team was amazing.”
Oats said she hopes all public relations students at FAMU will have the opportunity to participate in a similar program to gain real world experience within the industry.