PR Students Find the Rhythm in Culture Shock San Diego Campaign

Thursday, April 27, 2023

Nine PR students from San Diego State University's School of Journalism & Media Studies put on their best dancing shoes to join forces in the spring 2023 semester with Culture Shock San Diego, a nonprofit dance studio. The team gained real-world experience and helped the organization increase its media awareness post-pandemic.

A meeting with executive director Danielle Prince revealed Culture Shock’s three-decade-long commitment to providing empowerment, education and entertainment for all. But with low visibility in the public eye, the studio struggled to generate notable media attention. As a result, it became increasingly disconnected from the community it proudly serves. The PR team immediately took action and began conducting research that would inform their strategies and tactics.

“Working with a diverse group of people, I felt challenged as a leader,” said Morgan Davidson,  the logistics lead and HR manager. “I focused on pushing my team to play off their strengths while advancing my own.”

The team never skipped a beat. 

Despite being new to the industry, they quickly choreographed a plan aimed at strengthening the connection between Culture Shock, its members and the San Diego community through media relations.

The team used an insights-driven approach to identify a strategy moving forward. From there, they brainstormed specific tactics to move the needle for their client. 

“We crushed our objectives and increased word-of-mouth likelihood by 46%, knowledge of the organization by 36%, and developed four key media relationships,” said Katarina Josifov, research team lead. “None of it would’ve been possible without conducting weeks of research that set the stage for the entire campaign.”

Supporting a client in the creative arts meant that the team had to bring their best ideas to the table. The resulting campaign focused on celebrating 30 years of dance in the San Diego community, engaging current dancers already going to Culture Shock and sharing that love of dance with those not yet familiar with the nonprofit. 

In order to embrace their client's current community of dancers, the team planned a flash mob at Liberty Station. The CommUNITY Shock event gave the dancers at Culture Shock a chance to come together for a common, and fun, performance. 

To raise awareness of Culture Shock, the team started an #AnyoneCanDance challenge in Balboa Park. For this tactic, a Culture Shock dancer taught people in the park quick moves to make a popular dance video for social media. 

Harnessing these events, the team then pitched local media in order to secure press coverage for their client. The team invited local media to come to the Culture Shock studios – or bring it to the local TV studios – to experience Culture Shock. Building on the Culture Shock origin story, the team highlighted founder Angie Bunch's backstory as a look back at the past 30 years in the community. 

“My team’s job was to secure real-world media coverage,” said Ashley Frenchman, the messaging lead. “We earned coverage for our client four times, including a 5-minute morning show segment on CBS8. That was the most rewarding part of this experience.”

Though the team was focused on celebrating Culture Shock during the campaign, they quickly found themselves learning the steps of a successful PR campaign along the way.

“This is the first time that some of these new PR practitioners have had a chance to work a campaign from start to finish,” began Dr. Kaye Sweetser, the capstone professor teaching the campaign course for the Culture Shock team. “They put in the work and ensured that every step of the way they were basing their campaign on insights. Their final product was an incredible show of what strategic PR can do for a nonprofit.”

The spring 2023 Culture Shock PR team from JMS 585 Professional Practices in Public Relations included team lead Ryan Walsh, human resources and logistics lead Morgan Davidson, research lead Katarina Josifov and messaging lead Ashley Frenchman. Students supporting the team included Bethany Andros, Erin Barker, Madison Schaller, Victoria Finn and Victoria Vigil. They are all graduating and ready to be hired.

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