How Pivots Prevailed for Prospective PR Practitioners

Ripsime Avetisyan

January 14, 2021

Leading up to their senior year, public relations students in the San Diego State University School of Journalism & Media Studies anticipated launching their own public relations campaign in the experiential capstone course.

However, fall 2020 semester looked a little different.

COVID-19 challenged these seniors to reevaluate their goals and handle crises faster than they thought possible. This capstone experience did not take place in the classroom. Instead, it forced these future practitioners to adapt to Zoom staff meetings, establish a relationship with the client online and find a way to pivot into the real world.

“This course comes with a warning and Dr. Sweetser was not exaggerating,” said Bailey Ucker. “As lead executive for this campaign experience, I managed tasks at lightning speed while using strategic communication initiatives with both the client and the team. This 16-week campaign forces us all to grow in order to make our mark on the public relations industry, whether we are ready or not.”

The fact that COVID-19 changed the look of this semester’s campaign, gave the seniors something in common with their real-world client, (X), a joint venture of the strategy execution expertise of Excelerate with the comprehensive strategic communication capabilities of (W)right On Communications.

(X) came to the team seeking to understand and engage with C-suite executives and become recognized as a thought leader within the industry.

The team conducted a national survey in order to create an insight report as the cornerstone tactic of their campaign.

Responses from 136 CEOs and leaders in a variety of industries proved (X)’s relevance and value to the marketplace. It was also an opportunity for the team members to think like corporate leaders by communicating with presidents, founders and directors in their survey sample.

The (X) team discovered important insights that correlated (X)’s services to real-life problems these CEOs faced. For example, just 22% of CEOs feel that their enterprises do a good job executing against strategic initiatives.

The team’s growth mirrored (X)’s dedication to streamlined communication and execution. Hours in the classroom transitioned into hours logged online. As this team of students worked to adjust to an online world, they also overcame the struggle of learning and working together to achieve their client’s objectives.

These students met new challenges and continued to align their communication and execution within the campaign. The team quickly learned to overcome silos and in sharing (X)’s strategy with the public, they adopted it themselves.

“A capstone course is challenging without a global pandemic,” said Dr. Kaye Sweetser, PHD APR+M, Fellow PRSA. “These future practitioners proved they can navigate the treacherous waters of crisis in real time, from campus closures to compressed timelines. They worked through it all, acting as wonderful representatives for the tenacity and professionalism that is the hallmark of our SDSU PR graduates.”

The was no grading curve needed for this team.

Building tactics around promoting the insight paper, the team planned and promoted a webinar and social media campaign.

The (X) team earned national recognition for their campaign through SalesTechStar and Cision’s PRWeb. The campaign also received local coverage through the Times of San Diego. The Public Relations Society of America, the world’s largest association for public relations professionals, notified members of (X)’s venture and webinar in their weekly roundup, further promoting (X)’s mission to industry professionals. They secured international coverage in Strategic Magazine.

“This capstone course is truly a group effort that has given us experience for what it’s like to work in public relations. It’s all about trusting those around you, relying on each other’s strengths and learning from each other,” said logistics lead, Kelsi Dugas.

Their time and efforts are seen in the work and results they were able to accomplish during the semester.

Watch out world, our pros can pivot.

How Pivots Prevailed for Prospective PR Practitioners
How Pivots Prevailed for Prospective PR Practitioners

Leading up to their senior year, public relations students in the San Diego State University School of Journalism & Media Studies anticipated launching their own public relations campaign in the experiential capstone course.

However, fall 2020 semester looked a little different.

COVID-19 challenged these seniors to reevaluate their goals and handle crises faster than they thought possible. This capstone experience did not take place in the classroom. Instead, it forced these future practitioners to adapt to Zoom staff meetings, establish a relationship with the client online and find a way to pivot into the real world.

“This course comes with a warning and Dr. Sweetser was not exaggerating,” said Bailey Ucker. “As lead executive for this campaign experience, I managed tasks at lightning speed while using strategic communication initiatives with both the client and the team. This 16-week campaign forces us all to grow in order to make our mark on the public relations industry, whether we are ready or not.”

The fact that COVID-19 changed the look of this semester’s campaign, gave the seniors something in common with their real-world client, (X), a joint venture of the strategy execution expertise of Excelerate with the comprehensive strategic communication capabilities of (W)right On Communications.

(X) came to the team seeking to understand and engage with C-suite executives and become recognized as a thought leader within the industry.

The team conducted a national survey in order to create an insight report as the cornerstone tactic of their campaign.

Responses from 136 CEOs and leaders in a variety of industries proved (X)’s relevance and value to the marketplace. It was also an opportunity for the team members to think like corporate leaders by communicating with presidents, founders and directors in their survey sample.

The (X) team discovered important insights that correlated (X)’s services to real-life problems these CEOs faced. For example, just 22% of CEOs feel that their enterprises do a good job executing against strategic initiatives.

The team’s growth mirrored (X)’s dedication to streamlined communication and execution. Hours in the classroom transitioned into hours logged online. As this team of students worked to adjust to an online world, they also overcame the struggle of learning and working together to achieve their client’s objectives.

These students met new challenges and continued to align their communication and execution within the campaign. The team quickly learned to overcome silos and in sharing (X)’s strategy with the public, they adopted it themselves.

“A capstone course is challenging without a global pandemic,” said Dr. Kaye Sweetser, PHD APR+M, Fellow PRSA. “These future practitioners proved they can navigate the treacherous waters of crisis in real time, from campus closures to compressed timelines. They worked through it all, acting as wonderful representatives for the tenacity and professionalism that is the hallmark of our SDSU PR graduates.”

The was no grading curve needed for this team.

Building tactics around promoting the insight paper, the team planned and promoted a webinar and social media campaign.

The (X) team earned national recognition for their campaign through SalesTechStar and Cision’s PRWeb. The campaign also received local coverage through the Times of San Diego. The Public Relations Society of America, the world’s largest association for public relations professionals, notified members of (X)’s venture and webinar in their weekly roundup, further promoting (X)’s mission to industry professionals. They secured international coverage in Strategic Magazine.

“This capstone course is truly a group effort that has given us experience for what it’s like to work in public relations. It’s all about trusting those around you, relying on each other’s strengths and learning from each other,” said logistics lead, Kelsi Dugas.

Their time and efforts are seen in the work and results they were able to accomplish during the semester.

Watch out world, our pros can pivot.