I have had (and am still having, for another 5 weeks) an incredible experience at Champlain College. In the school’s website description of its public relations program, it states that “As a student in one of the industry’s leading public relations programs, you’ll enjoy advantages other schools can’t provide. Our unique national reputation for excellence provides a wealth of opportunities for multiple internships, travel abroad, and enviable career placement at leading firms in public relations epicenters such as New York, Boston, and Washington, DC. And you’ll graduate with the skills necessary to take advantage of these opportunities.” I believe with all my heart that if I was at any other school studying the same major, I wouldn’t know half of what I learned at Champlain and I wouldn’t have nearly as much experience as I do. Sure, maybe I still would have completed one or two internships, whether or not this was required, but I definitely would have missed out on working with the many clients that I created public relations campaigns and marketing strategies for as a part of class assignments.
Beginning only my second year at Champlain, I designed a complete revamp of Lang House on Main Street’s internet marketing strategy. This began with extensive research on my part, in which I obtained an understanding of the bed and breakfast by looking at the situation and problem, the current state of its internet marketing, the business’s competition and target market, and a completed SWOT analysis outlining the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats of Lang House. From this data I set goals for what the business’s internet marketing should accomplish and I formulated specific recommendations. After about 13 weeks of work in the hardest and most demanding class I took at Champlain, I presented a 50-page report to the owner of Lang House with all of my insights and recommendations. This included: an analysis of the website and how it could be improved and better search engine optimized; step-by-step instructions for how to set up a blog and why this would benefit and humanize Lang House; a mock email newsletter and how this could attract and retain guests; and social media recommendations and concerns. I also analyzed Lang House’s paid marketing tactics and made recommendations for what advertising was beneficial and what was a waste of money, and new potential paid marketing tools (like a Google Adwords campaign and a Facebook ad). While some of the recommendations I provided were put into effect and others were not, the experience that I acquired from this extensive marketing plan was incredible.
Continuing on with the marketing experience I received at Champlain, I teamed up with Lund Family Center in my Nonprofit and Social Marketing Class to revamp the nonprofit’s social media strategy. With a teammate, I went through multiple social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Flickr, YouTube, and blogging, providing Lund Family Center with recommendations for how to successfully use these tools to target both volunteers and clients.
This past fall, I spent 3 1/2 months designing a year-long PR campaign for Ski Vermont. Ski Vermont wanted to increase awareness and participants of its 5th Grade Passport program, so I teamed up with 3 other classmates to increase the popularity of this amazing program. We based our campaign off of PR’s RPIE method (Research, Planning, Implementation, Evaluation). After extensive research similar to that conducted for Lang House (plus a survey sent out via social media that received 100 responses), my team began planning the campaign. We set goals and objectives for the year-long campaign. We developed strategies to meet these goals and specific tactics to support each strategy. We formulated PR collateral pieces to give to Ski Vermont, including a press release, blog sample, brochure, pitch letter, public service announcement, and viral video script. We brainstormed creative tactics to implement consumer-created content into the campaign and get 5th grade students involved. We left Ski Vermont with a full report on our findings and ideas, including a prospective budget and time line for the campaign, as well as the key performance indicators that should be used to evaluate the success of the campaign. Ski Vermont loved some of our ideas, especially useful information we incorporated into the campaign like the contact information for New England schools’ PTA’s and 5th grade teachers and the list of mommy bloggers to target messages to. Again, this campaign was incredible experience that I would not have obtained had I not been at Champlain.
I also gained a great amount of PR experience creating PR pieces for my parents’ business, Morning Star Perennials and Nursery (website is currently in the revision process). I designed a complete media kit for Morning Star Perennials, including: a fact sheet; backgrounder; bio; mock newsletter; brochure; pitch letter; and press release. Not only was this a great experience for me, but it also helped my parents out immensely and they are beginning to incorporate the PR pieces I designed into their business. For another class, titled Search Engine Optimization, I was required to choose an existing website and optimize its web presence. I again worked with Morning Star Perennials and Nursery, not only because it would benefit my parents, but the website needed a lot of help. I went through the website, page by page, and optimized every element. I formulated new text and added keywords, I added images and alternate text, I revised page titles, I reorganized the layout of interior pages, and I added new pages, including News Room and Stone Work Services.
This brings me to the second part of this post’s title: the things I learned to live without. I don’t have one bad thing to say about my program at Champlain. The mix of PR and marketing experience that I learned couldn’t have been better. However, the one avenue that I regret I did not gain experience in is web development and coding. HTML code is a completely foreign language to me. Apparently my mom thinks I can do anything and just assumes that I know coding, because after I compiled all of the content to optimize her website, she breezily responded, “Okay, so now you can put it online, right?” No, Mom, not quite. Knowing what a website should incorporate and being able to implement the content are 2 very different things. After having this same conversation numerous times over a few months and having to explain to my mom that I’m not as brilliant as she thought I was, I teamed up with Sarah Pelz to implement the coding. I supplied Sarah with all of the content I had created for the website and she began the site revamp, choosing to start the site from scratch, since the current format was so outdated. We’re still working on this collaboration, but the new website should be up and running very soon!
I don’t regret not having any introduction to web design. Yes, it would be a useful skill for me to have, but the good thing is I have a full toolbox of other useful skills pertaining to PR and marketing. I contemplated taking an intro to web design class as an elective at Champlain, but I veered in a different direction when I heard from numerous classmates that one intro class isn’t going to get me very far. If I really wanted to pursue this skill, I would have to take multiple classes to get a good grasp on web design. Although I will graduate from college with no experience in web design, there’s still plenty of time in my future to acquire this skill. My mom just needs to remember that until then, I should stick to the PR and marketing side of things.