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The pitch to Katherine Way

Student PR team reaps real-world reward for ideas sown in Communication classrooms

Ten students, two classes. Two semesters, one idea. One campaign, one Golden Image Award, several life lessons. In Jacksonville University’s Department of Communication where students pair classwork with real-life experience in award-winning practicums like Phin Communications, a student-run public relations and advertising agency, that’s called results.

The Florida Public Relations Association (FPRA) awarded a Judges’ Award in the 2018-19 Golden Image competition to Phin Communications for a project completed in Dr. Courtney Barclay’s Campaigns for Strategic Communication Class. The judges rewarded Phin Communications’ The POP! You Need campaign on behalf of Jacksonville Beach clothing designer Katherine Way for achieving maximum results with minimum funding.

“The students clearly put a lot of thought and work into creating a successful campaign and WOW! – Taking over the company’s IG (Instagram) during the campaign – what an example of trust and an amazing opportunity to build portfolio content,” one of the judges commented. “Your implementation was well thought out and aligned well with the brand and your target audience of traditional college-aged women. Loved that you selected campus influencers to include in your campaign – tying to the aspirational aspect of the brand’s messaging.”

Two different teams of students designed and executed the campaign during two of Dr. Barclay’s 2018-19 classes.

As part of a Public Relations Practices and Procedures class, students Tenesha Green ‘21, Hannah Murray ‘19, Janna Gaskins ‘21, and Vasco Sanders ‘21 developed the concept for “The POP! You Need” campaign on behalf of Katherine Way Collections.

The students intended to showcase the uniqueness of the brand, which features exclusive patterns, colors and designs released monthly to prevent two of the same clothing articles in the same event, a fashion phenomenon that’s put strangers at silent odds since the beginning of time. The team pitched the idea to Way as a way to attract the attention of college-aged women setting out to conquer the workforce and attend special events.

As part of Professor Barclay’s Campaigns for Strategic Communication class, Kamia Addison ‘21, Shea Morgan ‘19, Courtney Pugh ‘19, Jezabel Rosa ‘20, Christina Sumpter ‘20, and Janna Gaskins ‘21 formed Phin Communications to execute the “The POP! You Need” public relations campaign.

Phin Communications aimed to increase Katherine Way’s social media following and bring her products to the attention of a new audience: the college-aged woman. The campaign spanned five weeks, featuring contests, tabling events, and a pop-up shop and fashion show in The Kinne Center.

“The fashion show was invigorating honestly,” says Christina. “It was great to see women our age feeling confident in the product we wanted to market and telling students after the show that they genuinely liked the outfits. It was a lot of hard work, but ultimately the models were fantastic and gave the pop we needed.”

Katherine Way Collections is a faith-based brand that aims to create clothing that fits, flatters, and provides maximum comfort to the everyday woman. Her wrinkle-resistant, moisture-wicking resort wear line is suitable for all occasions.

Once the campaign and the class ended, Phin Communications members went their separate ways, having gained practical public relations experience, internship offers from Katherine Way and professional recognition of their work from FPRA.

“This is wonderful news — and perfect timing as we launch the new Strategic Social Media minor and certificate,” said Dr. Annmarie Willette, Jacksonville University Communication professor and director of the Center for Teaching and Learning. “I know this was a project that took a great deal of time and energy far greater than a traditional class requires. Thank you to Dr. Barclay for challenging our students and creating such an engaged learning experience for them.”

The Phin Communications’ campaign provides an example of how Jacksonville University professors strive to teach students outside the classroom and how they provide students with real-world experience beyond coursework. Jacksonville University determines class size by purpose rather than coincidence so that students gain both the knowledge and experience their career fields demand.

Phin Communications team member Shea accepted the Judges’ Award on behalf of all her colleagues earlier this week at the local FPRA chapter meeting.

“Accepting the award was touching coming from our state president. She read aloud our project excerpt and said how much she loved it along with the goals we set and our results,” she said. “We also received congratulations from all of the professional members of FPRA for the award. It was a really outstanding experience.”

By Kamia Addison