As an advertising & public relations student at GVSU, I’m constantly looking to gain real-world experience through my program. While I’ve taken several classes at the university that provide those experiences, this past semester, I got as close to the real world as I can get, with an actual client.
Annually, the American Advertising Federation hosts a competition that includes close to 100 colleges and universities around the U.S, known as the National Student Advertising Competition (NSAC), who compete to create a multi-touchpoint campaign for a client.
NSAC is the premier college advertising competition that provides more than 2,000 college students the real-world experience of creating a strategic advertising/marketing/media campaign for a corporate client. This year’s client may have been one of the most exciting clients in recent history, Tinder.
Grand Valley has been very successful in previous years, placing 4th nationally in the 2020 competition. This is due to the amazing lead of Advisor and Ad professor, Robin Spring, and the very talented students she recruits.
More than a Competition
In August of 2020, I was selected to be one of the two Account Executives on the team. It was my job to understand the client’s goals and lead the team through a very rigorous campaign.
Our team was divided into smaller teams that focused on different elements of the campaign including media, strategy, creative, and integrated promotions. Through extensive ideation and communication, we collaborated to create a campaign that exceeded Tinder’s expectations. Our team’s dedication and perseverance was so powerful that our team made it through the district and semi-finals, to advance to the national round, which included just 8 of the 95 teams that competed this year.
While our team did place 7th at nationals, I couldn’t be prouder of our team’s success. We overcame many obstacles, including the virtual barriers due to COVID-19.
But NSAC wasn’t just a competition for us. We gained real-world experience while building lifelong friendships. While I will be competing again this fall, this team was incredible, and I am confident all of my team members will be successful at whatever career path they choose.
The Role of PR in NSAC
The team members that participate in NSAC come from different programs to create what I like to call a “super team.” The team included students from Advertising, Graphic Design, Film & Video, and Public Relations.
As a PR emphasis student, I was skeptical about joining the team, worried I would stray away from my career pursuit as a PR Specialist, but that was far from the truth. Because of these experiences, I enhanced several of my skills in PR, including leadership, interpersonal communication (especially listening), and campaign management.
On the other hand, plenty of my experiences from prior classes in the program translated to NSAC, such as my knowledge of media planning, and how to formulate a campaign from scratch. Potentially the most impactful skill that benefited me was public speaking, as I was also on the presentation team.
I asked Professor Spring about the role of PR students on the team, she said, “Public relations is always part of the NSAC mix. Our challenge is to create a fully integrated communication campaign that speaks to our audience and meets/exceeds our client’s objectives.” She also touched on how the different programs interlace, “Advertising and Public Relations go hand-in-hand in an integrated approach and that is the beauty of our program!”
The biggest takeaway for me was learning how versatile and diverse public relations can be, yet professionals in the field still rely on the fundamentals. PR is constantly changing through the advancement of technology and social media, but what has always been consistent is the importance of building and maintaining relationships, which is ultimately the core value of the field.
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