The big excitement of late was the culmination of my Public Relations Campaigns paper. A week ago, we finished our PR campaign proposal, which we have been working on the entire semester, for Parent to Parent, a not-for-profit organisation that provides information to families of children with disabilities and matches parents of newly diagnosed children with Volunteer Support Parents, who have children with similar conditions, so they can help them transition.
Our printed proposal includes our major secondary and primary research findings (from academic journals, studies and articles, face-to-face interviews with parents of children with disabilities, and email questionnaires of P2P's staff and doctors). Then, a thorough analysis of the public relations opportunities and problems, which leads to a specific campaign - from goals, to objectives, target public, message, slogan, and an action plan full of tactics. We included a fully researched budget, sponsors (plus a sample sponsorship proposal letter), a detailed timeline, and a media release for the campaign. Finally, we proposed methods of post-execution evaluation.
We then presented our ideas in class as a formal PR pitch to our lecturer and members of Parent to Parent. Since everyone develops a unique campaign for the same organisation, the top four teams are then chosen to compete for the Chesterman Public Relations Campaign Award! We made the top four, out of 14, and logged countless hours over the weekend to make needed changes to our proposal,incorporating critiques from our lecturer, and revamped our presentation for the competition night this past Thursday, October 14th. This is an important annual event for the Waikato Management School and the largest for the Public Relations major, with many of the faculty attending, along with friends, family, students, other guests and even several members of Parent to Parent, including the president and CEO.
It started at 530 p.m. with drinks and "nibbles,", before the full-on competition, which included all 4 teams presenting for 10 minutes each, followed by 10 minutes of answering tough questions from the 4 judges - Lisa Finucane, Head of Communications for the university and former president of PRINZ (Public Relations Institute of NZ); Alex Fear, representing PRINZ, Senior Communication Advisor from Dairy NZ who has worked for Pepsi and other major companies; Juliet Roper, a published professor from our management school (I had to read several of her articles for class!) and president of the Asia Pacific Academy of Business in Society; Rachael Quinn, from the 2005 winning team, who has held various PR positions in NZ and Britain.
Our PR team, LimelightPR, included myself (Account Director), Libby - a NZer from nearby Cambridge (Communications Advisor), Tracy - another exchange from China (Research Co-ordinator), and Emma (Media Advisor) and Juliette (Creative Director), also from Cambridge, who are both on the NZ national rowing team. They have been trying to complete their degrees part time for several years. It was a bit difficult at times trying to schedule meetings around their two-a-day practice schedules, especially the past few weeks (as the World Rowing Championships are just around the corner, 2 weeks away), but we managed!
As Parent to Parent only supports 3.05% of all families throughout New Zealand with children with disabilities, our campaign sought to increase the organisation's reach. To boost membership, we focused on paediatricians as the key link between parents of children with newly diagnosed disabilities and Parent to Parent (P2P). Since paediatricians usually diagnose children with a disability, they are the first possible referral source.
Our proposal is called "The Caterpillar Campaign," based on the theme of a caterpillar's transformation into a butterfly, with the slogan "Transform a life." Part of our action plan includes "rebranding" Parent to Parent with a new image, which incorporates a butterfly with their current logo. This positions P2P as a transformative force in the lives of parents, who are overwhelmed and struggling to cope with the unique challenges of parenting a child with a disability, health impairment or special need. The "Transform a life" slogan applies to all facets of the organisation - parents transforming each other through support, siblings supporting one another, and especially, for our campaign, paediatricians transforming a life by referring parents to P2P.
The new butterfly logo:
(Shh don't tell, I made this in Paint with my laptop touch-panel cursor! Took wayyy too long haha)
Our campaign centres on two packs. The first, the Caterpillar Pack, is given to the doctor by P2P to give to a family when they diagnose a child with a disability. It includes a new P2P brochure (designed by yours truly) :) and a squeezable, rubber, "Coco the Caterpillar" toy. This toy acts as a "fidget" toy to entertain the child while the paediatrician speaks to the parent at the crucial, stressful moment of diagnosis. A P2P sticker placed on the bottom of Coco will later remind parents to contact the organisation. Since paediatricians want to refer parents to support outside the office and wish they could give more than just daunting news, Coco will be something tangible they can give to the family to ease the diagnosing process.
The other pack, named the Paediatrician Pack, will be given to the doctor. It includes a single-panel, double-sided information sheet about P2P that highlights its credibility as a support organisation. We chose to emphasise the personalised, researched information packs that P2P provides to requesting parents, which cover over 3,600 conditions, because research and interviews show that parents often turn to the Internet when it comes to health, where they find confusion and misinformation, making the paediatrician's job that much harder. Paediatricians will also get a "handy" hand sanitizer that is attached to an extendible belt clip. The belt clip has a P2P sticker fixed to it to keep the organisation fresh in the doctor's mind.
P2P regional co-ordinators are tasked with forming a relationship with paediatricians in their area, located in NZ's 40 public hospitals, and scheduling a brief, face-to-face meeting where they give the paediatrician one Paediatrician Pack and 10 Caterpillar Packs for families.
The year-long campaign begins in January 2011. Once all the packs have been distributed to paediatricians, P2P will exhibit at the Paediatric Society of NZ's annual conference in late November as a final push to raise awareness of P2P in the health sector. At the conference paediatricians will be encouraged to fill out a short questionnaire about the campaign to give qualitative feedback. By doing so, they will be entered into a draw to win a 4-foot-long stuffed caterpillar toy that children can play with in their office waiting rooms.
The campaign also includes adding a "professionals"-specific page to the P2P website (currently being redesigned) that includes testimonials and will give paediatricians and other health sector professionals more information.
For our presentation, Emma dressed up in a phenomenal, home-made Coco the Caterpillar costume. We opened by explaining that Coco represents Parent to Parent and how our campaign can help P2P "transform" so the organisation can reach even more families with their powerful message of hope. We conversationally told Coco the steps (our action plan), which she should take to transform, and ended with Emma shedding her six-arm caterpillar suit and gaining wings to become a beautiful butterfly!
Emma, who's an Olympian single sculler, dressed as our Coco haha:
One of the other campaigns also chose paediatricians as their target public. Another proposed an initiative to reach out to the Maori community, and the other advocated an accreditation programme for primary schools to help them better serve children with disabilities inside the classroom.
After the presentations, we had tea and biscuits in the foyer, while the judges deliberated, and then the winning PR team was announced!
Drum roll please.... and the winner is.... LimelightPR! WE WON!!! :)
It was so amazing to see our 3 and a half months-worth of hard work pay off. Since most people chose their groups, I felt as though our team was a wild card, with the only two exchange students and the two rowers thrown together, but I was so proud of our campaign and thrilled that the judges felt the same. During the biscuit intermission, some of the women from Parent to Parent came up to me and said: "We think you should win, but even if you don't, we want you to know that you got us. We loved it." This gave me the chills. It's one thing to come up with an idea, but another to get such positive feedback from the actual organisation, who you are trying desperately to please and hoping that your research led you to the right decisions. It's really their opinion that matters and I'm so happy to be part of a campaign that might actually help this organisation, which provides such amazing support to families, reach and empower even more people throughout NZ.
And as an added bonus, I'll be bringing an engraved, wooden trophy home in my suitcase :). Our team picture will hang on the wall in the management school by the engraved plaque, which lists the winning teams for the past 8 years.
LimelightPR posing with the plaque :) (yes, we are sneakily helping Emma hold it with all six of her hands):
Click here to check out our full PR campaign presentation from the competition night, posted on the Waikato Management Communication website!
The next day, we were invited by Parent to Parent to present our campaign at their AGM, annual general meeting, in front of all of the regional co-ordinators who had flown in from all over NZ for the weekend's activities. As the rowers were rowing and Tracy had a terrible migraine :(, Libby and I went to represent the team. They played the video of our presentation from the previous night (this will be up online soon if you want to see it.. I'll blog about it when I see that it's been posted). Then Libby and I spoke about how we came up with the idea, explained the tactics in more detail, and answered questions. Again, we received very positive comments and were ecstatic that it was so well received. After a nice tea and chat break, the meeting continued and we headed home.
Obviously, this was an amazing way to end this semester's classes. I have learned so much about the public relations process while I've been in NZ and this project, especially, has made me even more passionate about entering the PR workforce next year (as frighteningly close as that time may be)!