Sunday, October 31, 2010

Taupo take 1 & Halloween in the halls!

Sunday morning, October 31st, we got up bright and early to grab a 5-minute breakfast before hitting the road at 8:15 a.m. for Taupo, a lakeside town, 2.5 hours south. Since Sam still had studying to do, Gabe, Erika and I were joined by our friend Izzy (a German girl who lives in the neighbouring residence hall) on our mission - skydive over New Zealand's largest lake!! I must say, not a bad way to spend Halloween (since it is hardly celebrated here, definitely not by U.S.-holiday standards).

Sadly, when we arrived in Taupo, it was too windy to skydive! The company was not taking people up, so while we waited to see whether or not the weather conditions would change, we found a fabulous park with lots of fun obstacle-course-type equipment to entertain us.

Go Gabe go!Next, we decided to hike the walkway to the Huka Falls, a little under an hour each way. The forest walk was beautiful, despite the rain that picked up on our way back.

Although we hung around all day, the relentless wind didn't lessen. We got lunch around 2, waited until the final 2:30 call to Taupo Tandem Skydive was a "no-go," and went to an AMAZING gelato shop to drown our sorrows in chocolate, dairy and waffle cones before heading back north to good ol' Hamilton.

Back by 4 p.m., we hurriedly got ready for our Bryant Hall Halloween-themed dinner - aka the usual Sunday night chicken, plus some fun decorations, lollies, orange and red jello with gummy snakes and other festive-coloured deserts. As holiday-crazy Americans, Erika and I felt the need to rep. our favourite spooky day by rocking fabulous wigs from the $2 shop in town, which we had purchased earlier in the week during a fun, yet mildly stressful afternoon, during which I left my camera on the shop shelf in the midst of the wig-trying-on craziness, and had to later collect it from the police station, upon its return by a good Samaritan.

Purple spider-web woman, a ferocious Gabe-tiger and Rainbow rock-star chick - Take 1:
Take 2:
Sam as Mustached jester-man:
Notice how no one else in the dining hall is dressed up:All except our friend Tyson aka THE HULK!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Hamilton "Gardens," sunshine & pumpkins

A few weekends ago on Saturday, October 16th, the sun finally decided to grace Hamilton so Sam, Erika & I made an adventure to the city gardens - one of Hamilton's "must-sees." We had a lovely time, frolicking through the park, rolling in the grass, playing some catch, sleeping in the sun and being our silly selves. Unfortunately, seeing as none of us had been there before, it turns out we did not make it into the actual gardens, just the lakeside park near the real entrance. How did all 3 of us miss the sign?! Regardless, we had an excellent time and will simply have to return to see the flowers in all their summer splendor.

Awkward zebra sculpture?:
"That is one confused zebra" - Erika

Sam doing a handstand in honour of Gabe, who was still at the BloKart worlds in Belgium:
The next week (Oct. 18 - 24th) was "study week," meaning no classes and lots of work. As I had no actual exams, I spent the time finishing my 3 large essays, trying to get them all done ahead of time so I could relax and hang out with Gabe when he got back the Monday of the first week of exams. Erika, Sam and I got into a nice routine of early breakfasts, work and movie nights :).

Gabe got back on Monday - Lightweight BloKart World Champ once again!! Erika and Sam still had studying to do, while Gabe and I had several fun days, enjoying the amazing weather, making a spontaneous Raglan beach trip on Tuesday and visiting the Hamilton lake on Wednesday.

Thursday morning the 4 of us made chocolate chip banana pancakes in Gabe's flat, followed by sugar-induced comas for everyone and studying for Gabe and Sam.

Friday Erika and I went shopping in town, Gabe had his first and only exam.

Saturday we continued working on our tans and then had a group pumpkin carving session, in honour of Halloween the following day - aka Erika and I endangered our lives by giving the boys knives. All of these days also included eating sickening amounts of candy corn (thank you Erika's mom!!)

Getting our carve on:
It got a little vicious:
Our lovely creations:
Yeeeyah pumpkins, do they look like us?:

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Life Updates of the Fab 4

Since it's been quite a while since I updated this ol' baby with everyday goings on.
Let’s fill you in...

This past week was our last week of classes. Next week is "study week," allotted for exam preparation, followed by two weeks of exams. As the marks for all 3 of my papers are based solely on internal assessment, I have no scheduled exams, just large projects to finish. Now, just 3 major essays stand between me and freedom. I realised that as of the end of August, I have been in school for over a year straight with a few two-week breaks thrown in. Once I buckle down and finish my PR case analysis of an animal rights campaign, which is advocating against the cruel factory farming stalls used by the pork industry, write an analysis of our "Caterpillar Campaign" using PR theory, and compose another essay about how weak states pose international relations security concerns, I will be home free!

Besides heaps of assignments and craziness in the past few weeks, especially with our PR campaign competition, I have just been enjoying my time, hanging out with my favourite people and trying not to think about how quickly the time is passing.

Now for some life updates:

Erika has spent countless hours rehearsing throughout the semester for her 2 Maori performing arts classes. On Wednesday night, Sam and I went to watch her end of the semester performance. Her class danced in one of five acts in a show that featured a variety of kapa haka (all types of dance) pieces. I was so proud :). She did wonderfully!! Especially, since she was one of five non-Maori students in a class of 60.

Erika is second from the right in the front row. The guy she is holding hands with on her right side is our good friend Logan, a fellow study abroader from Hawaii who goes to school in Oregon:

Front row, first on the right:

Erika wearing a fabulous moko (that's the paint on her chin..)

Oh so proud :)
just received official confirmation of his acceptance to UCSD for his exchange next semester! I'm thrilled because it means this won't be goodbye and we can reunite in San Diego in January! Time to start planning all the fun places to take him to, which of course means some choice beaches and fantastic Mexican food to welcome him to Southern California. Also, he has decided to participate in “Choptober” - aka starting from scratch and then growing out his side burns for an entire month to raise money for a chosen charity. All his donations will go to relief efforts to help those devastated by the Christchurch earthquake. Click here to check out his page and donate! Lets make sure he doesn’t grow a forest on his face for nothing… :)

No wonder he's got the nickname "Burns:"

Gabe has been gone for 1 week now, on his 2.5 week ADVENTURE around the world for the BloKart World Championships in Belgium. First, on the way, his family stopped in Hong Kong. Now, in Ostend, Belgium, races are scheduled from this past Wednesday through the weekend. Unfortunately, I guess the wind hasn't been too cooperative, so hopefully it will pick up and they can get some sailing in before the event ends! At least, he says he's enjoying the Belgian beer ;). On their way home, they'll be heading to Amsterdam, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles before making it back to NZ right in time for exams. Good luck Gabe, miss you!!

In other news, Erika, Sam and I all went and got our ears pierced (I evened out my set with a third hole on my left side to match the three I already have on the right. Erika got both of her third holes and Sam pierced his right ear, since he already had one on the left). So far so good... barely even sore (knock on wood).

Summer is sloooowwwwly coming to Hamilton (so much for getting those essays done). Right before Gabe left, we had a stint of 3 or 4 days that were absolutely beautiful, but apparently that was just a tease because, until yesterday, it had been rainy, windy and grey since. Although, when the sun shines, it SHINES. I'd heard rumours about the ozone hole above NZ, but didn't think it was actually possible to burn in 10 minutes, until last week. Don't worry, I've purchased sunscreen; no more neglected skin... I want to avoid tomato-status, thank you very much.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Our "Caterpillar Campaign" - The Chesterman Public Relations Campaign Award 2010!

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.

Coco the Caterpillar - aw isn't he cute? He's also a "squirt" toy (like the ones you play with in the bath):

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 the article about the competition on the University of Waikato website!

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)!

Monday, October 11, 2010

TGA & Runnin' Around at Waikato Rugby

Lets journey back a few weeks to the weekend of September 25, 2010 (I know this is a little outdated, but better late then never!). Friday evening, after an afternoon full of group project work (always a thrill *sarcasm*) I left with Sam, Erika for a much needed escape to Tauranga (the hometown of both the boys!). As I've mentioned before, we happened to make best friends with the two people who cannot leave Bryant hall at the same time (as they are the bosses - the senior R.A.s). Therefore, we had to leave Gabe behind for the night. But no worries, we reunited with him the next day... phew! We stayed at Sam's dad's house and had a fabulous meal prepared on the BBQ - sausages, chicken and other delicacies. Then, spent the evening hanging out, watching some rugby on TV, and got to meet his dad, step mom and little brother!

In the morning, Gabe met us bright and early at Sam's for round two - breakfast on the barbie (the grill, not Ken's gal), which included sausages, hash browns, bacon, eggs... the whole she-bang. Unfortunately, similar to the last time we came on a weekend visit to TGA, the weather was uncooperative, angry skies all the way. We had made ambitious plans to visit Kiwifruit country in nearby Te Puke, where, apparently, you can take tours of the kiwifruit orchards, climb a giant kiwifruit, and see "magical illusion taps" that looks like water is flowing upside down (no clue what people mean by this, seeing as didn't actually get to go).

Next, we had hoped to accompany Gabe to the BloKart track, where, after he and his brother had an interview with the local newspaper about their upcoming trip to the BloKart World Champs in Europe, we would be able to try BloKarting (since last time pretty much consisted of Gabe pushing us all around on a windless Raglan beach). Neither of these weather-dependent plans came to fruition, BUT we did have a lovely, lazy morning. Instead, Sam took us on a spontaneous driving tour of TGA. We stopped to watch some elderly folks play English lawn bowls, clad in their traditional white attire, visited TGA's historic village (a small colonial main street lined with the old, restored buildings), and another historic site: a "Pa" (battle site).

Fun fact (courtesy of Sam): The Maori people were the first to develop trenches! Atop the hill, where a battle plaque describes the mid-19th century clash between English settlers and Maori natives that took place there, you can see where the Maori used "Punga" (a prickly tree, similar to a spikier palm tree trunk) to line the sides of a trench, making it impassable by the enemy.

Erika and Sam doin' what they do best... lookin' creeepayy:

We finished off the afternoon with some hot chocolates for Sam and Erika and a flat white for me at a local cafe by the beach and delicious ice creams from Copenhagen Cones. I must say, we tend to have ice cream at the most inappropriate times. The gale winds and drizzle made it a bit chilly and threatened to make my ice cream gritty.

We were back by the late afternoon, in time to change and off to the rugby game that evening! Sam, as a referee for the Waikato Rugby Union, was invited to the flash Life Member function before the match, where he enjoyed a mean food spread and was excited by his name badge. I hitched a ride with Sam, arriving at the field at 5 pm before the 7:30 pm kick-off to meet up with the media/events management staff. Danelle, the events co-ordinator for the union, had spoken to a group of us MCSA (management communication) students a few weeks earlier about her job search and current position. She mentioned that anyone interested in her gig should feel free to contact her to attend a game and see how they run things on game night. I was interested.

Before the game, Danelle gave me a tour of the stadium, where I flashed my "all access" pass to see the whole venue, from press and print media rooms, to the announcer's booth, ritzy private function viewing boxes, and even the stadium entrance tunnel by the locker rooms etc.

Posing with Kate, another Waikato uni girl who currently has an internship with the rugby union:

During the game, I shadowed Danelle and her team, running around on the edge of the field, watching as they coordianted the pre-game show and half-time events, making sure that it all matched up with the TV crew's cues. At half-time, three fans from the "green zone" (aka the cheap seats, on the sloping grassy hill behind one of the end zones) were chosen to shoot t-shirts out of a potato-gun type canon. The person to land their rolled up shirt closest to a Waikato flag in the center of the field wins. Erika and Gabe had gone to the game as fans - two of the most spirited I must say. Since it was a rainy night, the green zone was pretty empty, but their lit it up with their painted faces and bubbly attitudes :).

Erika and Gabe, looking amazing! Go Waikato!

When Danelle mentioned choosing people from the crowd to shoot the canon, I mentioned my crazy face-painted friends. Gabe got a chance to shoot the cannon and won!! My favourite part was when the radio host interviewing him asked: "So Gabe, did you get any tips from watching the other two guys shoot the canon before you?" Gabe's reply: "shoot it UP." Hahah hmm... good idea. Also, when the gun backfired and Danelle jumped so high I thought she had a heart attack.

Gabe kicking some canon-shooting ass:

Long story short, the game was a blast. The media folks were fun to hang out with for the evening and Danelle was SO nice to show me around while she was trying to work at the same time! Sam looked fabulous in his suit and got to "shmooze" with rugby's elite. Erika looked amazing (albeit a bit cold, since it was freezing outside and she was in sandals!!) Gabe was very happy - and who wouldn't be after winning 2 free t-shirts and 3, 24-boxes worth of Waikato Draught beer. The night was a success! We got back before 10 pm, got ready, and had a fun time out on the town, where we danced until the lights came on :).