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Preparing tomorrow’s leaders today for an integrated world

Pallavi Kumar, American University’s School of Communication

Campaigns such as REI’s #OptOutside, P&G’s #AlwaysLikeAGirl, and Honeymaid’s #ThisIsWholesome demonstrate how successful integrated campaigns can be to earn national media coverage

Pallavi Kumar, American University’s School of Communication


In pondering how to best prepare PR’s future professionals for the bold, ever-changing integrated world we now live in, I was fortunate to not have to look too far.

My PR portfolio class at American University’s School of Communication is the capstone for our public relations and strategic communication majors. For the past 10 years, students in my class have worked with some of the biggest brands and organizations in Washington, DC, and beyond, including Marriott Hotels & Resorts, Honest Tea, Newseum, Sony Electronics, Hilton Hotels & Resorts, LivingSocial, and, this semester, Cava, the Mediterranean fast-casual chain.

The class is divided into four “agencies,” and students work throughout the semester on an integrated plan to pitch to the client.

Recently, the class was working to fill out what I call “The Big Idea” template. As I walked through the assignment with my class, I emphasized how much the PR industry has changed. In the past, I never allowed my students to include any advertising and marketing tactics into their campaign ideas. To me that was considered cheating – anyone can buy an ad or host a giveaway. But now? It’s imperative that every campaign is integrated – and I require it for my students. PESO (paid, earned, shared, and owned) must always be top of mind in order to execute successful campaigns.

Below are some specific tips I’ve shared with my students for each of the four channels.

Paid. Learn how to use Google AdWords, AdRoll, Facebook Business, and other paid media tools. Many of these platforms offer free certifications. It’s also important to have a keen understanding of the KPI measures such as CTR, CPC, and CPA (cost per acquisition).

Owned. Think in terms of content creation for every campaign. This doesn’t mean everyone has to become a designer and editor, but it does mean future professionals should think like designers and editors. An understanding of HTML and CSS, as well as the capabilities of programs such as Adobe, are essential.

Having this understanding will make communicating with designers and editors more effective. And with the trend toward smaller one-stop shops, more and more future professionals will find that having multiple skillsets will make them coveted hires.

Earned. Campaigns such as REI’s #OptOutside, P&G’s #AlwaysLikeAGirl, and Honeymaid’s #ThisIsWholesome demonstrate how successful integrated campaigns can be to earn national media coverage. The ability to design campaigns that can lead to significant earned media will remain vitally important. Understanding how to craft a storyline and knowing whom to pitch it to remain important skills.

Shared. Professionals shouldn’t make assumptions that the millennial and Gen Z generations know how to use social platforms. Sure, this generation can snap and gram effectively on their own platforms, but can they do it strategically for a brand? Creating a social media content calendar, utilizing SMMT and SMMS such as Hootsuite, Sprout Social, and Buffer to manage multiple platforms, and understanding data analytics to measure success are the skills to focus on to integrate shared media effectively. And having good, concise writing skills creates strong social media content.

We are working hard to prepare tomorrow’s communication leaders – especially as integrated campaigns are the future. Learning these skills will guarantee that our students and other young professionals will have very bright careers in this bold, ever-changing integrated world.

Pallavi Kumar is assistant professor and division director of the public communication division at American University’s School of Communication.


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