Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Collaborations Help Best Educate PR Students

There's an old African proverb that I'm sure you've heard hundreds of times: It takes a village to raise a child. The idea is that you aren't an island, and the maturation process is best done by a community of people who care and have a vested interest in you. Well, I teach a class at Howard University that follows this same principle, and it does so with much success.

CapComm Lab is our capstone course. Students in the course are usually graduating seniors who are about to show the world exactly what they've learned during their time at Howard University. With "real clients" and "real deadlines," students are put to the challenge each day and must help serve their clients by establishing a strategic plan and working to meet specific objectives. The results and the successes are phenomenal. We can boast a long list of satisfied clients, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Student Press Law Center, Amtrack and Children's National Medical Center.

The most important aspect of the class is the "team teach" component. We work with some of the world's top advertising and strategic communication firms to help teach our students the proper ways to serve a client. Past firms include APCO Worldwide, Ketchum, GMMB and Burson-Marsteller. Last semester, we had the privledge of having Weber-Shandwick/Powell Tate. Not only did highly qualified and influential members of the staff come to the university to teach almost every week, some traveled from as far away as California just to deliver an hour lecture. Now, that's a commitment to help the best truly become the best.

While collaborating with a firm is not unusual for us, Weber-Shandwick/Powell Tate created the opportunity for us to serve one of their trusted clients, Bank of America. Students created mock strategic plans and tactics to help the bank improve its image. This added teaching exercise was a bonus experience that pushed students to not just work to satisfy their assigned clients, but work to help foster better communication between a major financial institution and its customers.

I am proud to say Bank of America was also delighted with the students' work, and you can see a bit of the background of the project below.

Weber Shandwick - Howard University from weber shandwick on Vimeo.

Ultimately, developing bright young minds can't be left in the hands of one person. It should be done in a collaborative atmosphere where seasoned professionals work strategically to share lessons learned and best practices. I want to personally thank Weber-Shandwick/Powell Tate and Bank of America for helping us do it and do it well.