When Weber Shandwick needed summer interns, company executives didn’t want to settle for anything less than the best students in the country. So the global public relations firm teamed up with PRWeek magazine and sponsored a nationwide contest for college students to develop a milk advertisement for their client. The grand prize? A cool $5,000 and a paid summer internship.
In January, five finalists were flown in to New York to present the ideas behind their campaigns before a panel of judges. YOUNG MONEY caught up with the finalists for the 411 on the strategies and secrets behind their success:
1. EXPERIENCE IS EVERYTHING
Andrew Favreau, a senior at DePaul University in Chicago, recommends actively seeking out internships, competitions and other ways to gain professional experience in college. “I’ve seen a lot of my friends graduate and have difficulty getting jobs because they didn’t have real-life skills,” he said. “From my first year at DePaul, I have looked for ways of gaining experience in my field.”
2. KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE
Andrew says his campaign was a success because he identified who he was trying to reach: mothers and kids. Once he did that, he searched for a spokesperson who would appeal to both age groups, and ended up with singer Shania Twain.
3. ASK PEOPLE WHAT THEY WANT
“Before you go ahead and do anything, it’s important to find out what people want,” says Jason Carlton, a senior at Weber State University in Ogden, Utah. And that’s just what he did. Carlton polled 150 high school students to find out who their favorite spokesperson would be, and used their choice – Harry Potter – as the theme of his campaign.
4. USE VISUALS
Carlton said using visuals to present ideas helps people imagine the final product. In his presentation before the judges, he said “it showed them how my idea would work. It wasn’t [me saying] this is an idea, now you guys go ahead and do it. It was very detailed.”
5. PRACTICE YOUR PRESENTATION SKILLS
Sasha Hlozek, a senior at Boston College, said that the public speaking class she took in college gave her confidence in front of the judges. “The way you present something is the way it stays in people’s minds,” she said. “If the presentation is weak, then even if the product is good it may not be as appealing.”
6. GET PEOPLE INVOLVED
Hlozek’s campaign centered on a celebrity basketball game and a musical milk contest where teens were required to write lyrics about the health benefits of milk. She says getting people involved sparked interest in her campaign.
7. USE YOUR IMAGINATION
Michael Dorff, a senior at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, proposed a campaign that integrated images of milk in music, movies, fashion and art. “You’ve got to think of something new and alternative ways to achieve your goals,” he said. But that doesn’t mean allowing creativity to throw caution completely to the wind. Dorff said it’s always important to do research beforehand in order to figure out what has and hasn’t worked in the past.
8. SET GOALS
Dorff believes it’s important to set goals at the beginning of a project because “once you decide what it is you want to achieve, all your strategies and tactics are taking you in the same direction. Your goals must be specific and measurable, so you can evaluate how successful you were at the end.”
9. GIVE PEOPLE THE FACTS
Keyana Williams, a senior at Howard University in Washington, D.C., said it was particularly important to convey facts in her campaign because “teens don’t like to be told what to do.” So she decided to give them the reasons why they should drink milk and allow them to make the decision for themselves.
10. BE PREPARED FOR ANYTHING
Williams really wishes she’d known how many calories are in an 8 oz. glass of milk. A Fortune magazine reporter asked her about it as part of an interview done during the finalists’ competition. “It’s really important to have all of the information available on what you are talking about,” she said. “Be prepared for anything.”
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