Eleven nonprofits. 85 students. 2,040 hours. $59,600 in donated work. Capstone Agency CreateAthon was a 24-hour medley of hard work, sleep deprivation and unforgettable memories. The PRSSA executive board shares their favorite moments from the marathon.
President: Bethany Corne
CreateAthon is the only time that I get excited about pulling an all-nighter in Reese Phifer, the building for UA’s College of Communication and Information Sciences. It combines my love of so many things—public relations, community service, junk food and, most of all, coffee. My favorite memory from my second CreateAthon is also one of my favorite memories from my lifetime: celebrating my 22nd birthday surrounded by my PR friends. We danced, sang and posed photos right as the clock struck midnight. If that doesn’t scream “great agency culture,” I don’t know what does. It is a memory that I will cherish forever, and I am so thankful to the Capstone Agency and CreateAthon for providing me with this experience.
Firm Director: Maret Montanari
Going into this year’s CreateAthon, I knew it would be hard to top last year’s. Working as a strategist on the Alabama Writers Conclave client team was an incredible experience, but I was looking forward to assisting with this year’s event in a different capacity—with the leadership team. I was able to see all of the awesome work our 11 teams created from start to finish. It was inspiring to see 85 students donate 24 hours of their free time to the greater good and impact nonprofits. But the agency is not stopping there, and now, the bar is set even higher for next year’s CreateAthon.
Vice President of Chapter Communications: Anna Claire Toxey
Meeting new friends, eating way too much junk food and cuddling with the cutest puppy ever were just a few of the many highlights of my CreateAthon experience. However, if I had to choose only one favorite moment, it would be seeing our client’s reaction at the end of our presentation. Creating work that pleases a client can be hard sometimes, especially when you’re trying to do it in 24 hours, but to see the look of sheer gratitude and appreciation on his face when he saw what we had created for Family Counseling Service made the exhaustion and sleep deprivation well worth it.
Vice President of Community Service and High School Outreach: Elizabeth Driver
CreateAthon has to be one of my favorite memories from this semester. I enjoyed working with the Tuscaloosa Metro Animal Shelter on its “Foster First” campaign, which aims to promote the organization’s fostering program. The best part of CreateAthon was meeting other agency members that I don’t usually work with. Our team became so close, especially after our three-hour brainstorming session. I am so proud of what our team accomplished in the 24-hour period, and it was all worth it! TMAS is already implementing our campaign on social media.
Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion: Emily Hillhouse
Heather, Anna Claire and I went ghost hunting for Clarence, the ghost of Reese Phifer, at 3 a.m, but we ended up getting distracted by all the other teams and what they were working on. Unfortunately, we never made it up to his room. But, my absolute favorite part was getting to work together with people I don't work with every week!
Vice President of Finance and Membership: Skylar Spencer
Serving as CreateAthon’s marketing and PR coordinator, I really enjoyed getting to capture the event’s excitement and madness on Capstone Agency’s Twitter and Instagram accounts. Aside from this, being locked inside of Reese Phifer for 24 hours with the best and brightest 85 people I know—through the random bursts of energy and zombie-like exhaustion—was by far my favorite and most cherished part of CreateAthon!
Vice President of Marketing: Heather Griffith
Since I was on the leadership team, I wasn’t assigned to one specific client team. Throughout the night, I was able to spend time with different teams. My favorite part of CreateAthon was being able to hop around from room to room and see all the amazing work the teams were doing. Everyone was so dedicated to providing the best work possible for each nonprofit, and it was incredible to see how passionate everyone was.
Vice President of Publication: Hope Todd
There were so many great moments during CreateAthon—most of which involved chicken tenders and CookOut milkshakes. However, the most incredible moment of the event was being able to show our work to the client, Boys and Girls Club of West Alabama. Speaking with its directors showed me that what we were working on was bigger than ourselves. Being able to help BGC’s cause definitely made 24 sleepless hours worthwhile.
Vice President of Social Media: Katrina Waelchli
Since this is my first semester in the agency, I immediately wanted to engage in CreateAthon to meet new people and gain experience working collaboratively with a client. I had such an enjoyable time working with my team and our client, Tuscaloosa Metro Animal Shelter. My favorite moment from CreateAthon is when my team and I picked our tagline for the campaign: “You are the first step to their forever home. #FosterFirst.” It took us a three-hour brainstorming session, several cups of coffee and help from our faculty adviser, Mrs. Henley. It was a moment of accomplishment for our team, and really catapulted the thought process for the rest of the campaign creation. Foster First, everyone!
Vice President of Web Based Communications: Alyssa Comins
I had such a good time working with my client, FOCUS on Senior Citizens. Being able to interact with people in the agency that I don’t often have the opportunity to work with was a great experience. My favorite part about CreateAthon was seeing all our hard work come together at the end. In the wee hours of the morning, it felt very disorganized and hectic. However, when we finished our communication plan and deliverables, I realized what a great finished product we had for our client. It’s amazing what you can accomplish in just 24 hours, and I love knowing our work can help FOCUS on Senior Citizens deliver great services to the Tuscaloosa community.
I think it’s safe to say that the first year in any major is stressful for most students. It’s a time of navigation, and learning just what classes, skills and extracurricular activities you need to truly set yourself apart from the rest of the crowd. It’s hard to figure things out right away, but from someone who has been there, here are a couple pieces of advice to help you along the way as you enter the world of public relations.
1. Learn the basics.
Learn the basics and learn them as soon as possible! You might not know what I mean by the basics, but you will soon realize as every public relations student does, that the basics usually refer to your AP Style and Adobe Creative Suite skills. Sure, every University of Alabama student has to take APR 300 and APR 332 at some point in their PR coursework; but trust me, the sooner you immerse yourself in learning these essential skills, the better you will be at them. Take some time to create simple designs in Photoshop or InDesign. Use AP Style even when writing emails or informal assignments. These may seem like simple practices, but looking back I wish I had known just how important these skills were at the start of my PR journey.
2. It’s never too early to get involved.
“I’m not ready” and “I don’t have the qualifications” were just two of the many excuses I would give myself to justify not getting involved my first year in PR. I was overwhelmed by the students around me who seemed to have the best internships, the best officer positions in clubs and the best résumés. But looking back, I realize that you don’t have to be the “best” starting out. You simply need an eager spirit and a willingness to learn. Don’t think that just because you haven’t had an internship or you are only in your second PR class means that shouldn’t apply for something. Go for it! Take a chance and you just might be surprised at what happens.
3. The title isn’t important.
This was one of my biggest misconceptions starting out in PR. I thought that if my job and officer positions didn’t have the words “public relations,” “communications” or “intern” in the title that they were basically useless. Let me just say that I was so very wrong in having this viewpoint. It only took me a short amount of time to realize that any experience you can get as a student is valuable. Focus on finding any opportunity you can to write, enhance your design skills and perfect your overall communication skill set. Potential employers want to see that you adapted to situations and used your skills in settings that weren’t specifically PR positions. It truly isn’t the title that is important. It’s all about the work and practice you are getting.
4. You need a mentor.
Out of all the things I wish I had known, this one is certainly at the top of the list. It wasn’t until my second year in PR that I realized just how desperately I needed someone to guide me — someone to answer my questions, to give me advice and to simply just be a friend. Whether it is through the UA PRSSA Peer Mentoring program, the Oakley Society or any other mentoring program, I can’t stress enough how invaluable it is to have someone guide you. Having a mentor will not only help you while you’re still in school, but it also can lead to future job connections, recommendations and relationships that are vital to your future success.
Although I could go on and on about the things I wish I had known when first embarking on my PR journey, I would say that these are the most important. Don’t be afraid to take chances and never stop perfecting your skills. If you can do these things, you’re already headed down a successful path as a PR student.
By Anna Claire Toxey, VP of Chapter Communications
With its star-studded cast, catchy soundtrack and less than favorable reviews from critics, "The Greatest Showman" has become one of the most talked about movies this awards season. The original musical paints P.T. Barnum as a idealist visionary who, while dangerously ambitious, provides a community for social outcasts in his quest for success. At its core, the origin story of “the greatest show on earth” is a feel-good family musical rather than a historical biopic, which has led to criticism that its message of empowerment comes off as empty.
Whatever your thoughts are of its message, "The Greatest Showman" appeals to communicators by portraying not only the complicated P.T. Barnum’s insatiable need to entertain, but also how he spreads messages, deals with the press and attracts audiences. Here are just a few examples of what public relations students can take away from "The Greatest Showman":
Evolving communication methods and skills
At the beginning of the film, Barnum advertises his “museum of curiosities” on the streets of New York City by passing out flyers to people who proceed to throw them on the ground. After adjusting his business model, Barnum’s first success comes when people quickly seize his flyers calling on those with odd features or talents to audition for his show. Barnum understood these flyers attracted attention because they were different, and for the rest of the story he strives to present his show as one-of-a-kind. He takes this lesson to the extreme by exaggerating the truth, leading to criticism from the press. As he gains success and attracts audiences from differing socioeconomic classes, moviegoers get to see Barnum’s public relations skills evolve from doing whatever it takes to get attention to trying to navigate communications pitfalls and manage the narrative surrounding his show.
Identifying a need
Barnum has an epiphany when he realizes all people have a natural yet hidden desire to look at unusual people. While there is an ethical dilemma over Barnum’s ideas on exploitation, in offering those cast off from society a chance to control the narrative and stand before those who stare at them in secret, Barnum simultaneously fulfills a previously unmet need for his publics. In general this idea of identifying a need that is not being met and then meeting it is an important principle in public relations and a crucial skill in helping clients gain business, traction in the media and more.
The relationship between public relations practitioners and journalists
While Barnum is not in the public relations business by practice, he serves as his business’s primary communicator. When his show gains traction and attracts the press, we see a budding antagonist in James Gordon Bennett, a journalist who criticises the show for being fake and low-brow. Throughout the film, Barnum and Bennett bicker back and forth. Bennett strives to deliver an unbiased account of a show he finds ridiculous, while Barnum, who sees all publicity as good publicity, keeps inviting him back to shows. They share several conversations throughout the film that humorously depict the relationships between journalists and those trying to utilize earned media.
These three broad takeaways highlight how many of the themes explored in the story reflect issues and skills important in the public relations industry. Amidst the hype and theatrics of the film, public relations students at the very least can expect to be entertained at how much they can apply from "The Greatest Showman" to their own lives and future careers.
By Emily Hillhouse, VP of Diversity and Inclusion
This past fall, 32 NFL teams began training camp with a quest to win one of the most famous trophies in sports: The Vince Lombardi Trophy. Twelve teams qualified for a spot in the playoffs by the end of December. As we approach Feb. 4, there are still two teams with a chance to become Super Bowl champions: the Philadelphia Eagles and the New England Patriots. While the Patriots are the favorite to win on the field, let’s take a look at the matchup from a brand standpoint.
When it comes to primary logos, both teams could make improvements by going back into history. The “Soaring Eagle” and the “Hiking Patriot” are both classic logos, and upgrades from what each team has now. However, both of their current logos have stood the test of time from their debut in the 90s.
The Eagles rebranded in 1996 and dropped its eagle soaring through the sky holding a football as prey, in favor of a modernized, white and grey, angry eagle face. The biggest loss was the change from a bright and vibrant “kelly green” to a darker “midnight green.”
The Patriots, on the other hand, had a revolutionary war soldier hiking a football from 1961-1992. It was a hand-drawn masterpiece, but it was replaced by what is often referred to as “Flying Elvis,” in an effort to modernize the team and bring it into the new millenium. The team adjusted its colors in 2000 to what we see now. Its most recent improvement in 2013 was an update to the wordmark found on the jerseys and in the endzones.
Put side by side, the Eagles’ logo is fiercer and flows better with its uniforms.
The Verdict: Eagles
Just like their logos, each team’s uniforms have suffered in the name of “modernity.” Although this has given us some fantastic throwback jerseys over the last few years, it has ultimately left us with disappointing and dull current uniforms. Just like the logos, both uniforms have remained almost unchanged since they were rolled out in the 90s.
During the 70s and 80s, the Eagles wore fantastic, vibrant kelly green uniforms, but the logo change brought on a new “midnight green” color scheme. Although this was a downgrade, the team kept its strongest uniform feature: the wings of the eagle on the helmet. Unlike most NFL teams, the Eagles don’t use the team’s primary logo on the side of their helmets. Instead, the team’s helmet design features a dynamic image of an eagle’s wings coming from the front of the helmet, contrasted nicely with the primary eagle logo on the shoulders of the jerseys. This gives the Eagles of one the best helmet designs in the league. The negative thing about its uniforms is the number font, which seems out of place with the rest of the design, but color change aside, it’s a good look.
The Patriots used to have white helmets and pants and a clean red jersey that had simple shoulder stripes. These uniforms have made their way back on the field a few times in throwback fashion. Although it didn’t make much sense to have the “Patriots” wearing red when the British army was the “redcoats,” it was still a timeless design. The move to silver helmets and more striping on the sides fit well in the early 2000s, but appears cluttered today. Don’t expect the superstitious Patriots to change anything while Brady, Belichick and Kraft are still in power, though. The team has won five Super Bowls with this current set, and it’s wearing white on this upcoming Super Bowl Sunday thanks to its undefeated Super Bowl record in the road uniforms.
The extra piping under the arms really subtracts from the Patriots look, while the wings on the helmet give Philly an edge.
The Verdict: Eagles
The NFL has done a fantastic job of building its brand as a league, to the point of taking over baseball as “America’s pastime” (according to Bloomberg Politics poll, 67 percent of Americans consider football as “America’s pastime,” while only 28 percent say baseball still is). Individual teams have benefited greatly from this trend and have built their own individual identities, uniting cities, states and sometimes even entire regions around a group of men playing a game.
Longevity is a vital part of building a brand. The Eagles have been around for a long, long time. Founded in 1933, the team has been a staple of Philadelphia and of the NFL. Counting this upcoming game, it’s been in two Super Bowls and won the NFC east division 13 times, but its players are still searching for their first Super Bowl win. Lincoln Financial Field, the Eagles’ stadium, is regarded as one of the most hostile environments for away teams and fans in the league. Compared with many other franchises, the Eagles have something to be incredibly proud of.
But, even better for a brand than longevity is sustained success. The Patriots have essentially been the benchmark of that for the last 15+ years. The team has now appeared in 10 Super Bowls, winning five of them and looking for a sixth ring, even though it was founded almost 30 years later than the Eagles. The Patriots’ identity is forged by no-nonsense characters like Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, who are never content with current success. Belichick is famous for his short and usually not sweet interactions with reporters, almost appearing robotic at times. He also coined the mantra that inspires his team, “Do Your Job,” encouraging players and coaches within the organization to stay focused on what they have to do each week and not worry about anything else. The organization has built a loyal fanbase in the New England area, which makes the entire region feel connected to what happens in Foxborough, Massachussetts, on Sundays during football season.
The name “New England Patriots” carries with it a heavy weight among the NFL that “Philadelphia Eagles” simply doesn’t. It is hated, but respected.
The Verdict: Patriots
Whether through Twitter, Instagram or a website, it is vitally important to connect with your targeted audience and develop a voice for your organization digitally. For fans who are unable to watch a game, getting live game updates on Twitter might be just what they need. A well-designed gameday graphic could inspire someone to tune in and watch the team play. A website that’s easily navigated can push someone toward buying a favorite player’s jersey. It’s incredibly important for teams to have consistent, coherent and creative messages across all platforms.
The official website of the Eagles, philadelphiaeagles.com, is clean, but bland at first glance. It lacks good design, but it is well-organized. On Twitter, the Eagles have built a unifying rally cry, “Fly Eagles Fly,” into a hashtag, boosting fan interaction. On Instagram, what it lack in graphics, it makes up for in incredible photography, but the communication team could afford to add in a few graphics to give its posts a flow.
The Patriots website, patriots.com, is very well-designed. The content is intriguing, with a “lifestyle” news section and a “locker room celebrations” video section. This shows another side of the players that you don’t get to see on the field. The best part of the team’s digital footprint is the “Not Done Network," which delivers non-stop coverage of the team leading up to the Super Bowl, with content on the website, Twitter Live, Facebook Live and YouTube. The continuous coverage gives people the ability to consume as much as they want to, and brings media across several different platforms. On Twitter, the Patriots created the hashtag “#NotDone” specifically for the playoffs, although it’s not as well-known as “#FlyEaglesFly.” Its Instagram account has solid photography, but also mixes in the right amount of graphics.
The design across all platforms and the creation of the “Not Done Network” give the Pats an edge over “Fly Eagles Fly.”
The Final Verdict:
While the final score will decide the best team on the field, it’s ultimately up to the individual to judge between these two brands. The Super Bowl is a special event that brings in the whole world, connecting over 100 million people who are watching the game, the commercials or just Justin Timberlake’s halftime show. There are many groups of fans who will simply root against the Patriots in every game, and many more want to see the underdog get the upset. As the game plays out, try to think deeply about the lessons that can be learned about the brand and voice of a sports organization, while enjoying the reactions of people at watch parties and on Twitter.
Soak everything in this Super Bowl Sunday.
By Hudson Nuckolls, Capstone Agency Assistant Firm Director
MSL, one of the world’s leading public relations and digital communications agencies, is looking for candidates with strong writing, communication and social media skills.
This is an 8-12 week paid internship in a specific practice (corporate, consumer or digital). Project opportunities range from traditional media relations and content development to social media content creation and event management, among others.
More information about the MSL Atlanta summer internship program, as well as an application link, can be found here.
The deadline to apply is Friday, February 16.
All blogs are written by general members of UAPRSSA and Capstone Agency.