Reflecting on our service-learning partnership with Fellowship Church: What we learned as public relations seniors

By: Jordan Churchman

(Red Stick PR members reflecting on the semester. Video courtesy of Red Stick PR).

As the semester comes to an end Red Stick PR members reflect on what we have accomplished and the knowledge we have gained. One of the most important aspects of our campaigns class this semester was the service-learning component. Through this component, we were able to work directly with our client, Fellowship Church, to facilitate its needs and help further its personal goals.

Louisiana State University’s Center for Community Engagement, Learning, and Leadership, CCELL, offers students and faculty a way to engage in service-learning and community-engaged research. We believe that service-learning is one of the best tools that students can utilize while at LSU. It allowed us to gain accountability, timeliness, professionalism and integrity. When working with a real client responsibilities become a reality.

This past weekend, Fellowship Church South Ascension and Red Stick PR held “Planting Our Appreciation,” a teacher appreciation event centered on the theme of Earth Day, which occurred the next day. The members of our agency planned and organized every aspect of the event. With event planning there are always unexpected hurdles that require people to think outside of the box.

One hurdle we came across was our client’s weak online presence. In the digital age one of the most effective ways to market an event is online through social media sites, website and blogs. Fellowship Church South Ascension shares a website and Facebook page with the main Fellowship Church campus in Prairieville, La. The church has a Twitter account, but Fellowship Church has only posted six tweets since it was created on August 22, 2012. To compensate for this weak online presence Red Stick PR and our client, Todd Blount, posted about the event on our personal Facebook pages, the church Facebook page, the church website, emailed invitations to local schools, delivered fliers to those schools and sent out press releases to the following local media:

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(“Planting Our Appreciation” news release. Photo courtesy of Red Stick PR)

Journalist Rich Brooks offers more helpful event promotion tips in his article “12 Ways to Market Your Event with Social Media.” In the article Brooks said “Whether you’re planning a real-world event (like a conference, tweetup or political gathering) or a virtual event (like a webinar or teleclass), social media can be an inexpensive, cost-effective way to build buzz, fill seats and turn a one-off gathering into a recurring event.” One of the more obvious but sometimes forgotten tips is to use a hashtag. Coming up with a unique hashtag specific to an event can help track the conversation and build event awareness. Because Fellowship Church’s Twitter has not built up a following yet this idea could not be utilized. Red Stick PR is working on a social media plan to help our client utilize its online profiles in a more efficient and engaging way.

Another hurdle we came across was The Midterm cancelling its live performance at the event three days before it was scheduled. Instead of panicking we worked with Todd to secure a backup source of music to keep attendees entertained. We ended up hooking up an iPod to some speakers and played music throughout the entire event. It ended up working out and taught us to be resilient.

As you can see in the video Fellowship Church South Ascension was pleased with the outcome of the event. Community members who were not a part of the church attended and got some great information about the church and its mission. “Planting Our Appreciation” was FCSA’s most successful event they have put on since breaking away from the large, main campus. We are very proud of the outcome, and we could not have done it without working so closely together as an agency and with our client.

One of our course learning outcomes is to create a campaign plan book that reflects mastery of the public relations process. We are currently in the process of putting our campaign book together. We have spent the past week writing and revising drafts for the book and will continue this process.

Another course learning outcome is to develop and refine a hard copy and digital portfolio. Each group member is currently in the process of creating her own portfolio. We are using Weebly to create our digital portfolios. These portfolios will highlight the professional work we have created and contributed to while we were students at the LSU Manship School of Mass Communication. These portfolios will help us stand out as individuals when we start applying for jobs and receiving interviews.

For more information on Fellowship Church or to monitor its progress via other sources, check out the website or Facebook. For more information on me, please check out my LinkedIn profile account. Thanks for reading.

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12 comments on “Reflecting on our service-learning partnership with Fellowship Church: What we learned as public relations seniors

  1. rhebe48 says:

    I agree with your comment on service-learning, it really is one of the best things that students can use while at LSU. It teaches you a plethora of things that you cannot gain elsewhere.

    Wow, Fellowship Church has only posted six tweets since their Twitter account was created almost a year ago? That is crazy. From my personal experience, I have dealt with similar situations where companies, organizations, etc. still do not see the value of social media. But, once they realize the importance of social media, there is usually no turning back.

    Check out this website about how social media can spur organizational transformation: http://www.forbes.com/sites/ciocentral/2012/12/17/how-social-media-can-spur-organizational-transformation/.

    I could not agree more with Brian Solis, the principal analyst at the Altimeter Group, on his thoughts about social media in the website above. He remarks that executives really do not get social media. But, we cannot blame them for not knowing when they do not use any of these platforms on their own.

    Well, it seems like the event was a hit! Yes, you all may have hit a few roadblocks, but that is expected to happen. It is how you go about handling them that really matter, and it seems like you all had no problem with that.

  2. mcglobal360 says:

    First, Congratulations on a successful event! It was great to see the feedback from your client in the video. It seems that Fellowship Church was very pleased with everything you accomplished.

    It is great to see that you have boosted Fellowship Church’s social media presence over the course of your campaign. I completely agree that it is extremely important to have your social media well maintained in this digital age. Did Red Stick ever do anything with Fellowship’s Twitter? Facebook is still the most popular social media platform, but Twitter could be great for the church. Twitter allows for great two-way communication and facilitates conversation better than Facebook. Hopefully, you all will leave Fellowship Church some sort of direction for their future Twitter use.

    I noticed that you had to deal with a pretty significant set back for your event. A band canceling–anyone canceling for that matter–can cause a lot of stress for you as the coordinators. That is why it is always important to have a back plan for every aspect of your event. Red Stick was obviously on top of it, though. It may not have been live music, but it definitely better than nothing at all.

    Red Stick seems to have set Fellowship Church in the right direction. If they continue with the plan you all have set in front of them, I think they will continue to see a lot of success.

    360 Communication has been working with LSU student organization SmokingWords. We have faced many similar challenges especially with social media and event planning. If you would like to learn more about our work with SmokingWords, follow our blog. You can also support the movement for a tobacco-free LSU by liking SmokingWords Facebook page (www.facebook.com/SmokingWords), following SmokingWords on Twitter (@SmokingWords), and signing our online petition (http://www.change.org/petitions/smokingwords-movement-for-a-tobacco-free-lsu?utm_campaign=friend_inviter_chat&utm_medium=facebook&utm_source=share_petition&utm_term=permissions_dialog_false)

    -Daniel Raborn
    Strategy director
    360 Communications

  3. mcglobal360 says:

    From what I heard Todd Blount saying on the video blog that was posted, I would say that the “Planting our Appreciation” event went great. Todd seemed extremely pleased with the work that Red Stick PR was able to do and I believe that with the implementation of this event, as well as the job that was done in order to increase the social media buzz leading up to it, the Fellowship Church now has an excellent idea of how to continue to build their following in South Louisiana.

    I agree with everything that you said regarding the service-learning component of this class. Throughout the semester, the time that we spent working with our client really helped to give our entire group a plethora of experience and, more importantly, a much clearer understanding of the things that need to be done in order to best meet a client’s needs. Staying in constant communication with out client helped us as well, and without that constant stream of communication we would have undoubtedly had a far more difficult time in planning our event.

    Finally, I believe that the way in which Red Stick handled the music situation for the event after learning about The Midterm’s withdrawal from “Planting our Appreciation” was both resourceful and resilient. It not only is a perfect example of the inevitable obstacles that will occur in any event, but also a perfect example of how to handle and overcome those obstacles so that the event can continue.

    -Jake Simpson, Research Director,
    360 Communications

  4. Bridge Communications says:

    Hi Red Stick PR!
    Wonderful video and blog post, you girls do seem to run the world. :) I’m very happy that your event was a success. I like the fact that you targeted people outside of the church for your event, I hope that Todd and his church members get to see an increase in their congregation because of your event. I liked the social media excerpt from the article, it made me think of how quickly the word spread about the Boston bombings and how quickly the suspect was found using a hashtag. Social media can be used so effectively. However, I understand that with your organization and its small presence on Twitter, it might not be the best tactic.

    We have also kept our campaign from being centered on social media. With a somewhat unheard of school as a client, social media is not the best tactic for fundraising and gaining donors. We did, however, use Facebook events to promote things like our “Eat at Bistro Byronz” night and our big event on Monday, “Casino Royale.” We also saw difficulty and bumps in the road with our event. Selling tickets has been the biggest challenge, but you are completely right that these problems promote resilience and creativity!

    It looks like you have had a great semester working for Fellowship Church, I hope your year-long plan is helpful in furthering this great organization’s mission!

    For more information on Hope Academy visit http://www.hopeacademybr.org. For more information on me, follow me on Twitter or connect with me on LinkedIn!

    https://twitter.com/molliecwilliams

    http://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=91216407

  5. Ben Martisius says:

    Wow, really great video Red Stick! The intro was really cool and I liked to see actually hear from all the team members working on the campaign.
    This class has really shown me the importance of service learning institutions and how they benefit our community. Working with the Bridge Communications team kind of required learning a lot about why we need service learning organizations because our client, Greater Baton Rouge Hope Academy, falls under this category.
    The first thing I noticed about our client was, of course, the students that attended the school. They all have to live with disabilities or learning problems and would be incapable of getting the direction that they need from a traditional school. This is why a school a service learning environment is necessary to their development and would be be sorely missed if it didn’t exist in the Baton Rouge are. These children have been provided a place where they can reach their potential and it is all because of parents, donators and members of the community looking out for our service learning institutions.
    I know this might seem like a rant about the importance of our client, but I just wanted to comment about the importance of service learning I’ve gotten from our semester!

  6. zarahzari says:

    Wow team Red Stick PR, I really enjoyed reading your blog post. This week we all had to post a video blog and I think you really did well on that. Your video blog post about your work was very interesting served the purpose. To make it a mix of different media styles was a good idea. Photos, video sequences of the events you had and also and especially the interview part gave the blog a great mixture of pretty much everything the audience is most interested in and curious about. I also liked that every member talked about their experience in working with an actual client and that every team member was wearing your team shirt. This underlines your team spirit visually. The photos and video sequences of your event were great and I literally felt how much fun all those kids had playing around and getting face painted at your event. The client interview was also a very clever PR-move because it shows the viewer how satisfied your client was with your work and how confident they are for the future. Thank you for your great campaign work, your dedication and will to help! I could tell from your post that you really were very dedicated to this project!
    Oh and btw, Bridge Communications is organizing a fundraising event for our client the Greater Baton Rouge Hope Academy (http://www.hopeacademybr.org) tomorrow at the Renaissance Hotel. Gambling, auctions, food and drinks for a good cause. Come along and have fun!
Check out the details here: http://hopeacademycasinoroyale.eventbrite.com/
You can hit me up if you want to buy tickets! Its 20$ for LSU students and staff!

  7. Congratulations on a great event! One important lesson to learn when planning an event is how to deal with unexpected situations. When your band cancelled three days prior to your event, the easiest reaction, as you mentioned, would have been to panic. Nevertheless, Red Stick handled it the professional way by working with your client to figure out the best solution. It was slightly comforting to read that Red Stick had some bumps along the way when planning your event because Bridge Communications definitely has run into some bumps when planning our event.

    Our event, Casino Royale benefitting Greater Baton Rouge Hope Academy, is tomorrow night. We ran into an major obstacle this past Thursday. Since our event is casino themed, we have casino games available for guest. Due to this, we contact the Louisiana State Department of Revenue Charitable Gaming Office, to make sure that we had proper licensing to do so. Nevertheless, they did not get back to us until this past Thursday. There response was that we had to fill out extremely complicated paperwork and change a lot about our event or cancel. My first reaction was panic. Another Bridge Communications member and I tried to figure out a solution on our own at first. After about twenty minutes, we could not come up with a feasible option so went to talk to Dr. Moore and our client. We then figured out how to handle the situation properly and solved the problem.

    The lesson I learned is that it would have been a much less stressful if I had done what you all at Red Stick did and had gone directly to the client first. It’s easy to think that as a public relations “expert,” you know all the answers, but sometimes that is not the case.

    If you would like to know more about Greater Baton Rouge Hope Academy, you can check out their website, http://www.hopeacademybr.org. For more information on me, follow me on Twitter (@slich_) or connect with me on LinkedIn, http://www.linkedin.com/in/sarahlichterman.

  8. mcglobal360 says:

    Hello Red Stick PR!

    Great vlog,looks like you all have wrapped things up very well! Congratulations on your event as also. It was interesting to read about how you handled the music cancellation just three days before your event. Unfortunately, reliability can often be a huge problem in PR when dealing with vendors, entertainment etc, but you all pulled through so well! I’m glad to see that when faced with such a last minute problem, especially one that deals with the entertainment at an event, you all remained calm and came up with a solution so quickly. Resiliency is definitely the word i would use to describe it too.

    360 Communications came across these same issues as well when planning our event. We found that it’s not only necessary, but vital to an event to always have a back-up plan in case something falls through. Entertainment is the type of component of an event that holds the ability to make or break it. Music sets the mood and atmosphere for any good event, and a lack of such can be a critical problem so good thinking when utilizing the traditional iPod/speakers combination.

    When 360 planned our crawfish boil, we laid out a complete expense outline and had already designed our fliers for it before we faced the possibility that the funding for SmokingWords may not be able to cover it. We panicked at first but quickly pulled out our plan B event to have ready to submit for approval just in case the boil fell through. Fortunately, the budget got approved and we were able to hold a successful event, BUT it taught us a tremendous amount about being proactive when it comes to planning things like this. Always anticipate the problems before hand so that when/if they arise, they don’t catch you off guard.

    Looks like your semester went so well working with Fellowship Church, and looks like you all learned a lot! If you would like to learn more about our semester with SmokingWords, check out our blog or SmokingWords Facebook page (www.facebook.com/SmokingWords).

    -Alyssa Braden
    Writing director

  9. I cannot agree more with you that the best part about our course is the service-learning aspect. Not only because it provides us with real world experience, but we also get to help members of our community. This couldn’t have been more prevalent in our To Be Honest campaign. We spoke with over 1500 middle school students about bullying, and from our website presence, I truly believe we impacted some of their lives.
    After finding out we didn’t place, I was distraught and frustrated and mentioned to a good friend that I had wasted my time with the campaign. But he refuted my statement with “As long as one child didn’t get bullied because of our campaign, it was worth it.” I was brought back to the true benefit of this course, and I hope that you feel the same way.
    Holding a teacher-appreciation day was extremely generous of the Fellowship Church. When I visited some of the middle schools during our campaign, I had many teachers tell me not to become a teacher. I think that with the bad behaviors of some children and parents, teachers feel unappreciated. This event absolute boosts the morale of teachers, and also gives the Fellowship Church kudos for hosting. Yall held a great event and had a great campaign. Congratulations and good luck putting your campaign book together! If you have any questions, I would love to give some advice.
    For more information about our To Be Honest campaign, please do not hesitate to contact me through Facebook (cwalth2) or Twitter (@cwalth2). For more information about me, visit my personal website (www.camillewalther.com).

  10. RedStick,

    It seems like your event was fantastic regardless of any complications you might have faced along the way, congratulations! It also seems like you were able to fully exercise great public relations skills by averting a crisis – no matter how small – and jumping right in to action. Your solution to using your own music when your plans for a live performance fell through show you are engaged and quick to find a solution to problems. I also like how you promoted your event by sending out invitations to individual schools, churches and other organization’s Facebook pages. Although it might have seemed like more work than simply posting through a single social media page, you might have actually received more reach by personalizing your invites!

    I found this article on PR Daily, which you might find useful. You mentioned you are working on your campaign book and since you have already endured a small event crisis, I thought this could help you out in creating a crisis communications plan in the case your organization does not already have one!

    Geaux Communications is partnering with the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank. Through our campaign efforts we strive to elevate awareness among a younger generation. For more information about our campaign efforts, visit us at http://www.brfoodbank.org .
    -Carolina De La Pena, account liaison

  11. mcglobal360 says:

    Awesome video Red Stick PR! Congratulations on the event and all of your accomplishments!

    The service learning aspect of this course is important to remember because it teaches us things we would never learn from just inside a classroom. This also helps us prepare for the real professional world, like you mentioned. I think y’all are getting such great benefits working with Fellowship Church and realizing what goes on behind the scenes in a nonprofit organization.

    As Alyssa mentioned before, it is always important to have a back up plan for every event. For our craw fish boil in March, there was a 30% chance of rain that day, and we had to plan out a back up plan and had to over prepare for any situation that could possibly arise. Flexibility and creativity is essential, and relying on each other to follow through.

    I wish y’all the best of luck with your portfolios and campaign book. Keep up the hard work and dedication!

    If you would like to learn more about our work with SmokingWords, follow our blog. You can also support the movement for a tobacco-free LSU by liking SmokingWords Facebook page (www.facebook.com/SmokingWords), following SmokingWords on Twitter (@SmokingWords)

    -Adrienne Henk,
    360 Communications
    Research Director

  12. Reblogged this on Magical Public Relations and commented:
    Reflections from Red Stick PR on working with Fellowship Church.

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