May 25, 2011
Students complete pilot course to simulate work in strategic communications agency
For more information:
Go to www.knacktive.com.
Business owners interested in learning more about working with Knacktive should contact the Northwest Foundation at 660.562.1248.
MARYVILLE, Mo. - The first task for 24 students selected to participate in an innovative, new integrated media marketing course at Northwest Missouri State University last January was to brainstorm a name and logo for their strategic communications agency.
Building on an idea that all of the students involved in the course arrived with a special ability, or knack, they named their agency Knacktive. And with that, the students began an exhaustive 15-week journey, sprinkled with some healthy competition, to build a comprehensive marketing campaign for a big-time client, Cincinnati-based LasikPlus Vision.
By the end of the course this spring, the students gained a professional outlook of an agency and a better understanding of the importance of teamwork, developing creative projects under time restraints and the demands of working for a specific client.
"What to me was really exciting was that each of these students got to experience the thrill of victory and the sorrow of defeat, learn valuable business lessons and learn how to work with others," said Stephanie Padgett, the course's faculty advisor.
Northwest piloted the unique interdisciplinary course during the spring trimester. While the course incorporates principles, strategies and tactics of design, marketing and public relations, it's a melting pot of majors from the departments of communication, theatre, and languages; mass communication; marketing and management; art; and computer science and information systems.
Students applied for the course as if they were applying for a real job. Entry was determined after interviews, and the selected students were "hired" to specific roles such as account executive, art director, market researcher and copy writer. The students were then separated into three competing teams, which the students also named - Up & Up, Synergy and On Point.
The students worked under the guidance of a faculty team, led by Padgett, a veteran of the advertising and media industry who also helped implement a successful interactive marketing communications agency at the University of Missouri-Columbia. Northwest faculty advising the students consisted of Judy Clark, Chris Graves, David Shadinger and Carol Spradling.
Northwest faculty began developing the course last year with assistance from Padgett and Bill Price, a Northwest Foundation board member and owner of Empower Media Marketing, which facilitated Knacktive's client relationship with LasikPlus.
The students met in a traditional class setting for a three-hour period each Friday. The course used a standard eCompanion site to house course information, including the syllabus, weekly agendas, assignments and reference materials. With successful completion of the course, the students received three hours of course credit while developing numerous professional-grade, portfolio-ready work samples.
"All of the work you see was fully-produced, researched and designed by these students," Padgett said. "If they can do these things as seniors in college, can you imagine the things they will do in the workforce?"
Somewhat like TV's "The Apprentice," teams competed against each other each week to devise the best project idea or campaign element, with winners picked by the faculty members. Once the agency's name and logo were chosen, the teams also had to design its website.
One project involved the teams producing a presentation about technology commonly used by college students. The winning team, OnPoint, stood out by downloading an iPhone application for a mobile mouse and used it to control their presentation slides. Their reward was a day trip to Kansas City where they gave their presentation, networked and dined with a select group of marketing, advertising and public relations professionals on the 29th floor of a downtown law firm.
Knacktive students described the course as fast-paced and rigorous. They were pushed to limits, challenged to defend their work and humbled by constructive criticism. "We did stuff in weeks that most classes spend a whole trimester on," said Melissa Watson, a senior advertising major from St. Joseph and media planner for Synergy.
The work didn't stop when they left the classroom. Teams took it upon themselves to schedule weekly meetings, in addition to members meeting in smaller groups throughout the week to complete individualized tasks. Often, the students found themselves putting in the 40-plus hour work weeks they might experience as professionals in their fields.
The students also polished their problem-solving skills and learned how to better work within teams. Coming from a variety of disciplines, most of the students barely knew each other. They had to blend their personalities and figure out each other's work habits quickly to succeed as a team.
"That's what I enjoyed most about this class," Watson said. "The people in my group, I never had a single class with any of them. So I had the opportunity to not only meet them but work with them and expand my own personal network. It's mind-blowing to know what each of them can bring to the table."
For LasikPlus, students were challenged to find ways to expand its target market to people between 18 and 34 years old. Students were assigned to create an integrated campaign that involved market research, consumer and situational analysis, budgeting and promotions among other elements.
After Knacktive's April 27 campaign pitches, Lasik chose Up & Up's approach of marketing its vision correction procedure to people in protective services, such as police officers, firefighters and military personnel.
For more information, please contact:
Mark Hornickel, Media Relations Specialist
firstname.lastname@example.org | 660.562.1704 | Fax: 660.562.1900
Northwest Missouri State University
215 Administration Building | 800 University Drive | Maryville, MO 64468