As the main assessment piece for one of our last ever university classes, myself and four other students had to implement a real-life public relations campaign for a client of our choice. The only hang-up was that the campaign had to be budget-neutral, and because of a country-wide lockdown caused by the global pandemic, it had to be implemented completely online. Keep reading to find out how we overcame a range of obstacles.
Alyssa Glover, Eloise Arnold, Khrysti Balanay and I already knew each other after working on a group assignment last year. This year, after realising we were all in the same class, we decided to team up once again and complete the assignment together. We recruited an additional member, Maddy McPherson, and got to work.
Being students at a university leading the way in online education, we were familiar with having completely online classes, so the idea of a solely online public relations campaign wasn’t too daunting. What was daunting was the thought of having to find somebody who would trust us enough to allow us to implement a zero-budget public relations campaign for their organisation. We reached out to everybody from Meals on Wheels, to several domestic violence charities and animal charities such as the RSPCA. Unfortunately, the timing was not on our side. The country was battening down the hatches, preparing for an onslaught of coronavirus cases. Because of this, most of the organisations we reached out to were either too busy to reply or told us that now was just not a good time for them. Having to call and face rejection from companies was quite a formidable experience, but definitely a learning curve.
“It was like being pushed off a cliff – knowing we had the skills to make it, but whether or not we would spread our wings and fly before we crashed. I think this experience is one of my top five university highlights.”– Eloise Arnold
We are all animal lovers and seeing the effects that the virus was having on the income of animal welfare groups, we decided to focus our search on smaller, localised animal welfare groups who might be struggling more than usual because of the pandemic. We were lucky enough to be accepted by Christina della Valle of Animal Rescue Whitsunday. Christina single-handedly runs a not-for-profit animal rescue group. We had our first chat with her, and she told us that each month she accrues vet bills of $2000, and if that money is not raised from donations, it comes out of her own pocket.
With that in mind, we began to formulate a campaign plan focused around raising $2000 for Christina over the course of one month. From 27 April to 22 May, we created infographics and wrote posts which were published to Christina’s Animal Rescue Whitsunday Facebook page. The posts all directed the reader to the GoFundMe donations page we created.
During our campaign, we faced countless issues and had several panicked Zoom sessions with our unit coordinator, who always reassured us that we were doing fine, we just needed to push a little harder. Despite our worries, the donations continued to flow in, and in our final week, the owners of an eco-resort in Airlie Beach donated a two-night stay in their accommodation for us to raffle off on the final day of our campaign. The raffle was a great success, helping us to raise almost $1000 over the course of a week. On the last day of our campaign, we were elated to reach our $2000 goal for Christina.
“It was lovely to work with five idealistic young women who took it upon themselves to carry out an assignment for an animal rescue operation, because they all care about animals. We all learnt a lot from this experience.”– Christina della Valle, Animal Rescue Whitsunday
We were thrilled to reach our $2000 goal. We knew that because of the economic repercussions of the pandemic, things were financially tough for many Australians, and that our goal was very ambitious. The experience taught us that hard work and passion really do pay off. We all gained a lot of confidence from this assignment.
When asked what advice she might have for students who might one day have to complete a similarly assiduous assignment, Alyssa had a few words of guidance.
“Students should be ambitious and know that with success comes a lot of failures beforehand. There is no such thing as an overnight success; things will go wrong and you’ll have to respond quickly, but you are capable.”– Alyssa Glover
While this assignment has been one of the most stressful and demanding tasks I have experienced during my time at university, Alyssa, Eloise, Khrysti, Maddy and I all agree that it has also been the most memorable and rewarding experience. The fact that we were able to get the community to rally behind our cause during such trying times is a testament to all the hard work that my team and I put in. We had several brainstorming sessions to determine how we could connect with the community and raise money during a time when many community members likely had more pressing matters on their minds. We created innovative and relevant posts which we published every weekday for four weeks, and shared the posts to relevant community pages in an attempt to connect with the community and get our message across. We received lovely words of support and encouragement from Animal Rescue Whitsunday’s followers.
Ultimately, I think people liked seeing a bit of good news and happiness on their feed to break up the monotony of coronavirus bad news posts.
Not only did this assessment teach us practical and tangible skills that we will carry into the workforce, but getting to do something so positive and helpful from our homes, especially at a time when we felt so powerless about other things happening in our country and around the world, is something that we will cherish forever. The fact that we completed this assignment under the threat and anxiety of the coronavirus pandemic really bonded us all together; we will be friends for life.
For any students faced with an assignment that requires them to put themselves out there and interact with a real client or member of society – have faith in yourself. If you find group work challenging, try to approach it with an open mind and think about what you stand to gain from putting in the time and effort. Rather than being a chore, group assignments can be a great opportunity to make new friends and do something positive; just remember that good communication is essential. If you are willing to put in the time and effort, you will do wonderfully, and you will be left with an achievement to be proud of long after your time at university comes to an end.
Thank you to Alyssa, Eloise, Khrysti and Maddy for their time responding to interview questions.
Caitlin Murphy is a current Professional Communications student and member of the Social Squad – a group of content creators helping to promote student and campus life at CQUniversity.