Dealing with an academic crisis situation put the winning team over the top.
Managing an academic scandal from a public relations standpoint is something no university wants to deal with, but something for which all must be prepared.
Public relations students in the Texas Tech University College of Media & Communication were tested in just such a way, and many more, as part of the inaugural Texas Tech Public Relations Showdown, a week-long competition hosted by the Department of Public Relations.
“I'm really pleased with how the event went as a whole, especially given it was the first year and we've never done anything like this before in the department,” said Trent Seltzer, chairman of the department. “I'm incredibly proud of the students who competed in the event and completed all of the challenges – particularly the freshmen and sophomores who dove in and tackled the challenges even though they were new to the program and to public relations. It says a lot about the character and drive of our majors.”
The team of Lauren West, a senior public relations major from Coppell; McKenzie Hopson, a senior public relations major from Gatesville; Emily Jarrell, a senior public relations major from Carrollton; and Chandler Moore, a senior public relations major from Spring, impressed judges with their solution to the final challenge to win the Showdown.
Their prize was two free Southwest Airlines tickets each, one used to travel to Dallas along with free accommodations at the Gaylord Texan Resort to network with prominent alumni and local public relations professionals. The second ticket could be used to fly to any destination Southwest serves in the United States.
“As a group of senior public relations majors about to graduate, winning the Showdown not only validated all of the hard work we have put in over the past four years, but was the perfect way to end our careers at Texas Tech,” West said. “The final challenge for our team was a lot of work, and we put a ton of time and effort into it. We worked for days strategizing, planning and creating a final presentation we could really be proud of.”
The challenge started the final week of February as students were put through a series of challenges, one each day, and had 24 hours to complete each challenge. These challenges tested their public relations skills in a variety of areas, accumulating points for each round. The challenges included PR strategy, writing, pitching, creative, social media and crisis communication.
The top three teams advanced to round two to compete for the grand prize challenge on March 25. Teams could opt out of competing in some of the individual challenges, but only teams that completed all five challenges were eligible for the grand prize.
Teams in the grand prize competition received the challenge a few days before it was due, originally March 4 before inclement weather forced it to be postponed to March 25, and spent the few days before the final event developing a public relations strategy and solution.
The final challenge depicted a fictional situation in which a national publication released a story detailing academic fraud charges involving two former Texas Tech athletes. The three final teams presented their solutions as if they were actual university employees, designating themselves as spokespersons, athletic department officials or university officials during a mock news conference where a five-person panel of judges graded and voted for the winning team.
“I'm happy for the students who made it to the finals. I know many of them from classes, RaiderComm, the student PR firm, the Outpost social media center and Tech PR, the student PR association,” Seltzer said. “It's a great group of students, many of whom have served the program and their peers through leadership positions in student organizations. I'm pleased with the quality of their presentations and case studies. They're a great representation of what our program produces and should serve as role models to which other students should aspire. I'm excited for the opportunities that the competition will present them.”
Teams also received individual prizes such as gift cards or autographed sports memorabilia for winning the five individual challenges.
For complete results from the PR Showdown, go to its website.