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KU News Release

July 14, 2005
Contact: Jennifer Kinnard, School of Journalism and Mass Communications, (785) 864-7644.

KU journalism class devises marketing strategies for real-world companies

LAWRENCE -- To learn how best to get an idea or product in front of the right consumers, 110 University of Kansas students in a Strategic Campaigns class completed spring 2005 semester projects for actual businesses. Their high-profile project clients included the City of Overland Park; Blimpie International restaurants; Watkins Memorial Health Center at KU; and Williams Foods, a Lenexa-based specialty food products manufacturer.

For students in strategic communications, this academic drill is their final course in an undergraduate program that prepares them for careers in advertising, public relations, event planning, and other business and marketing-related fields.

In the educational training exercise, students work in teams, usually five to eight people, learning to help an organization solve a problem by conducting research, developing a marketing strategy, creating a plan and producing a campaign, including a budget and timetable to promote an idea or a new product and a method to evaluate success.

For the Williams Foods project, students developed a campaign to target Hispanic and Latino consumers for its Tradiciones Hispanic sauces and seasoning mixes.

Students working on the Blimpie International were asked to plan a campaign to increase the customer base for the firm's fast-service sandwich shops.

In the Watkins Memorial Health Center class, students created an antismoking campaign aimed at their peer group of KU students.

For the City of Overland Park, students worked on three distinctly different topics, including plans to help the fire and police departments attract more female and minority candidates, to increase bookings at the city's convention center and to promote extended-stay tourism in the city.

Five KU faculty members taught the class this spring. Tim Bengtson, Reed teaching professor of journalism who has taught the class for 26 years, taught the group on the Blimpie project. With 18 years' experience teaching the campaigns classes, Bob Basow, associate professor of journalism, taught students doing work for the City of Overland Park. He was assisted by Diane Lazzarino, longtime journalism instructor who also works at the Bremner Editing Center at KU. I-Huei Cheng, assistant professor of journalism, led the Watkins Memorial Health Center class. Gerry Cain, lecturer in journalism, worked with students on the project for Williams Foods.

KU professors select clients who, among other qualifications, can provide the step-by-step training instructors want their students to have. Students and professors may be asked to sign nondisclosure or confidentiality agreements, much like the early-stage work for any top-secret ad campaign. The client must have a media budget that permits the use of multimedia advertising and promotion so students will learn its elements and management. Although students do not charge for their services, clients provide grants to the journalism school to help defray costs to produce the campaigns and plans books.

In their decades of teaching the campaigns classes, both Bengtson and Basow said clients frequently have used students' recommendations, either directly and immediately or indirectly by incorporating ideas the students originated.

Often, project clients are firms with some connection to former KU campaigns class alumni, such as former students or their family members, themselves often KU alumni, in management roles. For example, Basow said the City of Overland Park work developed through Brian Douglass, KU spring 2004 graduate from Overland Park. His father, John Douglass, Overland Park chief of police, wanted the class to work on a diversity project; the tourism and convention topics were added to give students a broader range of experiences. John Douglass received two KU degrees, a bachelor's degree in 1979 in personnel administration and a master's degree in public administration in 1981.

Students doing work for one of the four clients are listed by name, hometown, project client, major, parents and high school, if available, at:

Hometowns: Andover, Auburn, Belle Plaine, Bucyrus, Dodge City, Emporia, Fairway, Gardner, Garden City, Garnett, Highland, Hutchinson, Kingman, Lawrence, Leawood, Lenexa, Liberal, Manhattan, McLouth, Minneola, Mission Hills, Ottawa, Overland Park, Pittsburg, Prairie Village, Russell, Salina, Shawnee, Topeka, Wellsville and Wichita; Hot Springs, Ark.; Phoenix, Ariz.; Colorado Springs, Colo.; Arlington Heights, Barrington, Chicago, Glen Ellyn, Lake Zurich, Markham, Riverwoods, Skokie and Wheaton, Ill.; Urbandale and West Des Moines, Iowa; Plymouth, Minn.; Florissant, Kansas City, Oak Grove, St. Charles, St. Joseph, St. Louis, St. Peters and Weston, Mo.; Blair, Minden, Omaha, Ralston and Upland, Neb.; Albuquerque and Los Alamos, N.M.; Tulsa, Okla.; Aberdeen, S.D.; Coppell, Dallas, Flower Mound, Fort Worth, Irving, Plano and Sugar Land, Tex.; Delafield and Green Bay, Wis.; Brockville and Elmira, Ontario, Canada; and Mumbai, India.


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