Taylor Reed, a sophomore majoring in communication studies at SMU’s Meadows School of the Arts, has been named one of the top two national winners of the PRWeek Student of the Year competition. The winners were announced at the annual PRWeek Awards dinner and ceremony in New York on March 10. Reed received an Honorable Mention and was awarded $1,000. The winner was Alyssa Vande Leest of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who was awarded $5,000 and a paid internship at Hill & Knowlton.
The Student of the Year competition, sponsored by PRWeek Magazine, was launched in 2000 to encourage bright students to enter the PR profession, and to celebrate creativity and strategic thinking around real-world communications topics. The competition invites undergraduates from any academic area to create a full-fledged communications campaign around a brand or company, which is determined in partnership with the sponsor. The assignment is designed to demonstrate the student’s writing ability, planning skills, strategic approach and creativity.
This year’s assignment was to create a campaign for SanDisk Corporation, the global leader in flash memory cards. The company wanted to target students and encourage them to use the flash cards to capture their college memories. The campaign goals were to drive awareness of SanDisk’s technology in a fun and interactive way, using social media and more traditional PR strategies.
Reed’s concept was “Life’s extreme. Shouldn’t your photos be, too?” Her plan to appeal to the audience’s love of extreme sports – supported by solid research – impressed judges with its freshness. Reed effectively established a much-needed brand identity for SanDisk among the target demographic, incorporating myriad elements, including a partnership with Red Bull and a street-team plan. “She demonstrated great poise and a step-by-step progression of ideas that would lead to a successful campaign,” noted one judge.
Reed completed the SanDisk campaign as part of required coursework during her Introduction to Public Relations class in fall 2010, taught by Christy Baily-Byers, APR.
PR Week editors initially selected five finalists, who were brought to New York in late January to pitch their ideas in person, in front of an expert panel. Reed and Vande Leest were selected as the top two finalists, and attended the March awards dinner, along with top leaders in the industry, where they learned the final results.
The competition website notes that PRWeek Student of the Year winners “have gone on to successful careers in public relations, and have been sought-after employees by some of the top firms in the country. The program is a great proving ground for talent, and also offers marketers and companies a chance to see how they are perceived from a student perspective.”