Throughout the academic year, students in the College of Media & Communication spend time learning the principles related to their studies, but it's often the activities outside the classroom that have the biggest impact.
The annual Texas Tech Public Relations Showdown is one of those popular extracurricular events, and for the 24 teams registered for this year's competition, the additional workload and effort have been worth the time for both the students and the faculty involved.
“We are so excited about the participation of everyone,” said Weiwu Zhang, Ph.D., associate professor and chairperson of the Department of Public Relations. “We have 500 PR majors in this college and the students in this competition are the only ones who stepped up to the challenge. Hats off to you all.”
According to Zhang, the number of student teams that entered into this year's competition was almost double that of last year's event.
“As more students learn about the PR Showdown, the more students want to enter it,” he said. “It's a great opportunity to learn from others and to test your own skills.”
Lisa Du Bois Low, assistant professor of practice in public relations and one of the event organizers, reported that more than 100 students on 24 teams registered to compete this year. Fifteen teams successfully completed all challenges and qualified for judging.
The week-long event, now in its sixth year, brings together teams of undergraduate students (one of whom must be a PR major) to handle a strategic communication challenge of a particular client. This year's focus was on the upcoming 2020 U.S. Census.
By completing each required daily challenge, each team builds a complete PR campaign, including a written strategy plan, a multimedia press kit with graphics and a video pitch, which are each then competitively judged against the other teams. The winning team is determined by adding total scores from each of the daily challenges.
The team who won the overall competition consisted of Team Captain Vince Rodriguez, a senior PR major from Lubbock, Texas; Breck Gavin, a senior PR major from Ruidoso, N.M.; Mauricio Lira, a junior PR major from Stinnett, Texas; Connor Sadro, a senior PR major from Pensacola, Fla., and Micah Paloma, a senior PR major from San Antonio, Texas.
“I really enjoyed the challenge,” Sadro said. “It was very hard work, but worth it as I learned so much from this. I'm really glad that I did it.”
The final round of this year's competition was judged by industry professionals, all of whom are CoMC alumni. This group included Curt Langford, M.A. (Texas Tech Alumni Association, B.A. public relations, 1990), Joey Pfund (Dell Technologies, B.A. public relations, 2019), Sarah Self-Walbrick (Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, B.A. journalism and EMC, 2015) and Matt Wilson (Arlington Convention and Visitors Bureau, B.A. public relations, 2001).
“I love confident people,” Wilson said. “As a judge, the teams who did well were confident in making me feel like you knew what you doing. That's not easy to do but you did it and that's how you succeeded.”
Sponsored by the CoMC Department of Public Relations, PRSSA, PRSA of West Texas, Southwest Airlines, Texas Tech Alumni Association and Dell Technologies, competition prizes included tickets from Southwest Airlines, a new Dell XPS 13 laptop, and a networking dinner and reception hosted by DFW alumni in the Dallas area.
“PR is a contact sport and you cannot be a passive participant,” Zhang said. “You have to go the extra mile. You must practice and study PR in your heart and in your head if you want to succeed.”
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