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Cronkite students win awards for public relations projects

July 25, 2011

Students of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University have won top awards in national public relations competitions.

Cronkite students were winners in three out of seven categories in the annual Zenith Awards, which recognize student excellence in public relations. The contest received 220 entries from 21 universities.

Students in Associate Professor Fran Matera’s fall 2010 public relations campaigns class won in the Public Relations Campaigns category for the “Get Curious with Intel” campaign they prepared for Intel Corp. Callie Baumgartner, Kaetlynn Daoust, Jessica Hickam and Robyn Moore worked on the project.

In the Public Relations Writing category, Erika Baggs won for her entry, “St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital Works to Find Cures for Childhood Cancer,” which she did as part of the fall 2010 Writing for PR class under Associate Professor Xu Wu’s direction.

Katie Johnsen won in the Case Study category for her project, “Toyota Recall Crisis,” done in Wu’s spring 2011 PR Campaigns class. 

Last year, Cronkite students also took home three awards in the Zenith competition, for Best Campaign, Best PR Writing and Best PR Publication. One of those, a project promoting the Komodo Dragon Experience for the Phoenix Zoo, also won honorable mention in the Platinum PR Awards, a national industry competition sponsored by PR News and PR Week.

Matera, who teaches public relations at Cronkite and will oversee the school’s new professional public relations lab starting next month, said the awards were evidence of the professional preparation the students were receiving at Cronkite, an experience that will grow with the launch of the full-time lab.

"While our PR students currently work with actual clients for class projects, the PR Lab will operate as an agency, with students assuming roles that mirror those in a professional setting,” she said. “They will meet with clients in our conference room, conduct original research, work in teams to develop programs and campaigns, then execute those strategic plans. They will emerge from the experience with an enhanced portfolio and professional experience invaluable in shaping their careers."

The PR Lab is the latest professional immersion program at the Cronkite School that provides students with real-life experiences. The lab has already been named one of the “10 college classes that impact the outside world” by US News & World Report.

Other professional labs at Cronkite include Cronkite NewsWatch, Cronkite News Service, the New Media Innovation Lab, the Knight Center for Digital Media Entrepreneurship and the Carnegie-Knight News21 program.

Cronkite public relations students working under the direction of Wu also won second and third place in the 2011 PSAid national student competition. The public service awards created by two student teams for the contest were among five nationally chosen for the final round of judging.

Rachel Steingard’s project, "Different Words...Same Meaning," took second place and a $1,500 prize; and Amanda Markell, Katie Johnsen, and Brian Olson garnered third place and a $750 prize for their project, "Make Your Donation Matter."

The contest, one of the largest and most competitive of its kind, is sponsored by the Center for International Disaster Information and U.S. Agency for International Development. The winning PSAs helped raise awareness of the "Cash is Best" message for international disaster relief efforts.