Public Relations Students Help to Launch Tangerine

2013-2014 Issue 2
Tangerine Bank Logo

Tangerine Bank Logo

When Tangerine, formerly ING Direct, promotes its new name in Quebec with a series of local events later this year, public relations students at McGill’s School of Continuing Studies (SCS) can feel proud. Tangerine has a choice of communications strategies to deploy in the rollout, and some of those ideas emerged from students in a hands-on, “live” case study course on communications planning.

This coup is the work of Elizabeth J. Hirst, Coordinator of Public Relations and Marketing, Career and Professional Development. Hirst has created more connections between McGill students and the communications industry than Facebook can manage.

She’s the driving force behind Cases in Public Relations/Communications Planning, the capstone course of certificate and diploma programs in public relations. It offers students a chance to apply what they’ve learned to actual business cases. It’s also a prime example of McGill’s close links with this industry.

“It’s not often that we can give them something this fun,” she says. “Students keen on marketing communications really got into it.”

Richardson Joubert, Community Relations and Social Media Lead at Tangerine and SCS public relations graduate, was instrumental in getting Tangerine involved, not once but twice. This time, students were challenged to create a communications plan focusing on the name change.

“We put no restrictions on what they could do, as long as it made sense to us,” says Joubert. “They were really surprised a bank was asking them to think outside the box.”

Businesses are invited to class on three occasions: to present what they need, answer questions and, finally, hear students’ pitches.

On pitch day, students handed out tangerine piggy banks, tangerine cupcakes and, of course, tangerines, recalls Sandra Ayau, Manager of Tangerine’s Montreal office.

“Ideas were flying from one spectrum to another. Richardson had told them to do whatever they thought would be right for us, and that’s exactly what they did. The social media aspect of pitches was particularly good.”

“These students are the future of public relations,” says Joubert. “Tapping into their potential, we benefit from fresh ideas and not doing the same thing as the status quo. If you give them an opening, they come up with great ideas.”

“It’s the kind of work that they’re just itching to do,” says Hirst.

Students work in teams, explains Brendan Walsh, public relations professional and author, who teaches the course this semester. They use a jigsaw method to create two detailed communications plans: one for a non-profit organization; the other, for a corporation.

Sandrine Garneau-Le Bel, now Assistant, National Press Officer, Grand Prix du Canada, was in charge of timeline and budget for her team. “It was the real deal. You weren’t working with fictional numbers. You knew that budget had to be respected.”

“It was amazing,” says Caitlin Benn, now an Account Executive at Ogilvie & Mather, Toronto. “Because we were presenting to actual clients, it made us think a lot deeper and really push the limits.”

Last semester, students also prepared a communications plan for AIDS Community Care Montreal (ACCM). This semester, they will devise a communication strategy for Moisson Montreal, the city’s largest food bank. For-profit clients in past courses have included SNC-Lavalin, Meloche Monnex, Rio Tinto Alcan, Pfizer, l’Oréal and Ubisoft.

“This course is a great opportunity for a non-profit to connect with a different community, reach out to new people and collect new ideas, entirely for free,” says Audrey Champagne, Communications Coordinator, Regroupement pour le trisomie 21 (Down’s syndrome Quebec). “Communication plans are a big part of what we do, and if I hadn’t learned how to do it in this course, I wouldn’t have been able to apply it in my work.”

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