Last year, GrandPR hosted CreateAthon 2018 to help five non-profits around Grand Rapids. One of which was Grand Rapids Community Foundation. In anticipation for this year’s CreateAthon, GrandPR interviewed Ashley René Lee and Heather Gill Fox from Grand Rapids Community Foundation.
Real Solutions to a Real Problem
The Grand Rapids Community Foundation didn’t know what to expect when they signed up for CreateAthon. They weren’t anticipating such a detailed proposal with extensive research, strategy, and tactics – but they were amazed at the results achieved in the mere 24-hour event. “The team was able to take a really complicated, real communications challenge that we were dealing with as an organization,” Ashley said. She was “in awe” of the work, plus, the information the students presented was useful and resourceful – real solutions to a real problem. Both ladies agreed that the energy and excitement in the room that day has inspired them when they’re working on current projects.
Breaking Down Their Message
The challenge the Grand Rapids Community Foundation presented the GrandPR team was to roll out their north star & strategic direction. As a Community Foundation, they have to help the community with the most pressing needs, which is why they’ve been working to build an inclusive economy and thriving community. They asked the GrandPR team to help break down that complicated message to their various audiences. The team was able to create digital components, printed pieces, events, and more. Now, the Grand Rapids Community Foundation is taking some of those ideas for internal communication and community events. They were even able to take pieces of the team’s campaign and strategies to use in their annual report and gave them creative credit.
Building Lasting Connections & Relationships
Each member of the GrandPR team presented a specific part of the campaign, but Ashley and Heather could tell it was collaborative and cohesive. Heather said that a highlight of her experience was getting to know the students on the team beyond just the project management level. She enjoyed hearing their stories, their interests, and their future career plans. Seeing what each student was all about made their work even more exciting. Ashley said that the connections they made have continued within the past year. She spoke about diversity and inclusion at a GVSU PRSSA meeting and was also a guest on the oganization’s podcast, PR Hangover. The experience encouraged them to continue working with students from GrandPR and PRSSA on future projects.
A “Phenomenal” Co-Creation Process
Students are learning the most current industry trends, the ladies say, which is why they encourage any organization to take the opportunity to engage with and learn from students. When asked if they thought other organizations could benefit from participating in CreateAthon, they said, “Yes with three exclamation points!” Heather says it’s a mutually beneficial experience for both parties, especially if the students are given a challenge.
Courtney Fogle is a senior studying Advertising and Public Relations at Grand Valley State University. She’s an active member of GVSU’s PRSSA and hosts their podcast, PR Hangover. In her spare time you can find her prepping for her future career in entertainment PR as the Public Relations Intern at River City Studios.