You may remember my post in late August regarding students from an Art Institute Public Relations course and their study of Zoe. On Friday, September 16th, I had the opportunity to receive their Public Relations pitches at their classroom in Arlington, Virginia.
Earlier in the week, their professor had stopped by to tell me how she would be grading the students and how I should grade the students. Her instructions to me were to think about which team I would hire if I were making a selection of a public relations team.
So, I put on my best Joan look (a sweater dress, but I didn't do for it what Joan does for dresses) and my Lee Garner, Jr. mindset (minus the smoking and the obnoxiousness and other questionable behaviors).
After receiving information from me in August, the students spent time inside and outside the classroom over the next 3 weeks preparing their pitches. What was interesting is that each group took a different focus on where Zoe had opportunities to increase public awareness of the brand and store. The first group focused in on key demographic traits of some of Zoe's existing customers. The second group focused in on Social media and attracting a slightly younger customer to Zoe. And the third group focused in on the future of Zoe and potential new businesses that may spin off from the original store.
They had all conducted focus groups and performed detailed research on opportunities that I had not yet considered for the business. Of course, I had questions for each group after their presentations but I was not as tough on them as I've been known to be on other presenters. (Surprised?)
It was a tough decision to select a winning group. Each group had suggestions that were new, fresh, and easy to implement. Keeping in mind the guidance that the professor had given me, I selected the group that had best understood my goals and focus for the business.
The hardest thing is when you know a weakness in yourself and people who don't know you very well point it out. The students felt that I needed to put more of "myself" into communications and PR activities. They pointed out that this blog was a great example of what I should do more of in my public relations campaign. They feel that my thoughts/opinions/personal experiences would do a great deal to draw people into the store. For a private person like me, just writing this blog is a HUGE leap. I have to consider how I could overcome my reluctance to "put myself out there" to make my other communications more relatable.
The whole process was a wonderful experience for me and, hopefully, for the students.
A very surprising and touching event happened when I got back to the store. I had put a sign on the door on Thursday evening to let people know that Zoe would open later than normal on Friday (I wanted to make sure that I gave the students my full time and attention and wasn't rushing them (or me)). After I got to the store and opened, Cher came to see me. She wanted to make sure I was ok because she had seen the sign on the door and was afraid something was wrong with me. Here is a person who has FAR more to worry about and yet she was concerned about me. I was truly overwhelmed.