By Lauren West
For college seniors facing graduation, May is a month associated with many finalities. It’s when you take your last few courses, in your last semester, in the fleeting time you have remaining with your friends and peers before you are set loose on the world to be a part of society. But for me, and three of my highly gifted public relations classmates, May was the month that signified a great beginning.
In May of 2015, Emily Jarrell, McKenzie Hopson, Chandler Moore and I took part in a college-wide student competition called the PR Showdown. This competition tested us in a myriad of intellectual ways through a series of daily tasks associated with various facets of public relations (and yes it was as challenging as it sounds). One hundred and twenty nine of Media & Communication’s brightest students faced challenges focused on writing, design, social media, strategy, and pitching that culminated in the top three teams competing in the final challenge, a mock press conference designed to test our crisis communication abilities.
After weeks of hard work, arguably insane dedication, no sleep, and about a week’s worth of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese we found ourselves sitting in the finale with bated breath.
“The first place winner of the PR Showdown is Team 6!”
Our grand prize included hotel accommodations at the Gaylord Texan Resort and Hotel in Dallas, two free airline tickets from Southwest to travel anywhere in the U.S., and a special invitation to a “PR Salon” networking dinner with prominent alumni of the college, which made the grueling process completely worth it.
Now college alumnae, we look back on our win with many fond memories, but looking forward we realize the grand prize opened countless doors for us and our future careers. Here’s what my teammates who went on the grand prize trip had to say about it:
“The TTU Public Relations Showdown was such a wonderful experience that taught us so many life lessons, from competing to speaking with public relations professionals at the PR Salon. The salon was held at Tim Loecker’s (Senior VP Weber Shandwick Dallas) picturesque Dallas home and afforded us the opportunity to speak with professionals across all aspects of public relations. Over the course of dinner, we spoke about many of the lessons they had learned as young professionals entering the workplace and some tips for us in our future careers. This was such a fun and interesting way to learn more about the real world applications of our, at that point, future degrees.” –Emily Jarrell
“My favorite part of the trip was our tour of the Gaylord Texan Resort & Convention Center. Martha Neibling and her team gave up half their day to treat us like royalty and show us a part of public relations that often gets left out of the curriculum: the hospitality industry. I fell in love with the Gaylord so much that upon returning to school I emailed Martha, a Texas Tech alumnus, and asked if there were any opportunities to join her team. She created a summer internship spot for me and I have spent the last month learning the ropes from her and her fabulous team. It’s my dream to stay with the Gaylord Texan and continue to grow within the hospitality industry. This opportunity would never have presented itself without the hard work my teammates and I put into winning the PR Showdown and I am proud to say it’s paying off for me.” –McKenzie Hopson
As for me, the PR Showdown will always hold a special place in my heart. It gave me the validation I needed as an undergraduate to feel like an actual PR professional and allowed me to apply everything I had learned in my classes and from various internships in real-life situations. That confidence and the invaluable opportunities to network with other PR practitioners was truly the beginning to my career. Texas Tech’s motto is “from here it’s possible,” and after our showdown win, I don’t doubt it for a second.
Lauren West is a public relations graduate. She is currently in the COMC professional master’s program.