Mass Communication students are taught to understand their intended publics and the messages that may affect them from all perspectives. Essentially, this means removing any “blinders” we may have constructed and opening our minds to new opportunities to build stronger relationships with our trusted audiences. However, since beginning this great campaign experience, I have learned that while being completely tunnel-visioned with intense focus on a single message or task at a time may not be very effective, there is something to be said for narrowing our ideas in order to strengthen our impact.
For almost nine weeks, 6+ Solutions worked on building a strong relationship with our client and aided in the strategic implementation of many of GaitWay’s program ideas. As we moved forward to the final phases of the campaign, we decided to refocus and narrow those “blinders” to better accomplish the projects we feel will help sustain our client’s organization for many years to come. When crafting objectives and tactics, we found ourselves a bit scattered and feeling like we were losing a sense of identity–namely, that the programs and communication pieces were not linking together as strongly as they could be. We loved that we were able to help our client host a very successful ribbon-cutting ceremony for a new facility as well as design promotional pieces and sponsorship materials for an event of their own creation, “Shatterin’ Clay for GaitWay.”
However, we returned to the question of what we will leave with GaitWay when our campaign ends. We really thought about how can we truly help them reach their projected goals in future years through our efforts this semester. After evaluating our campaign, our team committed two main purposes–hosting a fundraising event that also raises community visibility of the GaitWay brand, as well as generating ideas for potential future communication pieces. First, we created, marketed and implemented a restaurant crawl fundraiser event that took place over three weeks in April and at three different locations.
“Just Say GaitWay” not only raised funds through proceeds from the participating venues, but literally put this great organization and its inspiring story in front of a wide audience of community members from diverse backgrounds. Returning to the idea that “blinders” are sometimes needed, this event was a narrowly tailored product that reached various potential audiences–rather than numerous similar but disjointed events attempting to reach isolated community audiences.
Lastly, our campaign evaluations in these last few weeks brought to light the need for developing hypothetical, future programs and communication pieces for our client. These ideas focus on ways to align tactics and strategies with target audiences in all forms of visual and interactive media. We feel that not only must the organization’s brand garner support via traditional media but their themes and messages as a community voice must be consistent and unified. Operating in a hypothetical mindset allowed our team to generate more creative ideas with the hopes that GaitWay’s use of its time, talent and resources will empower future implementation.
As we approach the end of our time with GaitWay, we leave them in a more stable and strategic place than when we began helping them share their story. In the last few weeks, our 6+ Solutions team sought to produce just that–solutions! We want to leave our client with a plan full of possible ideas, programs, publications and tactics that will support their continual growth.
GaitWay Therapeutic Horsemanship truly is an amazing organization and I feel so honored to have been able to help strengthen their efforts.
6+Solutions continues to grow and gain momentum in our campaign process while working with GaitWay Therapeutic Horsemanship. Once we clearly defined roles and met with our client, we quickly immersed ourselves in the activities of GaitWay. Members of our agency attended board meetings with leaders in our client’s organization, assisted our client in various outreach tasks, and most importantly, began visiting hippotherapy sessions as we learn more about our client’s services. This investment in the activities of our client is exactly what I want to focus on in this post.
In the beginning of this campaign, I thought I would serve as just a designer and strategic communicator within my assigned space on this team. However, I quickly realized how important it is for me to really see what GaitWay does firsthand. Creating a visual package for our client became a struggle when I realized I know nothing about this form of therapy. Our group knew that so many individuals and potential supporters of GaitWay also do not know what these services are all about. In order to combat this lack of knowledge in our community, we want to convey a clear and impactful visual image of GaitWay. Our six creative minds instantly knew we needed promotional videos to inspire and educate individuals about how amazing our client’s work really is.
Without hesitation, I visited our client’s facilities on a beautiful Wednesday afternoon and filmed footage of various activities. I had no idea how emotionally moved I would be after only a few hours with the young children attending therapy. When I walked into the barn, I immediately felt peace. It was as if these empty fields were a source of refuge for the children seeking strength as they battle their disabilities. I felt so fortunate to be able to witness the small victories for these young riders—holding their arms out while riding, turning themselves completely around on the saddle and even hearing them call out directions to their horses. It was remarkable to talk to the mothers and grandparents of these riders and hear their stories of recovery after participating in GaitWay’s therapeutic horsemanship services.
These small moments of peace and thanksgiving energized my passion for this campaign and reminded me of how important our work really is to this incredible organization. I walked away from my visit with a renewed perspective of my role in this public relations process. As I held that camera in my hands and focused on the joy of these children, I finally understood what I was fighting for. My role as a visual communicator was critical to the conveyance of these almost memorizing moments—when the children could walk for the first time or find the courage to laugh in the face of their struggles.
The practice of public relations is more than just promoting and marketing. GaitWay helped me understand that “PR” is an investment in the current needs and future growth of those we work with. Most importantly, my time with GaitWay and its riders reminded me of the importance of wholly understanding and valuing the practices of one’s client. It is not until we entirely invest in all facets of our clients and their organizations that we are able to truly fulfill our commitment to their future success.
Six passionate future public relations practitioners came together on Jan. 26 to form the campaign agency “6+ Solutions” and hit the ground running with excitement. We were very pleased to discover we would be working with GaitWay Therapeutic Horsemanship–an organization dedicated to Equine Assisted Activity and Hippotherapy.
Our agency comprises talented individuals in six areas of public relations campaign responsibilities and positions–as delegated by both our in-class assignments as well as our letter of agreement with our client after out initial consultation. The account liaison, Lindsey Miller, will be the primary contact for 6+ Solutions, and will schedule all meetings with GaitWay. The Research Director, Taylor LeBlanc, will oversee all research and compose a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) Analysis for GaitWay. The Strategy Director, Caitlin Switzer, will develop the overall campaign strategy and ensure that all copy, design and/or events work within the strategy framework, and oversee all social media outlets. The Writing Director, Hanna Munoz, will develop all copy to be utilized throughout the campaign, work closely with the Design and Strategy Directors and help draft all fundraising letters and sponsorship copy. The Event Director, Brittany Beatty, will plan, organize and implement the events throughout the campaign.
Lastly, I serve as the Design Director and will create visual elements throughout the campaign and work closely with the Strategy and Writing directors. I will also aid in the refreshing of the client’s website and overall aesthetic by which the Baton Rouge Community will become familiar with as the campaign grows.
6+ Solutions is more than a name of our agency–it is a standard to which we will uphold ourselves; it is a commitment to our client and the goals they wish to achieve; and most importantly it is a reflection on the fact that while we may be six individuals with six vastly different backgrounds, our talents and skills synthesize in a way that compliments everyone’s passions while strengthening our overall product. Thus, with our six minds working together, our agency sustains unbounded possibilities and produces strategic and effective solutions for our client.
Moving forward from our initial meeting with the client and the solidification of our agency roles and responsibilities, we look forward to this campaign as a means to gaining practical knowledge in our future field. Moreover, I hope to truly impact sustainable change for GaitWay and set them up for years of success as a viable part of our community. The work this organization is more than a service to a few individuals, they are a testament to the power of investing in the lives of these clients in order to change their lives forever. In many cases, these clients improve their physical, mental and emotional stamina in ways many doctors never thought would be possible. GaitWay is a special organization and it is my promise that I will pour my heart into this campaign to showcase the beauty of what they do.
Our agency and campaign’s progress, like so many of the clients participating in therapeutic horsemanship, may start as a slow trop. However, we will continue to push ourselves as communication practitioners with the hopes of breaking into a strong and passionate gallop by the end of our time with GaitWay.