If you haven’t been able to tell yet, we get really excited about offering students with study abroad scholarship opportunities, especially when we find out students like Emily Plazek seized the chance to turn the scholarship into a viral marketing campaign for a class assignment at the University of Pittsburgh! Emily truly understood our purpose of these scholarships in spreading the word about study abroad in general, and she was incredibly successful in doing just that. We are thrilled to share an interview we had with Emily, as she described her experience throughout the scholarship campaign.
Interview With CEA Scholarship Finalist, Emily Plazek:
Can you tell us how you found out about the CEA scholarship and what made you enter? What were your initial impressions and expectations?
The CEA Website featured a banner advertising the Abroad101 contest, and the $5000 caught my attention. Initially, I was impressed by the concept. Essay contests are one thing–but this zoned in on the untapped power of social media we have at our fingertips daily. This aligned with my studies beautifully because over the past year I’ve delved into other personal social-media marketing projects already (especially with my 92.1 WPTS radio show (emilymorningglory.tumblr.com) and it’s tri-social-media platform. I was thrilled that Abroad101 offered me this double-whammy of a contest: I got to practice marketing AND get a chance to win the scholarship money I so badly need to study in Ireland.
How and when did it develop into a marketing campaign for class?
I had the choice: I could just make a Facebook group and invite all miy friends and see how many LIKEs I was lucky enough to get, or I could see this as an opportunity to do some real-world marketing practice. My marketing classes constantly prod my creative juices to see grand things emerge from small ones, so this quickly became very fun for me. Right after I submitted my essay, I sought out some advice on exactly how to get started.
My business school mentor, Dr. Atkin, offered me the most support at the beginning. He was the one who gave me the “OK” to make this a legitimate school-wide campaign. Once I got his approval and encouragement, I referred to my marketing classes’ coursework on how to organize the campaign; I designed the flyers, a creative brief, and a mission statement. Then, I strategically planned when I wanted to launch the advertising by looking at trends in the competitors’ LIKE increases. I paced my projected plans so I wouldn’t run out of steam too early, and I saved some ideas to amp up LIKE-gains at the tail-end of the contest (for an adrenaline-rush finale that everyone involved enjoyed thoroughly).
How successful do you think your campaign was?
No matter the outcome of this, I will always consider this campaign a success. We hit our projected goal number of LIKES of 1700 (we came up with that number because that’s the amount achieved by the previous winner).
I measure this campaign as a success not only by the stats, but by how my classmates and professors reacted: people really got into this thing. I especially enjoyed the final hours of the competition, when my Future Business Leaders of America organization “PBL” helped me launch Viral Facebook News Feed blasts. I had dear friends making me QR codes, sharing Viral Marketing lessons, and recruiting hometowns and abroad networds to spread the word. So many people helped me out. It was exciting. It was fun. It was real-world marketing for us business kids, and we loved it.
A few peers told me it was inspiring, and I was very flattered by that. Honestly, it was just great to see the marketing ideas come to fruition and to know that people enjoyed participating in the excitement.
What have you gained from this experience?
If I haven’t highlighted my gratitude yet, let me take this chance to say I’m so thankful–because I gained the most unique undergraduate marketing experience I could have dreamed up. On top of my own learning about social-media marketing, I know that this experience also helped kids see proof of the possibilities out there to make something grand out of something small because this campaign saturated the UPitt CBA Business School in a way that even school organizations don’t always achieve.
What would you say to those who don’t believe in a scholarship competition that asks for entrants to gain “Likes” as part of the judging criteria?”
I’d just point out that social media is undeniably the next wave of this generation’s communication–and it’s a powerful marketing tool that we can either embrace or miss the boat on entirely. A contest that uses LIKES as part of the judging criteria is just challenging the entrant to get creative and courageously let his/her voice be heard.
Many thanks to Emily, as well as the students and faculty at the University of Pittsburgh who supported this campaign, and for turning this scholarship into something bigger than we could have even imagined.
We also want to thank all the other entrants for their participation and sharing of incredibly heartfelt and remarkable stories as to why they deserve a study abroad scholarship!
And of course, none of this would have happened without CEA‘s support of our mission to provide more opportunities to students to study abroad through this generous scholarship!