By Molly Loughman
To expand its global outreach and tourism, the Lithuanian government selected a communication plan produced by a small group of college students from schools worldwide, including Emerson’s Lillian Steinweh-Adler ‘20 and Joe Creason ‘22.
Emerson College has been the U.S. representative for the last decade in the semester-long public relations competition, GlobCom. Each year, college students are grouped into international teams to tackle real-world global communication challenges on behalf of a real-world client. Each group — given the same client, information and instruction — formulates its own research, analysis, strategy and proposal.
“It’s a real-world global experience — working with a real-world global client, collaborating among a global team and building a lifelong network of global relationships,” said, David Richard Gerzof, MA ’01, a senior affiliated faculty member in the Communication Studies department who’s led his International Public Relations students to GlobCom for the last four years.
This year’s competition included nine teams, each with multiple Emersonions working virtually with students and professors from more than 15 colleges and 20 countries.
“There were many Zoom meetings held at 2, 3, 4 in the morning, and I knew other group mates had to do the same when meetings were more convenient for my timezone,” said Steinweh-Adler. “But it takes a bit of rain to make a rainbow.”
“In the field of public relations, there’s a lot that can go wrong if practiced incorrectly, and it gets amplified when you start practicing across cultural lines,” Gerzof said. “Cultural sensitivities and things that can get lost in translation. One of the things we talk about in international PR is thinking global, but acting local.”
This year’s final competition was supposed to take place in Vilnius, Lithuania, but instead it was held online due to COVID-19 travel restrictions. Steinweh-Adler, a Communication Studies major and Creason, a Political Communication major, were in Group 3, which won this year’s GlobCom 2020 finals on May 27. Creason and Steinweh-Adler plan to join their teammates in Vilnius this August for a victory celebration of their winning communications plan.
Thinking Global, Acting Local
The International Public Relations course in the Communication Studies department focuses on global and international media relations, social media, branding, media management, crisis communication, and policy. Students of the class then apply those concepts at GlobCom, coordinating across geographic, cultural, language, religious, technological, and national differences — just as they would in a professional setting.
THE CLIENT: The nation of Lithuania.
THE NEED: A trade and tourism PR plan to increase awareness of and travel to Lithuania.
“Having teammates from all around the world meant each country would bring ideas to the group that others would never have thought of,” said Steinweh-Adler. “It was invaluable to have the perspectives of many different countries and cultures when discussing our ideas and research. It gave a depth to my understanding of the project and international PR as a whole that could never be achieved if the project was limited to just the classroom or even America.”
The approach of the GlobCom 2020 winning team, Group 3, was to capitalize on Lithuania’s native resources, showcasing its beautiful natural landscape and national culture to the world.
WINNING PITCH: “Urban Nature Fest” — an environmentally-themed festival designed to cultivate public interest in Lithuania. “There would be a lot of buzz for the event, as it would tie together many elements, such as nature and city, tradition and future, eco-friendliness and the urban world,” said Steinweh-Adler.
WINNING APPROACH: Unite foreigners and Lithuanians to experience what the country has to offer, and to have fun while sharing community and cultural experiences.
“With the additional aspect of social media influencers raising awareness online, our campaign was marketed for the current moment,” said Creason. “I believe the socially responsible theme of the festival may have given our campaign the edge in the end.”
“At the end of the day, the final projects were great,” said Gerzof, the founder and CEO of BIGfish Communications, who received a master’s degree from Emerson in Management, Public Relations and Integrated Marketing Communication, and has taught at the college since 2003. Gerzof judged three GlobCom 2020 projects and witnessed two more in the finals, adding, “Of those proposed communication plans, any one of them I would have been impressed by and would implement if I was sitting as a member of the Lithuanian Trade and Tourism Commission.”