Cooking Up Positive PR

Ebeling PR-ize winning students Sam Pallini, Anna Wilks, Erika Kubik and Taylor Stephens discuss their "Cooking Up Community" campaign with Washington mayor Gary Manier and Chuck Ebeling. Photo by Duane Zehr

By Matt Hawkins
January 2, 2015

Four Bradley students cooked up a family and business-friendly afternoon to help Washington residents commemorate the one-year anniversary of November 2013’s devastating tornado. The campaign won the fall semester’s Ebeling PR-ize for Excellence in Public Relations Campaigns.

“Cooking Up Community” provided a business showcase, public relations tips for local businesses, fall-themed foods and games for children as one of the first events during the city’s weeklong remembrance of last year’s tragedy. It brought together leaders from Five Points Washington, the city’s Chamber of Commerce and Washington Township United Fund.

Senior public relations majors Erika Kubik, of Saint Charles, Missouri; Sam Pallini of Green Bay, Wisconsin; Taylor Stephens, of Edina, Minnesota; and Anna Wilks, of Indianapolis, designed and executed the campaign, which earned recognition as the top senior capstone public relations project for the semester.

“It’s wonderful to see students being responsive to real-world community needs of a city still in the process of recovering,” said award namesake Chuck Ebeling ’66. “Their event was a part of the recovery process and they made a real contribution.”

Washington mayor Gary Manier helped the team make key connections in the community. He commended the students for creating an event that brought joy to the region, not just the rebuilding city.

“We needed the coming-together party. This was part of the process to give our residents another opportunity to be together,” Manier said. “It’s exciting that these young people thought of us. When I met them, I thought, ‘They’ve got it. They’re doing things for others.’”

The level of community support impressed the Bradley students, as a sizeable crowd spent the afternoon enjoying the chance to eat, talk and support local businesses.

“None of us were from Illinois, so we didn’t know how we would be received, but everyone was open and willing to help us,” Kubik said. “I’d been to Washington before, but I didn’t really know the residents. I was most impacted by their appreciation.”

The experiential learning project gave students a taste of professional PR campaigns. By virtue of focusing on the recovering city, it also included elements of crisis communication and community relations.

Brian Garnant, special events manager at Five Points Washington, said the students’ effort positively impacted the community.

“’Cooking up Community’ was unique and offered something just a little different for families to come together and enjoy connecting with others, making some treats and mingling with many local businesses,” he said. “The Bradley students showed how supportive young people are as the rebuilding continues.”