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Positive PR

Bradley student Shelby Brown learns self-defense techniques at an event organized by Bradley public relations seniors. (Photo provided by Kris Parks, Kuk Sool Won of Pekin)

December 6, 2016

Bradley public relations seniors find creative ways to improve the Peoria metro area each year through a friendly final project competition. Through the Ebeling PR-ize, students build relationships with local businesses and nonprofits in effort to improve the lives of local residents.

Founded by retired McDonald’s communications executive Chuck Ebeling ’66, the senior capstone challenges students to address worthy causes in the community with help from local organizations.

“This takes every class we ever took and threw it into one project,” said Kayley Koter, of Des Plaines, Illinois. “It’s a big deal because this is real life. It affects real people.”

Fall 2016 capstones targeted safety and financial concerns. One group paired area martial arts school Kuk Sool Won with the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Peoria to encourage and empower girls and young women. Another campaign paired Peoria education nonprofit Common Place with an area Mass Mutual office to promote financial basics. A third campaign promoted safe neighborhoods by passing out LED porch lights and hosting a block party with help from Ameren Illinois, Peoria Police Explorers and community advocacy organization South Side Community United for Change.

The experience pushed students outside their comfort zones as they took time to understand life and concerns of Peoria metro area residents.

“It’s good that we’re forced to get to know the city,” said Madeleine Koenig-Schappe, of Columbia, Missouri. “As we met people, we realized there were many important issues we could work on. Once we picked one, it was good to see the impact we could make, even though it was just a semester project.”

Students formed teams and functioned as full-service PR agencies for the semester. They followed the traditional PR campaign planning process from initial research to post-event analysis. Because of the small teams, students touched all elements of PR, with its marketing, advertising, event planning and business applications.

For many participants, the Ebeling competition was an introduction to nonprofit work. Though they may have volunteered for community service projects at Peoria-area organizations throughout their Bradley years, classroom and internship experiences focused on corporate PR.

As a result, the semester opened new career possibilities for people like Koter, whose group worked with Common Place.

“It was heartwarming and eye-opening to see the impact of organizations we worked with,” Koter said. “I hadn’t considered working in the nonprofit world before, but this is something I could see myself doing.”

The Ebeling PR-ize has recognized the top PR campaigns each since 2004. Previous winning teams include Hope Grandon ’11, whose competition success helped her land at the Denver Art Museum, where her team won a 2014 Silver Anvil — the top award from the Public Relations Society of America. Other past Ebeling campaigns included a voter drive and a community-building day of remembrance a year after a tornado devastated nearby Washington, Illinois.

“You’re going to have a hand up on many other graduates because of opportunity like this,” said Koenig-Schappe. “It’s really enriching to learn how to do a project in real time, with real people that produces real results.”

Only 8% of you approve of what Congress has been doing.

Here’s one BIG reason to vote this December, and vote OUT all incumbent candidates and bring in fresh blood.

In the aftermath of the school massacre at Sandy Hook, two years ago this December, 92% of gun owners wanted to see mandatory background checks required for all gun purchases. Yet Congress did nothing. In some states, up to 95% of the population wanted background checks, yet the Congress was afraid of the remaining 5%.

Instituting background checks for gun purchases and coming down hard on illegal gun trafficking by gangs and drug addicts could make a BIG difference in community safety across this nation, without restricting the legal ownership of guns one bit. Yet Congress did NOTHING.

Where were you when you heard about Sandy Hook? (I was driving home from officiating at a cause-related communications awards program I support at Bradley University.)

Where do you stand now?

Vote OUT Congress (of BOTH parties) this December. Send a new message, and a new Congress, to Washington.

Today is the perennial Muscular Dystrophy Labor Day Telethon, a creation of comic legend Jerry Lewis. This year, for the first time, Lewis, who has raised an estimated $2.5 BILLION for MD over the years, will not appear on the show, for reasons currently unexplained. His production company produced the shows for many years at great Las Vegas hotels. I was there for several Telethons in the 70s and 80s, representing McDonald’s, MD’s first national sponsor of the Telethon. We brought out McDonald’s restaurant employees, franchisees and company executives to present Jerry with contribution checks for millions of dollars raised by McDonald’s and its customers, and I had many encounters with the great one and his show biz luminary guests, even once including his old partner, Dean Martin. Jerry was always a problem child, quirky and difficult to deal with, but his heart was full to bursting when he’d relate to “his kids” with MD. Jerry truly leveraged his fame to make a positive difference in the world.

The latest round of winners in this university cause-related public relations competition appear here:

On Friday the 14th, the 13th Ebeling PR-ize winning student team at Bradley University in Peoria, Il was announced. The winning campaign is called Shape Up the Earth, and is a recycling awareness campaign involving the Greater Peoria YMCA and Eagle Enterprises Recycling, Inc.


In the top 20, looking at overall public affairs performance, technology and consumer products companies were cited most often.  There were two healthcare and financial services companies included and one airline.  The top 20 includes IBM, Microsoft, General Electric, Google, Johnson & Johnson, Apple, Wal-Mart, Target, Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Procter & Gamble, Southwest Airlines, Starbucks, JPMorgan Chase, Ford, Cisco, FedEx, American Express, ExxonMobil and Pfizer.

General Electric topped the list in the corporate communications and investor relations categories.  IBM led in online/digital communications as well as employee communications.  The community relations top five included Target, McDonald’s, Wal-Mart, Starbucks and Coca-Cola.  Johnson & Johnson and Microsoft were in the top five in philanthropy and corporate social responsibility.  In media relations, technology companies, Apple, IBM and Microsoft, received high rankings.

October 2022

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