When Gay Goldsmith EMBA '10 began a casual conversation with Professor Don Rahtz, she did not know it would lead to a mutually beneficial partnership. Goldsmith, an Executive MBA student at the time, also serves on the board for the Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Virginia (PPSEV), an organization long plagued by image issues.
Despite its new, state-of-the-art facility in Virginia Beach and high-quality, low-cost reproductive health services, Goldsmith and the rest of the PPSEV Board believed Planned Parenthood’s image still needed revamping.
"When my EMBA class was traveling in Southeast Asia last spring with Don Rahtz, I mentioned to him that PPSEV was struggling with some marketing and image problems," says Goldsmith. Rahtz decided this was just the task for some of his undergraduate marketing students. As part of the course, his students typically develop comprehensive marketing plans for businesses. This project would provide useful, practical experience for the students and return much needed feedback to PPSEV.
"We wanted to change the image of Planned Parenthood and make people aware of our resources," says Goldsmith, "We received two teams of students and Don came to a board meeting and conducted a [focus group], and based on that information, they began the project."
And thus a new partnership was born between an EMBA student and several undergraduate students -- the first of its kind.
The two teams -- called "Green Agency" and "Gold Firm" -- researched Planned Parenthood and the market, then developed marketing plans aimed at spreading awareness about the non-profit organization, particularly to the Generation Y market.
"Because both teams understand Generation Y so well," Goldsmith explains, "we feel that the campaigns they created are more beneficial than anything an expensive consulting firm may have created for us."
The plans were presented during class on December 2, 2010, to Goldsmith, fellow board member Elizabeth Davenport, and the president of PPSEV, Dr. Robert Rashti.
The result? Two different marketing plans. The Green Agency focused on social media and a youthful campaign with the tagline "What’s Your Plan?". The Gold Firm’s plan served as a supplement to the non-profit’s current message. This campaign aimed to reassure young people that "they are not alone" and utilized outdoor advertising and a helpful smart phone application to drive the message.
"In our centers, there are so many different stories," says Rashti. "[These ideas] give individuals the opportunity to understand the options they have."
Following the presentations, the teams offered useful recommendations to the board members, which the PPSEV plans to implement.
"Although both teams made valuable recommendations," says Goldsmith, "we were most excited about the Green Team’s 'What’s Your Plan?' campaign."
Since the presentation, a member of the Green Agency has offered to work with PPSEV to implement the "What’s Your Plan?" campaign by creating a budget, securing a domain to support a new website, and forging a plan for maintaining the new program.
Goldsmith and the PPSEV board members present expressed their satisfaction with the undergraduate students involved in this project.
"Both teams were polished and professional," says Goldsmith. "[The campaigns] were reflective of the large amount of time and thought that clearly went into these campaigns. We were most impressed by the students."
Unquestionably, this collaboration has opened the door for future program partnerships and showcased the academic talent present in the Mason School of Business.