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GrandPR creates communications campaigns for local nonprofits during 24-hour event

  • Grand Valley students working with the Kids' Food Basket representative during the CreateAthon.
  • GrandPR staff members (from left to right) Evan Clark, Lauren Talby and Christina Oberly working with their client from Grand Rapids Public Library.
  • GrandPR staff members working on their communications campaigns during the CreateAthon.
  • GrandPR staff members consulting with a client during the CreateAthon.

Posted on March 28, 2018

More than 30 students recently participated in a 24-hour marathon event to develop communications campaigns for five West Michigan nonprofit organizations that will ultimately help them make an impact in the local community and beyond.

Staff members from GrandPR, Grand Valley’s student-run public relations firm, developed these campaigns during the CreateAthon, held from March 23-24 at 8ThirtyFour Integrated Communications in Grand Rapids.

GrandPR was one of only five student-run firms nationally affiliated with the Public Relations Society of America (PRSSA) selected to host a CreateAthon. The event was a collaborative effort between GrandPR, PRSSA, Grand Valley’s chapter of PRSSA and the national CreateAthon organization.

During the event, GrandPR staff members divided into small teams to work with representatives from Grand Rapids Public Library, Friends of Grand Rapids Parks, HQGR, Grand Rapids Community Foundation, and Kids’ Food Basket.

“We believe that giving back impacts more than just the organizations we’re serving, it also empowers and motivates our staff and the community as the campaigns are implemented,” said Sabrina Antcliff, a junior majoring in graphic design and GrandPR CEO. “Leading by example, we want to instill a mindset of service before our staff go beyond GVSU and into the workforce.”

Students were tasked with incorporating marketing techniques, public relations strategies, creative digital and broadcast materials, and more into their campaigns.

Elise Cameron, a junior majoring in graphic design, was a member of the team that collaborated with Grand Rapids Public Library to develop a media “grab pack” that could be used to educate the public on the free media resources the library offers.

“One of the most rewarding aspects of this challenge was seeing my team come together to come up with ideas and create a great campaign in less than 24 hours,” said Cameron, from Clarkston. “Our client was thrilled with the work we did and it made everything worth it to see her so happy.”

Another team created a campaign that would aid the current planning efforts surrounding the 3rd annual Mayor’s Greening Initiative. The event is a partnership among the office of Grand Rapids’ mayor Rosalynn Bliss, Friends of Grand Rapids Parks and the city’s Forestry Department. The goal of the initiative is to rally community members to plant hundreds of trees every year on Arbor Day in specific neighborhoods in Grand Rapids.

Amandari Karaca and her team centered their campaign around highlighting the functional and emotional benefits of planting trees as well as helping the public understand how they can get involved.

“It was really nice to be reminded that this isn’t for a class, but instead, that the work we do really matters and that we will help make a difference in the success of the organizations that aim to improve our community,” said Karaca, a senior majoring in advertising and public relations.

Ashley René Lee, Grand Rapids Community Foundation vice president of public relations and marketing, and a 2007 Grand Valley graduate, said the students she worked with developed a roll out campaign for GRCF’s North Star — the organization's new strategic direction.

The students’ plan included elements of social media, print and digital assets, video, internal communications strategies and event ideas.

“I remember what it’s like being a student looking to build my portfolio of work, so I am passionate about providing opportunities to support college students on their journey,” said Lee. “I knew the students would come up with some great ideas, but they truly exceeded our expectations.”

While the students were split into teams, all GrandPR staff members collaborated to help refine each team’s campaigns during various creative briefings, brainstorming activities and “spitballing” sessions.

CreateAthon, a 501(c)(3) organization, was founded in 1998 by Riggs Partners, a marketing consultancy in South Carolina. Since its inception, CreateAthon has helped more than 1,500 nonprofit organizations in the U.S., Canada and the United Kingdom by delivering pro bono marketing projects valued at more than $24 million.

The CreateAthon was sponsored by Grand Valley’s School of Communications, 8ThirtyFour Integrated Communications, Sabo PR, Mighty in the Midwest, BOXBOOM Creative and Black Truck Media and Marketing.

For more information about GrandPR, visit