Rachael Ray pet food is center of project

Breanna Berkebile, Editor-in-Chief

On Thursday, about 10 students huddled around laptops and notebooks in Biddle 124 to discuss campaigns for Rachael Ray Pet Foods.

According to marketing professor John McGrath, this project is for his Promotion Management course, which is designed to give students a real world experience.

“(The business department’s) whole approach is all about the real world,” McGrath said.

“(Students) learn by doing. That’s really what we’re all about.”

Split into two teams called virtual agencies, students are to assume the roles of agency professionals and create campaigns that include advertising, social media and public relations concepts, according to McGrath.

This will allow the students to learn the fundamentals of integrated marketing communications and promotion, said McGrath.

McGrath said students then discuss their ideas via Skype with one of their Rachael Ray clients, associate brand manager Kristen Hastings.

According to Hastings, her role in the project is to give the students feedback on when their ideas are working and answer any questions they may have.

So far, however, Hastings said working with the students is going well.

“We’ve had three check-ins since the beginning of the semester, and it’s amazing what the students have accomplished so far.

“They come to our meetings prepared, engaged and with really solid ideas to help support our brand.”

McGrath said students also are working with Rachael Ray’s Supply and Demand Planning Director Jaison Klingensmith, who graduated from Pitt-Johnstown.

Working with alumni, according to Mcgrath, is what makes the project work.

“Current students working with alumni, that’s the magic that makes it happen.”

Senior Logan Blackburn said the project has been a good experience so far.

“It’s a good opportunity, and it’s good real-world experience.”

McGrath said, at the end of the semster, students are to travel to Rachael Ray’s headquarters in Pittsburgh to pitch their completed campaign to the national brand marketing team.

Blackburn said he hopes to impress their clients.

“I hope we come up with a unique idea they didn’t think of, something that really speaks to them,” Blackburn said.

Mcgrath said the clients are to choose between the campaigns the two teams created and decide whether or not they’d like to use it.

This, according to Mcgrath, will be eventful. 

“It’s a day that (the students) will never forget in their college experience.”