School of Communication PR event to benefit non-profits

The School of Communication was featured recently in the Sun-Sentinel for an upcoming event by Public Relations students to benefit non-profits. The article follows below. Click here to access the original article online. Click here to read more about the event. Click here to read more about Meryl Blau, a faculty member who is in the article. Click here to read more about our MA in PR.

Students, nonprofits partner in PhilAdthropy marathon

January 22, 2013

By Doreen Hemlock

Joanna Horowitz, center, one of the founders of Jody’s Couture for the Cancer Cure, reacts to the campaign presentation Saturday morning. Ashley Testa, Michelle DaBols, Alexandra Goldman, Melisa Ramos, and Shayla Garcia worked together for 25 hours in order to come up with a design concept for their client, Jody’s Couture. The student volunteer team was with the guide of Meryl Blau, the team leader. (Marlena Skrobe, Courtesy)


It’s a win-win for students and nonprofits: Advertising and public relations students pull an all-nighter to help charities with ad campaigns, providing students with practical experience and cash-strapped nonprofits with promotional materials they likely couldn’t afford.

The University of Miami School of Communication holds its Fourth Annual PhilADthropy event Feb. 8-9, a 25-hour marathon. Local nonprofits are invited to submit applications by Friday; sixteen will be chosen.

Two Broward County nonprofits that have participated in PhilADthropy recommend the program.

Darrell Gwynn Foundation of Davie was looking to develop an ad campaign, so that they could encourage more owners of classic cars and sports cars to donate vehicles. The foundation sells those cars and uses proceeds to provide at least 30 customized wheelchairs a year to special-needs users.

A team of UM Communication students came up with the slogan: “You give a ride; They get a ride.”

“We’ve turned it into an ad campaign that’s been real successful for us,” said Ryan Rogers, the foundation’s director of marketing and communications.

“It’s a tremendous value to get something like that.” Rogers said, estimating that similar work at an ad agency might have cost $5,000. “The concept and slogan are the hardest things to come up with.”

National K-9 Working Dog Inc. of Pompano Beach wanted help to spread the word that dogs trained to help police often are killed after retirement, because handlers don’t receive money for K-9 medical care. The nonprofit is pushing for K-9 rights in legislatures, stressing the dogs are “officers,” not “equipment.”

“The students gave us a complete makeover. They changed the logos, changed the message, did everything. They were fantastic,” said Jay Meranchik, 62, a professional dog trainer and computer engineer who started the nonprofit but lacked skills in advertising and communications.

With the new materials, “on Facebook alone, we went from less than 400 to more than 2,000 [likes] in a year’s time,” Meranchik said. “And a T-shirt with the logo they gave us, it’s been a big hit.”

Meryl Blau, a UM lecturer and former creative director at an ad agency, dreamed up PhilADthopy after hearing of an outreach program elsewhere by graphic design students. She figured a 25-hour event would put student’s classroom skills to the test, let them experience the real pressures faced with clients on a job and also, keep their volunteering to a finite time. Results have exceeded her expectations.

“Students have seen their work show up on billboards on I-95 and pitched to national organizations by their South Florida branches. Their social media campaigns now are viewed on a national level. They’ve seen video they’ve created go viral,” said Blau. “And nonprofits get finished artwork they can use.”

About 100 students are expected to take part this year, including senior Aaron Martin, 21, of Pembroke Pines. The advertising-psychology major has enjoyed PhilADthropy so much that he signed up again.

Martin said he’s energized by the challenge of teaming with students he doesn’t know, brainstorming, choosing a concept and pushing past dawn to offer a presentation to their client before noon.

“Late at night, you have to have someone playing good music, or everyone will crash,” joked Martin.

He’s also found it rewarding to see his team’s concept brought to life. Community Smiles of Miami-Dade County used the students’ idea to re-design its dental clinic lounge, with slogans of reasons to smile.

Martin said he’d like more programs like PhilAdthropy, so students can gain work experience and aid the community: “The clients love our input. They’re kind of surprised to see what we come up with.”

For more information or for nonprofits to apply, visit, 305-810-5009


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