Newhouse PR Students Help State Office Develop Climate Change Impact Campaign 

Christina Herrera and her classmates in a Newhouse public relations class seized on an opportunity to develop a campaign about the impact of climate change intended to reach every New York State resident. 

That’s about 19 million people — quite a formidable prospect at first for the students in last spring’s Public Relations Cases and Campaigns class (PRL 425). “I think having New York state be such a big [demographic] was intimidating to us,” Herrera ’23 said.  

It turned out just fine. The students came up with ideas that will help a New York Department of State office shape messaging, along with real-world samples for their portfolios to impress potential employers.  

“I know that these PR students got a great chance to solve a real problem, a very serious problem, and to work for a government that has a mission,” said Steven Pike, an associate professor who taught the course. “I also know, from our client, that they really appreciated the ideas.” 

“Our client also struggles with how to talk to all 19 million (New York State) citizens,” Pike added, “and seeing how the students reshaped the message for different audiences cast a light on how they might successfully do that.” 

Steven Pike headshot
Steven Pike

Every year, Pike’s PRL 425 class works with a local business to help elevate and personalize their brand. The purpose is to give students the experience of creating a real PR campaign. 

“We try to give our students the benefit of exposure to a wide variety of real clients. Sometimes it’s a local enterprise or a commercial enterprise,” Pike said. “One semester, my student even helped a local karate dojo.” 

For the Spring 2023 class, Pike’s students teamed up with the Department of State’s Office of Planning, Development, and Community Infrastructure (OPDCI).  

The collaboration began when the OPDCI reached out to Hua Jiang, associate dean of academic affairs and an associate professor of public relations, to form connections within the University, while also seeking to improve communications and messaging. Simultaneously, Pike was searching for a client for his class.  

Jiang provided a connection, leading Pike to pitch his idea to the OPDCI. 

“I told them, sit down with my students and detail your problem. What is your mission?,” Pike said in recounting the pitch. “What is it that you are trying to accomplish? Let us figure out who that principal audience is, and we can help you with the messaging.”  

The class split up into groups of four and each cluster came up with their own campaign for OPDCI.

“One of the things that we really focused on was connecting our campaign to being a New Yorker and the pride that comes with being a New Yorker.” Cecilia Roller ’23, said about her group’s campaign. 

“So, our campaign for the general public focused on creating nostalgia. We showed the old ‘I love New York’ advertisements contrasting that with the way New York is being affected by climate change.”  One of her main goals throughout the semester was assisting OPDCI with producing more user-friendly content.  

“Professor Pike sent us a bunch of resources to learn about their programs, and I remember I sat down for four hours looking through them and just trying to figure out what they meant,” she said. “That was one of the biggest things to me. If I am a student who is trying to figure this out for a class, then how is the general public supposed to?”  

The Public Relations Cases and Campaigns class enables Newhouse students to work on a campaign for real-world clients, and while Roller and Herrera are hopeful OPDCI will implement their suggestions and ideas, they left the class with an incredibly valuable experience to carry forward in their public relations careers. 

Alix Berman is a sophomore in the magazine, news and digital journalism program in the Newhouse School.