Communication Students Cook Up Strategies for Charleston Wine + Food

Friday, April 28th, 2017

Part of the appeal of the city of Charleston is its ever-expanding food scene.

In addition to the numerous restaurants throughout the Lowcountry, Charleston Wine + Food has become a yearly draw for tourists and locals. Good promotion and communication strategies are key to the success of that multi-day event, which is why Charleston Wine + Food’s marketing and communications director Alyssa Maute Smith ’13  decided to pair the festival with students in College of Charleston’s strategic communications campaigns capstone course taught by associate communication professor Amanda Ruth-McSwain.

“Charleston Wine + Food has a strong alliance with the College of Charleston and this fellowship program most definitely strengthened our relationship,” says Smith, who studied with Ruth-McSwain while receiving her master in communication from the College. “As an alumna of the College, I too have a vested interest in its success and the success of its students.”

She adds, “this was as much a learning experience for the students as it was for me and I am a strong believer in reverse mentorship. While the fresh campaigns, marketing strategies and creative execution were hugely beneficial, I feel that our rooted purpose was to create a meaningful experience for Amanda’s students while harnessing their talents. The festival exists to showcase Charleston through thoughtful storytelling and meaningful experiences while being a catalyst for connections. I feel like this fellowship aligns perfectly with our higher purpose.”

Ruth-McSwain was excited that students in the yearlong capstone course had the opportunity to coordinate with the festival in March.

“This the first time this course has been able to plan and execute full-scale campaign work in the way that these students have,” she says.

Students had free rein to identify the needs of Charleston Wine + Food through formative research in the fall semester, which they the used to create and pitch a plan to the festival’s management team in December.

The students’ recommendations were immediately approved with very little adjustments, and they got to work executing their ideas in the spring.

“I am 100 percent pleased with the outcome,” says Smith. “It far surpassed any of my expectations.”

The class was split into three cohorts: a social media team, a public relations team and a media relations team. The PR team created a #PourIntoCharleston campaign to highlight the economic impact and giving arm of the festival with a series of blog series, a culinary village installation and campaign visuals. Jenna Archambault, the public relations team lead, says it was amazing to work so closely with an organization of this magnitude and to be able to execute their ideas.

The media relations team developed a “Seat At The Table” campaign to enhance the involvement of influential bloggers and Instagrammers with the creation of a #CHSWFFStreetTeam made up of some of the Lowcountry’s most popular digital mavens and social media users.

“This class truly sparked an interest for me in the field of strategic communication and marketing,” says media relations team lead Ashley Copeland. “Before this experience I had only participated in the strategic process as an intern completing micro elements that contribute to an overall goal, but this course gave me the opportunity to research and create a full strategic plan from start to finish. This course inspired my job search after college and taught me that even the small details matter in creating results for a client.”

Gabby Fabbri, the social media team lead, says her group’s goal was to increase awareness of the festival for a younger generation and get them excited about attending. The social media team developed a #BeSocial campaign to encourage young professional engagement with the festival on Instagram and Snapchat.

Both Smith and Ruth-McSwain hope to pair again for future courses.