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IMC students pitch restaurant ideas to FleishmanHillard global leader

April 13, 2015 | By Anna DiStefano (WCAS17, IMC Certificate)

“You can only accomplish meaning if you understand the business and their goals. That is the foundation for communications,” said Marjorie Benzkofer, the Global Leader of Reputation Management at FleishmanHillard, to IMC students.

Benzkofer watched Medill IMC students provide this meaning to their marketing strategies as they presented elevator pitches to her as a class assignment. For this task, the students were divided into groups to develop marketing strategies for restaurants in the Northwestern area aimed at the student body called “Jeri’s Healthy Restaurants.” The presentations needed to speak to customers, investors or NGO partnerships.

Benzkofer said these types of exercises are one of the best thing students can do.  “Getting internships and real world experience helps [students] more and more in the marketplace,” she said. The presentations created a different and more personal way for students to “to hear from leaders in the communications field and improve their persuasive powers” said Hobor. Students played roles from Communications Director to CEO of their company, developing narratives for the interactions. Benzkofer was impressed with the creativity and ingenuity that went into giving Jeri’s a differentiated product, essential to successful pitching. Many pitches applied strategic principles in telling the story of a young anorexic girl finding Jeri’s and using their food to recover and appealing to a larger call, to “save a life” and stop the spread of obesity.  Benzkofer applauded this focus on not what a company does, but why, to make the target group care much more.

Some highlights were pitches that, “pulled a kind of local pride - that’s a huge motivation” said Benzkofer, in opening a local business, or talked about employees being advocates for their cause, not just the product. Another great presentation technique was starting with a question for the audience—and of course, “having answers is a smart presentation technique as well” Benzkofer advised. Overall, there was a lot of strong programming and unique hooks, but Benzkofer revealed the, “number one secret is to bring food [to the presentations],” which two students did, providing Benzkofer and other judges with organic cookies.

Benzkofer also emphasized the importance of presenters connecting with their audience, so she said it is important students always lead with what they want to accomplish.  Especially when speaking to executives, she said, “remember: they will never be more excited than you are.” Students in the class were able to apply their energy in this presentation, and experience a realistic business meeting with constructive feedback. Students can use lessons learned here in later interviews and work situations. 

When asked if Benzkofer hires Medill graduates with the type of experience she outlined at the FleishmanHillard Chicago office, she replied, “of course we do!” Visit our website for more information on IMC and its opportunities or to apply.