StratComm connects students with businesses for real-life strategic work

Final round participants at this year’s StatComm, a competition that gives teams of Communication Studies and Media Arts (CMAS) students the opportunity to gain hands-on experience solving strategic communications problems for real local businesses.

The goal: to develop a strategic internal communications plan for DHL, a global shipping and supply chain logistics company, and Shaden Ahmed, Tracy Beazley-Clark and Sama Elhansi knew they had to do more than simply look at a website, or hold a Zoom meeting.

“We actually visited their warehouse, and got to meet with their management,” explains Ahmed, a second-year communications studies and theatre and film student. “We came up with ideas about how to help make the communications there more efficient for both the workers and the associates, and were able to communicate how we felt the company could improve in specific areas.”

The result: a tie for first place at this year’s StratComm, an annual competition where teams of students in Communication Studies and Media Arts work with real businesses to develop usable, strategic marketing and communications plans.

2022 marks the first year that StratComm, which is hosted by the Communications and Media Arts Society, has been held in person since 2019. Each team presented to a panel of judges, which included CSMA professors Christina Baade, Terry Flynn and Alex Sévigny.

It wasn’t just DHL that benefited from students’ efforts. Other business partners included Tip Top Towing, CUPE 3906, TalentLift Canada and Your Neighbourhood Pizza Company.

Nadia Singh, who also won first place, worked with Your Neighbourhood Pizza Company to develop a communications plan that would increase the company’s presence on social media, as well as encourage people to start dining in after pandemic restrictions lifted.

The competition’s third-place team, Jiaqi Xu and Krisha Mehta, worked with CUPE 3906. Along with learning about the components of a strategic communications plan, the pair also valued the opportunity to practice their presentation and public speaking skills.

The whole competition, points out Beazley-Clark, mirrors how these kinds of plans are developed within organizations – which means students are getting valuable experience even before they graduate.

“I come from the business world,” says Beazley-Clark, who is a mature student. “What I’ve noticed about StratComm is that this is actually the way that you would create a presentation, a deck and pitch a solution to management in the business world. This is real-life practice.”