The College of Charleston’s Department of Communication recently wrapped up its third year of partnering with the Charleston Wine + Food festival to provide a group of students the opportunity to participate in a yearlong fellowship focused on public relations for the festival.

The fellowship is part of a strategic communications campaigns capstone course taught by Associate Professor of Communication Amanda Ruth-McSwain.

Students in the strategic communications campaigns capstone course pose in front of the custom wall they designed for Charleston Wine + Food. (Photo provided)

The students were challenged to create and pitch a campaign to promote the renowned festival, which spans five days, includes 100 different events, 400 chefs, 150 beverage professionals and more than 100 artists and experts from around the globe. This year’s festival also provided students with a chance to be involved in the production of NBC’s Today Show, which sent hosts Kathie Lee Gifford, Hoda Kotb and Al Roker to Charleston during the festival for a special episode of the popular morning show.

Against the backdrop of Charleston’s Waterfront Park, the communication students got firsthand experience working behind the scenes of the national television news show, assisting with production logistics, crowd control, wrist band distribution and addressing audience questions and concerns.

“This was such a cool experience,” says Kelly Rosenblatt, a senior from Austin, Texas. “I felt like I played a direct role in the event running smoothly. And getting a photo with Al Roker wasn’t too shabby either.”

This year, students received full approval of a three-tiered promotional campaign, which centered around the hashtag #WhyIWineandFood. The campaign included physical installations, such as window clings in William-Sonoma, and a custom wall at the front of the festival’s Culinary Village in Marion Square. The CofC students conceptualized the campaign as a catalyst for photo opportunities and Instagram content. Students also created a blog series and organized a promotional giveaway.

Alyssa Smith ‘13, the festival’s marketing and communication director and a CofC alumna, referred to the College of Charleston cohort as “an integral part of the team.”

Sean Pedernales, a senior from Charlotte, North Carolina, says the real life experience he and his classmates gained was invaluable.

“The professional confidence and adaptability I am developing in this course is unparalleled and has made me feel so much more equipped for finding a job after college,” says Pedernales.

Emily Enright, a senior from Middletown, New Jersey, says the College’s location in a vibrant city is what makes it possible for students to have such enriching learning experiences.

“This experience reminded me why it’s so special to go to school in Charleston,” says Enright. “This city really does afford so many unique opportunities.”

Featured image: Today Show host Al Roker at Charleston Wine + Food. (Photo by Jesse Volk)

Jane Stoudemire is a senior from Jacksonville, Florida, studying communication and media studies at the College of Charleston.