This summer, 11 Penn State students are taking the 12-week course COMM 497A Promotional Video Agency, a for-credit opportunity structured more like a real-world business that produces promotional videos for on-campus clients.
The group is called Peer-to-Peer Productions, or P3. As part of the class, students work with on-campus entities that could benefit from a promotional video. This partnership makes the class mutually beneficial to both the client, which receives the service, and the students, who gain valuable experience.
The course is taught by Guido D’Elia, senior executive strategist and founding partner of Mind Over Media -- a branding and marketing company that provides solutions for higher education institutions.
“Sometimes he sits back and lets us talk and then he will interject and say, ‘Well, think about this,’” said senior broadcast journalism major Sofia Westin, a native of Stockholm, Sweden. “Or he will cite a real-world example. He has been in this business for a long time. We’re young and a little naïve thinking of all of these big ideas. He kind of reins us back to think about everything logically.
“He’s a guiding hand to make sure that we get to do what it is that we want, but the right way, so to speak.”
The students meet with potential clients to pitch how a video could benefit their organization. If the client agrees to hear more, the team then goes back and pitches a concept of what the video will entail and a plan of what the class can do to help. Once the group gets the green light, it shoots, edits and produces the final product.
“It’s seeing a project through from start to finish, whatever it takes to get it done, and learning along the way what you know and what you don’t know,” said D’Elia.
The class has a scheduled three-hour meeting time every Monday, but D’Elia said much more work gets done outside of those scheduled group meetings. Students treat the class like a real-world job, responding just as employees in a fast-paced business would. That means the students need to be available to meet or respond to clients. The group also uses platforms like Skype to meet, Basecamp, a project management app that allows them to share notes, and GroupMe, a messaging app.
“There are no set hours,” said D’Elia. “This is a work scenario. We all need to respond. Everyone has got something. People have the family at home, kids at home, carpools. You don’t do work in the absence of that. You do work in and around that and including that. That’s what I’m trying to get them to do.”
The class runs just like a professional agency, with students taking on different roles based on their skills. The various roles include project managers, editors, sales, sound technicians and videographers. D’Elia selected students for class based on an interview process.
“We try to make sure we have enough people that can shoot and edit so that we don’t get funneled into a choke point,” said D’Elia. “Mostly, though, what I look for is who really wants this experience. Who wants to be challenged like this? Who really wants to have a real-world scenario? It gives them the confidence that they can deal with a client nose-to-nose, that they can be accountable like that.”
This summer session marks the second version of this class, with the first taking place in fall 2014. That semester, the group produced promotional videos for the local band My Hero Zero, the Penn State College of Communications AdClub and Penn State Career Services.
Midway through the summer class, the group is already working on projects with LionCash+ and the Office of Student Aid, among others. D’Elia estimates the class will end up with four or five projects this semester. The class was formed after a discussion between D’Elia and Dean Marie Hardin of the College of Communications. They wanted to craft an experiential course that provided an opportunity for students to gain hands-on experience.
“I’m doing this because I feel like maybe I might be helping somebody see something in themselves, good and bad, that will help them get going,” said D’Elia.
So far, students like Westin have learned valuable skills.
“I’m learning how to work with a team,” said Westin. “Sometimes, when people aren’t there you have to make sure that you follow up with them and that they get back to you and that everyone is on the same page, that there’s no misunderstanding anywhere. Also, it’s being accountable. Yes, this is a class that we’re getting credit for, but we are also very responsible to the clients we have. It feels like whenever I get assigned something, I’m on a clock.”