Rachel Hobbs ’18 named a PRWeek Student of the Year finalist

As part of the national contest, the strategic communications major developed a promotional campaign for IKEA, creating a spokesfigure and strategy to represent the Swedish furniture company.  

Strategic communications major Rachel Hobbs ’18 was named one of five national finalists for the 2017 PRWeek Student of the Year Award, joining students from Alabama, Ithaca College, Maryland and Southern California. This is the second consecutive year an Elon student has received this noteworthy honor.

For the second consecutive year, an Elon University student was named a finalist in the PRWeek Student of the Year competition. Following in the footsteps of Elon alumna Hattie Hoskins ’16, Rachel Hobbs ’18 (pictured) was this year’s Elon representative. 
As part of the national competition, Hobbs and students from across the country conceived and proposed a public relations promotion for IKEA, the Swedish furniture company. The process included conducting research, developing a spokesfigure to embody the campaign, and planning strategies and tactics for releasing the campaign.

With guidance from Visiting Associate Professor John Doorley, Hobbs designed a character named Dekora, based on Marianne Hagberg, a real IKEA designer. Hobbs said she chose the name Dekora because it is a shortened version of the word dekorator, meaning decorator in Swedish.

To effectively launch this new spokesfigure, Hobbs created the Design Your Destiny campaign, which strongly aligns with IKEA’s brand and business objectives.

“When I first started working on my entry, I spent a lot of time researching the IKEA company,” Hobbs said. “Eventually, I developed an understanding of the company’s history and core values. I learned that IKEA is focused on quality design and helping customers to live better lives. I designed my entry with these ideas in mind.”

One of the biggest obstacles Hobbs faced during the competition – before she could even develop the character or write a communications plan – was identifying her target market. Eventually, she decided to market her plan to individuals who are “moving up in the world.”

“This plan is for people moving out of their parents’ houses into their first apartment, people moving out of apartments and becoming homeowners, and even the parents that are helping their kids with the move,” Hobbs said. “I developed Dekora and the Design Your Destiny campaign because the people I was targeting are essentially working to design their own destinies in life.”

Ultimately, Maryland’s Tish Carmona was crowned PRWeek’s 2017 Outstanding Student and was honored at the 2017 PRWeek US Awards in March. While Hobbs didn’t prevail, Doorley said she shouldn’t hang her head.

“This was quite an honor for Rachel,” said Doorley, who has judged past PRWeek student contests. “The competition is the PR industry’s top student award and it is very intense.” 

Hobbs said Doorley’s “Public Relations and Civic Responsibility” course provided invaluable insight during the competition, and she ran several of her entry ideas by classmates to gain their feedback.

Hobbs called the competition a great learning experience, and she’s glad she participated. “It strengthened my skills as a communications student and helped me to gain experience with developing campaigns and understanding the brand of a company,” she said.