Anissa Cooper ’19 named a finalist for PRWeek’s Outstanding Student of the Year award

The strategic communications major is one of five finalists for the national award, which will be presented at the 2019 PRWeek Awards Dinner and Presentation on March 21 in New York City.

For the fifth time in four years, an Elon University strategic communications major has been named a top five national finalist in PRWeek’s Outstanding Student of the Year award competition.

Anissa Cooper ’19
Continuing Elon’s remarkable run this spring is senior Anissa Cooper, who is competing against fellow finalists from Penn State University, the University of Alabama and the University of Florida.

All five contenders will be recognized at the 2019 PRWeek Awards Dinner and Presentation in New York City on March 21. According to Visiting Associate Professor John Doorley, the ceremony hosts what many consider “the PR industry’s most prestigious awards.”

This is the second Elon nomination for the 2019 PRWeek Awards as the School of Communications was also named a finalist in the ceremony’s Outstanding Education Program category.

As part of the 2019 Outstanding Student competition, Cooper and other participants were charged with creating a campaign that reintroduced excessively wide-legged jeans as a fashion trend for Generation Z – these individuals were born after the trend’s peak in the 1990s. During the campaign, students were required to include a brand activation and utilize digital channels; Use of TV spots or traditional print channels were not allowed. Additionally, influencer marketing was a mandatory campaign component.

It wasn’t just an invitation to the awards ceremony in New York City that piqued Cooper’s interest in the competition.

“When I looked at the prompt, I saw that it was related to fashion, which is an interest of mine,” the Charlotte native said. “I realized then it was something I could really get interested in and get behind.”

The Elon senior created a campaign with a two-pronged strategy. First, she developed a budding influencer campaign, where everyday people with an interest in fashion promoted the jeans. Secondly, she tabbed actress Yara Shahidi as the campaign’s main celebrity influencer.

The decision to attach the “Black-ish” actress to the campaign was an easy choice to make, explained Cooper.

“She’s an actor, an activist and her personal style is very avant-garde,” Cooper said. “She wears wide-leg jeans herself, so it was a natural fit to focus on her.”

As part of her entry, Cooper took on the role of a junior-level Levi’s employee and built her campaign – “Levi’s New Vintage” – from that perspective. “It was nice to align myself with a brand that is already established, which I think helped with the campaign,” she added.

Doorley mentored Cooper through the application process, helping the senior further develop her entry. His insights were both appreciated and important, according to Cooper.

“Professor Doorley was very helpful, helping me sift through my brainstorming and providing additional insights,” she said. “He was great about telling me his opinion and sharing what he thought needed more work, and what other things I should consider. His advice helped me develop a complete and comprehensive plan."

Doorley also commended Cooper for her willingness to take direction and consider alternatives as she worked through her campaign’s particulars.

“Anissa is a student who is really diligent, hard-working and has great interpersonal communication and writing skills,” Doorley said. “Plus, she takes feedback well, which is incredibly important. Moreover, she always takes that feedback and puts it with her own thinking. She just doesn’t accept it, which is a good thing. She thinks for herself.”

Cooper’s selection as a finalist for PRWeek’s top student award comes on the heels of her selection as a LAGRANT scholar last spring. Cooper was one of four Elon strategic communications majors awarded the prestigious scholarship, which tied Elon for first place nationally among undergraduate recipients.

Since the beginning of Winter Term, Cooper has worked as an intern for Pace Communications, a full-service marketing agency based in Greensboro. Last summer, she also served as an intern for Charlotte’s NBC News Channel, working on the outlet’s regional and national desks.

In 2016, Hattie Hoskins ’16 was the first Elon student named a national finalist for the PRWeek Student of the Year award. The following year, Rachel Hobbs ’18 earned the same recognition. In 2018, Hobbs and Kelly Valerio ’20 were both named top-five finalists, with the former advancing to the top two.