By Manship School public relations instructor Doug Draper
I love my job. How many people can say that and truly mean it? I always look forward to teaching public relations courses at the Manship School because of the students. They come ready to learn skills that will make them relevant in today’s marketplace and lead to meaningful careers. Most days, they bring energy, curiosity and creativity to the classroom and bravely tackle real-world challenges. Sometimes, they even laugh at my “dad jokes.”
In teaching my students how to be skilled communicators, I find that many need more experience in an area that most people fear—public speaking. While I rely on my own experience, I also have an amazing ally who I discovered at a workshop for fiction writers.
One of the presenters, Lindsey Duga, author of Kiss of the Royal, delivered two “elevator pitches” when describing techniques for getting a book published. Her powerful pitch blew me away. I turned to the person next to me and said, “Wow! My students need to hear this.”
Lindsey accepted my invitation to come to my PR writing and social media strategy classes because she is a Manship School graduate, class of 2012. She delivered two remarkable pitches and participated in a Q&A session that my students loved. Lindsey inspired them because she had been in the same room as a student six years earlier and is now a published author and the account manager for Gatorworks, a digital design studio in Baton Rouge.
While Lindsey impressed all the students, she had the most profound effect on a class visitor that day. Mary Chiappetta, a Manship School graduate student, attended to write about the presentation for the Manship School Blog. After hearing that Lindsey wrote her first novel while at LSU, Mary decided she would follow that example and signed up for a writing challenge to draft a novel in 30 days. She did it! Mary gave me a sneak peek of the first few chapters, and she has a fun, engaging story to tell. I can’t wait to read the rest.
To my delight, Lindsey agreed to be a guest speaker in my current classes, but this time I’m applying her expertise in a much more interactive way. For my PR writing classes, we’re holding a friendly competition—MC 3001 Pitch Wars. The first round took place this week under the banner of Celebrity Challenge. Lindsey came as the celebrity, with Mary Chiappetta and me playing the role of challengers. All three of us pitched story ideas for the novels we’re currently writing.
The second round takes place next week, with 57 students participating. They will be delivering pitches to get new business for a PR agency or to sell a story idea to a reporter or editor. Thanks to the generous team at Communication across the Curriculum, we get to hold this version of MC 3001 Pitch Wars at Studio 151 in the CxC offices in Coates Hall. Knowing these students, I expect it to be epic and produce many “Wows!”
There’s no denying the many benefits that come with a Manship School degree: solid reputation among employers, the skill set you need to succeed and mentors and friends that bring with them the connections and support you need to launch your career. Some families have even turned the Manship School into a multi-generational tradition of excellence.
1985 alum Lafe Jones first encountered Evelyn, the woman who would become his wife, in an advertising campaigns class they shared during their junior year while pursuing their undergraduate degrees at the Manship School in the 1980s.
“We were from two different worlds. I was a sorority girl and he was a country boy, but we didn’t think anything of it,” Evelyn said.
Although they were close friends during the remainder of their college years, even getting to experience being on the winning advertising campaign team in an advertising class they shared their senior year, Lafe recalls they didn’t start dating until later, when their paths crossed again in Alexandria, Louisiana.
“We reconnected when we got involved in a local Alexandria advertising club after college,” Lafe said. “For our first date, we went to the Addy Awards Banquet in Alexandria. That was more than 30 years ago.”
Sparked by their shared history with the Manship School, Lafe and Evelyn created a public relations, marketing and advertising firm in 1990, which they maintained through 2005. Both credit the foundation they received through the Manship School with preparing them for their shared career trajectories, and for bringing them together, too.
These days, Evelyn serves as the Marketing Director for Red River Bank and Lafe, after working in administrative and leadership positions for several years, has transitioned back into marketing and planning consulting work as the leader of his own company, Lafe Jones & Associates. While no longer in business together, both Lafe and Evelyn value the added level their relationship gains from sharing the mass communication industry in their careers.
“Having our career field in common played a big role in our relationship these past 30 years. We both advise each other in marketing, advertising and public relations, and can really understand and help each other with our projects,” Lafe said. “I can’t imagine not working together and I can’t imagine not having this career.”
But, their story doesn’t end there. Inspired by his parents’ remarkable connection to the Manship School, Lafe and Evelyn’s son Luke followed in their footsteps and attended the Manship School for his own college degree. Originally an English major, Luke decided to embrace the family tradition of excellence rooted in the Manship School degrees his parents received.
“I grew up in the world of mass communication,” Luke said. “I always knew I wanted to be in that world, too.”
A 2013 graduate, Luke shares his parents’ enthusiasm for the role the Manship School played in preparing him to succeed in his career. He even took on leadership roles in the Manship School, giving tours to prospective new students as a Manship Ambassador and serving as Vice President of the Manship School’s student Advertising Federation (AdFed) chapter.
“The Manship School classes simulate real-world scenarios, but what I found extremely helpful was the network of professionals who spoke to us in those classes, sponsored tables at our AdFed luncheons, offered students internships, told their stories and answered our questions,” Luke said.
Luke also credits his experience with the Manship School for setting him on the path to create his own advertising firm.
“The Manship School provided not only an invaluable learning experience, but also served as a launch pad for many of the ideas I had when I started my own company, Toucan Advertising,” he said. I developed a love of advertising and started my own agency because of my Manship School experience.”
Unbelievably, Luke also met his fiancée at the Manship School.
“It’s actually crazy,” Luke said. “My parents met in their advertising campaigns class in the ‘80s, and now I’m engaged to Claire (Robichaux) who I met the exact same way! In the final semester of our program at the Manship School.”
Connected by family history, industry, and their tie to the Manship School, Luke and Claire look forward to sharing the added facet of common career focuses in their married life. Both alumni work in different sectors of the mass communication world, in which Luke operates the advertising agency he founded, Toucan Advertising, and Claire serves as an executive with Lamar Advertising.
“Being in the same industry, we have a lot of common ground,” Luke said. “When we come home from work we can talk about the same problems, and we share the same professional language. It’ll be really fun to have a partner who knows what I’m going through, and I know what she’s going through.”
Although Luke and Claire don’t plan to go into business together, like Lafe and Evelyn did, Luke and his dad collaborate regularly on projects through their advertising firms. Inspired by Lafe and Evelyn’s entrepreneurial venture earlier in their lives, in 2017 Luke set out on his own to form Toucan Advertising in New Orleans. Soon after, Lafe told Luke that he, too, was setting out to form his own company again. His son inspired him, in turn.
Both Lafe and Luke credit the Manship School with preparing them for the successes they now enjoy.
“The Manship School has always exceeded my expectations,” Lafe said, “and it does so even more now that Luke has come through the program as a Manship Ambassador and been more involved than we ever were. He developed an amazing network of connections during his time at the Manship School.”
“Who knows where we’d be without the Manship School?” Evelyn added.