News & Events

Student Distinctions

Notre Dame students win grand prize in business communication

by Anuneha Mewawalla, Arthur W. Page Society

April 8, 2010


A case study examining Domino’s response to a video prank that compromised consumer trust in the Domino’s brand has been awarded Grand Prize in the Arthur W. Page Society’s 2010 Case Study Competition, sponsored by the Page Society and the Institute for Public Relations. The objective of the Case Study Competition is to promote practical applications of corporate communications as a critical management function.

Adam Peeples and Christiana Vaughn, students at the University of Notre Dame, Mendoza School of Business, received recognition this year for best overall submission for their case study: Domino’s “Special Delivery” Going Viral Through Social Media. The study examines how social media platforms have changed traditional communications processes and the impact these networks have on corporate communications and corporate reputation.

The two students will be presented with a $5,000 check at an awards presentation during the Page Society Spring Seminar dinner at The Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City, April 8, 2010. Professor James O’Rourke will also be honored at the dinner as the faculty advisor for the winning submission.

In addition to the Grand Prize winner, there were two first-place winners from the University of Notre Dame and the University of Alabama, two second-place winners from the University of Notre Dame and the University of North Carolina and one third-place winner from Syracuse University. Each winner was awarded a cash prize.

This is the Page Society’s eighth-annual case study competition designed to strengthen awareness among business, communications and journalism students of communications and corporate reputation issues.

“This year’s case studies highlight the importance of clear and transparent communications – and, indeed, many of the principles upon which the Page Society was founded – in managing a company’s reputation,” said Bill Margaritis, Chairman of the Arthur W. Page Society. “As evidenced by the Domino’s case, these principles are even more important given the growing influence of social media. We congratulate the team from Notre Dame and all the winners in this year’s competition.”

Robert Grupp, Institute for PR President and CEO, added, “The 2010 case study submissions examined the importance of corporate communications during a time of increased economic uncertainty. We applaud all the winners of this year’s competition for their timely contributions to building the body of knowledge in this important area.”

All case studies were evaluated on the basis of relevance and timeliness, as well as the significance of the business problem and the effective use of the seven Page Principles, which the Page Society embraces as the core principles that guide the actions of public relations practitioners.

The Winning Entries

Grand Prize

Title:Domino’s “Special Delivery” Going Viral Through Social Media  

Submitted by: Adam Peeples and Christiana Vaughn, University of Notre Dame, Mendoza School of Business

Faculty Advisor: Professor James O’Rourke

Abstract: This case study examines how Domino’s effectively managed a major breakdown in consumer trust as a result of a video prank posted on YouTube. The company effectively leveraged social media – the same channel used by the pranksters – to transparently communicate the company’s efforts to address the situation.

First Prize, Business School

Title: Apple, Inc.: Transparency in Corporate Statements About the CEO

Submitted by: Paul Kim, Jon Lee and Steve Lee, University of Notre Dame, Mendoza School of Business

Faculty Advisor: Professor James O’Rourke

Abstract: This case study examines how Apple Inc.’s decision not to immediately and publicly address rumors regarding CEO Steve Job’s health had an unfavorable effect on key stakeholders: media, shareholders and Wall Street. The lack of transparent communications and the vague nature of the company’s public disclosures about Jobs’ health chipped away at the trust and positive feelings that had developed over time. This was particularly important, given Jobs’ role at the time as the sole public face of Apple. The lack of transparent communications about this important issue led to public uncertainty which ultimately had an effect on public trust and stock price.   

First Prize, Communications

Title: President Obama at Notre Dame: Maintaining Integrity When Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Submitted by: Elizabeth Riesterer, University of Alabama, College of Communication & Information Sciences

Faculty Advisor: Professor Bruce K. Berger

Abstract: This case study examines Notre Dame’s controversial decision to invite President Barack Obama to be its 2009 Commencement speaker and bestow on him an honorary doctor of law degree. This decision called into question the Catholic mission of the university and strained relationships with key stakeholders, including alumni, employees and friends of the university. The case details the actions taken by these stakeholders in communicating their concerns to the university and steps taken by the university to repair relationships once the media controversy had died down.

Second Prize, Business School

Title: General Motors Corporation: Communicating A New Vision For Survival

Submitted by: Lina Sorensen and Timothy Whitehead, University of Notre Dame, Mendoza School of Business

Faculty Advisor: ProfessorJames O’ Rourke

Abstract: This case study examines General Motor’s (GM) communications strategy around its 2008 appeals for government aid. In particular, the study explores the differences between the company’s initial request and its follow-up visit to Washington, D.C. on December 8, 2008. This second trip was literally and optically very different from the first.  Arriving for the Dec. 8 meeting via hybrid car (rather than private jet) and communicating its new plan with an enhanced level of sensitivity to public perceptions, GM was better able to convey the urgency of its message and, ultimately, to win the government support it was seeking.

Second Prize, Communications

Title: Entirely Comfortable with its Orientation: Subaru’s Successful History of Gay/Lesbian Integrated Marketing Communications

Submitted by: Laurie Phillips, University of North Carolina, School of Journalism & Mass Communication

Faculty Advisor: ProfessorElizabeth Dougall

Abstract: This case study examines an integrated marketing and communications success story in reaching a key target audience for Subaru: the gay and lesbian community.  Subaru has had an unwavering and authentic relationship with the gay and lesbian community for more than 14 years – a period in which sales for the car manufacturer doubled in size. Company outreach included corporate sponsorship of the Rainbow Card (an affinity credit card), followed by gay and lesbian-specific advertising and numerous strategic sponsorships. Considered revolutionary at the time, Subaru’s corporate communications efforts are compared with other companies whose interactions with the gay and lesbian community were much less successful.

Third Prize, Communications

Title:Cornell University H1N1 Influenza Pandemic

Submitted by: Abigail Bedecs and Jonas Niiholm, Syracuse University, S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communication

Faculty Advisor: Michael Meath

Abstract: This case study examines Cornell University’s public information campaign to inform the campus community and public about the potential pandemic influenza threat and the university’s plan to prepare for, respond to, and recover from a pandemic. Cornell’s plan had six very specific goals ranging from creating awareness about the threat to aiding in the restoration of normal operations.

About the Arthur W. Page Society

The Arthur W. Page Society is a professional association for senior public relations and corporate communications executives who seek to enrich and strengthen their profession. Membership consists primarily of chief communications officers of Fortune 500 corporations, the CEOs of the world's largest public relations agencies, and leading academics from the nation's top business and communications schools. The Page Society is dedicated to strengthening the management policy role of chief public relations officers.

For more information please visithttp://www.awpagesociety.com/site/about/

About the Institute for Public Relations
The Institute for Public Relations is a global, independent non-profit foundation headquartered at the University of Florida. It bridges the academic and professional communities supporting public relations
research and mainstreaming this knowledge into practice. Further information is available at www.instituteforpr.org.