omino's Pizza made a name for itself by promising fast pizza delivery in "30 minutes or less," but by the late 2000s, the only thing it had become fast at was losing customers. The company's unhappy patrons were publicizing their complaints on social media. Then in 2009, a YouTube video showing employees tampering with food went viral and ignited a PR crisis.
In response, the company kicked off a multiyear effort to address the complaints and concerns head-on, revamping its menu and pizza recipe and launching a massive TV, web and social media campaign. The rebranded "Domino's" doubled its profits from 2009-14 and expanded its fan base on social media.
The effort was a case study of how to do it right, said Scott De Francesco, a professor in the School of Communications' Advertising and Integrated Communications program.
Over the past decade, companies have shifted how they are using digital technology to develop their brands. Consumers are voicing their opinions—good and bad—on social media and other digital venues, and companies are listening more closely than ever, De Francesco said.
"We interact with brands as if they were people," added Terry Bloom, associate dean of the school, who helped build the program. "We want a personal connection."
The Department of Strategic Communication created the undergraduate program to prepare students for jobs in this evolving field, including content creation, strategic planning, native advertising, community management, social media strategy and digital marketing.
"Employers are looking for entry-level employees who can do it all," said Bloom.
"The program combines a traditional view of advertising with the excitement that digital technology brings," De Francesco said. It dovetails with the school's other academic offerings, including public relations, journalism, media studies, film, television and media arts, and interactive digital design.
"In the School of Communications, you can really tap into your creative passions and capitalize on market opportunities in the process," said Bloom. "It's all about using media in new, innovative ways."
Industry executives are taking notice.
"It's fantastic that Quinnipiac is responding to the business reality and equipping students with the mindset and skills to effectively deliver from day one," said Pandora Lycouri, a partner with Millward Brown Vermeer, a global research agency specializing in advertising effectiveness, strategic communication, media and brand equity research.
"Teaching students to be consumer-centric, to understand how to draw insights and deliver compelling storytelling, will be key. Most importantly, it's about this curriculum staying ahead of the curve. It's about being agile and future-thinking," Lycouri said.
Betsy Stark, managing director of content and media strategy at Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide, also is impressed.
"The curriculum for Quinnipiac's new major in advertising and integrated communications reads like our wish list of skills for new hires," said Stark.
Quinnipiac student Victoria Amendolara of Glen Cove, New York, is interested in a career in the entertainment/television industry and likes the program's blend of courses.
"I love anything creative. I'm excited about the curriculum. It's exactly what I was looking for," Amendolara said. The program will prepare her for different jobs in the field, she said.
"The curriculum mirrors what is going on in 'the real world,' and will provide students with the education and training they need to stay one step ahead of a rapidly changing industry," said Lee Kamlet, dean of the School of Communications and an Emmy Award-winning producer. "Our students will graduate with the solid foundation they will need, not just to compete, but to be leaders in the field."