Case Study: Gonzaga Is for Real

Originally written for the Gonzaga University School of Leadership Studies.

As the marketing and communications manager at Gonzaga University School of Law, I was responsible for everything from social media strategy and execution to magazine content planning and production to digital advertising and graphic design direction. The best part of the job, however, was coming together as a community to strategically react to the urgency of unexpected moments.

One of the best examples (and my favorite memories) concerns the Jimmy Kimmel “feud” of 2019. For those uninitiated, here is a good recap of what went down. In short, ABC late-night talk-show host Jimmy Kimmel brought up Gonzaga’s annual presence in the NCAA March Madness tournament, joking about how Gonzaga probably wasn’t even a real place anyways. The small quip turned into a big deal.

The Zag community responded in full. As the MarCom rep for the law school, my job was to keep up. All “to-dos” were postponed until the Jimmy Kimmel storm cleared. Main campus’ MarCom felt the brunt of it, and for once I was thankful not to be included in all their fancy meetings. Back at the law school, however, we soon got word that Bob Ferguson, Washington State Attorney General (AG), would be stopping by GU Law to throw his support behind the school—and potentially film something with the Dean.

We had four hours notice. I tried to loop in my MarCom colleagues for support, but they were all swamped with their own projects and initiatives.

“Can you come help? This could be huge!”

“Sorry, I have a video shoot with the mayor.” And so on.

So the law school brainstormed. It was the Dean, my assistant, some professors, and myself. We proposed some ideas, sent notes to the AG’s communications representative, got feedback, and then gathered the troops (the students) to meet in the courtroom at noon. The core team went back and forth, deciding on costumes, cameras, phones — what should be said, what should not be said.

In the end, the AG swore on a Bible that Gonzaga “existed,” as I filmed on an iPhone (which I took from a random person in the crowd because it had the best camera available). The filming was electric. I had never had so much fun as a communications professional in all my life. We posted to social media, the main GU channels shared it, and it went nuts.

Later that night, Jimmy Kimmel responded, once again, to Gonzaga’s insistence that it was indeed a real place. Kimmel didn’t show the main campus video with the mayor, or the four other projects that the university came up with that day. He showed our crazy, shaky-iPhone courtroom scene, complete with a Dean, an AG, and a crowd of passionate Law Zags.

I’m proud to have captured this frenetic, unexpected moment and to have helped the Zag community beat Jimmy Kimmel at his own game.