Loyola’s Student-Run Communications Agency Flies High with United Airlines

Inigo Communications, a student-run communications agency at Loyola, took a one-day trip to Washington, D.C. to visit their client United Airlines.

Inigo Communications, Loyola’s student-run communications agency, has been giving students the chance to create promotional content for real clients for six years, including taking a day trip to Washington, D.C. for United Airlines. 

Inigo was founded in 2017 by Cheryl McPhilimy, a senior instructor at Loyola and the current faculty advisor for the agency. It counts as an Engaged Learning course at Loyola, also known as COMM 345.

McPhilimy said she started Inigo to give students the skills and confidence to work in communications agencies after graduation. It was created with three major goals in mind — letting students do real work for real clients, putting students in motivated teams and receiving mentoring from alumni and public relations professionals. 

Inigo currently works with Avionos, a business-to-business e-commerce company, business networking organization Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce and United Airlines’ Department of Safety and Compliance. They create promotional material for their clients, including press releases, videos, posters and social media content.

Jill Berndtson, a digital marketing specialist at Avionos, is a Loyola alum and was part of Inigo from fall 2017 to fall 2018 before graduating in 2020 with a bachelor’s in advertising/public relations. She works directly with Inigo students, sending them projects like infographics, employee handbooks and market research.

Berndtson said her time at Inigo directly led to her current position. She said having hands-on agency experience separated her from other candidates. 

“I have a huge spot in my heart for Inigo,” Berndtson said. “It was my favorite organization I was involved with during my time at Loyola.” 

Alex Krebs, the manager of marketing and communications for the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, said the Chamber is appreciative of Inigo’s hard work in creating high-quality content.

“Inigo’s team is highly professional, responsive and efficient,” Krebs wrote in an email to The Phoenix. “Inigo Communications is a valued partner of the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, and we look forward to continuing our successful collaboration with them in the future.”

Eight students from creative and copywriting teams met with United’s Department of Safety and Compliance to film content and conduct interviews with staff to promote the department. Inigo focused on baggage handlers, customer service representatives and other ground staff during the one-day trip to Dulles International Airport in Washington, D.C. Feb. 24. 

Firm Director Marielle Sorhondo, a junior advertising/public relations major, said the trip was proposed by United. Inigo typically travels to O’Hare International Airport to create social media content of the airline’s employees on the tarmac, but the airline wanted to diversify the people pictured on their accounts. 

Sorhondo said she enjoyed working with the unsung heroes of commercial flight who make sure travelers get home safe. 

“It just feels really meaningful to work with all these people that work under the wing and make your flights happen that you don’t necessarily appreciate on a daily basis,” Sorhondo said. “It makes me feel like we’re doing some good work out here.”

Ellie Landt, promotions coordinator and sophomore marketing major, said this has been a groundbreaking semester for Inigo because of the number of opportunities everyone in the agency had. She went to D.C. to create promotional content for Inigo, advertising the agency to prospective students and clients.

“We have students in Inigo of all different majors and all different years, and there were freshmen going to these events, going on the United trip,” Landt said. “I definitely think it was a super cool experience to get out of the classroom.”

Landt said the trip’s schedule was “choreographed,” as they only had four hours until their return flight. Half of the Inigo team went to the tarmac, while the other half stayed inside the airport. Students gathered as many videos, interviews and pictures as they could to use later on United’s social media pages.

McPhilimy said she was impressed with how the Inigo students handled the trip to D.C. She said everything was carefully budgeted and planned, including how the content would fit into the agency’s goals for working with United.

“It’s the real deal,” McPhilimy said. “It’s not just class exercise anymore when you’re standing on the tarmac talking to under-the-wing employees for one of the biggest airlines in the world.”

Students in Inigo have had other opportunities to get field experience throughout the semester. All 24 members of Inigo went to The Exchange, a business networking event by the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce held at Soldier Field, to create a video and make new connections March 29, according to Sorhondo.

Sorhondo said covering The Exchange involved careful planning to get the proper background footage of the event and its attendees. Inigo students that weren’t filming toured the event to meet with businesses from everywhere in Chicago. 

With the success of the United trip and so many members of the firm being eager to attend, Sorhondo said she believes Inigo is back in full force after the pandemic confined the agency to Zoom meetings for two semesters.

Featured image courtesy of Ellie Landt

Maddie Franz

Maddie Franz