November 20, 2017

Helping PR pros make smarter decisions

Student Run PR Firm = Hands On Experience

Student Run PR Firm = Hands On Experience

There are so many things that drove me nuts about being in college.

I’m sure there were plenty of things that drove my parents and/or professors nuts too, namely my proclivity to do the bulk of studying for my U.S. Foreign Policy class over pitchers of beer and a few Marlboro Lights with my buddy Matt at the campus pub, rather than at the library like my more studious peers. (Actually, I got an “A” in that class, if I recall–and I never even bought the books! Hi, Mom!)

What really got to me, however, was the constant wondering about when I would actually use the knowledge I was paying (and paying, and paying) through the nose to gain. Is spending all that time in the pub library really going to have much benefit when a student joins the workforce? I think it depends on your field, but for many liberal arts majors, the answer is “not really.” Which is probably why a good number of the students in my major, Political Science, took time off or dropped out entirely to work on campaigns. If you want the experience to prepare you for the job you want, a hands-on approach is usually best.

Don’t get me wrong, keg stands aside, college is a necessary part of preparing to become a driven, productive professional. I’d never recommend anyone skip it–but I would recommend they seek out programs, internships or other opportunities while there to get that “real world” experience. Which is why, when Jessica Lawlor reached out to Media Bullseye about PRowl Public Relations, the student-run PR firm at Temple University, I jumped on the story.

PRowl started after founder Natalie Prazenica attended the national conference of the Public Relations Students Society of America (PRSSA) in October 2007, and noticed that several other universities were offering student-run firms that work with real clients to give students some hands-on experience. After gathering a group of interested students, they pulled together a business plan and were ready to roll by early 2008.

According to Lawlor, “During our first semester in operation, we worked with two different clients: The Rebecca Davis Dance Company and Dynasty Models and Entertainment, both in Philadelphia.” Since launching and running successful campaigns for those clients, the firm has added several more to their roster for the summer semester. They’ve wisely offered their services to those likely to benefit from the college audience: wedding and event planners, a new fashion line, and a parks concert series.

While not an official part of the Temple PR program (the firm is run as a part of PRSSA), PRowl does have a faculty adviser overseeing the students’ work. “We have a faculty adviser who is very involved in the overall strategy and approval process of all documents sent to clients or the media,” Lawlor points out. “Our firm director, Jaime Scofield, frequently meets with our faculty adviser to discuss issues surrounding the firm.”

Social media continues to play a growing role in public relations, and PRowl is no exception. All the clients boast a Facebook page, and the firm helps their event-planning client, Save the Date, maintain its blog. Of course, the firm also has its own Facebook page and blog, updated regularly with thoughts on everything from pitching clients, reputation management for public figures, and the hubbub caused by the latest issue of the New Yorker. There is also a bit of lighter fare, and of course links to hits for the firm’s clients.

The idea of a student-run firm might cause some to balk, though Lawlor claims that they’ve yet to run into a client that has an issue with their age or inexperience. It makes sense, who better to help reach out to a Facebook and blogging audience than digital natives? What the firm lacks in experience it likely makes up for in insight into target audiences, which I am sure is attractive to potential clients, as well as the bargain price–PRowl does not charge for its services.

“We are a non-profit organization that runs solely for our members to learn more about public relations and to get a taste of what working in a firm might be like for before entering the real world,” Lawlor states. “We hope that the experiences and skills our firm members develop will make them better prepared to enter the field upon graduation.”

Indeed, making the Dean’s List is hard work and a real accomplishment, but running your own PR firm, handling clients, and running campaigns all before you graduate college? That is likely to give these students a valuble edge when they enter the competitive job market at graduation. While Temple doesn’t offer course credit for students working with PRowl at this time, it seems the experience will benefit them more than a transcript boost.

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