Published on May 25, 2017, at 10:23 a.m.
by Terrika Woods.
Breaking into public relations while still being in college can be overwhelming and stressful. At The University of Alabama, public relations students are taking experiential learning into their own hands by helping start a women’s ministry.
The Flourish Collaboration is a women’s ministry that was birthed from a vision by a University of Alabama student, Brooke Jackson. According to the Flourish Collaboration website, “The Flourish Co. was created from the need for women, of all ages and stages, to know their Savior and know the value and calling He has given them.”
During the summer of 2016, Jackson decided that it was time to develop a team in order to launch Flourish on Feb. 11, 2017. The team consists of a creative director, outreach coordinator, public relations director, graphic design and prayer director, hospitality coordinator, objective coordinator and three interns.
Brooke reached out to friends and students who she knew would fulfill the mission of Flourish through their respective positions. The public relations director position was filled by Jada Culver.
Culver is a senior at The University of Alabama, majoring in public relations with a concentration in sport and entertainment communication management and a minor in Italian. She described her contribution to the planning process of Flourish to be diverse.
“When we were preparing for the launch I did a lot of coordination of how we were going to get stories from other women,” Culver explained. “I tried to figure out who would be great partners and advocates for Flourish. I did a lot of contacting and copy editing for the website.”
Another important aspect of a strong organization is graphic design. According to Chrysalis Communications, “It [graphic design] serves to convey your ideas in a way that is not only effective, but also beautiful.
The graphic design director position was filled by Katie Belue. She is a senior at The University of Alabama, majoring in public relations with a concentration in nonprofit communication management and a minor in communication studies.
Belue’s duties as graphic design director includes an assortment of responsibilities.
“I make all the graphics for the website,” Belue said. “We did an advent study and I put together the book. If there is anything on social media that isn’t a picture of somebody, I did that. I am also in charge of putting together the prayer map.”
An important thing to remember when working with an organization is that some job responsibilities might be shared, so always be prepared. Even though Culver and Belue hold two different positions, Culver described how they work hand in hand.
“We had a lot of things that we wanted to post on the website,” Culver said. “We didn’t want the website to just be copy, so I did a lot of work of incorporating graphics that accommodate content and are available for print.”
Time commitment is a huge factor when starting an organization. The planning phase always requires the most time commitment, but can sometimes decrease as the organization becomes more stable. When asked about her time commitment, Belue described her experience to be similar.
“It depends on what is happening. During our advent study it was probably like 12 hours a week, but other than that it’s normally three to four hours,” Belue noted.
Although most skills come from gaining experience in the field, some aspects of public relations have to be taught first. Belue owes her success and understanding of graphic design and public relations to the advertising and public relations (A+PR) department at The University of Alabama.
“Well, first of all I didn’t know how to do graphic design before A+PR at all,” Belue explained. “With that being a huge segment of PR helped me immensely [as well as] understanding Creative Cloud. I think them [A+PR] teaching us to tell the story of a brand and not just trying to sell the brand has helped me a lot with the storytelling aspect of Flourish.”
As growing PR professionals, it is easy to become discouraged and feel as if you are constantly competing for the best internship or position title. There are awesome organizations that are always looking for help, and you could hold the answer to their growth.
Belue has great advice for students who may feel discouraged about not being able to gain experience.
“I would say not to drink the PR juice that says you have to get a huge corporate internship,” she said. “I think you should just jump in where you are needed because a lot of the work that I have done to help grow my portfolio is from little nonprofits in Tuscaloosa or Birmingham that needed help. So growing your portfolio where you can and not waiting on a huge agency to pick you up is important. Doing something that you are passionate about is easy to advocate for.”
Flourish continues to grow and reach women all around the world. Within the first three months, Flourish has hit over 1,800 Instagram followers. The factor to this success is unknown, but Culver and Belue say it is owed to prayer and women spreading the word.
They also note that if you are a student or PR professional looking to gain experience and help contribute to the mission, The Flourish Collaboration is always looking for writers and interns.