As students prepare for their transition into the workforce, they are expected to have experience in developing campaigns for clients whether in the classroom or in the field. One thing’s for sure: real-world experience is always better than working with an imaginary client.
As a senior at The University of Alabama, I have had the privilege of working with a real client during campaigns class. Our client is The Alabama Choir School. The school began operating as an all-boys choir in 1985 and developed into a full-service, afterschool choir program designed for students of all ages. The school will be celebrating its 25th anniversary in May at the Moody Music Hall at The University of Alabama. Our campaigns class has been working with The Alabama Choir School to help promote awareness of the celebration as well as the financial condition of the school. Since the school is an afterschool nonprofit program, it has faced many financial challenges throughout the years.
Can organizations actually benefit from the services of student-run PR firms? Why not? We may not have a great deal of experience, but we offer a low-cost alternative to professional PR fees. Most student-run firms charge a fraction of the cost normally charged by professional firms and some only ask to be reimbursed for their expenses. The experience gained can be valuable to both the student and the organization.
Working with nonprofits can be very challenging, mostly because of the lack of available funds. Most of them are struggling just to exist in a slow economy. Founder Karen B. Nicolosi has worked directly with our class to help provide each group with the necessary information to implement our campaigns. With limited funding, our class was able to work hard to develop very creative campaign tactics that will benefit The Alabama Choir School.
We had the chance to work with staff members, students and alumni of the school. The local media accepted our work just as if we were a professional firm, and we gained experience with news media interviews. The Alabama Choir School may celebrate its anniversary with more people than ever due to the efforts of our class. The school also hopes to gain financial support for one student who might otherwise not be able to attend the program. Our goal as a group of senior PR students is to find local businesses interested in helping nonprofits such as The Alabama Choir School.
More organizations should offer PR students these same opportunities so we might gain necessary experience not available in the classroom. When working with real clients, students are forced to provide more accurate data. The hands-on experience provides students with greater opportunities in creating real tactics and the opportunity to evaluate the outcomes of these tactics. The students develop relationships in the community and with local media, an important part of PR development and one of the fundamental experiences PR firms want in a job candidate.
Should organizations use student-run PR firms? They really have nothing to lose. Good publicity is great, but if it costs less than the same publicity received from professional PR firms — that’s even better!
What do you think about student-run PR firms?
by Scott Young