Posted At: November 19, 2013 11:00 a.m.
by Karly Weigel
Texas Tower PR at the University of Texas is becoming a powerhouse both locally and nationally. This student-run firm works specifically with local nonprofits in
the Austin area. The students are quickly defining grassroots PR in the state of Texas. Their dedication and focus on individual clients are unparalleled and send positive ripples throughout the state.
According to the Texas Tower PR site, in 1968 Alan Scott founded the High Noon Society, a 1960s version of the current Advertising and Public Relations Campaigns class that seniors take prior to graduating from the University of Texas. This student-run firm gradually evolved into the concept that is Texas Tower PR today.
On November 4, Texas Tower PR was able to bring Dustee Jenkins, the VP of public relations at Target, to campus. The firm used social media and digital fliers to entice UT students about the event. The teaser sent out to students said something big and red was coming to campus. Topics discussed included creating brand affinity, navigating the communications industry and exploring the latest trends in social media and public relations.
Other notable speakers who have spoken to Texas Tower PR members include Rhonda Weldon, the director of communications for UT Operations; Rebecca Feferman, the head of film media relations and programmer for SXSW, and Melissa Ayala, a communications specialist at Capital Metro.
Leading the Team
Hugo Rojo, the director of Texas Tower PR and a junior majoring in public relations, has enjoyed his time thus far leading the team.
“I’ve been director since May 2013 and I love every minute of it. I’ve gotten to lead a team through a restructuring and rebranding process that’s completely revamped how we function as a student-run agency,” Rojo said. “This position has taught me to let go of the minute day-to-day details and trust my team in delegating responsibilities. It’s also taught me to be an empathic leader and truly ‘see’ how others work.”
Rojo believes that, nowadays, employers don’t want to see if you graduated at the top of your class. They want to see if you can think critically in a time of crisis. They want to know if you can churn out a press release in the next hour and craft a month’s worth of social strategy. Texas Tower PR is teaching all of these things.
Working with Clients
Some of the clients Texas Tower PR works with include Teatro Vivo, Austin’s premier Latino theater company; Cancer Support Communities of Central Texas, a network of support for those affected by cancer; Minis and Friends, a group of miniature horses providing equestrian therapy for those in need. Two new additions this year are the University of Texas Energy and Water Conservation Department and Health Alliance for Austin Musicians.
Texas Tower PR takes pride in the grassroots work they complete over a semester. Rojo says the firm is all about building relationships with their clients. The firm is focused on the relationships you can build with your audience while leaving a lasting and meaningful impression with them.
Meeting the needs of a growing nonprofit sector in Austin, Texas Tower PR provides effective public relations to nonprofit organizations that would not regularly have the time or resources otherwise.
Rojo says his favorite client to work with is Teatro Vivo. The organization is Austin’s premier Latino theater company and works to put on vibrant productions with colorful lessons and characters. When they approached Texas Tower PR, they were looking for their next level of storytelling. They had many remarkable things going on and Texas Tower PR decided to launch a blog for Teatro Vivo titled Corazon y Alma, which translates to Heart and Soul, in order to showcase the work they have been doing.
Pictures and interviews can be found sprinkled across the blog. Media outlets can find resources they need to share the work Teatro Vivo is doing in the Austin community. Rojo said the team took it a step further and added a layer of storytelling to include holiday recipes and Hispanic traditions around the time of their December production of Cuento Navideño.
Outside the Classroom
Aside from client meetings and work, Texas Tower PR hosts a couple of “Tower Hours” every semester. This time is set-aside for members to meet each other and enjoy an informal setting. The events range from board game nights and coffee shop outings to BBQs and potlucks.
Texas Tower members are also able to use the PR skills they have learned in other majors and groups outside of the firm.
Regina Flanigan, a senior and the Head Accounts director of Texas Tower, has been able to grow as an individual and use her skills alongside of her English major.
“Tower has absolutely given me additional depth of knowledge and management, strategizing and collaborative skills that I don’t know I would have developed otherwise, especially as an English major at a university with a stellar public relations program,” Flanigan said. “I used to be very concerned that wasn’t on par with my friends who were taking classes directly related to public relations work, but being a member of PRSSA and a leader in Tower have given me a better picture of where I stand and much more confident in my experience and abilities – I’ve learned a lot, including that I will always have a lot to learn.”
The firm still has the ability to grow over time. Tapping into the talent pool of eager PR students at UT will help grow the firm’s size and prevalence in the state. Texas Tower PR wants to amplify the good they are doing in the Austin community.
According to the Texas Tower PR website, the fall 2013 semester marks a new era of storytelling for Texas Tower PR. Keep an eye out for this student-run firm to continue to make an impact in the public relations field in the coming months and years.