Throughout the 2015-2016 school year the Public Relations Student Society of America [PRSSA] has seen growth within its chapter due to a change in club atmosphere and member requirements. The club allows public relations students to improve their resume by providing free PR to the clients of Shadow PR Firm, a nationally recognized student run PR firm.
Since PRSSA was brought to campus, student involvement was low. Many of the members in the club were participating solely to fulfill their practicum, which is a mandatory one-credit course for all communication students. The goal of practicum is to give students experience outside of a lecture based class and creates working materials to put into a portfolio. The course was created due to a lack of internship experience in the communication department as many students were fulfilling their experiential education requirements through various options such as studying abroad.
After seeing the lack of enthusiasm and involvement amongst the members involved in practicum, this year’s PRSSA executive board called for change. Meetings typically lasted about 20 minutes in the past, and now are conducted for at least 45 minutes to an hour.
“We wanted to change the structure of the meetings so it would be more beneficial to everyone, including ourselves [the executive board],” said Deven McCarthy, a senior communication student and President of PRSSA. “Rather than meeting once a week to hand in the materials due each week such as press releases, flyers, and blog posts, we wanted to actually teach the students how to make media kits and give them opportunities to network.”
The executive board did this by creating workshops that are held at least once a month and are conducted by various professors in the communication department. Some of the workshops include how to build a social media presence on a low budget, how to appropriately fundraise for nonprofits and solicit, and how to partner with sponsors for client needs. Following previous executive board’s ideas and opinions, speaker series are also held at least once a month, which bring in public relations professionals from growing companies to speak with students about their experiences and allow students to ask questions. This gives lower classmen and graduating students a chance to network with professionals in the field for potential internships or careers. Rook, Illumination PR, The Arc, Mary’s Place By The Sea, and CNBC are all companies which have spoken to students or will be throughout the semester.
“PRSSA has changed so much since my freshmen year. The appeal to the club used to be short meetings and that the name looked good on a resume. Now the appeal is the club’s professionalism and beneficial structure,” said Erin Shevlin, a senior communication student.
While working with local clients in the area is a starting point, the executive board hopes to gain more clients of bigger names and reputations. The goal is starting to be reached as the club formed a relationship with the New Jersey Devils over the course of the fall semester. Although PRSSA is not currently doing any PR for the professional hockey team, the group has been working with ticket sale representatives from the organization to form college nights that university students could attend.
“Today, the MU PRSSA Chapter has grown through the dedication and hard work of its executive board and members. It is led by its new faculty advisor and specialist professor, Professor Alexis Nulle, who serves the chapter of nearly 40 active members, oversees the required Practicum work and provides clients with professional public relations services,” said specialist professor Kristine Simoes.
Photo Courtesy of Casey Allocco