Bell, Regina [faculty advisor, Department of Communication Studies]
Public Relations; Non-Profits; Communications
“Don’t just sell yourself and your ideas; sell the concept of public relations as a top management function – then prove that it works.” This quote by John W. Felton, retired vice president for corporate communications at McCormick & Company, Inc, expresses the notion that organizations should not consider public relations an afterthought to management processes. Public relations should be an essential concern in all top-level management decisions. The Public Relations Society of America defines public relations as “a management function that involves counseling at the highest level and being involved in strategic planning for the organization.” Others define the field as reputation management. In short, public relations lies at the heart of any organization and serves as the foundation for the relationship between an organization and its publics. Organizations extend long-range investments in public relations campaigns and utilize such campaigns to propel them towards their overall business objectives and mission statements. Campaigns can address issues, seek solutions to problems, change behaviors, modify laws, or simply solidify an organization’s position in the marketplace. Public relations campaigns are vital to a successful organization yet they are complicated and demanding from a managerial standpoint. Given the complex dynamics of a campaign, it is necessary for students studying public relations to recognize the importance of strategic planning to ensure a meaningful result. As a result, Campaigns from the Classroom to the Boardroom was developed.
The aim of Campaigns from the Classroom to the Boardroom was two-fold. First, the program gave students the opportunity to get real life experience working on a public relations campaign. Second, it provided local non-profit organizations the invaluable resource of student creativity and innovation. Campaigns from the Classroom to the Boardroom connected students currently majoring in public relations at URI with organizations belonging to the Central Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce. The students worked with their respective organizations to build a campaign for a real world situation.
To ensure the success of this project I embarked on my own public relations campaign. This campaign attracted awareness to the Campaigns from the Classroom to the Boardroom program from both potential students and organization participants. Through my recruitment, eight non-profits and 24 students from a URI class were brought onto the project. These organizations were: A Wish Come True, Inc., Plan USA, the Kent County YMCA, the Rhode Island Center for Law and Public Policy, the Rhode Island Mentoring Partnership, Recycling for Rhode Island Education, VOWS Inc. (Volunteers of Warwick), and the J. Arthur Trudeau Memorial Center. After recruiting these organizations, I paired them with student groups. These students and organizations then met to conduct public relations audits. The students then built a campaign from the organizations’ ideas. The two parties remained in contact throughout the project and built business relationships. Once the students completed their plans, they pitched them to their organizations at an event where the students not only presented their work but networked with the other company representatives.
Real life experiences are extremely valuable to a student’s education. Many classrooms lack the opportunity for hands-on projects. At the same time, small businesses and non-profit organizations often struggle to establish new, innovative, and creative ideas for reaching their publics. With the economy in its current recession, this program connected eager students with these organizations in a means that benefited both groups. Campaigns from the Classroom to the Boardroom not only gave students real life work experience and organizations free student help, but sparked business relationships between the students and non-profits that may prove beneficial in the future.