Student organization launches public relations firm
When the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America launched Blugold PRo, a student-run public relations firm during fall 2008 semester, it had only two clients to promote, one being itself.
Chapter president Eileen Wesener said the spring semester's challenge has been turning down prospective clients, including many UW-Eau Claire campus departments.
"We're really lucky that people are coming to us, she said. "We hope to use it to promote us more."
According to Wesener, Blugold PRo was created as venture for members of the organization to gain real world experience in the public relations field. Wesener said other PRSSA chapters, including the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities chapter, have run firms like Blugold PRo for years.
"We're one of the last universities (with a PRSSA chapter) to start up a public relations firm," she said.
Wesener said she began to draft plans for Blugold PRo once she was elected president last year. In addition to discussing ideas with her executive board, she also sought advice from her counterpart at the University of Minnesota.
Megan Coughlin, a freshman public relations major, joined Blugold PRo last semester. Coughlin said her interest in public relations stemmed from high school where she competed in DECA, an organization which prepares students to run a business.
"I took a marketing class for a semester and had to compete in a regional competition which I initally didn't want to do" she said. "But when I competed and placed at the state level, it opened my eyes to business - that it was more than sitting behind a computer."
As an account holder for Blugold PRo, Coughlin wrote scripts for promotional videos and helped redesign letterheads and business cards for last semester's client National Appraisals and Consulting.
This semester, the firm has worked with campus organization Colleges Against Cancer and community organization First Book-Eau Claire.
First Book-Eau Claire director Susie Schuelke said working with students from Blugold PRo was added help for the first annual Speed Read, a fundraiser for the Eau Claire chapter.
"When they were working on the media kit, they asked good questions," Schuelke said. "They double-checked things."
The April 5, 2009 event which helped to raise money toward the purchase of books for low income children, featured community members at Borders Bookstore in Eau Claire in a competition to see who could read the children's book "Chicka Chicka Boom Boom" out loud the fastest.
Schuelke said that while communication gaps formed at times during the process, the Blugold PRo students' work literally paid off, as the event raised $1,400 for First Book, exceeding the organization's goal of $1,000. Schuelke also said the news releases the students wrote added extra publicity.
"We had WQOW TV-18 stop by," she said. "I think it was due to the news releases they sent out."
As a freshman and one of the youngest members of Blugold PRo, Coughlin said she felt intimidated when she first joined the firm. But the tight knit atmosphere of the group helped her to overcome that challenge, she said.
"I have a good support network," she said. "I have asked Eileen to be a job reference for me."
Coughlin said her experience has helped her with searching for her first internship. She said she has applied for public relations manager at UW-Eau Claire radio station WUEC.
Wesener said programs such as the study abroad partnership China 1+2+1 program, the Center for International Education and UW-Eau Claire Admissions have already expressed interest in hiring Blugold PRo for future campaigns. Additionally, she said PRSSA hopes to open up Blugold PRo to other communication and journalism student organizations, including the Society of Professional Journalists and AdFed.
For Coughlin, working for Blugold PRo has solidified her choice to major in public relations. Her work experience has also given her a head start in her course work, she said.
"When we talked about the GOST method (Goals, Objectives, Strategies, Tactics) in one of my classes, I was able to help my instructor explain it," she said.
Overall, Wesener said that Blugold PRo is another way for UW-Eau Claire public relations majors to gain experience to put on a resume.
"We want all P.R. students to feel confident going into their first internship with the necessary leadership and communication skills," she said.
Coughlin said she hopes Blugold PRo will gain more recognition and hopes for more inquires.
"For this being Blugold PRo's first year, I think we have accomplished a lot," she said. "I hope we can get more clients, and get the word out, that its free and that they can expect good work."