Public Relations Student Society of America gives students real-life experience
Misericordia University students are getting some hands-on experience by participating in the schools chapter of Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA). Students in the chapter have extended themselves beyond the campus’ grounds and are working with local nonprofits as well as helping out on campus.
“We are here to help with nonprofit organizations. It’s a way of helping them get the public relations stuff done that they normally wouldn’t have the money to do,” explains PRSSA advisor Douglas Martin.
Misericordia University’s PRSSA Chapter is handled the PR side of “Beats for a Benefit,” a concert and CD for local bands that was put on by Misericordia University’s Internet radio station, Cougar Radio, after handling the “Holiday Chic Peek” event. Through the PRSSA’s hard work, the fashion show turned out to be the talk of the town. The fashion show included famed fashion designer Jay McCarroll, winner of season one of “Project Runway.” The fashion show benefited First Lady Tina MacDowell’s Beautification project on campus.
“I was actually proud when we did the trunk show because we had a bunch of people show up. We had the venders and we were all very satisfied with the outcome,” adds Martin.
The PRSSA was put in charge of getting the word out to bands to submit songs to the station. They did this through getting announcements in local papers and hanging up posters at music shops and venues where live music is played. Heather Noelle ‘14, who designed the CD cover and artwork, made a poster and postcard for the radio station. This is a big change from what the PRSSA was used to. The CD got a lot of media coverage and got more submissions than last year, which was the goal of the PRSSA.
Once the songs were chosen and the CD was out to get pressed and printed came the hard work for the PRSSA students. They had to get the word out for the concert. It included making and printing posters that were hung in local business establishments and music shops. They also wrote press releases that were sent to local newspapers so they could be published in regional entertainment sections.
The PRSSA reached out to Fertile Grounds, a local nonprofit. Fertile Grounds is a community-supported farm. People can pay a membership fee that allows them to receive a box of fresh vegetables every week, as well as the opportunity to participate in a local pick-your-own farm. The group is trying to increase membership because the organization needs money to purchase seeds and supplies.
Fertile Grounds also accepts Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), but not many people know that they accept it. Fertile Grounds wants to spread the word so people on assistance can receive fresh groceries on a weekly basis for a reduced rate. PRSSA came up with the idea to create and put up posters in assistance offices as well as writing press releases for the group as a whole and one for the SNAP benefits in particular.
Through the help of Dave Thackara, media manager, Department of Communications, the PRSSA was able to arrange a radio interview for representatives of Fertile Grounds. Thackara – also known as DiRienzo of Rock 107’s “DiRienzo and Prospector Morning Show” – did the interview on his morning show.
PRSSA also has guest speakers come in. One guest speaker was Catherine Shafer, who teaches business classes at Misericordia University. She also has her own PR firm. She discussed ways that her company has handled clients in the past and prepped students for their upcoming mock interviews. Shafer alsotalked about how she works with her clients, including the “80-20” rule, in which the client talks 80 percent of the time.
“Ask a question and shut up,” says Shafer, adding that a brand is “a promise wrapped in an experience.”
Shawn Kellmer ’13 came to PRSSA with the idea to work with a nonprofit that works with pit bulls. Avail-a-bullies is a subset of Luzerne County Pit Bull owners, which helps rescue and rehome pit bulls into new, responsible homes. Some students were apprehensive to work with pit bulls because of their reputation. In the end, the PRSSA worked with the group.
Martin has a future that he would love to see the PRSSA work towards.
“I hope to see us growing to where we are busy, busy, busy, and we have clients coming to us,” says Martin. “We don’t have to go and find them. We want clients that really need our help and can use our help. We want to make a difference with the skills that we all have.”
Photo 2: The Misericordia University Chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America recently provided public relations services for the Holiday Chic Peek runway and trunk show that was held at Misericordia University in December. Participating in the fashion show, first row from left, are Rebecca Fagnano ‘13, Montoursville, Pa.; Brittany Kneal ‘13, Shavertown, Pa.; Emily Ritterbeck ‘16, Scranton, Pa.; Madalyn Payonk ‘14, Scranton, Pa., and Ashley Allen ‘14, Milford, Pa.; second row, Gia Mazur ‘13, Dickson City, Pa.; Alina Busch ‘14, Waldorf, Md.; Christina Tucci ‘15, Binghamton, N.Y.; Alexandria Smith ‘15, Seaford, Del., and Alexandria Hoffman ‘14, Kingston, Pa.