The University of North Texas PRSSA Chapter launched its first student-run firm this semester under the direction of Lizzie Smithson (@Lizonomics). Beginning a firm from scratch requires patience, commitment and teamwork. We want to share a few tips that we found helpful with other Chapter leaders who are thinking about or are in the process of establishing a student-run firm.
Organization on Both Ends
Public relations students naturally tend to be organized, but make sure your clients are organized, too. Ask for a list of their needs. Establish one avenue of communication with them. The leader on their side should be responsible for directly communicating with you. That person should also tell his/her organization everything your firm proposes. Encourage the leader to take notes, and send a follow up e-mail to him/her after each meeting.
Private but Not Hush-Hush
Do not invite the client to attend your brainstorm meetings. It can alter decisions that are being proposed by public relations students or start arguments from both sides. Have a student from the firm write clear and organized notes to share with the client at a later time.
Don’t Be Pushy
Your firm provides reasonable ideas to the client. You shouldn’t force the client to do anything. Plan a persuasive approach, and fill them in on all the details. Give reasons on why the client should use your ideas and how it benefits them. Clients are looking for numbers, too (increasing membership or funds). Provide them with realistic options that will turn into positive results.
Create a Contract
Establish guidelines with your client before any work begins, just as real agencies do. Remember to mention that your agency is providing ideas to the client, and the client does not have to accept the offers. Include information about the compensation. Typically, the client will be charged for colored copies, other prints, internet fees, etc. List all the extras in the contract. In addition, you must say if you are doing the work for no charge (donations accepted) or a fee. Be specific. Does the price of a traditional press release differ from a social media release? Ask your adviser or a public relations professor to look over this contract and provide suggestions.
Does your Chapter have a student-run firm? What additional lessons or tidbits of information would you advise future Chapters to take into account?
Nelli Tokleh (@NelliTokleh) is the University of North Texas PRSSA Chapter President (@NT_PRSSA).