Rachel Kimmel, vice president of professional development, recently talked to a few Nationally Affiliated Student-run Firms to get the inside scoop on how their firms are run, what kinds of practices they use, how their firms are structured and more. Between Grehan Associates of Kentucky University and Titan PR of California State University at Fullerton, she was able to create a list of the best tips and tricks for current and future Student-run Firms.
Both firms have similar practices when it comes to working with clients, working with fellow team members and determining areas of success and improvement during the year. Shannon Strivieri, firm director of Grehan Associates, and Garrett Vile and Alexis Flores, co-firm directors of Titan PR, all agreed that providing your firm members with a variety of clients is best. We all want to gain experience working with clients in different industries in order to help us determine what field we would like in the future. Talk to your team members and ask them what they want first and foremost. Make sure the clients you look for and choose are beneficial to your firm members as well. Don’t overwhelm your firm members with a large number of clients. A small number of diverse clients is better. Clients need work done and members need the experience. The firms provided these bits of advice when working with clients: always under promise and over deliver, be ethical, respectful and professional, and set goals and expectations at the beginning of the project. You must listen to your clients’ wants and needs, but do your research and bring your own ideas to the table. We are young professionals and we must act the part in order to receive the best experiences possible.
Working in a team can sometimes be tricky. Our Nationally Affiliated Student-run Firms recognize this and had some tips on how to create a healthy work environment. All three firm directors agreed that communication is key. You must communicate with your team members to create the best possible work you can for your client. Ask questions and provide input always. When providing input, don’t do so in a commanding way. You should be leading by example, which should be in a comforting and inviting way. While also communicating your thoughts, make sure you are understanding as well. We are all students first and doing the best we can. Hold weekly and or monthly check-ins with your team members to determine the status of their client work. A weekly meeting for a few hours to perform client work helps to lighten the load on firm members. Also, using a project management platform, such as Basecamp, is a great tool to help keep members on track with their workload. Along with check-ins with firm members, both Grehan Associates and Titan PR survey and hold meetings with members to determine what they liked and what needs improvement within the firms. Ultimately, you need to communicate with your firm members because the goal is to help better them professionally.
While students are gaining experience working for clients, they should also be gaining ethical and professional development skills that can be transferred to any field. Both firms agreed that providing students with these types of opportunities is essential. LinkedIn learning modules are a great tool to use for this while also helping keep members up to date on issues and trends in the different industries. Providing a reference guide for firm members to use is a great way to give them easy access to information that is beneficial when working on client work. The way a firm is structured can greatly benefit firm members. At Titan PR, the firm has two directors along with account executives, who are responsible for the firm members and different clients. They also use account coordinators in their firm. Grehan Associates has a different structure, they utilize vice presidents who are in charge of different departments, the other firm members then assist them in that department. A graphic of the structure is seen below.
Running a successful Student-run Firm can be challenging at times. You are trying to provide for real clients as well as give students the best opportunities to grow and learn as a professional. Following these tips and advice are a step in the right direction towards success. By sharing our successes and failures with one another, we can all learn to grow as better professionals and help to build the foundation for success in the industry we all love.
Rachel Kimmel, 2020–2021 vice president of professional development, is a senior at Ohio Northern University. She is double majoring in communications and public relations with minors in social media and criminal justice. She has served as a member of her Chapter and their Student-run Firm, TrueNorth, since her sophomore year. In Rachel’s free time, she loves to exercise, read a good book, listen to Hamilton on repeat, or try out new recipes in the kitchen.