TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – In the Florida A&M University (FAMU) School of Journalism and Graphic Communication (SJGC) on any Monday night, one may find 40 to 50 public relations majors crowded into room 1003 where they handle the business of the PRodigy Public Relations Firm.
“The weekly business meeting begins promptly at 7 p.m.,” said Professor Gina Kinchlow, a visiting assistant professor in public relations and faculty advisor for the PR firm. “I call each meeting to order and the first thing I like to say to students is that PRodigy is not a club.”
Kinchlow says the business of public relations is tough, competitive work and students need to be regularly reminded that joining PRodigy means doing the work that PR professionals do.
The student-run, campus-based, all-volunteer company’s mission is to provide real-life, hands-on training and experience for students who are full-time public relations majors by allowing them to manage the company and provide a menu of services to clients.
First created in the late 1990s, PRodigy’s associates worked with clients such as Florida’s anti-tobacco campaign and the Artists in Bloom Festival. With the departure of the group’s faculty advisor in 2003, the company shut down and remained dormant until the spring of 2006 when Kinchlow, at the request of then Division Director Kim Godwin, assumed advisor duties.
“We held a meeting one evening during the spring 2006 semester just to see if anyone was interested,” says Kinchlow. “There was standing room only with more than 75 students showing up, a definite sign that the PR majors were ready to rev up the business again.”
“From the moment I stepped foot in the School of Journalism and Graphic Communication I began hearing from alumni how the Prodigy PR firm helped mold their public relations skills and how those skills gave them a competitive edge in their professional career,” said Kristin Taylor, a senior public relations student from Chicago, Ill. “Professor Kinchlow has done an outstanding job of guiding her associates as they apply what they’ve learned in the classroom to successfully developing and implementing strategic communication initiatives that solve their clients’ communication needs.”
By August of 2007, the PRodigy associates had taken on their first customer, the Florida Citrus Sports, the non-profit membership organization that handled the marketing of the 2007 Florida Classic football game between FAMU and Bethune-Cookman University. That same semester the company also designed and managed the publicity and promotional work for the Gordon Parks “Crossroads” Exhibit and opening reception. Additionally, they promoted the Student Documentary Night, an event that showcases the film work of senior broadcast students at FAMU.
Students in PRodigy are considered company associates and they are each provided an opportunity to select the accounts (client projects) that they want to work on for the semester. A work plan is developed for each account including the establishment of goals, objectives, strategies and timelines. Tasks are identified and delegated so that no student is overwhelmed with a workload that would overtake their academic studies. Each account is also assigned an account supervisor and a senior PR major who desires the experience of overseeing the execution of an account.
With each semester, the PRodigy Public Relations Firm is expanding the menu of services that they offer. One of the company’s most popular and most frequently-requested services is for the Buzz’rds Street Team, a crew of students who can create ‘buzz’ for an event by strategically hanging posters and fliers, placing promotional materials under car windshields, or working the crowd at a football game. There is also the PRodigy Writers Bloc; a group of associates who are responsible for the writing of press releases, news stories, public service announcements, and scripts for press conferences or speeches upon request.
Other services include designing and implementing the publicity and promotional activities for an event; planning events and programs; serving as hosts and hostesses for events; creating media kits/press kits; conducting preliminary market research; developing strategies for the use of social media outlets as publicity; and staffing conferences and other activities where guest services are needed.
Since the student associates in PRodigy are not professionals yet, the firm does not charge professional prices for services they perform. Instead, fees for services rendered are extremely discounted and clients are expected to pay for services in cash and equivalent in-kind donations. In-kind donations may be realized in a number of creative ways. For example, clients may be asked to connect PRodigy associates to scholarships, internships, career shadowing opportunities, jobs, or access to professional organizations and networks that will give the students a competitive edge in the fast-paced, demanding world of public relations.
On February 18, 2008, the student associates, who run the PRodigy Public Relations Firm, will hold a press conference at 10 a.m. in the SJGC Gallery where they will unveil their new branding and announce their newest clients and initiatives. Other activities for that week will include a fundraiser and a service project with one of the middle schools or high schools in Tallahassee’s south side community.
For more information about PRodigy and the company’s services, please call faculty advisor Gina Kinchlow at (850) 412-5389.
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