Last week, we won FIVE awards through the Alabama PRSA. Out of the entire state, our school produced incredible work that earned the following titles:
Outstanding Firm - Capstone Agency
Outstanding Chapter Diversity
Outstanding Community Service
Outstanding Chapter Newsletter
Congratulations, also, to Samford University’s chapter for receiving the award for Outstanding University/College Service!
We are honored and humbled to receive these awards. These wins are stepping stones to better our chances for national recognition at the Teahan Awards. Nothing we do would be possible without our amazing members. Your heart for the profession and hard work brought us here.
As we look back and celebrate what our chapter has done over the past year, we look forward to what is in store next year. Legends are truly made here. Roll Tide!
Skills, relationships and opportunities. These are just a few of the benefits Alabama alumnus Kennedy Studdard remembers about becoming a member of PRSSA.
Studdard graduated with a bachelor’s degree in public relations from The University of Alabama in 2017 and is now undergoing the Associates Program at Ogilvy. During her time at UA, she was highly involved in PRSSA and was impacted in such a way that she wants to share with others the benefits of being involved in this organization.
Studdard says that PRSSA taught her how to authentically network and how to become a leader. It also made her aware of the endless amount of opportunities within the College of Communication and Information Sciences and of the various sectors of public relations.
While in PRSSA, Studdard decided to join the executive board in order to surround herself with other talented peers who were well-informed about the PR industry. Being on the e-board equipped her with skills that she could use beyond her college career and instilled in her the mindset of never being afraid to take on a challenge.
“There are some fundamental skills (like persistence and patience) that PRSSA and the peers and faculty in C&IS helped ingrain within me, and I'm so thankful to have now out of college,” Studdard said.
Above all, Studdard cherishes the connections she made while being on PRSSA committees. PRSSA provided her with mentors and friends to support her and guide her through her job and internship hunt.
“Those connections can become your source of inspiration and strength, as they did for me,” Studdard said.
Some final advice that Studdard left students with is to utilize all of the programs provided by PRSSA, build up your portfolio every semester, become friends with rejection and learn from it, and have confidence in yourself and your skillset.
"If you really want to make a statement, make it hard for them to say no. Looking from the outside in now, being a PR major at UA means you've got unlimited options, so make the most of what C&IS has to offer,” Studdard said.
PRSSA has a committee for everyone and allows students to practice and strengthen their skills in different areas of PR. These committees provide members with great résumé-builder opportunities, and range from marketing and promotions to diversity and inclusion. The best part about these committees? Everyone is accepted regardless of skill level. Check out all of the committees PRSSA has to offer here.
By Anna Jones, Publications Committee Member
Eleven nonprofits. 85 students. 2,040 hours. $59,600 in donated work. Capstone Agency CreateAthon was a 24-hour medley of hard work, sleep deprivation and unforgettable memories. The PRSSA executive board shares their favorite moments from the marathon.
President: Bethany Corne
CreateAthon is the only time that I get excited about pulling an all-nighter in Reese Phifer, the building for UA’s College of Communication and Information Sciences. It combines my love of so many things—public relations, community service, junk food and, most of all, coffee. My favorite memory from my second CreateAthon is also one of my favorite memories from my lifetime: celebrating my 22nd birthday surrounded by my PR friends. We danced, sang and posed photos right as the clock struck midnight. If that doesn’t scream “great agency culture,” I don’t know what does. It is a memory that I will cherish forever, and I am so thankful to the Capstone Agency and CreateAthon for providing me with this experience.
Firm Director: Maret Montanari
Going into this year’s CreateAthon, I knew it would be hard to top last year’s. Working as a strategist on the Alabama Writers Conclave client team was an incredible experience, but I was looking forward to assisting with this year’s event in a different capacity—with the leadership team. I was able to see all of the awesome work our 11 teams created from start to finish. It was inspiring to see 85 students donate 24 hours of their free time to the greater good and impact nonprofits. But the agency is not stopping there, and now, the bar is set even higher for next year’s CreateAthon.
Vice President of Chapter Communications: Anna Claire Toxey
Meeting new friends, eating way too much junk food and cuddling with the cutest puppy ever were just a few of the many highlights of my CreateAthon experience. However, if I had to choose only one favorite moment, it would be seeing our client’s reaction at the end of our presentation. Creating work that pleases a client can be hard sometimes, especially when you’re trying to do it in 24 hours, but to see the look of sheer gratitude and appreciation on his face when he saw what we had created for Family Counseling Service made the exhaustion and sleep deprivation well worth it.
Vice President of Community Service and High School Outreach: Elizabeth Driver
CreateAthon has to be one of my favorite memories from this semester. I enjoyed working with the Tuscaloosa Metro Animal Shelter on its “Foster First” campaign, which aims to promote the organization’s fostering program. The best part of CreateAthon was meeting other agency members that I don’t usually work with. Our team became so close, especially after our three-hour brainstorming session. I am so proud of what our team accomplished in the 24-hour period, and it was all worth it! TMAS is already implementing our campaign on social media.
Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion: Emily Hillhouse
Heather, Anna Claire and I went ghost hunting for Clarence, the ghost of Reese Phifer, at 3 a.m, but we ended up getting distracted by all the other teams and what they were working on. Unfortunately, we never made it up to his room. But, my absolute favorite part was getting to work together with people I don't work with every week!
Vice President of Finance and Membership: Skylar Spencer
Serving as CreateAthon’s marketing and PR coordinator, I really enjoyed getting to capture the event’s excitement and madness on Capstone Agency’s Twitter and Instagram accounts. Aside from this, being locked inside of Reese Phifer for 24 hours with the best and brightest 85 people I know—through the random bursts of energy and zombie-like exhaustion—was by far my favorite and most cherished part of CreateAthon!
Vice President of Marketing: Heather Griffith
Since I was on the leadership team, I wasn’t assigned to one specific client team. Throughout the night, I was able to spend time with different teams. My favorite part of CreateAthon was being able to hop around from room to room and see all the amazing work the teams were doing. Everyone was so dedicated to providing the best work possible for each nonprofit, and it was incredible to see how passionate everyone was.
Vice President of Publication: Hope Todd
There were so many great moments during CreateAthon—most of which involved chicken tenders and CookOut milkshakes. However, the most incredible moment of the event was being able to show our work to the client, Boys and Girls Club of West Alabama. Speaking with its directors showed me that what we were working on was bigger than ourselves. Being able to help BGC’s cause definitely made 24 sleepless hours worthwhile.
Vice President of Social Media: Katrina Waelchli
Since this is my first semester in the agency, I immediately wanted to engage in CreateAthon to meet new people and gain experience working collaboratively with a client. I had such an enjoyable time working with my team and our client, Tuscaloosa Metro Animal Shelter. My favorite moment from CreateAthon is when my team and I picked our tagline for the campaign: “You are the first step to their forever home. #FosterFirst.” It took us a three-hour brainstorming session, several cups of coffee and help from our faculty adviser, Mrs. Henley. It was a moment of accomplishment for our team, and really catapulted the thought process for the rest of the campaign creation. Foster First, everyone!
Vice President of Web Based Communications: Alyssa Comins
I had such a good time working with my client, FOCUS on Senior Citizens. Being able to interact with people in the agency that I don’t often have the opportunity to work with was a great experience. My favorite part about CreateAthon was seeing all our hard work come together at the end. In the wee hours of the morning, it felt very disorganized and hectic. However, when we finished our communication plan and deliverables, I realized what a great finished product we had for our client. It’s amazing what you can accomplish in just 24 hours, and I love knowing our work can help FOCUS on Senior Citizens deliver great services to the Tuscaloosa community.
I think it’s safe to say that the first year in any major is stressful for most students. It’s a time of navigation, and learning just what classes, skills and extracurricular activities you need to truly set yourself apart from the rest of the crowd. It’s hard to figure things out right away, but from someone who has been there, here are a couple pieces of advice to help you along the way as you enter the world of public relations.
1. Learn the basics.
Learn the basics and learn them as soon as possible! You might not know what I mean by the basics, but you will soon realize as every public relations student does, that the basics usually refer to your AP Style and Adobe Creative Suite skills. Sure, every University of Alabama student has to take APR 300 and APR 332 at some point in their PR coursework; but trust me, the sooner you immerse yourself in learning these essential skills, the better you will be at them. Take some time to create simple designs in Photoshop or InDesign. Use AP Style even when writing emails or informal assignments. These may seem like simple practices, but looking back I wish I had known just how important these skills were at the start of my PR journey.
2. It’s never too early to get involved.
“I’m not ready” and “I don’t have the qualifications” were just two of the many excuses I would give myself to justify not getting involved my first year in PR. I was overwhelmed by the students around me who seemed to have the best internships, the best officer positions in clubs and the best résumés. But looking back, I realize that you don’t have to be the “best” starting out. You simply need an eager spirit and a willingness to learn. Don’t think that just because you haven’t had an internship or you are only in your second PR class means that shouldn’t apply for something. Go for it! Take a chance and you just might be surprised at what happens.
3. The title isn’t important.
This was one of my biggest misconceptions starting out in PR. I thought that if my job and officer positions didn’t have the words “public relations,” “communications” or “intern” in the title that they were basically useless. Let me just say that I was so very wrong in having this viewpoint. It only took me a short amount of time to realize that any experience you can get as a student is valuable. Focus on finding any opportunity you can to write, enhance your design skills and perfect your overall communication skill set. Potential employers want to see that you adapted to situations and used your skills in settings that weren’t specifically PR positions. It truly isn’t the title that is important. It’s all about the work and practice you are getting.
4. You need a mentor.
Out of all the things I wish I had known, this one is certainly at the top of the list. It wasn’t until my second year in PR that I realized just how desperately I needed someone to guide me — someone to answer my questions, to give me advice and to simply just be a friend. Whether it is through the UA PRSSA Peer Mentoring program, the Oakley Society or any other mentoring program, I can’t stress enough how invaluable it is to have someone guide you. Having a mentor will not only help you while you’re still in school, but it also can lead to future job connections, recommendations and relationships that are vital to your future success.
Although I could go on and on about the things I wish I had known when first embarking on my PR journey, I would say that these are the most important. Don’t be afraid to take chances and never stop perfecting your skills. If you can do these things, you’re already headed down a successful path as a PR student.
By Anna Claire Toxey, VP of Chapter Communications
With its star-studded cast, catchy soundtrack and less than favorable reviews from critics, "The Greatest Showman" has become one of the most talked about movies this awards season. The original musical paints P.T. Barnum as a idealist visionary who, while dangerously ambitious, provides a community for social outcasts in his quest for success. At its core, the origin story of “the greatest show on earth” is a feel-good family musical rather than a historical biopic, which has led to criticism that its message of empowerment comes off as empty.
Whatever your thoughts are of its message, "The Greatest Showman" appeals to communicators by portraying not only the complicated P.T. Barnum’s insatiable need to entertain, but also how he spreads messages, deals with the press and attracts audiences. Here are just a few examples of what public relations students can take away from "The Greatest Showman":
Evolving communication methods and skills
At the beginning of the film, Barnum advertises his “museum of curiosities” on the streets of New York City by passing out flyers to people who proceed to throw them on the ground. After adjusting his business model, Barnum’s first success comes when people quickly seize his flyers calling on those with odd features or talents to audition for his show. Barnum understood these flyers attracted attention because they were different, and for the rest of the story he strives to present his show as one-of-a-kind. He takes this lesson to the extreme by exaggerating the truth, leading to criticism from the press. As he gains success and attracts audiences from differing socioeconomic classes, moviegoers get to see Barnum’s public relations skills evolve from doing whatever it takes to get attention to trying to navigate communications pitfalls and manage the narrative surrounding his show.
Identifying a need
Barnum has an epiphany when he realizes all people have a natural yet hidden desire to look at unusual people. While there is an ethical dilemma over Barnum’s ideas on exploitation, in offering those cast off from society a chance to control the narrative and stand before those who stare at them in secret, Barnum simultaneously fulfills a previously unmet need for his publics. In general this idea of identifying a need that is not being met and then meeting it is an important principle in public relations and a crucial skill in helping clients gain business, traction in the media and more.
The relationship between public relations practitioners and journalists
While Barnum is not in the public relations business by practice, he serves as his business’s primary communicator. When his show gains traction and attracts the press, we see a budding antagonist in James Gordon Bennett, a journalist who criticises the show for being fake and low-brow. Throughout the film, Barnum and Bennett bicker back and forth. Bennett strives to deliver an unbiased account of a show he finds ridiculous, while Barnum, who sees all publicity as good publicity, keeps inviting him back to shows. They share several conversations throughout the film that humorously depict the relationships between journalists and those trying to utilize earned media.
These three broad takeaways highlight how many of the themes explored in the story reflect issues and skills important in the public relations industry. Amidst the hype and theatrics of the film, public relations students at the very least can expect to be entertained at how much they can apply from "The Greatest Showman" to their own lives and future careers.
By Emily Hillhouse, VP of Diversity and Inclusion
All blogs are written by general members of UAPRSSA and Capstone Agency.