Northeastern’s Virtual PR Firm — redefining the term ‘experiential’

We’ve just finished the first year of our Virtual Public Relations Firm (VPRF). Based on both achievements and feedback from everyone involved, it was a good one that has us planning for bigger and better things as the new school year approaches.

Nearly three dozen students participated in some phase of VPRF work on behalf of two clients: Neuron, a San Franciso-based UX design firm founded by Northeastern alumni and the university’s own Biopharmaceutical Analysis Training Laboratory (BATL).

For our clients, the experience was similar to working with a small PR agency helping them to increase brand awareness and reach new audiences. Under the guidance of instructors, who also are industry professionals, the students first developed a research report, then created a strategic PR plan, and ultimately designed and delivered a wide range of promotional content.

“I think the students were superb,” said Jared Auclair, Director of BATL. “They produced really high quality work.”

From Twitter to blogging to media pitches — creating impact

The communications services the VPRF delivered for BATL included starting and running a Twitter account and developing a blog and preparing initial posts. In both cases, the student team presented the client with a planning calendar and additional content to keep the sites moving forward once the VPRF project was over.

Two student teams focused on enhancing Neuron’s brand presence. One team developed an integrated social media plan, while the other performed various media relations activities, including developing media pitches, building media lists, and conducting initial outreach to journalists. The teams provided hand-off materials to enable Neuron to keep the momentum going.

“Working with Neuron was a highly beneficial experience for me,” said Stephanie Leandri, a VPRF participant who recently graduated from the Corporate and Organizational Communication program. “I was able to better understand and gain experience with client relations as my team worked to create and deliver high quality digital media content for Neuron.”

Simulating what it’s really like to do end-to-end PR work for a client organization

The VPRF’s mission is to provide students with next-level experiential learning by offering key core courses in sequence, working with the same client over an extended period, and having instructors serve as mentors.

Hubspot academyAs educational partners of HubSpot Academy, the VPRF enabled our students to collaborate virtually on HubSpot’s leading-edge marketing platform — the kind of digital platform that has become the norm in many agencies and communication departments. Students also benefited from HubSpot Academy’s wide range of educational resources on inbound marketing, social media marketing, and contextual marketing.

So how well did the VPRF fulfill its mission? According to Dr. Carl Zangerl, Faculty Director, Communication, Media, and Human Resources Management, the firm exceeded all first-year expectations. “I’ve heard from students that the experience felt like working in a ‘real-world’ agency. They learned not only the public relations creative process from research to strategy to tactical implementation, they also gained insights into managing client relationships. And the clients have said the students’ performance equaled that of experienced PR staff. This is a proven model for preparing students for rewarding careers in public relations, marketing communication, and related disciplines.”

To learn more about the Virtual PR Firm, watch this video.

We look forward to sharing the work of our students on our new Husky Communications showcase site — stay tuned!

Posted by Ed Powers, Faculty

Ed powers
Dr. Ed Powers

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