Auburn University students are preparing for careers in public relations with a student-run PR agency: The Oaks Agency.
Katie Brown, director, and Emma Holmes, assistant director, are leading the new agency with help of Terri Knight, the student adviser.
The Oaks Agency is a new venture for the university. Brown said that while classes have always offered the opportunity for PR work, this agency provides real life experience for students.
“Students are super excited about such a unique experience, working with people that are around our same age and just learning off of each other,” Brown said. “Because all of us bring something unique to the table.”
The first clientBefore the coronavirus pandemic swept through Auburn and sent students home, the agency was on a bustling track.
The firm has only been in existence since about December. Despite the virus, the group is still working and preparing to take on clients. Perhaps most important, however, the group is working on its own image.
“We feel like our very first client is ourselves,” Knight said.
The agency is made up of four committees of students that handle the different aspects of public relations for a client. There are currently about 40 students in the agency, Holmes said.
“We have different departments and so we try to place the students that apply for the agency in departments that is either their expertise or that we feel they might be lacking knowledge in to help them be better rounded when they graduate from Auburn,” Brown said.
The different committees are: Outreach and Account, Administrative and Finance, Social Media and Design.
“(Outreach and Account) is responsible for researching clients that might be interested or clients that we’re interested in pitching to,” Brown said. “They’re responsible for meeting with the new clients, understanding what they want and need from us.”
Additionally, that committee works on contracts with the client and presents the final work.
Committee workThe second committee, administrative and finance, is spending time creating the agency’s handbook as well as worksheets that will be given to clients, Brown said.
“The Administrative and Finance team is responsible for our LinkedIn and our AUInvolve and handling our email accounts,” she said.
The third committee, Social Media Management, handles what is important to many businesses right now — their online presence.
Especially during the coronavirus pandemic, this is the way many businesses are communicating, Brown said.
The Social Media Management team handles Facebook, Instagram or any other social media channels a business may use.
The final team, the Design Committee, handles the design work, and Brown said this can be in either a digital or physical form.
“We have those four committees and then the way that we have it set up is that we have a few students from each committee assigned to a certain client,” she said. “… The reason we did that instead of just sending any requests to an entire committee is so that we have a small team that’s very familiar with that client’s wants and needs, with their brand, with the people that we’re trying to communicate with.”
Assigned teamworkA lot of the work is done in pairs, an upperclassman with a younger student.
This not only allows the upperclassman to lead and train the younger student, but when the upperclassman graduates, there is someone who can take over that specific role, Brown said.
“We’re encouraging more and more freshmen and sophomores who really aren’t even in the major yet to apply,” Knight said. “So we had a few that did apply, so if in fact you are a freshman or sophomore, you’re probably going to be not quite as hands-on … you’re in a learning process.”
Knight said she believes that being a part of The Oaks Agency can not only benefit a student in the long run for their career, but now, in their classwork.
“I think you’d be crazy not to want to participate in (The Oaks Agency),” she said. “Because you’re learning from a group of people who are taking you to the next level faster than we can do alone in the classroom.”
Although the coronavirus makes everything more difficult because the group can’t meet in person, Holmes said that this has been an opportunity to use technology as a means for public relations.
“We’re also trying to use this as a team to teach,” Holmes said. “Because this is something that we’ve never experienced, but also all the students in the agency, what it might look like to use the internet as a platform once this is all over and past in their careers.”
The agency hopes to be able to take on clients by this summer, once classes are out, Knight said.
“It’s a unique experience, and it’s going to be so exciting to see what else I can get out of it and what else other students can learn from it that they might be lacking in internships and classwork,” Brown said.