As a public relations educator, I believe one of the most effective ways a student can learn is through practical experience. As a result, I intentionally design classes for my students to provide experiential learning through the use of client-based projects. Such projects can accomplish our course objectives by providing a realistic learning experience for the students while serving our local community. To accomplish this goal, it is essential that we find the right clients for the right class projects. The partnerships between my students and the community have proven to be mutually beneficial. The students learn by doing and their strategic and creative work often meets a need that would be difficult for the client to accomplish otherwise.
This page summarizes some of the different types of client-based projects and outlines general expectations for both the client and the students. If you would like your organization to be considered for a future client-based project, please download and complete the application for prospective clients (available at the bottom of this page). I’ll use your responses to help determine which of my courses and groups of students might fit your organization’s need the best.
Courses that Typically Utilize Client-based Projects
The following are courses I’ve taught* in the past that have typically involved some client-based project component:
- Principles of Public Relations. In this introductory course, students learn the basics theories, principles and practices. To facilitate their understanding of public relations, students work in groups to complete an analysis of a specific organization’s communication function. This public relations audit requires the students to obtain, analyze and critique an organization’s written communication for a specific internal or external audience. A SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis and recommendations are provided at the conclusion of the audit.
- Public Relations Writing for Journalistic Media. This course is designed to develop the students’ abilities to write for uncontrolled (or journalistic) media. Throughout the semester, students complete various writing assignments for their client’s organization such as news releases, letters to the editor, media advisories, backgrounders, fact sheets, etc. The final project traditionally is a media kit that might be used by the client in their media relations efforts.
- Public Relations Writing for Organizational Media. This course further develops the students’ writing abilities by focusing on controlled (or organizational) media. The student researches, writes and designs organizational media such as fliers, brochures, newsletter articles, Web pages, speeches and annual reports. The final project traditionally is an information kit designed for a client’s key public.
- Public Relations Planning & Management. This is the final required course in the public relations major curriculum where students are challenged to apply their understanding of the profession by developing their abilities to think strategically. Small student teams collaborate to research and plan a campaign for their assigned client. The final product is an extensive campaign proposal/plan along with prototypes of selected tactics.
- Elective Courses. In addition to these required courses, client-based projects are also sometimes used in elective courses such as event management, media relations as well as special topic courses like social media and public relations, nonprofit public relations, etc.
The nature and extent of the client-based projects vary from course to course. Some projects are started and completed in a matter of weeks while others encompass the entire semester. Some involve a group of students working for the client while others might involve only one student. The following are general expectations about how most client-based projects work:
- Students will be introduced to the client-based project.
- Students will be asked to sign a non-disclosure agreement and to obtain the client’s signature.
- Student(s) will be assigned the client account and will arrange a meeting with the client to learn more about the organization and its public relations goals.
- Student(s) will ask for relevant organizational information and direct contact information so they can more fully understand the nature of the organization.
- Student(s) will interact with the client regularly throughout the project’s duration.
- Client will need to be accessible (via e-mail, telephone and face-to-face) and responsive to the student(s)’ inquiries throughout the project.
- Student(s) may discuss facets of their project with the client along the way. However, they will be encouraged to withhold much of their creative work until it is delivered to the client at the end of the project.
- Client may be expected to reimburse student(s) for expenses associated with the completion of the project, especially work requested by the client (i.e., research and tactical productions). Discussion and agreement on such expenses will occur early in the project.
- There are no guarantees what the final outcome will be. The goal is for the student(s) to understand the client’s needs, problems and opportunities and to devise a public relations project or program to address the situation.
- Students will provide the client with a copy (physical and/or electronic) of their final work. While the student may be able to use the work as a portfolio piece, the client will have total rights to the finished product and may use it as is or revise it to meet the organization’s needs.
- Client will be asked to evaluate the student(s)’ performance throughout the project.
If you would like to be considered for a future client-based project, please download and complete the application below. Your application will be reviewed carefully to determine the best possible fit for our client-based projects. After your application has been reviewed, I will be in touch with you to discuss specific details about upcoming projects.