PR Apprentice Program Builds Pipeline of PR Professionals

February 1, 2017

[courtesy of rochester chapter]
[courtesy of rochester chapter]

In the competitive, growing profession of public relations, it can be difficult for college students to gain relevant, real-world experience needed to land their first job. Frustrated students often ask, “How do I get experience if even internship positions require applicants to already have experience?”

This is one area in which PRSA Chapters can provide support, as the Rochester Chapter has done with its PR Apprentice Program. The annual two-day competition brings students together for a weekend-long “PR boot camp.” Groups of students receive a brief from a client organization and develop communications campaigns before presenting them to a panel of judges, including client leaders, local communications professionals and members of the media.

“It’s important for our Chapter to offer supplemental education and networking opportunities for college students in the area,” said Jim Mignano, senior account executive at Text100 and 2016 president of PRSA Rochester. “The PR Apprentice Program is one way in which we connect with them and encourage their continued interest and growth in the field.”

College communication programs provide students with the fundamental skills needed to start a career and excel in the profession. But the PR Apprentice Program helps fill a number of gaps.

•     Students experience the culture of a PR agency. They receive a client brief and RFP with a limited amount of time to develop a proposal before pitching their ideas to the organization’s leaders.

•     Students meet and network with local professionals. PRSA Rochester recruits members to serve as coaches throughout the weekend, ensuring that the campaigns are rooted in solid research, contain effective tactics, and include a strategy for measurement and evaluation.

•     Students build their résumés and portfolios. Being able to speak to a comprehensive PR campaign that they had a hand in developing helps young pros stand out in interviews and gives potential employers confidence in their abilities.

Engaging students early on

The client organization for the 2016 PR Apprentice Program was the Ibero-American Action League, a local dual-language, human-services agency that builds a stronger community by preparing children for school, providing academic and social support to high-school students, working with parents to strengthen their family unit and ensuring that those with developmental disabilities have a high quality of life.

Specifically, participants were challenged to develop an awareness campaign to help Ibero recruit professionals to serve as mentors for students in the Summer of Opportunity program, a six-week job preparedness initiative for high-school students.

Ibero-American Action League was chosen as the client organization for the program, in part, because of its efforts to serve individuals and families of all ethnic backgrounds, as well as its ability to work with individuals in both English and Spanish. As such, PR Apprentice Program participants were asked to consider how their campaigns would resonate in both languages and across cultures, providing a unique layer to the experience. 

Mignano said that PRSA Rochester was proud to support an organization working to improve the quality of life for people in the Rochester community.
Convincing college students to spend the majority of their weekend working can be an uphill battle — especially when a professor doesn’t require it. But for many participants, the experience ignites their interest in and fuels their passion for pursuing a career in public relations.

Soon enough, graduates of the PR Apprentice Program will return to the program as coaches and guide younger groups of students through the process.

Melissa Greco Lopes
Melissa Greco Lopes is the assistant director of marketing and communications at St. John Fisher College.


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