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PR students get real world experience

Brittney Knox

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UA seniors in the public relations department partnered with the Department of Health Promotion and Wellness to work on a real public relations campaign for a client before they venture out into the real world.

The seniors worked on a campaign called, “WellBama” which is a program that grants free health screenings to UA faculty and staff.

“The free screenings took place on Tuesday at 7:30 a.m. in Doster Hall. Faculty and staff showed up to get the screenings that consisted of assessment of height and weight, blood pressure, cholesterol and other things,” said Whitney Purcell, a senior in public relations.

After the screening, employees are able to consult with a health coach who can assist them with recommendations related to nutrition.

Rebecca Kelly, director of Health Promotion and Wellness said WellBama began as a pilot program in 2007 with approximately one thousand participants each year.

“It has helped many faculty and staff to identify and manage health related issues such as diabetes, high blood pressure, body weight, high cholesterol and tobacco use.”

The screenings take about 30 minutes and are conducted by health professionals from the Office of Health Promotion and Wellness and nursing students from the University. Purcell said in her course, they split up into five teams in efforts to collectively promote the WellBama campaign.

The five teams included two promotions teams, a branding team, a social media team and a research team.

“I was a part of the research team, where I learned a lot about looking at the numbers for a public relations campaign,” she said. “We looked at past numbers for campaigns and observed focus groups.”

Desiree Mahr, a senior majoring in Spanish and public relations, said this experience has given the students the opportunity to learn what to expect when they enter the public relations industry and have to work with clients and teams at real jobs.

“We encountered some obstacles throughout the campaign, so it was perfect to experience them in a classroom setting where we could receive guidance from our professor,” she said. “Now we can look back on this experience and use what we’ve learned to make better decisions when we are working on campaigns and other projects after graduation.”

Students also used social media and branding as a way to get the word out to employees about the free health screening opportunity.

Purcell said some members of the branding team designed a logo for the campaign and other members of the social media team used Twitter and Facebook as a medium.

Some of the other promotional tactics they implemented were posters, personal contact with the health screening attendees, email reminders and media relations.

Mahr said they were able to plan the campaign from the initial research stage to the final evaluation stage.

“This gave us firsthand experience in dealing with all that goes into a full public relations campaign,” she said. “Out of everything that we’ve learned through this campaigns class, a couple of the most important things were the importance of positive client relations and the targeting of our communication to specific audiences.”


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PR students get real world experience