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PRSSA names student-run firm top in nation

Photo+courtesy+of+Capstone+Agency
Photo courtesy of Capstone Agency

Photo courtesy of Capstone Agency

Photo courtesy of Capstone Agency

Shahriyar Emami, Staff Reporter

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After touring the College of Communication and Information Sciences as a high school student, Maret Montanari knew a degree in public relations would fit perfectly with her outgoing personality.

“I discovered that I enjoyed the creativity to it and the ability to work with people and build relationships and represent a company,” Montanari said. “Through my time here at Alabama, I realized that there’s just so much to the public relations industry, and I don’t think I’ll ever be  bored in it, and that’s just something that I really want in my career.”

Now Montanari is a senior public relations major and firm director for Capstone Agency, a student-run communications firm at the University that collaborates with clients in Tuscaloosa and across the nation.

Capstone Agency was recently named the top student-run PR firm in the nation by the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) for the second time in its history on Oct. 8.

The first time the agency was named the nation’s top student-run PR firm was in November 2016. While this is the second time Capstone Agency has won the award, it cannot be won by the same agency two years in a row.

The PRSSA National Conference is an annual event that celebrates PRSSA-affiliated student-run public relations firms nationwide. PRSSA gives affiliated student firms the opportunity to apply for awards that showcase its work, which is how the students of Capstone Agency applied for the Best Student-Run Firm award.

“To me it’s a huge testament to our members,” Montanari said. “It’s so empowering that our members are cultivating an environment where we are learning and breaking boundaries in this industry and going where other student-run firms haven’t gone before.”

Established in 2001, Montanari said Capstone Agency is now one of the first student-run firms to provide integrated communications marketing.

Montanari said 116 students make up the agency, and students in it have diverse backgrounds and majors outside of public relations.

Katrina Waelchli, Capstone Agency media coordinator and a senior specializing in sports entertainment public relations, started out as a business student at the University.

While Waelchli enjoyed the business side of things, she said public relations allowed her to be more creative. The aspects of storytelling and creating messages for clients are what she said she enjoys most about the public relations industry.

“It’s an integrated communications firm, so it’s not specific to the public relations major,” Waelchli said. “We have business majors, computer science majors, majors all throughout the communications school, so a lot of people have different interests and skill sets that it brings a lot to the table.”

Maribeth McClenny, Capstone Agency assistant media coordinator and a sophomore majoring in public relations, said her field of study is becoming more comparable to a business degree.

“With the uprise of social media and all these different ways of connecting with people, public relations has become more popular as a way to adapt your business to meet the ever-changing technology and world of communication,” McClenny said.

This is McClenny’s first semester with the agency. She said the application and interview process took place during the first week of September.

McClenny heard about the agency during the fall of her freshman year at the University, through a promotion by College of Communication and Information Sciences. But aside from knowing it is a student-run firm, McClenny said she did not know much else about Capstone Agency.

Before joining Capstone Agency, McClenny was part of the University’s MOSAIC Magazine staff, where she worked on the digital media team during the 2017-2018 school year. Over the past summer, McClenny worked as the digital media coordinator for an investment firm in her hometown of Tallahassee, Florida. After two attempts, that experience was what scored McClenny a coveted spot on the firm’s PR team.

Montanari said the agency has fall and spring applications, and it hasn’t yet determined when the spring applications will open. If students are interested in applying, she said, they can follow Capstone Agency on social media or visit capstoneagency.org for updates on applications.

“I’ve had so many wonderful learning opportunities, and I’m so excited that as I transition out of the agency, that means other people are going to get to have those same opportunities,” Montanari said.

This year, some of those opportunities include working with clients such as Alabama Power, LessThanUThink and Higher Education Partnership. Montanari said she hopes her legacy will encourage others to pursue their passions and be passionate about what they are doing on campus.

“Honestly, I am a very sentimental person, and it makes me incredibly sad to think that my time just here at Alabama and Capstone Agency are coming to an end,” Montanari said.

 

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PRSSA names student-run firm top in nation