PR students get real experience with real clients


A newly created student-run public relations firm, C Street Agency, gives public relations students the chance to implement their skills in a real-world setting, meaning they’re competing for more than just a grade. (Photo: Courtesy of C Street Agency)

by Morgan Frideres, Assistant Copy Editor

INDIANOLA, Iowa — Jane Murphy, assistant professor of multimedia communications, created a student-run public relations firm, called C Street Agency. The firm gives students the opportunity to complete real PR work for real clients, which means the stakes are higher than just a grade.

Senior Alex Shier is the student director of the firm and said this opportunity puts students on a higher level.

“Now instead of worrying about their grades, they’re worrying about actual stakeholders with money and reputations on the line,” Shier said.

The firm is a four-credit practicum course for PR majors, replacing the previous Public Relations Student Society of America practicum, which is a national organization for students in PR and communications. Simpson still has a PRSSA chapter, but they just have meetings instead of class.

Murphy heard about the opportunity for a student-run firm from the national PRSSA chapter and through colleagues and decided it would benefit Simpson students.

“It’s great hands-on learning,” Murphy said. “Students can pull from the different PR course content, journalism course content and apply it to something real.”

C Street Agency has three diverse clients this semester, including Do More Iowa, Murphy Tower and the Simpson softball team. Murphy found these clients through networking and PRSA Central Iowa.

Junior Johanna Beierle, firm associate, said it’s been a slow start, because they went into this not knowing exactly what they were doing. Murphy said it’s like their own start-up business, and Shier said it’s been quite the learning experience as well.

“We’re still figuring out how to operate at the highest level possible, but we’re very confident in our ability to make adjustments accordingly,” Shier said.

Murphy said the firm follows the national PRSSA handbook to structure the staff and hopes to one day seek national accreditation from PRSSA.

“That really would just give us more credibility for clients to say we were accredited by some bigger outside organization,” Murphy said.

There’s only 30 accredited student-run firms in the country, and the process takes between two to five years because students need a committee to review their work, Beierle said. The firm also has to complete a full PR plan for a client, from research to evaluation.

Another criteria is based on the staff structure, and it calls for more management the firm doesn’t need right now, so they would have to be bigger in order to start the process, Murphy said.

She also hopes to turn the firm into an interdisciplinary opportunity so other majors can get involved as well. Accounting majors could help handle the funds, graphic design majors could help with designing pieces and she could see computer science majors potentially develop apps for clients.

Beierle said there’s not a lot of small student-run firms — most are big schools such as Auburn University — who are nationally affiliated, so they need to figure out how work it for a small school.

Murphy thinks it makes Simpson’s program more competitive because it’s a unique opportunity. It also provides students with portfolio pieces, which are helpful for internships and job opportunities.

Clients are not charged for C Street Agency’s services because the students are not experienced professionals. However, Murphy oversees the final work product, so in the future she may feel comfortable asking for donations from for-profit organizations.

She also wants to set it up so students get reimbursed for travel and any other cost, such as printing.

“In PR classes it’s kind of hard to actually get the experience you need,” Beierle said. “You can study all you want, but honestly for PR you’re going to have to just go out there and do it.”