“Adopt a Firm:” a Hands-On Experience for Public Relations Students

In order to overcome the challenges imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic during this past Fall, Business Communications Professor Michèle Favorite created the “Adopt a Firm” project for her Public Relations class – BUS 320.

Professor Michèle Favorite

Professor Michèle Favorite

“During the pandemic, my students were not been able to visit PR firms as they usually do, so I thought that a good alternative would be to have them “adopt” a PR company by choosing one that they found especially interesting, getting in touch with it, and interviewing a representative in order to gain first-hand insights,” said Professor Favorite.

Students reported back on some of the most internationally renowned Public Relation firms such as Weber Shandwick, Ogilvy and Fleishman Hillard, but also on the Italian-based Barabino & Partners as well as smaller PR companies such as NEV, which has expertise in Digital Fashion, and Media Buzz, a Digital PR agency focused on content and influencer marketing.

Although the students’ questions explored various topics of their own interest – the most popular ones being reputation and response to COVID-19 – what actually emerged from the interviews were the core values of the firms. For instance, Weber Shandwick’s core value is engagement with the public, which, if measured, allows them to best understand their customers’ and clients’ needs. Ogilvy is focused on being an ethical firm, which translates into a strict selection of brands they represent and the use of nudge marketing to push consumers towards more ethical behavior. Barabino’s mantra is “resilience,” which the firm employs when dealing with crisis management and communication.

Getting to know the firms’ core values is especially important for those who want to pursue a career in public relations. Following this project, students will be able to apply for positions in firms that match their own values and interests. As Professor Favorite remarked, “Entering the job market is not only about being hired and settling in but actively choosing a company that feels like a good fit.”

This experience was not only instrumental in gaining knowledge about PR firms. As student Flaminia Giacomi reports, “It was a very challenging experience that taught me how to get in contact with people in the PR world. I faced many difficulties in getting in touch with the PR firm, finding myself writing several emails and making multiple phone calls. But eventually, I learned how to effectively communicate with PR people and get the results and answers I was looking for.” Just like Flaminia, Professor Favorite’s Public Relations students not only took away some insights about the PR firms but learned how to approach them, practicing their newly-learned strategic communication skills.

(Briana Disisto)