By Erin Boudreaux, MCOMM ’19
Through a student-run social marketing and public relations firm called Flanagan Communication Consulting, students gain real-world experience while working for social good–all without leaving campus.
During Fall 2017, the first year of the firm, 14 graduate and undergraduate students from Chatham’s Master of Communication program, the Master of Professional Writing program, and the undergraduate Communication major combined their diverse academic and creative skills to create strategic plans, white papers and video content for two clients: community development and environmental health nonprofit GTECH Strategies and Chatham’s Civic Learning, Democratic Engagement and Community Service (CLDE).
In addition to client work, FCC staff completed coursework on public relations concepts, engaged in collaboration exercises, and developed branding for their brand-new firm.
The Flanagan Communication Consulting course is designed to teach through professional experience. Instead of attending lectures, FCC staff meet for weekly staff meetings and workshop days where student teams worked together on client projects. The staff also tackled one of the most fundamental parts of professional communication: pitching and presenting work to clients.
For FCC staffers on the GTECH team, the semester’s work consisted of 1) two promotional videos for the organization’s year-end campaign, and 2) a social media plan for their Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts. Students working with the CLDE gauged student interest in volunteering through focus groups and a campus-wide survey, and created individual portfolios of their work throughout the semester, strengthening their prospects after graduation.
“It was great to see how dedicated the students were to these real client projects. While we practice many of these skills in other PR courses, this was an opportunity to bring their campaigning skills to life and see real outcomes,” says Assistant Professor and Communication & Professional Writing Program Director Katie Cruger, PhD.
While staffers worked hard, they managed to have fun in the office environment. The inaugural staff celebrated two firm milestones, creating mission and vision statements and successful client pitches, with office parties complete with cake and pizza.
The mission is certainly worth celebrating:
Flanagan Communication Consulting strives to achieve excellence in the eyes of the public and of the organizations we aid while learning and growing as individuals and students. We aim to create mutually beneficial environments for the people who seek our services and the students who are acquiring these unique skillsets.
The course is open to undergraduate and graduate students in business, marketing, communication, graphic design, or media arts. Along with looking for our next all-star staff, Flanagan Communication Consulting is also in the process of identifying clients for next year. For more information on the course or to recommend a Pittsburgh-based nonprofit to work with us, contact student manager Erin Boudreaux at email@example.com.
The first cohort of FCC staffers voted unanimously to name Flanagan Communication Consulting for a beloved and brilliant Chatham alumna, Mara Flanagan (’15, Arts Management), who passed away two years ago. Mara was a gifted writer and communicator, and an active mentor of other students within the English and Communication programs.