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April 12, 2019 2:45 PM

Student-run PR agency provides real-world experience

Third-year students in Conestoga’s Bachelor of Public Relations (PR) program welcomed the college community to the Idea Exchange at the Old Post Office in Cambridge on April 9 for an end-of-semester showcase, displaying work created as agency consultants.

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Third-year students in Conestoga’s Bachelor of Public Relations program displayed work created as agency consultants at an end-of-semester showcase.

The showcase was a culminating component of a new approach to the program’s Public Relations Consulting course, where students worked in a simulated PR agency environment to create pieces to support Conestoga Applied Research and Innovation (CARI).

“I wanted to get students out of the classroom,” said faculty member Paula Barrett. “I wanted them to truly experience what it’s like to consult and produce client deliverables within an agency, as well as some of the entrepreneurial aspects of building a business and brand.”

Students worked out of the college’s applied research facility in Cambridge’s Gaslight District to form their own micro-agencies, each assigned to one of the college’s centres of innovation. Barrett acted as creative director and two students on field placement from Conestoga’s Advertising and Marketing Communications program were brought on board as graphic designers. PR students drove the process, which included assessing client needs, creating and presenting proposals, and working with designers to develop fresh and unique ideas.  

New Wave PR, comprised of students Danielle Demeyere, Brynn Dolfi, Sarah Fullerton, Paige Goodall and Sarah Grandy, acted as consultants to the Schlegel Centre for Advancing Seniors Care. The group created material to be used by the centre to support fundraising efforts. “We focused on making our message human,” said Demeyere. “We worked to understand our client’s needs and wants and brought it together to produce cases for support, human interest pieces and a spokesperson campaign.”

The opportunity to collaborate with the health-care industry proved to be a valuable experience for Demeyere. The Schlegel Centre for Advancing Seniors Care works in collaboration with researchers, health-care professionals and the community to develop innovative education, improve workforce development and strengthen care practices to support seniors and their families across Canada. “It was amazing to learn from someone outside of our field about the role PR plays in supporting their efforts,” said Demeyere. “This project has taught us so much and provided an opportunity to develop and use skills we have been building on throughout the program -- skills that will be instrumental as we start our capstone projects in our final year and enter the workforce.”

For Barrett, partnering with CARI was a critical component of the project, exposing students to research and a rapidly growing area at the college that could offer diverse consulting challenges. Conestoga is ranked among Canada’s top 25 research colleges, supporting the needs of industry and community partners while providing students with opportunities to build real-world skills. During 2017-18, approximately 2,100 students and more than 170 faculty members at Conestoga were engaged in applied research projects. 

“The work presented at the showcase demonstrated not only students’ PR knowledge,” said Barrett, “but their ability to conduct relevant research, come up with creative solutions, and manage time and expectations -- the skill set of a successful consultant.”

Conestoga's Bachelor of Public Relations degree program was the first to be approved in Ontario and the fourth of its kind in Canada. Graduates are prepared with critical thinking skills and the practical experience required to manage reputations, responses and relationships on behalf of their organization.

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