From the CEO: Why You Should Care About Student-Run Firms

Since our founding in 2007, GrandPR has prided itself in hiring the “Best of the Best of the GVSU Advertising and Public Relations (APR) program.” Not only is GrandPR an asset to GVSU APR students, but also clients, professors, the university, and our future employers. I was recently interviewed for a feature article on GrandPR and our recent PRSSA national re-affiliation. One of the questions asked was how GrandPR benefits students outside of the classroom. So basically, what’s the point? 

Not your typical group project.

All GrandPR staff members are strategically hired for their specific talents and skills, plus their potential. In classes, we are constantly forced into group projects and given clients, along with course requirements that sometimes restrict what we can do for those clients. Deliberate planning and careful selection is a consistent trend in GrandPR, from staff to clients. The CEO and VPO carefully select clients and staff with assistance from the faculty advisor to provide unique and challenging projects and learning opportunities. Teams are carefully constructed to ensure all skills and talents are represented. This thoughtful planning leads to productive teams, where you can’t find a weakest link, but rather a team of highly talented, motivated students working together to provide the highest quality of work. As a student in GrandPR, you can always rely on your fellow staff members to provide great work and follow deadlines, because we are exactly what we aim to be: the best of the best.

Account Executive Katie Vanderlinde and 4-semester participant in GrandPR puts it best when she says, “GrandPR has allowed me to grow and given me opportunities to truly apply the skills I have learned in the classroom to real life situations. [GrandPR] has also taught me how to be more confident, develop better communication skills, gain responsibility, and network with others." 

Home is where our heart is. 

Spoiler Alert! Our home is GVSU. If you are an affiliate of the university (i.e. student, professor, alum), GrandPR automatically loves you and wants to help with whatever you are working on. GrandPR is a benefit to the university community, its organizations, and departments in that we can provide cost-effective public relations services to those who need it. Plus, we love to promote GVSU and the amazing things our learning community creates and executes.

We can teach you a thing or two, too.

The things we do for our clients are almost always related to things we are learning in the classroom. Just as Katie shared the overlap from classroom to GrandPR, there is also overlap from GrandPR to the classroom. I have seen firsthand that students in GrandPR are more active participants in the classroom, whether that is answering or asking questions, offering examples or a new and unique insight into the topic. As you may or may not know, PR changes – every day. Having students that are currently experiencing working with real clients can be a major help in the classroom, and can offer assistance in backing up those textbook lessons about the R.A.C.E. (Research, Action, Communication, Evaluation) theory because yes, you really should follow it.

We are not cheap or inexpensive. We are cost effective.

Our motto is experience over money, always. We do not financially compensate our staff for individual work. All of the money we make from clients goes directly back to our firm and our PRSSA chapter for professional development opportunities. So as a result, we carefully choose clients and projects that will enhance our academic careers, giving us opportunities to learn new things and fine-tune our skills in each part of pubic relations. From a client perspective, working with a student-run firm is a good option because we are cost effective and we bring fresh, new ideas and solutions to an otherwise typical and standard problem. We are able to bring previous classroom, internship and personal skills to the team.

Employers want 2-5 years of experience? Check.

Yes, even potential employers can benefit from the existence of a student-run PR firm. As a soon-to-be grad, I am able to check that box on my job applications with confidence! I have two years of experience working in a fully functional public relations firm with real clients, real problems, and real responsibilities. GrandPR grads are able to walk into job interviews confident in their public relations skills and knowing that they can offer something that other applicants cannot.

To my wonderful, smart and talented staff: Whether you realize it or not, you have the skills and potential to do anything you set your mind to. And regardless of how you feel on this Monday, you are years ahead of your peers in terms of PR experience. So go forth and apply for that job, because you are valued and you have everything that is required!

Keep on keepin' on,


Daltyn Little, CEO |  Daltyn is a senior at Grand Valley State University, sporting a major in Advertising and Public Relations paired with a language emphasis in Italian. Prior to her promotion to CEO, she served as an Account Associate and Account Executive for GrandPR during the 2013-14 school year.  She has a passion for anything unique, colorful, and creative.  She loves to explain, to describe, to host, and to write.  She is generous with praise, quick to smile, and always on the lookout for the positive in any situation.  Her public relations passion resides in non-profits.  Her top five strengths, according to the Clifton StrengthsFinder are Developer, Communication, Positivity, Includer, and Maximizer.

Hashtags Don't Break For Halftime

Working at an agency like Weiden+Kennedy is a dream come true for many college students. Jocelyn Goldberg, a GVSU alum and Weiden+Kennedy brand strategist, recently came back to campus to share her experiences with us. This event was great for advertising and public relations students because while she is currently a brand strategist, she has background in social media.

Being a Brand Strategist, Goldberg works directly with clients and creative teams. After working with clients to determine the problem, she does a majority of the research to help establish a solution.

Goldberg has worked with clients ranging from local startups and non-profits, to the world’s biggest brands, including Coke-Cola and Oreo. During her presentation at Grand Valley, Goldberg revealed how to get brands off the bench, into the game, and through the end zone during the Super Bowl.

She explained that social media is a great way to have a lasting impression during the Super Bowl. Without staying social, a brands message only lasts the length of a commercial, which is roughly 30-60 seconds. With a social presence, brands are better able to come to life and allow more human-like interactions. When brands are on social media, consumers can have a feeling of comfort and loyalty, thus creating a deeper connection to the brand.

It is obvious why brands are on social media, especially being a public relations firm. The real question is HOW do they manage such a large fan base. The secret? Having a War room.

Large brands like Coke have a War room. This room is for everyone to gather in when working on a large and interactive project. Anyone who could possibly have any input is gathered in this room. Coke uses their War room during the Super Bowl when over 100 million people view their advertisements.

At the end of Coke-Cola's advertisement during the Super Bowl they put a website link and a hashtag. Of these 100 million people watching the Super Bowl ad, 12 million people went to their website at the same time when it was done airing.

War rooms are perfect for communicating with such large audiences. An example of a brand capitalizing on using a War room would be during the 2013 Super Bowl when there was a power outage and Oreo came up with their "You can still dunk in the dark" campaign. They may or may not have planned for this kind event to happen, but when everyone was in the room together dealing with the event, the creative team members and brand directors were all able to work together.

                                               Photo courtesy of @Oreo

                                               Photo courtesy of @Oreo

In these War rooms, team members plan and enact different possible scenarios that could come up during the project, in this case the Super Bowl. These scenarios can range from "what will the brand do if team A wins instead of team B and vice versa" to "what will the brand do if there is a national tragedy?"

Working with GrandPR this semester, I am excited to apply the lessons that Goldberg taught me. As a team, we continue to better ourselves to best serve our clients.

Jaclyn Ermoyan, Administrative Assistant

GrandPR meets ArtPrize 2014

The streets of Grand Rapids are stirring with tourists and locals, exploring the 1,536 pieces of art entered in this year's ArtPrize competition.  Over 400,000 tourists are to be expected to visit Grand Rapids during this 19 day event!  Event is an understatement, I would call it an experience - you cannot simply describe ArtPrize to someone, they have to go for themselves.  And behind the scenes, there is a team of relentless professionals making it seamless.  Before the this year's event is complete, they have already begun working on plans for ArtPrize 2015 and 2016.

ArtPrize hired GrandPR to help with public relations tasks throughout the 19 days of ArtPrize festivities.  Jaenell Ott and Emma Higgins warmly welcomed members into the Hub to help with all things public relations.  The two of them have been working 70+ hours per week; this includes the weeks leading up to ArtPrize and the weeks of the competition itself.  They have spent many late nights in the office and early mornings interviewing with the media.  Jaenell and Emma contact media, set up interviews, create crisis communication plans, help at events.  To list their full agendas, we'd need much more than this blog.  They are truly the definition of super-hero PR women. 

GrandPR members had the opportunity to live tweet at special events, pitch stories to artists’ hometown media, and work with media at events.  Staff members live tweeted at Critical Discourse events from the ArtPrize Twitter to showcase the panel of speakers; this gave members the opportunity to enhance their social media skills.  On October 4, Account Executives Meg McPhee and Kelsey Jeurgens, teamed up with Account Associate Lindsay Papciak to help with the first annual Final 20 announcement.  Members assisted in management of the media, explaining to them the do and do-nots of the event.  Before the event, staff members worked hard and contacted the media to ensure their presence by pitching the event story to them.  They acted as a barricade when the media tried to bombard the Top 20 artists, and helped escort the artists to the stage once their names were announced.  Other members helped create media lists for specific artists, working to contact them with a press release to get more coverage on the event.  Volunteering our time and skills for ArtPrize is a once in a lifetime opportunity for most.  This international art competition is growing every year, and it is a pleasure to work with an amazing event.  We cannot thank Jaenell, Emma and the extended ArtPrize team enough.  On the behalf on GrandR, we look forward to working with you in the future years!

Kelsey Juergens, Account Executive