Students at Purdue University Calumet created a public relations firm and performed a semester-long communication audit for a Northwest Indiana business.
For more than two decades the Problems in Public Relations class at PUC has looked at the communications and public relations of local businesses, and this year's "firm," Integrated Communications, chose Schepel Auto Group in Merrillville as its client.
“We recommend things they can do to improve their external and internal communication process,” said PUC student Richard Chambers, the firm’s vice president of public relations.
Chambers said the student firm consisted of 19 students who put in about 15 to 20 hours a week on the audit.
PUC student Michael Swibes oversaw the rehearsals and performance of the firm’s final presentation to Schepel in December, in which about 14 team leaders of the auto group were present.
“The greatest I got out of this class was the hands-on application of our studies to our work,” Swibes said. “It was a great experience to learn how to work with so many different people on so many different tasks. That alone was a great learning experience."
Swibes said he received a great understanding of time as task management and learned much about the field of public relations.
“I can’t wait to finish my studies and apply what I have learned into the work place,” he said.
Tom Van Prooyen, Schepel Auto Group vice president, said the class spent a lot of time on the audit and “did great work” talking with his staff and doing focus groups with outside vendors.
“They thought our external communications with customers and vendors was pretty much spot on,” he said.
Van Prooyen said recommendations were made regarding social media, conducting more employee reviews and its quarterly newsletter.
“We will take the recommendations and work with those,” he said. “I thought they presented it very professional. I was very impressed.”
Van Prooyen has two sons who are PUC graduates, both of whom had classes that worked with outside businesses in marketing analysis. He said there were some costs to the dealership, which he felt was reasonable.
“Other businesses did this for students, so I wanted to do it too,” he said.