HAMMOND │ If these Purdue University Calumet students encounter any problems during their semester-long class project, it’s to be expected. After all, the class is not called Problems in Public Relations for nothing.
Every year a new group of PUC students create for the class a public relations firm required to perform a communication audit for a Northwest Indiana business. The communication audit tests the effectiveness of an organization’s communication channels through benchmarking, interviews, focus groups and surveys.
This year’s student-run firm, Red Brick Rhetoric, is performing the audit for the South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority.
The goal is to better understand how the South Shore CVA communicates with its internal and external publics, according to PUC student Jasmin Zamora, who serves as Red Brick’s public relations director.
“We will be interviewing people who work with the South Shore CVA, both internally and externally, from a guide that was built from benchmarking reports,” Zamora said. “Each step builds off one another.”
South Shore CVA president and CEO Speros Batistatos said there is something for them to learn from the audit.
“We’ve never done a project like this before, so it’s a good time for us to get feedback from our critical public – both internal and external on how we’re doing,” he said. “After being with an organization as long as I have been, you think you know what’s going on and anytime you can audit yourself and see whether reality is matching up with our perception is an important step. It’s something we should actively get out and do. We may find we’re right where we want to be and I’m guessing we’re going to find there are some areas that we need to change and improve.”
Batistatos said organizationally, the South Shore CVA has strong ties to Purdue University Calumet and it has a number of its grads in the organization. They include Nicki Mackowski-Gladstone, vice president and chief communication officer of South Shore CVA and a former Problems in Public Relations student.
“This is a great idea, a great concept,” Batistatos said. “It works for young people to see how real business takes place. It’s a very valuable educational component for them. I think everybody comes out a winner in this.”
There are 16 students in the PR class, including Patrick Theobald, who admits the project can be frustrating at times.
“It’s definitely is a challenge because none of us have done this before,” he said. “That’s the biggest thing. It’s all a learning experience. It’s hard to get angered or upset because we really don’t have the experience of creating a brand new business. It’s definitely a great learning experience. When I tell people about the program they’re amazed at the amount of work that goes into this because the class is only Tuesdays and Thursdays for an hour and 20 minutes, but we’re putting in 40 hours worth of time. So it’s really a full-time job.”
Student Cait Lackey serves as Red Brick’s CEO. She oversees the class and makes sure the “all the gears of our company are moving forward.”
“The leadership skills I’ve learned are immeasurable,” she said. “The experience of doing a communication audit has been immeasurable as well. You’re doing it in a classroom environment so it’s safe to make those mistakes.
Lackey said the project also gives the students experience in networking. They also had to learn how to pitch to potential clients of the audit before landing with the South Shore CVA.
“We get that experience of selling ourselves as PR professionals,” she said. “The South Shore CVA is a high-profile client,” she said. “They are reputable in the area and it’s a pleasure to work with them.”
For more information visit www.redbrickrhetoric.com.