Story for Boston University's COMmunicator, 2015. Originally published here.
On the night of World Kindness Day on Nov. 12, COM’s student-run PRLab organized their annual philanthropic event, PRoBono 2015. During the 18-hour Public Relations marathon, students of COM joined forces to lend their services to five nonprofit organizations: the Red Sox Foundation, Play Ball! Foundation, Cradles to Crayons, the Environmental League of Massachusetts and Project Citizenship.
The event kicked off with a motivational speech from Professor Edward Downes, who instilled a spirit of hope in the participating teams. The students pulled up their socks and worked hard for the non-profits, who are often left understaffed and with inadequate resources to fulfill all their marketing and PR needs.
While the main objective of PRoBono is to meet the clients’ goals, the event is not without its share of fun. Raffles were conducted throughout the night, and students were presented with free snacks and good food. Just before midnight, a surprise in the form of Professor Dowding made its way into the room, as he brought with him more sustenance for the energetic crowd. Upbeat music, chatter, and yoga pants gave students the free will to work the way they desired, in the company of friends and classmates.
At the end of the grueling 18-hour journey, students were asked to present their work to a panel of judges before handing over the material to their respective clients. The panel for this year included Professors Stephen Quigley and Judith Austin of COM, and Laura Lynn of 451 Marketing, a national marketing and communications agency. Professor Quigley quipped, “I would’ve charged a fortune! The asks were huge, wherein a typical agency would get back to you in three months, so for the students to turn around the work so quickly was very cool.”
“We have a very slim marketing resource for the size of our organization,” Kirsten Sims of Cradles to Crayons said, “and one of the things that help us is to work with student groups, or people who want to work pro bono because of our mission.” Sims stated her excitement for the possibilities that it could bring: “You get a fresh set of eyes for the problem at hand and new ideas that are completely different. [The students] are connecting dots in a way that other groups wouldn’t connect.”
Anne Meyer, a recent graduate from Boston College, and the Program Associate for the Environmental League of Massachusetts shared her excitement about the event. “[Events like this] are so important for the students and the people who you work with because it offers something to the community and that cannot be replaced,” she said, “it gives students a sense of pride and a chance to really prove their skills.”
PRoBono came to life thanks to the initiative presented by Professor Amy Shanler. She was introduced to the concept by one of her students in the fall of 2013, inspired by a similar overnight event conducted in Florida. Since then, Professor Shanler and the students in PRLab have conducted four events, including the 2015 edition. Several of the clients that signed up for PRoBono have even gone on to become clients for PRLab. Professor Shanler said, “Anything that we can provide for our clients during this event is a step in the right direction, and they’re grateful for that. Some samples of the work for this year’s event includes logo development, news releases, media lists, social media campaigns, and just generally a wide variety of work.”
Even though the event is conducted by PRLab, President of Client Service Phoebe Bowe noted that a lot of Advertising students do participate in every event. President of Operations Haley King approached Boston-based non-profits that she found online, and a few through contacts via her work and classes. Her main goal was to pick the ones that were the best fit for what the team could do with the PR and Advertising students here.
PRoBono 2015 cumulatively generated 532.75 hours of philanthropic work, 25 hours more than last year—a worthy feat for the team and participants.