Public Relations Course Provides Students with Skills Needed for Future Endeavors

The Public Relations course, taught in the Spring, ran two public relations campaigns this semester.

By Westminster students Alex Dickneite ’19, Nick Hardeman ’18, Madi Ingram ’20, Lucy Krejci, and Alayna Stark ’20

The Spring semester has been a busy one for the students in Professor Keith Hardeman’s Public Relations course, as they got a feel of what it was like to run a public relations campaign for key parts of the Westminster community. Two groups of students selected topics from a campus office or program that they believe either needed a better image, or needed to become more well known among students, faculty, and staff. They chose to campaign on the Remley Center and academics.

The project was designed to help students become familiar with the process of preparing a public relations campaign, gain practical experience in research, application, and implementation of public relations concepts, and write formal recommendations to each division with suggestions to improve its public image.

The first campaign spotlighted the Remley Center, located inside of the Center for Faith and Services. The Remley Center focuses on empowering women, is open to both men and women, and the interns are trained to give counseling advice. The second group dealt with academics, educating students on the definitions of tenure, adjunct professors, and other academic terms. Each group created publicity for its respective topic in many ways, such as writing articles in the school newspaper, disseminating information on social media, and speaking with faculty and staff.

Maria Hicks, a freshman in the PR class, said, “The goal for the campaigns is to make faculty, staff, and students more aware of these topics so that we can see positive change moving forward.”   

The groups began their projects by conducting surveys and meeting with the leaders of their organization or topic to discuss a plan of action based on the results; for the Remley Center that was Dr. Cinnamon Brown and Dr. Kasi Lacey, and regarding school academics, President Fletcher Lamkin.

At the beginning, “we had a lot of work to do,” stated senior, Nick Hardeman about the Remley Center campaign. “Not many students were even aware of where the organization was located on campus or that its services are available to all students, regardless of gender.”

Madi Ingram, a sophomore, and another member of the Remley group, discussed the importance of the project by saying, “We really wanted to help the Remley Center as they are an essential part of campus, however, not everybody knows about them or what they do.  Our job was to change that.”  

The problems the Remley group wanted to tackle, based on the survey results, were to make the campus more aware of their location in the Center of Faith and Service located on 7th Street across from the church.  Next, they wanted to increase male involvement by making the organization more inclusive to them.  Finally, they wanted to develop further their social media engagement to increase students’ awareness of the organization.  The group was also able to partner with The Remley Center to host a Take Back the Night event, which promotes ending sexual and domestic violence. “We really want to make people aware of the many different opportunities that Remley offers students on campus,” said Lucy Krejci, a junior in the PR class.

In an attempt to make the organization more well-known and improve their image, the group revamped the Remley Center’s social media, published three articles in The Columns, and posted flyers around campus. These articles addressed recent events that the organization held as well as one that explained what the Remley Center was and how to join.

The other campaign dealt with Westminster Academics.  The group surveyed students and faculty for their research process.  Julian Richardson interviewed President Lamkin and wrote a press release addressing many concerns that were expressed by students and faculty in their survey results. The group also created slides with definitions to key terms all students should be able to define, such as the term “tenure,” and displayed them on the large televisions in JCI.        

The campaigns appear to have made an impact. “We were really happy with our results as we saw a 54 percent increase in respondent’s knowledge of the Remley Center,” said junior, Nick Spain.  “We wanted to help students understand the reality of what a liberal arts education is,” stated Rohit Bhandari.

Ingram saw real results from her group’s efforts throughout the semester, and she knows it will be something she can confidently put on her resume. “The project really opened my eyes to the world of public relations, and has prepared me well for my future field,” Ingram said. “This class helped me understand all the hard work that is put into creating a better image.”

Professor Hardeman taught the first Public Relations course at Westminster College in 1997 and devoted that semester’s project entirely to the Westminster College Greek system. Since then, students have chosen their topics from a campus office or program. “In any communication class, most students come in far more aware of how they perceive others than they are of how others perceive them,” he said.  The idea is to create that self-awareness, whether it’s on a scale of one-on-one communication, how an audience sees a public speaker, or how one’s organization is viewed by the public.

Throughout the semester, the students have also been learning how to conduct public relations through real-world examples, and how to apply them to their campaigns. They also got to practice some public speaking skills, which included giving speeches on little-known facts about Westminster College.  Alex Dickneite, a junior in the class, said “I never realized just how rich our school’s history really is. It makes me take pride in this institution, and helps me realize just how much this college can do for my future.”