by Bria Isaacson, News Editor

Seniors Bethany Taylor, Rob Reyes and Ashley Eastwood, and juniors Jeremy Simmons, Elizabeth Griffin and Madison Farrar are involved in starting a student-run Public Relations (PR) team at Asbury.

The vision for this team came from Jim Shores, professor and chair of Dept. of Communication, Worship Arts and Theatre. Professors Todd Wold, Elizabeth Jones and Don Simmons are also involved with starting a Public Relations Society of America student chapter on campus, with social media expertise and with student leadership, respectively.

According to Shores, they are beginning this PR team to serve the local community mostly.

“We have so many great nonprofits in the area that are run on a shoestring budget,” Shores said. “For them to have students help them manage social media, think through their branding, overhaul a website takes the pressure off of the leaders and allows them to focus on vision and providing services.”

The first of their jobs is a pro bono job for The Well of Lexington, an organization committed to helping women live free from sexual exploitation, addiction and homelessness by providing a two-year residential program of recovery and renewal for women.

The Well has been fundraising for about the past three years, President Susan Weatherford said, so most of their time has been spent on this instead of marketing.

“Now we have students trained in marketing and communications to give us more of a marketable and accessible feel and to do branding for The Well,” Weatherford said. “This will give us more attention.”

In addition to updating The Well’s website, the team is working with some of the women in the program to develop a social enterprise, which will market any businesses or services the women may want to offer, such as cleaning and landscaping.

Many students, who were at first excited mainly for the PR experience, are now enthusiastic about helping such a worthwhile non-profit.

“Now that I’ve met our client and gotten to know more about what they do, I also see it as a good opportunity to help out a wonderful non-profit organization in Lexington,” said Griffin, a Communications major with PR emphasis. “Today, our team got to meet the women that The Well is currently assisting, and I am so excited to, in this very small way, help these women accomplish their goals of improving their lives.”

This first client will mostly be a learning experience, according to Shores.

“We can learn in a low-pressure situation,” Shores said. “We will work with them to come up with an overall brand feel for the website, create a communication plan for their social media, and create a look (fonts, logo, colors, overall aesthetics) for their social enterprise materials.”

After this client, the team will devise a business plan this summer. They will plan to charge a low and fair rate to clients and will likely begin advertising these services in August.

“Some of this money will go directly back to students doing the work and some will come back to the college to pay for equipment, printing costs [and] software,” Shores said. “The end goal is that it is a win-win-win. The college and students benefit because we are gaining valuable on-the-job experience. Non-profits and local business start–ups who otherwise could not afford to hire PR professionals benefit by getting help telling their story and creating relationships with their various audiences.”

This is part of what has piqued the interest of Simmons, a Communications major with leadership emphasis.

“I am interested to join the PR team, in order to serve local nonprofit organizations and to apply theoretical concepts learned from communication classes,” Simmons said. “I have a deep passion to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves. I think that by partnering with The Well…the PR team will be able to gain hands-on experience working with individuals from various backgrounds.”