A Time to Give. A Night to Remember: PRoBono 2016

On the frosty Friday evening of November 4, PRLab welcomed COM students and eager clients for PRoBono 2016, the 18-hour annual philanthropic event. With over 80 advertising and PR students in attendance, teams were formed to work on real campaigns for five non-profit organizations in the Boston area.

The night kicked off with some words of inspiration from Professor Downes, who reminded everyone that “hope comes whenever one person sincerely reaches out to another”. He talked about the dynamic world of nonprofit organizations: the challenges they are faced with, and the daily hurdles they overcome. He also touched upon what COM graduates could provide as professionals to these clients, who are short of resources and appreciate the help. New to the COM family, Dr. Arunima Krishna, assistant professor in the PR department, shared her excitement as she addressed the eager crowd of students waiting to get to work.

Once settled, the clients introduced themselves and their organizations, explaining the scope of work and adding to the growing levels of enthusiasm in the room. This year’s clients were:

  • Greater Grove Hall Main Streets
  • Living Assistance Fund
  • Skate for the 22
  • Julie’s Family
  • Adopets

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Professor Amy Shanler, who has dedicatedly led the PRoBono team every year, discussed the selection process for clients, stating, “We feel very strongly that we want to be able to use our talents to have a real measurable impact. A lot of the organizations we bring in for PRoBono 2016 are so focused on achieving their mission, but they don’t have the resources to do a lot of the PR or marketing work.”

Participants embarked on an 18-hour spell of integrated PR and advertising work, producing multiple deliverables and consulting with Prof. Shanler and Prof. Justin Joseph as the hours went by. The deliverables this year included press kits, fact sheets, company backgrounds, social media plans, and advertising materials for clients to help build positive connections with their audiences. Monica Luke, co-founder of The Living Assistance Fund, said, “The idea of PRoBono for non-profits is a great opportunity for people like me, who cannot pay for this kind of service. That’s terrific!”

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Teams soldiered on through the night, working in separate rooms, and peeking out every now and then for a snack or a stroll. The PRoBono team continued with their tradition of hosting a raffle, picking winners every few hours. Up for grabs were prizes such as Starbucks gift cards, tickets to the New England Aquarium, among other exciting goodies. They even stepped things up a notch this year with a Snapchat filter, which kept spirits high when engines were running low in the early hours of Saturday morning.

As the presentation hour drew closer, a brisk yoga session helped students push themselves to make it through the final hours. Once refreshed, they presented their work to faculty advisors Prof. Pegeen Ryan and Prof. Judith Austin, who helped teams perfect their strong campaigns, before sending them off to present the final work to clients.

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Danny Robinson, a 2014 graduate from COM, also the Junior Copywriter at Jack Morton Worldwide shared his excitement about the presentation. “I think these works are great. The students really pulled together a lot of work in such a short amount of time, and did all of this overnight. It’s awesome! It’s cool to see the students writing lines, producing brochures. It’s a nice way to expand their learning experience.”

Yumi Masuda, president of Client Services at PRLab, had nothing but praises for the students. She said, “They went above beyond what we asked them. In their scope of work, they were supposed to do branding, business cards, logos, things like that. They did all of them in the first 10 hours. They did anything and everything they could possible!”

When asked about how he felt about the event, Charles Bobbish, representative of Skate for the 22, talked about the energy in the room, and the eagerness of the students to help out. “As an organization, we’ve had support from BU graduates and current BU students. I think the students are wonderful; they don’t have to be here, [but] they are helping us. I ran into so many wonderful young people who are just looking for the opportunity to have an impact—not go make money, but have a positive impact,” he said.

The event collectively drew a total of 1150 hours of gratuitous strategic planning and creative marketing services for five nonprofit clients. Coupled with willingness to give back and the drive to do good work, the teams pulled through for another successful PRoBono event!


Jiangnan Yu, Staff Writer

 Jiangnan is a first-year graduate student majoring in public relations. She received her bachelor’s degree in Business English from Beijing, and her love and passion for communication brought her to BU. She loves traveling, food, photography, and fashion.

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