BU COM’s student-staffed agency PRLab held its annual philanthropic event, PRoBono, on Nov. 3, 2017, with a record number of 100 student-volunteers. Students of diverse majors and grade levels came together, divided up into teams, and conquered nonprofit client projects for free overnight, in an 18-hour marathon, providing services from public relations and marketing to web design.
The event started at 6:00 p.m. on Friday and ended the following Saturday at 12 p.m. in COM 209, which became the mecca of team check-ins and entertaining exercises throughout the night and early a.m., at the College of Communication. In recognition of the 70th anniversary of the public relations program at BU, Dean of Students Kenneth Elmore headlined the event with opening remarks. “The University can engage in communities in so many different ways,” Dean Elmore said. “We have traditional ways where you can do service and volunteer, but this (PRoBono) is a creative way through which we can give back and fulfill our own souls and interests.”
This year, PRoBono welcomed six clients:
- Cure SPG47
- Empowerment Through Integration
- Mahasukha USA
- Citizens for Juvenile Justice
The PRLab staff pre-assigned students to teams based on skill set and work interest documented in a registration questionnaire. The six teams broke out into sessions with their respective clients to discuss the scope-of-work and desired deliverables. Different from previous PRoBono events, this year’s PRoBono allocated an evening coach to each team. “This year the team took it one step further,” said Professor Amy Shanler, co-director of PRLab. “A separate setup of coaches are coming in during the night to help the student-teams get started, which really helps the teams get energized and more organized.”
Throughout the event, PRLab coordinated a continuous supply of food and drinks, announced hourly raffle giveaways on Instagram, and played fun, interactive mind games to foster teamwork amongst the six teams.
While some participants chose to work until 12 a.m., a number of dedicated students powered through the 18-hour journey pushing the boundaries together. Yue Kan, a second-year graduate student studying PR, was thrilled to work with her squad. “I am really tired, but our team has been creating so many deliverables for the client, ” Kan said at the strike of 5 a.m. “I think it’s a great experience and I especially love how much we could help in a certain period time.”
On its fifth birthday, PRoBono reached historical highs regarding participant registration and client diversity. “We had over 100 people register,” President of Client Services Lauren Oubre said. “And this year we received applications from a diverse group of clients from education, healthcare and religion.” Professor Shanler was also amazed by the amount of student volunteers. “It doesn’t matter what your major is. This is a project that we can work on together.”
“Any student in the BU community is welcome to participate,” as stated on the PRoBono event page. Dera Silvestre, a junior studying mass communication at COM, expressed her appreciation for the opportunity to work on causes she cares about. “This event was really helpful,” Silvestre said. “And I felt I learned so much about PR and how to tackle campaigns.”
The sense of accomplishment flourished amongst teams during final presentations which started at 11 a.m. on Saturday, November 4. Bianca Chaer, a first-year graduate student in the mass communication program, said she felt the most nerves when presenting to her client, Cure SPG47, but felt extremely accomplished when her client shed tears of joy, being in awe of the deliverables.
On the morning of presentations, faculty members Professor Michael Dowding, Professor Sarah D’Souza, Professor Joyce Walsh, Professor Craig Sender, and COM alumna Haley King (COM ‘16) graced the halls as mentors and offered their expertise to students in respective work fields.
Geneve Lau, a freshman at COM, regarded this event as an eye-opening experience. “When I walked into this event, I was really nervous, because there were many [graduate] students and elder classes,” Lau said. “But I felt that I definitely was given the right balance of guidance and self-independence. Although I felt a little tired, I definitely will do this again.”
Jessie Zhang, Staff Writer
Jessie is a second-year grad student in PR and an aspiring PR and marketing professional. PR agency life is her energizer, and writing is her bittersweet lover. Jessie is a full-time cat lover, a part-time concert goer, and a lifelong wonderer. www.jessiejxzhang.com.