The COMmunicator recently sat down with PRLab account executive Olivia Zed to discuss her experience working on the Ben & Jerry’s account this semester–including what she’s learned and how PRLab has helped her develop a better understanding of the professional field.
PRLab is BU’s student-run agency that is taken as a two- or four-credit course. Public relations faculty members Justin Joseph and Amy Shanler oversee and supervise the program, and students have the opportunity to work as account executives, copywriters, art directors, and many other roles. The agency has a very detailed chain of command and resembles the organizational structure of a real public relations agency.
Olivia Zed is a master’s candidate studying public relations. Currently in her second semester, Zed is taking PRLab to get a better view of the professional side of public relations beyond the lens of the classroom. A Canadian, Zed received her undergraduate degree in International Development and Political Science. She finds PRLab extremely helpful in providing a real-life work environment.
“I’m here doing public relations because I want to get into nonprofit communications and public affairs campaigns–and sort of move into the social-impact space,” Zed said.
This is Zed’s first semester in PRLab, and she was very fortunate and excited to work on the Ben & Jerry’s account. She recently wrapped up the client presentation with her team, and she’s close to finishing things up as the semester comes to an end. She said that her experience taking PRLab was a fulfilling learning experience and that she was quite satisfied about how the agency assigns students to different clients.
“We first fill out some forms to indicate our interests, then we interview, and the agency will match us up with a client that best meets our skill sets and what we’re interested in,” Zed said. “They figure out what would be the best fit. You can rank your preferences and I got placed in Ben & Jerry’s. They do a really good job in matching people up in where’s the most appropriate.”
The PRLab certainly provided Zed the platform to gain useful insight for the professional field, placing her in the account executive position. According to Zed, she didn’t have a very solid background or formal experience in the field of public relations.
“I haven’t really worked in an agency,” she said, “and getting that ground-up experience in definitely very valuable in terms of doing a timesheet, developing a plan and executing certain tactics. I think that is where the most experience [is] to be gained from PRLab.”
She also expressed interest in exploring other aspects of the student-run agency and trying out other roles.
“You have the opportunity to grow within the agency, just as you would in a real job, over different semesters,” Zed said.
“I only took a few classes in communications,” she continued, “but they are all quite theoretical. Not really related to public relations as a practice. It certainly substitutes for the real-life work experience. It is real life. I mean, the clients are paying us. It’s a good space to learn, and you’re allowed to make mistakes. I think that’s the point: that you can grow from your mistakes and you have a good support network, whether that’s your supervisor or the professor.”
Ben & Jerry’s is one of PRLabs major clients, and the company promotes a very fun culture. Zed said that she got to know the company and saw a lot of things that others might not know about it by working for PRLab.
“One thing I didn’t know about Ben & Jerry’s was their social activism,” she shared. “We did a fair-trade talk with Cocoa Beantown. We partnered with the National Center of Racy Amity for one of their upcoming documentaries. It’s really fun to see that side of Ben & Jerry’s, and also we get to take a lot of photos of ice cream, which is a lot harder than it looks–but you get to be creative.”
Zed said that working on the Ben & Jerry’s account also helped her develop her hard analytical skills and to grasp insights across various social media platforms. Her team directly manages the Ben & Jerry’s Boston account, and she learned quite a bit by taking up that responsibility.
“Their culture is very fun, and it’s definitely reflected in what we do,” she said. “The bulk of our work is focused on social media and increasing their engagement on those platforms but then also providing supports for different events. It’s very insightful to learn about how the audience responds and what kind of content they best respond to. Something that’s really from an aesthetic point of view might not get as much engagement as something that’s just fun and more natural looking.”
Overall, Zed strongly recommends this course to her fellow students. She’s looking forward to taking the course again in the fall, switching up roles and exploring more in the field of public relations.
Ronnie Feng, Staff Writer
Ronnie Feng is a graduating senior studying advertising with a minor in American Studies. He is currently working on his book about American Fraternalism and its impact on masculinity in the college setting.