From 6 p.m. on Friday, November 16 to 12 p.m. on Saturday, November 17, students from Boston University gathered in the College of Communication as volunteers for the sixth annual PRoBono, PRLab’s annual giving event. Graduates and undergraduates alike used their communication skills to provide deliverables to mission-driven and philanthropic organizations throughout the greater Boston area.
This year, according to Amrit Gill, PRLab’s director of special events, teams produced $104,410 worth of work, and the event included more 128 volunteers—both record numbers.
Students from many majors, including public relations, worked together throughout the 18 hours to create pieces of which the clients could be proud.
PRLab organized PRoBono 2018 with enthusiasm, especially after winning the PR Daily Media Relations Award earlier this year for the category “Cause Marketing Campaign.”
The six clients PRoBono served this year were: Amirah, Bow Seat Ocean Awareness, John F. Kennedy Foundation, Mother Caroline Academy & Education Center (MCAEC), Polish American Heritage and Community Foundation, and Women’s Lunch Place of Greater Boston.
Carol Cone, known for her work in purpose PR and corporate social responsibility, delivered the keynote and opening speech. She has been a pioneer in the field since 1983.
Talking to students from an airport while still in transit, she discussed the importance of the work done in cause marketing and public relations.
“We were glad to have her help convey the impact of the work that we are doing tonight,” Professor Amy Shanler said. Shanler created PRoBono and acts as one of PRLab’s co-faculty advisors, alongside Professor Justin Joseph. “I think students will remember the keynote, in addition to the work they’ve produced.”
She added that this year’s event brought a lot of support from local restaurants. “We had food donations from T Anthony’s Pizzeria, Scoozi, Ben & Jerry’s, and Pavement Coffeehouse,” she said. “It is great to see that kind of community support to our students, who are doing this kind of service.”
Prachi Kabir, an account executive for PRLab, was participating in the PRoBono for the first time. “We were really happy with the results and the experience overall,” she said. “When you work so hard over a short period of time to achieve something, seeing it being appreciated is great.”
Kabir powered through the whole 18 hours and said it was “stimulating for the mind.” She stayed awake for most of it and took a nap before presenting to her client, Mother Caroline Academy.
It was a success. “At some point,” she said, “they got emotional, and we got all the fuzzy feelings.”
Abigail Hatfield, a first-semester graduate student in the PR program was also working with the same client.
“It was such a unique experience,” she said. “We created a lot of physical material for them. I worked with a new software to make videos, something I’ve never worked with before or been exposed to—and now I can add that to my set of skills.”
For Hatfield, the work was so rewarding that she decided to keep working with Mother Caroline Academy beyond the event. “Their biggest problem is reaching people,” she said, “and I’m glad I was paired with them. I can help them with that.”
BU students weren’t the only ones volunteering at PRoBono this year. Camila Caron, a PR professional who recently moved to Boston, also took part. She is considering applying to the master’s program at COM next fall.
“It was a unique opportunity to get in touch with BU’s communication program,” Caron said. “I could see a community of passionate students connecting themselves with inspiring nonprofits in a hands-on experience, and [I was] excited to be a part of it.”
Bianca Chaer, Contributing Writer
Bianca Chaer is a Brazilian writer and second-year graduate student in the Mass Communications program at Boston University. Antsy by nature, she ventured into journalism and PR before landing in advertising, where she found her place as a strategic planner. This fall semester, she is also the VP of Social for AdLab.