Eat, Sleep, PR, Repeat. PRoBono 2019: BU’s Overnight Marathon Provides Communication Services to Local Nonprofits

Undergraduate students, graduate students, alumni, and even students not majoring in PR/Advertising gathered in COM 209 on November 15 for PRoBono 2019, BU’s overnight marathon hosted by PRLab, the longest student-run PR agency in the country. The event, which highlights local clients spreading good in society and the mutually beneficial relationships formed between students and these groups, lasted a total of 15 hours. 

The evening began with a welcome by members of PRLab, followed by a keynote address from the Chief Growth Officer at Coaching 4 Change, Jon Spack. Speaking on the value of PR work, Spack expressed that designing a communications strategy is one thing that nonprofits need the most – a service that PRLab members give to the community through experiential learning and hands-on experience. 

Lexi Glicksman, PRLab’s President of Client Service took a moment to introduce the five clients the agency has been producing work for throughout the semester: 

Fenway Community Center – A member driven organization which serves as a gathering place to share information, deliver programs, and provide services that enrich the lives of all Fenway residents.

Universal Human Rights International – An organization devoted to tackling the root cause of Liberian refugee crisis and helping refugees become self-sufficient through advocacy, information, referral, and community services. 

Albert Ellis Institute – A world-renowned psychotherapy training institute established in 1959, committed to promoting emotional well-being through the research and application of effective, short-term therapy with long-term results and removing the stigma associated with mental health challenges. 

Cancer Education and Research Institute – An award-winning, independent, Boston-based global nonprofit that aims to make cancer and cancer research understandable for everyone and bridge the gap between cancer patients and professionals. 

Dinero Chronicles – A Boston-based organization focused on social justice and empowerment for the Latinx community. 

Shortly after, participants split off into groups to meet with their clients, learn about their mission, and discuss the scope of work for the remainder of the night and into the morning.

PRLab has hosted PRoBono since 2013, when a former president was inspired by similar events held at another university. PRLab’s President of Operations, Kelci Lowery offered some insight on the significance behind the annual event: “We took the idea and transformed it into our own by making it specifically communication-related. Students every year take away great memories, new friendships, and real-world experience in the industry.”

While the idea of an overnight marathon might turn away more people than it attracts, Lowery notes that the people who do show up are more dedicated and passionate than most. “Quality will always outrank quantity, and that is especially true in our field, where meaningful work gains far more accolades than spam pitching ever has. Having students who are so inspired to complete this marathon locked on the 2nd floor of COM for 15 hours genuinely produces more creative and better work than a daytime event would. People are at their silliest and most vulnerable. They’re willing to take risks and learn new skills. It doesn’t work for everybody, but for the people who can get into PRoBono, it is the experience of a lifetime.” 

At PRoBono, the type of work that is expected of students to complete at the request of clients is no easy task. However, PRLab carefully tailors the scope of work for clients with the circumstances of the evening and students in mind. This means that content creation, media lists, and more tend to be the most common. However, students this year went by far, above and beyond any other year. According to Lowery, the results from this year’s event were some of the most high quality work PRoBono has ever seen. “We had 2 entire new websites created, countless new logos and branding efforts, well over 50 social media content posts per client, and hundreds of reporters with interests tailored to each client’s needs were found. The work completed on the night of PRoBono was the work of professionals. Not students, not interns. Professionals.” 

To keep energy up throughout the event, PRLab supplied plenty of free food and coffee, and organized various raffles and activities, from rejuvenating face masks with Professor Amy Shanler to a Shake-And-Wake karaoke/dance party extravaganza going all night long. The next morning, students presented their work that was completed overnight to clients. According to a recent post on PRLab’s Instagram, this year’s PRoBono produced $208,250 in value of PR services. Through PRoBono and its uniting environment, BU students are transformed into well-rounded professionals by practicing creativity and strategy alongside other motivated individuals. 

Mikaela Frigillana, Staff Writer

Mikaela Frigillana is a junior at Boston University studying public relations with a minor in Business Administration & Management. Originally from Seattle, WA, Mikaela is no stranger to cold, rainy weather. She currently serves on the Executive Board of the BU Filipino Student Association and is an active member of Guerrilla Marketing Society. She loves hanging out on Newbury, trying new workout classes, and matcha lattes from Pavement.

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