Influence PR may not have any multi-million dollar clients like the firms it emulates, but this recently formed, student-run public relations group aims to provide its members with hands-on experience that will help them succeed in a competitive job market after graduation.
Senior James Walker and juniors John Trybus and Anna Kuhn worked together to start the organization last year. Influence PR had its first informal meeting last April and the group was officially recognized as a student organization at the start of this academic year.
"GW lacked an outlet to talk about issues in the field (of public relations) and our own understanding of it," Trybus said.
Influence PR's three founding members each began looking into starting a student-run public relations group independent of one another. The founders met one another with the help of a Professor Scott Talan and Director of Media Relations Tracy Schario.
Walker, the group's president, said he, Trybus and Kuhn originally wanted to start a GW chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America, but because none of GW's schools met the society's public relations curriculum requirements, the three co-founders embarked on a new plan to create their own organization.
With the help of adviser and part-time communications professor Scott Talan, Influence PR has flourished in its short-lived existence. In less than one year from its founding date, Influence PR has recruited 40 members.
He added that recent Influence PR projects include working with the WNBA's Washington Mystics to produce an advertising campaign aimed at attracting more students to games, spreading the word through press releases and advisories about an event hosted by Film Your Issue, planning launch campaigns for two student-run magazines as well as working with Postcards for Katrina, a charitable organization
Influence PR also aims to help its members secure internships in the public relations sector, Walker said, adding that internship experience is one of the most important factors potential employers look at.
"We are looking for public relations experience in entry-level people," said Devra Dutton, human resources generalist for Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide.
Ogilvy has 60 offices, including seven in the United States, and the company's diverse roster of clients includes the federal government, Pizza Hut, American Idol, BP oil and Jackson Hewitt.
Dutton said a student public relations group is a great idea, adding that "even just the networking, and the hints and tips on classes and jobs are helpful."
Influence PR also takes networking seriously and holds events and panel discussions through the Career Center, Walker said. Topics have included the current state of public relations, and the digital aspect of public relations.
Walker added that, "We're students coming together and showing initiative."