MCJ students explore new partnership with entrepreneurship students

Large brick sign in front of Sid Craig School of Business. MCJ and Entrepreneurship students partnered up for a project.

TALK PR, Fresno State’s student-run public relations firm, has offered students the opportunity to work with countless local businesses, organizations and university clients since its founding in the spring of 2009. Through the Public Relations Agency Practicum special topics course, MCJ 117T, TALK students from an array of degree programs and colleges come together to gain real world experience, working with clients from across the valley. Though typically these clients are local businesses and organizations, students had a new opportunity in the spring of 2017 to work with a different type of client — entrepreneurship students.

In a partnership between the Department of Management and the Department of Media, Communications and Journalism, each student in the TALK PR course was assigned to a student in the entrepreneurship course, ENTR 157, New Venture Laboratory.

In this course, entrepreneurship students develop a comprehensive business plan, intended to be used to start their businesses following graduation. The job of the PR students? Create a thorough social media strategy for their client to help these new businesses find their footing and gain a following in the competitive business market.

Over the course of the 16-week spring semester, TALK students developed lengthy social media plans for these budding businesses, complete with 30 potential social media posts, recommended platforms based on the businesses model, concepts for driving traffic and increasing follower numbers and plans for frequency and scheduling of posts.

TALK professor Betsy Hays says she and Nelson Sebra, the professor for the New Venture Laboratory course, created the partnership, “to give the TALK students more experience working with real clients, for-profit ones, and this time on a peer basis.”

“PR students need to be able to succeed with all types of clients and this project gives them a different lens on client service and client work via syncing with the startup world.”

At the conclusion of the semester, entrepreneurship students are given the opportunity to present their startup business plans to a panel of judges and the public as part of the Entrepreneurship Expo, held in the University Business Center.

The third annual Entrepreneurship Expo was held on Tuesday, May 9, only this time, the TALK students joined in on the fun.

TALK students stood alongside their entrepreneurship partners as they presented their business plans to the judges. The TALK students also had judges of their own. Three local media specialists were brought in to serve as judges for the students’ social media plans, and students were granted a few minutes to present their work as the judges moved from table to table.

After the expo, judges tallied their scores and selected a first- through third-place winner for the first Fresno State Social Media Strategy Showcase. Each student received an award certificate and an additional prize, donated by the Lyles Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, the sponsor for the Entrepreneurship Expo.

This year, the first place prize was awarded to TALK student Taylor Mosher for her work with Honeydoo’s Cookie Company, a startup bakery created by entrepreneurship alumni Catie Ball.

Mosher launched two social media platforms for her client through Instagram and Facebook, posted regular content on these sites throughout the semester and took Honeydoo’s platforms from zero followers to over 250 followers by the project’s end.

The first partnership between TALK and the students of ENTR 157 proved to be a success, Hays said. Students in the TALK course gained real world experience in working with startup companies; the entrepreneurship students gained a professional plan in place for their social media debut.

With the first trial run of the partnership now complete, the professors for these two courses have decided the partnership will continue into the next academic year, with some changes.

“Most of the students on both sides had a positive experience, but there were some cases where communication was poor and expectations were not managed, and those experiences weren’t as strong,” Hays said. “In a pilot, you don’t expect things to go perfectly, and to be honest, when things aren’t smooth you often learn the most! I have met with Nelson and we think we’ve got some of the kinks worked out for next time.”

Collage of public relations and business students at the Entrepreneurship Expo

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The College of Arts and Humanities provides a diverse student population with the communication skills, humanistic values and cultural awareness that form the foundation of scholarship. The college offers intellectual and artistic programs that engage students and faculty and the community in collaboration, dialog and discovery. These programs help preserve, illuminate and nourish the arts and humanities for the campus and for the wider community.

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