Nonprofit Public Relations: A Course in Review

15 May

An Elective Course

As a junior at Otterbein University, I have quickly become accustom to the idea that I may very well exhaust the public relations courses that the university offers. The department assured me, though, to have no fear. Thankfully, there are special topics courses that are offered for two to four credit hours that help build on the knowledge gained from basic public relations classes such as “PR Principles” and “PR Techniques” with more specific direction such as “Health Care Case Studies” and “Nonprofit Public Relations.” How lucky for me that I am able to dive right into my passion, even if I am in the classroom for an extra few hours each week.

Be Our Guest

This Nonprofit PR course was taught by a professor I had previously had in basic level classes, but I was very excited to see a new element added: guest speakers! As a public relations professional, networking and making connections are very important aspects of the job, and as a professor, students appreciate being able to hear advice from the real world by working individuals. My professor brought in young professionals from After School All-Stars, Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Experience Columbus, and Delta Gamma.

The range of speakers from an athletic organization, health care aspect, travel and tourism organization, and even a national sorority show how nonprofits can range in subject, and all are located in Columbus. Each guest speaker was candid an honest about their past and current work in the nonprofit sector. Even though they came from diverse background and varying duties at their current organization, it was clear that these individuals thoroughly enjoy what they do, even though they make sacrifices working for a nonprofit. I learned that sometimes climbing the corporate ladder stops after just a rung or two, and that when funds are low, paychecks suffer. These facts have not deterred me, though, and I look forward to experiencing some of my own trials and tribulations in the sector following graduation.

Partnering with a Local Nonprofit Organization

My favorite part of the class, and the part I feel that was most beneficial was our assignment to partner with a local nonprofit organization for the semester. My group had a common interest in health care communication, so we went for broke and chose Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Luckily, our professor had a contact at the hospital and we were able to interview Mary Ellen Peacock. Senior Strategist for the Marketing and Public Relations Department, Mary Ellen was instrumental in helping our project succeed.

We were able to use the hospital as a basis for research to create a boilerplate, press release, fact sheet, Q & A, and a profile with the information we learned through talking to Mary Ellen and through the website. Not only was Mary Ellen able to tell us about her position and her hospital, but the hospital industry in Columbus and throughout Ohio. Hearing first hand how hospitals function and the passion Mary Ellen has for what she does was contagious, and made us work even harder on our project.

Our Assignment

As a final project, our task was to complete a hypothetical one-year strategic plan for Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Whoa. At first, my group and I were intimidated at such a lofty task. But after talking with Mary Ellen and creating a SWOT Analysis for the hospital, we were able to see how where our fictional plan would fit into place. We focused on internal communications and spreading awareness of the PR process to doctors, researchers and administration of the hospital and focus on consistent communication between all parties. Here, you can see our final result. Warning: our plan was over ten pages, but received with great comments.

Overall, I found this class worthwhile and a breath of fresh air this semester. With only 2 credit hours, homework and tests were minimal, creating time for speakers and to focus our creative energy on our lengthy project. The real world aspect of the course gave a glimpse into my future and assured me that nonprofit communications is exactly where I need to be!


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