Students in the Introduction to Public Relations class at the University of Virginia’s College at Wise are giving a venerable organization a fresh new look after more than 50 years of service to residents in need.

The students, led by instructor Brittany Robinson, are working in three groups to develop a strategic public relation plan for the Appalachian Community Action and Development Agency. The organization, which has helped make positive changes in the counties of Wise, Lee and Scott counties and the city of Norton for more than five decades, wants to reintroduce itself to the clients it serves.

Pr students class

The agency has made great strides helping clients with financial coaching, housing counseling, emergency services programs and other services for low-and-middle income residents in need. Agency leaders know times change and there is a great need to reintroduce the AppCAA to the public.

The agency director and Robinson decided the project would be a good fit for the public relations class, and the students are heavily involved in the project.

“The students are 100 percent in charge of the client meetings,” Robinson said. “They are in charge of the client meetings, and they are the point of contact.”

The class met with the agency director and gently probed about what AppCAA needed most in a comprehensive public relations campaign. The class divided in groups of three to work on the most important aspects of the project. The agency’s social media usage and the current brochure that highlights the organization will be closely examined by the students.

One group is working to find out all the information it can on what the agency does, who it works for and what it hopes to accomplish for its clients in the region.

Katherine Dotten is working with the first group. He said the agency works hard to help low-and-middle income families and individuals develop sustainable life skills, but hand outs are not part of the agency’s operations. Dotten said her group is in the building stage of the project, but work is progressing well.

Emilee Helbert is part of the second group.

“We are going to handle the social media part of it,” Helbert said.

group will realistically examine the agency’s current social media use to look for ways the posts and tweets can be more attractively crafted to appeal to users.

Telena Turner’s group is tasked with studying the agency’s target audience with an eye toward developing donors, volunteers and to identify different stakeholders.

The students will spend time developing a newsletter template that will be easy for the agency to use to better tell its story to the public and to spotlight the various positive projects AppCAA carries out for its clients.

Future plans call for the Introduction to Public Relations class to work closely with a film production class on campus to develop a video ad for the agency as well. The final proposal will be shared with the agency near the end of the semester once the primary work on the campaign has finished.

The class will also hone other skills as the project continues this semester. They will analyze statistics and data from social media posts to develop more information about the effectiveness of their future posts and tweets. The class is fully engaged in its work, and it looks forward to presenting the work with their client.