Students in Professor Brittany Robertson’s Introduction to Public Relations course worked all fall semester to create a campaign to reintroduce the Appalachian Community Action and Development Agency to the region it serves.

The students presented the campaign proposal they crafted to AppCAA representatives on Dec. 5, and it was eagerly received. AppCAA Executive Director Rebecca Dillow said she was ‘blown away” by the students’ campaign.

“I knew it was going to be amazing, and this is exactly what we need,” she said. “I could see specific strategies that we need.”

An event designed to honor donors who support AppCAA was one of the most exciting aspects of the campaign, she told the students.

“We are turning 55 next year, and a sit-down event like this is exactly the way we want to celebrate it,” Dillow said. “Having your young energy and your creative minds makes a difference. I love the creative energy. You’ve given us strong strategies that we can use.”

The agency has made a big difference in the region for more than half a century, but its leaders reached out to UVA Wise for ways to revamp the way it gets its story out to the public. The students divided into three groups to work on various aspects of the campaign. The students researched the agency and learned that AppCAA was committed to teaching those in need how to use their resources rather than relying on handouts.

The class identified community members, partners and donors as target audiences for the public relations campaign. The students learned that the agency is driven to help the region and that is does an amazing job assisting the community it serves. However, the obstacles AppCAA faces include small staff size, insufficient volunteer force, funding, partnerships and overall reputation and public image, the students reported.

AppCAA has the opportunity to build its brand, gain online exposure, get more traffic on its website, upgrade social media reach, build partnerships, and to boost social media in general, the students said.

If AppCAA uses a social media tip sheet, sample posts, and develops a posting schedule, social media traffic on Facebook and Instagram would double in three months, the class told the agency leaders. Posting success stories, touting community service projects and placing employee biographies on social media is also necessary, the class said. The social media posts would highlight the activity of AppCAA and would show how the agency makes lives better in the region.

The students also suggested the agency use a newsletter template to be used four times a year to spotlight AppCAA’s work. As for funding, the students recommended the agency apply for more grants, and the class presented a 40-page campaign that showed ways to implement each strategy the students recommended.

Using social media around an AppCAA Cares Campaign, including creating flyers and other material, was also strongly recommended. Sample news releases were also provided in the 40-page campaign report.

Community events, such as coat drives, would also increase exposure in the region and would provide more opportunities for community partnerships, the class said.

Professor Robertson said the students worked hard on the campaign, and were up to the task. She is gearing up for an advertising course in the spring semester that should prove equally as engaging for students and the community at large.