Illini PRA enables to students to explore public relations field

The Illini Public Relations Association brings to campus a field that students are interested in, but is not represented as a major at the University.

Illini PRA is a student-run, nonprofit group of 200 members with the goal of offering “PR experience to students that are looking to pursue a career in public relations but have no other way to learn about it,” said Ashley Lawless, senior in Media and president of external affairs.

Anyone at any time can become a member of Illini PRA. The least involved members can simply attend the general meetings, which take place twice a month. Meetings typically include guest speakers who discuss public relations in specific areas. The different committees of the club also come together to discuss specific PR issues.

For those wishing to extend their membership further, they have the option of applying to one of the many committees, which meet once a week in addition to general meetings.

These 8-12 member committees work with a variety of clients including EatCU, Hercampus.com, Dance Marathon, Victoria’s Secret Pink, and singer Courtney Jaye. They plan events, write press releases, pitch ideas to local media, and work on other promotional activities across campus. During the first semester of each year, these committees create a campaign of how they will execute the promotions, whether it is through social media, press releases or other through other venues. Then, during second semester, they put the plan into action.

One of the more recent committees is the Victoria’s Secret Pink committee. This month, they are holding a philanthropy event involving a sorority-wide competition for people to donate clothes to the Salvation Army. The sorority that wins will have a party thrown by the committee for the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show in November.

The Victoria’s Secret Pink committee also does promotions for the University of Illinois spiritwear found in stores, as well as Secret Shopper parties. They work to promote the collegiate collection and anything Pink because the brand is geared toward college-aged girls.

“We wanted to get more of a following and needed more people to help, so we made this committee through PRA to give people experience doing promotional work with a major company. It’s also something cool they can put on their resumes,“ Lawless said.

The more active members are, the more opportunities they will have. One advantage of being active is an invitation to go on the networking trip in the spring to Chicago.

“We go anywhere from 6 to 10 agencies where our members have the opportunity to actually sit in public relations firms, talk to the CEOs, talk to the vice presidents and talk to people who we would potentially be one day,” Lawless said.

Illini PRA offers members opportunities that they would not find elsewhere on campus, and it gives them the chance to explore public relations and gain real world experience with it.

“The College of Media does not have a PR major, and I knew once I started journalism that news wasn’t really my thing, but I like to write, and I like dealing with people. Public Relations has a really good mix of both and Illini PRA has given me the opportunity to gain experience in PR,” said senior in Media and president of internal affairs, Lesley Gwam.

“The program got started about five years ago, and it is a great opportunity for people to join a club and be a part of something that they actually are interested in. There are a lot of really cool things about Illini PRA. It is a great opportunity,” said Courtney Cheatham, junior in LAS and vice president of professional development.

Illini PRA offers the opportunity for members to get involved in public relations and to explore it as either a potential career path or simply an interest. It is student-run, and membership is not discriminative. For more information about Illini PRA, visit http://illinipra.org/home.