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Real World Career Preparation

A Guide to Creating a University Student-Run Communications Agency

Douglas J. Swanson

University student-run communications agencies allow students to work with real clients and get real world experience before they graduate from college and enter the workforce. Student-run agencies are increasing in popularity, but building a successful agency is challenging.

With more than ten years of experience supervising a student-run agency, Swanson examines the three critical roles a student agency must fulfill in order to be successful. First, the agency must be an exceptional environment for learning. Second, it must be a successful business—without satisfied clients, the agency will not survive. Third, it must be a supportive partner in both on- and off-campus communities.

As the first book to address student-run agencies, Real World Career Preparation offers extensive ‘how to’ guidance, and is supported by 22 Agency Spotlight best practice examples from student-run agencies across the U.S. The book ends with a comprehensive directory of 158 university student-run agencies in operation all over the world.

Real World Career Preparation is essential reading for any faculty member or administrator who is involved with an agency, or who plans to launch one in the future. This book is also valuable for college students working in an agency who seek ‘the big picture’ view of how their work for clients has long-lasting impact on the campus and the community.

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Chapter 13. Recruiting and Retaining Quality Clients


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The student-run agency must secure clients that allow students to work on a full range of campaigns and projects that model what students will encounter when they enter the professional world. At the same time, the agency must have clients that understand and support the concept that student learning is the primary goal. It’s the reason for the agency’s existence.

This chapter addresses the recruitment and retention of clients. It details the importance of carefully selecting clients to be partners with the agency in the educational mission. In pragmatic terms, it’s about “getting married” and, sometimes, “getting divorced” – two realities of the client experience in any agency that are looked at in a different perspective in light of the realities of the student-run communications agency.

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