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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 15. Relationships with Area Professionals


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The student-run agency that attempts to do business alongside existing advertising and/or public relations agencies can be perceived as predatory; since it has less overhead and unpaid labor, it can do work less expensively. At the same time, the student-run agency cannot ignore client opportunities that exist in the local marketplace. Working with real world clients and competing with other firms is, at some level, essential for student learning.

This chapter discusses the balance that must be maintained as the student agency works in the marketplace alongside for-profit agencies. The chapter suggests ways to collaborate with for-profit firms on mutually beneficial projects. Attention will be given to the importance of relying on local professionals as a source of guidance and counsel – perhaps as members of an agency advisory group.

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