Many would consider working as a student in a public relations agency a worthwhile experience. But getting a chance to go to Italy to hone one's PR skills seems even more of an exciting adventure.
Bethany Bloise, 21, of Pitcairn, and Rachel Borowski, 22, of South Park, will do just that when they join their class of 12 public relations majors in West Virginia University's P.I. Reed School of Journalism in a project designed for an Italian nonprofit organization that will give them nine days of working in Italy.
"Cittadimanzattiva, or Active Citizens Network in English, works to promote European patients' rights and is the sponsor of the seventh European Patients' Rights Day Conference, scheduled for May 16 in Brussels Belgium," Miss Borowski said. "Starting in January, our class began conferring with the Italian organization via Skype to determine what they wanted in the way of a successful PR plan for the event. So far, we've developed a formula for increasing its traditional media coverage as well as its social networking engagement."
As an organization concerned with patients' rights, the network will focus the Brussels event on cancer treatment awareness and cross-border care for people traveling in European Union member countries. The program is expected to draw 150 to 180 health care authorities
The students enrolled in their final PR class before graduation meet from 6 to 9 p.m. every Monday and at several other times during the week. Miss Borowski estimates they've put in at least seven to ten hours a week on the project, coming up with goals, strategies and tactics to implement the public relations plan.
They started by writing press releases and have since managed to get some media coverage of the project on WDTV, a Fairmont, W.Va., television station.
For his capstone PR class, adjunct professor Chuck Harmon said he tries to create a public relations agency to give students a "real-world client experience." Employed full time as a public relations rep for the National Alliance on Mental Illness, he knew of the Italian organization and made the contacts to launch the project.
"The project has been a real challenge because only about one-fifth of the Italians in the nonprofit organization speak English and only one of our students speaks Italian," Miss Bloise said.
The press contact for the organization approved the PR plan in mid-March and the class is now launching both traditional media and social media campaigns via Facebook and Twitter. On March 22, the students, their professor and his wife, Patricia, will fly to Rome and spend the week working with the Italian organization.
"For three days, we'll be in Spoletto, Umbria, then drive back to Rome to present our plan to the entire 30 person Cittadimanzattiva staff," Miss Bloise said. "During the Q-and- A portion of the presentation, one of our fellow students, Giuliana Napolitano, will serve as our interpreter."
The students are expected to pay for about $3,000 each for the trip, Mr. Harmon said the cost is in line with similar international study programs.
One aspect of the project will have the students post information after they arrive back in the United States to the Facebook and Twitter sites. The postings will focus of one of the fourteen European patients' rights each day of the fourteen days leading up to the Brussels conference.
"As an accompaniment, we'll come up with a traditional media campaign that will have us send information to Cittadimanzattiva so they can print brochures that will be distributed to the attendees of the Brussels event," said Miss Bloise.
Miss Borowski has made one previous visit to Europe when she participated in a baton twirling competition in Holland as a member of the Modernettes, a group based in Library.
After graduating from WVU this summer, she hopes to get a job with a public relations agency or work in-house for a corporation as a public relations representative.
Miss Bloise also wants to work for a public relations agency after graduating, especially one located in the Pittsburgh area. In the meantime, she said she's very excited to be making her first trip to Europe.
Dave Zuchowski, freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.