By Kristen Rapin
ImPRessions -- Ohio University's independent, student-run public relations firm -- has landed the Bob Evans restaurant chain as its first national client.
As part of its duties, the firm will help the chain tap into social networks such as Facebook and Twitter and assist with publicity for restaurant openings. Students also will provide background research on the industry and Bob Evans' competitors.
"There is a lot of responsibility working with Bob Evans because no other account has ever done what we're going to do," said Amanda Leeman, a junior PR student in the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism who is serving as the Bob Evans account executive. "Bob Evans is in the process of a redesign, and we're going to be a part of that."
During winter quarter, the eight-member team handling the account will give a formal presentation of its ideas to Bob Evans. The students currently are working on an event to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Bob Evans' presence in Chillicothe, Ohio.
Chelsea Hamilton, Bob Evans' public relations manager, said the company has benefited from working with students in the past and is eager to partner with ImPRessions. The chain hopes the relationship extends beyond this academic year.
"We've been so pleased with past work with students, whether interns or other student organizations, that we felt it would be a good fit to work with a student-run PR firm,"
Historically, Ohio University interns have assisted the Bob Evans team with brainstorming and implementing ideas. Last summer, the company began seeking out student firms to work after successfully partnering with a Ball State group on a grand opening.
Hamilton, herself a member of ImPRessions while a student at Ohio University, was familiar with the quality of the group's work and contacted ImPRessions Chief Executive Officer Janelle Huelsman with the opportunity to gain the account.
A portfolio of past projects helped the firm beat out two other student firms for the job.
"The students in ImPRessions are so eager and excited to learn and gain experience that we felt it would be a great partnership," Hamilton said.
A student-run club affiliated with the university's chapter of Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA), ImPRessions operates as a real-world PR firm for clients, with a CEO, account supervisors and account executives. While the organization doesn't bill for its work, students gain valuable experience. ImPRessions is open to students of any major; journalism and organizational communications students make up the current membership roster.
While the majority of its nine clients are local, ImPRessions also has worked with state and regional clients such as Debunkify, an anti-smoking campaign, and Donate Life, which promotes organ donation.
Huelsman is excited about the expanding of the firm's clientele to the national scene.
"It's great for our students to have this opportunity," Huelsman said. "We still want to keep a local presence, but hopefully in the future Bob Evans will be one of two or three national clients."
ImPressions has won several awards over the years, including PRSSA's Teahan National Chapter Award for outstanding student firm in 1994, 1997, 2003, 2005 and 2007.