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Why Stewardship is Important in the Client Relationship Between Broad Magnolias and Youth Oasis

For the past four years, we have learned about client relationships and stewardship, and why they are important for public relations professionals to apply. During these four years, we’ve sat in our desks and soaked in information from PowerPoints, textbooks, professors and guest speakers. Year after year, we’ve heard the same thing: PR is about keeping up relationships with your client. That is what sets us apart from marketing and advertising. It hasn’t been until this course, however, that we had the opportunity to take what we have learned in the classroom and apply it to working with a client. Our client, Youth Oasis, is Baton Rouge’s Children Shelter.

From the first time we met with our client’s executive director, Rafael de Castro, it was obvious he was a people person. From his friendly demeanor, to the way you could feel his passion as he spoke about his non-profit, it was apparent that keeping a relationship with the client was going to be a positive learning experience.

Learning to keep a strong client relationship is a professional value that every public relations professional needs to know. Prtini.com states that a client and agency relationship should be a partnership, explaining that “collaboration and teamwork are important.” It’s significant that the client and agency have good communication, and keep everything honest.

“We adhere to the highest standards of accuracy and truth in advancing the interests of those we represent and in communicating with the public.” The PRSA Member Statement of Professional Values about honesty explains in the best way that it is crucial to keep everything honest between the client and agency. If you have news that the client might not want to hear, but needs to hear, it’s something that needs to be told. Lying is never a good idea when it comes to your client and can absolutely break the relationship between a client and their agency. In fact, according to David McCulloch, Director of Corporate Communications at Cisco, “a breakdown of trust” is the top reason client and agency relationships fail.

Stewardship is a way to nurture your client relationship. Blog prbrandbuilder.com claims that reciprocity, responsibility, reporting and relationship nurturing are the four elements that will build a trustworthy business and create strong relationships between clients and the agency members.

When working with our client, Youth Oasis, Broad Magnolias has put these elements to use to keep a strong client relationship. At Broad Magnolias, we believe strongly that keeping an honest, friendly and professional relationship is the best way to create and continue a strong client relationship. To learn more about Youth Oasis, visit their Facebook page or Twitter.

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Bringing Our Professional Values and Competencies to Youth Oasis

“Being professional” has nothing to do with having an actual “profession.” This is a concept that is drilled into all of our heads as soon as we begin taking part in organizations or sports teams or summer jobs as teenagers. As a completely biased individual when it comes to the importance of good public relations, it is my job to harp on the fact that solid professional values and competencies are much more important to the ever-so-crucial world of public relations. After all, we have more than our careers in our hands. We have the reputations, careers and public opinions of every client we have the pleasure of working for right at our very fingertips. (No pressure, right?) But this is why we are PR people. Our personalities cause us to thrive off of pressure and of the idea of the ball being in our court. But don’t take it from me. According to the website of American Physical Society, “PR is vital to outreach programs.” It also states that good public relations “can lead to strong community and industrial partnerships, and even financial support.” This is an issue of passion: of putting our ethical codes and values to the test for the very first time as distinguished individuals and experts. The Public Relations Society of America’s website gives the PRSA Member Statement of Professional Values. It states that “these values are the fundamental beliefs that guide our behaviors and decision-making process.” The values include: advocacy, honesty, expertise, independence, loyalty and fairness. We as members of Broad Magnolias make an oath as professionals in this field to work by these standards and hold ourselves to the standards that are expected of us and that we expect of ourselves. Albert Einstein once said, “Try not to become a man of success but rather try to become a man of value.”

Cutting Edge PR released a piece titled “Why trust is really important to you.” It goes into detail about what being trustworthy accomplishes with your client and what trust actually means. The more one reads about wholesome values, competencies and ethics, the more one understands that it makes more logical sense to stick closely to set and stick to ethical guidelines from the beginning of the campaign. It also says that for public relations to be effective, people have to trust you. Youth Oasis trusts us. They trust us to take care of their respected and highly praised name in order to gain them even more respect and praise. We are fortunate in the sense that it is easy to apply professional values and competencies to an organization that holds fast to their values in the first place. In our first meeting with Youth Oasis to discuss their expectations for us throughout our time with them, they were quick to tell us about the restrictions that are placed on any events that they host because of their affiliation with children. This was very comforting because as professionals who have had little opportunity for experience, we do not want to accidentally or coincidentally overstep any boundaries that we were unaware of. Youth Oasis has been very transparent with us in showing us what they expect and do not expect of us, and we have been very transparent with them in explaining to them our competencies and limitations for our time together.

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From PR Experts to Youth Oasis Experts

As senior public relations majors, group campaign projects are nothing new to us. This is, however, our very first (and last) service learning class that will challenge us to take everything we’ve learned as public relations students and apply our knowledge as professionals in a real public relations scenario. So when it comes to determining whether we would call ourselves experts, we as a group would have at first responded with a very enthusiastic answer of “absolutely not.” However, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the exact definition of an expert is, “having, involving, or displaying special skill or knowledge derived from training or experience.” When we take into consideration the fact that in 88 days, we will all have bachelor’s degrees in mass communication and have been taught by some of the most knowledgeable public relations educators in the country, we begin to realize that we are, in fact, experts.

Now that we know we have the capabilities of being an expert, we have to go the next step: we have to become experts in the field of our client, Youth Oasis. According to our textbook titled “Strategic Planning for Public Relations”, we have to know what we’re talking about when it comes to spreading the message of our client to be considered true experts. A specific objective of ours is to “specifically increase the Baton Rouge community’s understanding of the services that Youth Oasis provides to homeless and displaced youth.” In order to do this, we must be more than experts of public relations; we must also be experts of all things Youth Oasis.

Mashable.com released an article called “How To: Become an Expert in Your Industry” in 2009. It lists several benefits of being an expert. It tells that being an expert helps you, “establish yourself as an industry leader, get interview and media coverage, help others and become a trusted resource.” One of the goals that we discovered is requested of us through our time with Youth Oasis is media coverage, which as we just found through the article is a benefit of becoming an expert. By meeting with our client and establishing trust with them, we will not only help them but also we will be establishing ourselves as more credible public relations professionals. Youth Oasis wants us to tell their story, and their story is a great one to tell. They are a noteworthy organization with amazing humanitarian efforts in order to make Louisiana a better place for children of all ages. The fact that they are seeking help from public relations professionals provides further evidence that they are also experts in their field. Commpr.biz released an article this summer stressing the importance of hiring public relations professionals. It stated that public relations practitioners bring “their expertise in writing, in social media, media relations and special events to the plate.” All of these things are specific to the positions that we fill within our group. We are very excited to pull together all of our expertise and go to bat for Youth Oasis this semester. We look forward to getting to know them better and helping to better brand them to gain them more recognition in the community.

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The Best Lessons Are Not in the Classroom

Service learning can be defined as teaching and learning strategy that integrates meaningful community service with instruction and reflection to enrich the learning experience, teach civic responsibility, and strengthen communities. This definition was taken from Learn and Serve America National Service Learning Clearinghouse. I interpret this definition to participating in service and reflecting in a matter that teaches character and evokes thought and discussion. Not everything that we as students are taught can be evaluated through a test, nor can be found in a textbook. It is through service learning that individuals are exposed to real-life situations and are usually granted the opportunity to assist in the resolution of such.

Broad Magnolias has been assigned to working with the non-profit organization Youth Oasis, a local Baton Rouge children’s center for runaway, homeless and emergency youth across the state. Youth Oasis currently is one of two centers housing children in the state.We chose to work with Youth Oasis because this organization serves a great cause and deserves more attention in such a thriving society. In Louisiana there are approximately 5,200 people living without homes (Homeless Research Institue, 2013).

LSU maintains the objective of a commitment to our community and that statement holds more weight than just to LSU students and faculty. Broad Magnolias seeks “to contribute positively to the life of the campus and surrounding community,” just as one of LSU’s pillars better describes. I firmly believe that it is because of service learning that we are able to achieve the objective presented by our university.

LSU offers service learning as an external opportunity to participate in free of charge with Campus Life through activities such as Leadership Exchange; where students spend the semester studying and discussing HIV/AIDS or another decided topic. Mid-semester the Leadership Exchange group then meets with Loyola University or any other interested universities in the area to discuss the topic or theme at hand as well as participate in smaller service learning opportunities. The group finally presents their work collectively at the end of the semester to their peers. I participated in Leadership Exchange with LSU last semester and learned more than I could imagine on HIV/AIDS as well as supporting the cause locally in Baton Rouge and New Orleans, however not every student has time to add an extra-curricular to their schedule. Being granted the opportunity to work with a non-profit through a service-learning course within one’s major is a formidable experience.