The University of Missouri’s Public Relations Club took on a heroic responsibility this semester. The task? Revitalize the public image of Las Vegas-based non-profit, Horses4Heroes, to revitalize their brand in order to incentivize donations to the organization.
Horses4Heroes is a non-profit organization that aims to provide healing experiences for veterans, community heroes, their families, and others. Its mission statement is to “provide affordable recreational, instructional and Health & Wellness programs for local heroes and their families, including Active Duty service members (National Guard and Reserve, too), Veterans, and Law Enforcement.”
H4H has provided thousands of rides over the years to members of the Las Vegas community, however all of these services come at a cost. The financial strain of maintaining their grounds, horses and programs has left the nonprofit unable to expand and offer new ways to interact with horses.
This is where the PR Club came into the picture. In its first year of existence, the PR Club was formed by Strategic Communication chair and professor Jon Stemmle as a way to get students involved in public relations. Part of Stemmle’s goal in creating the club was to give students first-hand experience doing PR work through pro bono service to nonprofit groups.
“At our first club meeting, I explained my vision and told the students that I hoped we could help people through our work,” said Stemmle, who teaches public relations classes in the J-School. “I had met Sydney Knott several years earlier when her daughter was in the program and the work she did with Horses4Heroes always stuck with me.”
Knott has expressed interest in working with the Strategic Communication program previously as an AdZou capstone client, but the cost put that possibility out of reach. With the PR Club’s work being pro bono, it opened the door to the new collaboration.
The students met with Knott in early February and she expressed interest in finding ways to increase donations to the organization, along with website redesign ideas, partnership opportunities, and other promotions. The students delved into donor psychology and conducted extensive secondary and primary research, including a H4H member survey. During the process, each club member was assigned a specific task to work on, ensuring everyone got their fair share of the workload.
Knott expressed the importance of bringing in outside expertise to assist in the growth of her business.
“As the founder of Horses4Heroes, and a career public relations professional, I was well aware that in order to grow and get to the next level, you need to step back and away, to see your organization as others see you,” said Knott, a J-School alumna whose family has a long history in the J-School.. “We also are challenged by the shift from traditional communication tools (print and broadcast journalism, newsletters, brochures, reports) to the digital age and social media. We felt these students were in the best position to look at our past and present marketing activities to help us plan for the future.”
Abby Werner (BJ, ‘22), mused about working for Horses 4 Heroes. “I deeply enjoyed working for Horses4Heroes pro bono project this semester because it gave me the opportunity to work with strategic communication students at all stages of their J-School education,” said Werner.
This pro bono project provided the PR Club members with valuable professional experience. Club members met harsh deadlines, conducted research, and interacted with the client, sometimes having to pivot and reevaluate their efforts to cater to the client’s suggestions. Senior Claire Tingleaf, who was the PR Club Secretary, weighed in on the implications of working on a real-life campaign as an undergraduate student. “I have stressed to the underclassman that I wish something like this (PR Club) had been around when I was their age so I wasn’t scrambling to find things to fill my resume with,” Tingleaf said.
With this first year of the PR Club completed, the returning members are already looking for the next nonprofit group they can work with for the 2022-23 school year.
“Working on the Horses4Heroes campaign was a truly valuable experience that we should all be very proud of,” says Adriana Montano (BJ, ‘23), “I can not wait to do more work like this next year in PR Club!”
PR Club social media accounts
Updated: December 21, 2022