KU launches student-run strategic communications agency

News and Information majors in Kansas University’s School of Journalism and Mass Communications have practiced their crafts for years at a working student newspaper, radio station and TV station.

Now Strategic Communication majors have a similar opportunity for real-world experience in The Agency, a student-run strategic communications business.

KU students working for The Agency will provide services including branding, advertising, video production, multimedia research and social media to small businesses, nonprofits and KU groups, KU announced Monday.

The Agency is being launched with $400,000 in donations but will eventually be financially self-sustaining, journalism Dean Ann Brill said. She said The Agency will probably formally hire its first students in the spring but that many already are working with clients.

Not only will businesses be able to get marketing services cheaper than they might with larger agencies, but students will be able to gain real-world experience and projects for their portfolios, plus be paid for their work, Brill said.

“We wanted to do something that was not only student focused but student empowering,” Brill said.

Tayler Marquess, a senior majoring in strategic communications, is one of those students.

She and others on the account management team have been helping a few companies with market research and social media, particularly when it comes to marketing to college-aged students, she said. At job interviews, she said, she’ll be able to elaborate on specific projects she’s done.

“It’s a lot of great opportunities for students to be able to get real hands-on work, which is something that sometimes not a lot of people have an opportunity to do,” Marquess said.

KU has hired marketing professional Janet Rose to direct The Agency. Rose, a Professor of the Practice for the journalism school, is at the top of her profession and will be able to teach the trade as well as what’s going on in the real marketing world, Brill said.

Rose holds three degrees from KU, a bachelor’s and master’s in English and a doctorate in American Studies. Her resume includes developing brand strategy and strategic messaging for clients such as Procter and Gamble, Coca-Cola, Walmart and Kohl’s, plus work as a consultant and strategist for a number of firms.

“The Agency adds another pillar to the School of Journalism,” Rose said in a news release from KU. “The fact that so many students have signed up speaks volumes about the quality of the students here at the J-School and about the quality of teaching.”

More than 70 students have applied to work for The Agency at KU. Brill said probably 40 hires would be paid at first but more could work for experience. Eventually, she said, The Agency should grow and pay even more student employees.

Founding investment partners in The Agency include several Lawrence and Kansas City area firms. KU Endowment continues accepting donations to help with The Agency’s development.