• Keelyn Sealy

Mane Agency: how UNA's Student PR Firm is bringing exposure to Shoals businesses

The newest venture out of the University of North Alabama's Department of Communication is an exciting opportunity for both college students and businesses in The Shoals.

This month, the Department of Communication is launching Mane Agency, a student-run public relations firm that is offered as a course for UNA’s advanced PR students. The concept of bringing an agency of this caliber to UNA has been in the works for many years, however, only since Fall 2020 has the course been included in the department’s course catalog. In August 2021, tangible development began which led the department to its launch of the Mane Agency at the start of 2022.

Mrs. Betsy Heckert, a lecturer at the University of North Alabama, is the firm’s advisor and she is thrilled to see this idea become reality.

“Mane Agency is another option for local businesses needing professional communications services," Heckert explained. "Business owners don’t have to go outside The Shoals to identify and engage with strategic target audiences while enhancing their exposure to potential growth opportunities. Mane Agency allows The Shoals community to develop a symbiotic relationship between businesses and the university: Students gain professional experience while businesses reap the benefits of professionally executed communications campaigns."

Not only will this new initiative provide students with the opportunity to gain hands-on experience, but the creation of Mane Agency will also elevate the department, making it competitive in a higher echelon of similar programs across our state and nation.

"This enhanced profile draws attention from potential students and positions the university and The Shoals as viable options in areas where it may not have been previously considered,” shared Heckert.

For many years, UNA’s Department of Communication has been producing successful students that have been recognized on both state and national levels. The opportunities for these recognitions have been made available through their membership in UNA's student public relations organization, Lion PR. Lion PR provides students the opportunity for membership in a number of professional PR organizations including the North Alabama Chapter of the Public Relations Council of Alabama (NAPRCA), Southern Public Relations Federation (SPRF), Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA), and the Alabama Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA). With the development of the Mane Agency, recognitions and awards granted to UNA’s students are expected to increase as they gain experience through the firm.

Rather than just teaching the skills and strategies, UNA’s Department of Communication strives to provide superior exposure and experience with professional practice. Their unique firm structure within the classroom is the perfect opportunity to provide these students experience with paying, external clients that expect professional, high-quality work.

“We knew that a student-run firm was a crucial element of not only enhancing our students’ education but also in securing their future professional successes,” said Heckert.

She expects the firm to be a lasting development and growth from Mane Agency in its future.

“In the next 5 years, Mane Agency will have established itself as a competitive, professional PR firm in the area through strategically developed and executed campaigns as well as continuously exceeding client goals. We will have grown our student roster as a core course for all communication students and will expand our client list, taking on more each semester while providing year-long campaign continuity and support.

In 10 years, we will have partnered with other UNA colleges and programs, expanding the firm’s capabilities and deliverables to satisfy client needs. We will produce more integrated campaigns across a variety of industries and business categories and, hopefully, will be an external branch of the department that will function simultaneously as an independent firm and course.”

Mane Agency is an important development for UNA students and The Shoals community alike. It will strengthen the skills of its current students and gain the attention of prospective ones, all while providing local businesses an incredible opportunity to take advantage of strategic, research-based public relations campaigns that can enhance their image and exposure.

This semester, the firm has brought on two local clients and is looking forward to expanding its clientele in years to come. If your business is interested in exploring a future collaboration with Mane Agency, contact Betsy Heckert at eheckert@una.edu.

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