Student-run PR agency offers students one-of-a-kind job experiences
Not every student can say they were able to gain real-world job experience through an organization created and run by current students. The Oaks Agency on Auburn’s campus does just that, striving to prepare the next generation of public relations students for the professional field by creating and strengthening relationships with local clients.
The Oaks Agency was founded in January of 2020, right before the COVID-19 pandemic. Today, the agency partners with nine clients local to the Auburn and Opelika areas.
Recently, the Oaks added its latest client—Toomer’s Drugs, an Auburn tradition since 1896. The addition of Toomer’s as a client further solidifies the agency’s goals of providing real-world experiences, meaningful connections and the ability to see member work making an immediate impact within the community.
“Signing with Toomer’s is a dream come true for me and the firm as a whole,” said AnnMarie Yednak, an Oaks member and account manager for Toomer’s. “The Oaks Agency is such a new organization, and we are still trying to establish ourselves. Signing a business that is so prominent to Auburn helps us do just that.”
Yednak is in charge of communicating with the client, creating a strong relationship with the business and also managing the social media team in charge of running the Toomer’s Drugs accounts. So far, students have revamped the shop’s Instagram and Facebook accounts, as well as written press releases and media pitches on behalf of Toomer’s. The Oaks also has a photographer in charge of capturing photos of all the new merchandise.
Yednak’s goals for the account include short-term growth, as well as a new, additional identity for the shop that includes becoming students’ go-to stop for Auburn merchandise in addition to its lemonade.
“Currently, my goals for Toomer’s are to create a more structured and aesthetic presence on its social media platforms,” Yednak said. “For long-term goals, I would love for Toomer’s to gain a bigger following on Instagram and Facebook, especially with Auburn students.”
Signing such a prominent client in the Auburn community means a lot to everyone involved in the firm, as it symbolizes the values upon which the agency was founded.
“Ultimately, our 2021 members are creating a legacy for thousands of Auburn PR students to come,” Oaks Director Alyssa Turner said. “Toomer’s Drugs is an iconic member of the Auburn Family, and the agency is honored to continue and cultivate its traditional, Auburn dignity.”
Turner, one of the firm’s inaugural members, served as the head of social media for the Oaks’ first client, Southern Crossing. In her current position, Turner oversees the agency’s overall operations, managing 42 members, four committees and nine client accounts.
“Most importantly, it is my job to exercise social responsibility to create a beneficial and efficient environment for learning, growth and fellowship among our members,” Turner said. “I have always had a passion for servant leadership, a philosophy that allows for my guidance to be rooted in learning, helping and optimizing.”
After such a successful year, Turner believes the best is yet to come for the Oaks. The agency operated a successful 2021 Tiger Giving Day campaign, raising more than $10,000 and expanding its number of clients from two to nine, all while developing the foundation of a soon-to-be-released nationwide project. The firm is currently seeking national affiliation status through the Public Relations Student Society of America.
However, in day-to-day operations, the agency’s current focus remains on encouraging a culture of collaboration, networking opportunities and personal growth for both current and future members, plus strengthening current client relationships. Members are not only learning how to succeed in the profession, but also are learning crucial time management abilities, as well as communication skills with professionals already in the field.
The agency’s success benefits more than just the students, however.
“The success of the agency helps alleviate the PR department as a whole by making it more visible through not only the clients that we have, but also by the students themselves that participate in the program,” said Terri Knight, a lecturer in the School of Communication and Journalism and faculty advisor for the Oaks. “Because students are getting involved their freshman and sophomore years now, we are seeing students who are already ahead of the curve in our classroom, in terms of the knowledge in the field.”
Despite being an on-campus organization, the Oaks’ impact stretches its roots far and wide, both within the Auburn community and beyond.
“The Oaks Agency is more than just any other club,” Yednak said. “We are young professionals taking early steps into public relations.”