Student Publication Provides Real-Life PR Skills

In just five years, students at the University of Alabama have developed an important online publication that contributes to thought leadership in public relations. The publication also serves as a template for other colleges that want to offer students real-world experiences in writing, editing, design and marketing.

In Tuscaloosa earlier this week, Plank Center board members got an update on Platform Magazine, which is one of the funding recipients of the Center. Seniors Shelby Calambokidis, editorial director, and Lindsey Green, writer and editor, detailed the organizational structure of the award-winning publication that should be on the reading lists of all students aspiring to careers in public relations. Tracy Sims, faculty editor of Platform Online Magazine and instructor in the UA Department of Advertising and Public Relations, has led the evolution of the publication.

Platform is the foundation for a course that is limited to 12 juniors and seniors who must apply for an opportunity to work on the publication. The entire class contributes by reading and editing each article or blog post. In addition, students class is divided into three separate teams: design, writing and marketing.

Design: The design team is responsible for the graphic and photographic needs for the website as well as the magazine’s promotional materials. The team also manages the magazine’s Pinterest page.

Writing: The writing team handles the final stages of publication and is responsible for overseeing our social media (Facebook/Twitter) updates and accounts. This team also writes and/or approves email messages to subscribers and text additions to the About Us section of the magazine’s site. In addition, it helps the marketing team write promotional materials.

Marketing: The marketing team is responsible for reviewing and updating the marketing plan for Platform as well as overseeing the production of promotional materials. It helps to determine primary research needs and methods, conducts that research and then uses it to determine the best ways to internally and externally market Platform. In addition, the team manages and analyzes the magazine’s statistics. This team also coordinates fundraising initiatives.

To be considered for the course, students must have successfully completed the PR Writing course. Applicants also must submit a résumé and three writing samples as well as complete an interview with the magazine’s faculty editor. Students receive three credit hours for the class.

“Watching this publication grow from the ground-up over the past five years has truly been an honor,” says faculty editor Tracy Sims. “I have been especially pleased to work with students who value professionalism and take pride in their work.”


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