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Student-run Firms

Starting or participating in a Student-run Firm is a great way to build your résumé and portfolio, apply what you’ve learned in class and gain hands-on experience while you are still a student. Through a Student-run Firm you have the opportunity to work with real clients to learn effective time management skills in the process of developing and implementing campaigns. Whether your firm is well-established or just getting started, PRSSA offers many resources to help you succeed.


The Student-run Firm Handbook details much of what you need to know about starting, running and improving a Student-run Firm.

National Affiliation

PRSSA National Affiliation: Credibility Through UnityThough there are more than 100 Student-run Firms around the country operated by PRSSA Chapters, only those operating at the highest level are Nationally Affiliated. Firms with this designation have successfully gone through an application process to ensure the firm is soundly based in three areas: a solid PRSSA/PRSA connection, a high level of professionalism and an effective structure.



Earning this recognition has many benefits including the prestige of working for a firm that represents the best of the Society and inclusion in a future client referral system. Only firms that are Nationally Affiliated will be listed on this website for such requests. This type of referral system will provide greater opportunities for service and meaningful work for students. Nationally Affiliated firms can also participate in CreateAthon. Lastly, only firms that have earned National Affiliation may apply for the Student-run Firm Awards


A firm must abide by the standards listed below to become Nationally Affiliated. PRSSA Headquarters does not charge an application fee or any sort of commission or fees once a firm is Nationally Affiliated.

National Affiliation certification lasts three years, after which a firm must re-apply. Previous National Affiliation does not guarantee future National Affiliation, though it will be taken into consideration.


To apply for National Affiliation, firms must submit the following:


  • Client List – A client list with a brief description of each organization. The description should include what type of organization the client is, the services provided to the organization and how many staff members are working on the account.
  • Case Study – At least one case study detailing a public relations program implemented by the firm. Case studies should highlight the firm’s best work and have four parts: research, planning, execution and results. Two pages or less per case study.
  • Adviser Letter – A letter of support from the Chapter’s Faculty or Professional Adviser. Two pages or less.
  • History – A brief history of the firm describing when it was founded, how it has evolved and the mission of the firm. One page less.[HS1] 
  • Firm Directory Letter – A letter from the firm director. Four pages or less.

Download the National Affiliation Application (Word or PDF) for more details, and contact the vice president of professional development with questions. Submit applications by uploading one PDF file to the National Affiliation Application Google Drive Folder.

Firm Standards

Although firms vary in size and scope, the core values below were designed to help each firm move toward greater professionalism and competency. These core values are minimum requirements; firms are encouraged to exceed them as they are able.

Below are listed the standards that make up each core value of National Affiliation as well as examples of how a firm can meet these standards. To become Nationally Affiliated, a firm must show that it meets each standard, but it does not need to meet the specific examples listed here. For instance, a firm must show that it is PRSSA Centered to become Nationally Affiliated, but it does not specifically have to send one member to Conference each year.


Standard: PRSSA Centered

Examples of how a firm demonstrates this standard:

  • All members of the firm’s leadership are PRSSA members.
  • It is highly recommended that the staff members should be involved with the PRSSA Chapter, however it is not required.
  • The firm sends at least one individual to the PRSSA National Conference each year.
  • Every three years, the firm must re-apply to be a PRSSA Nationally Affiliated Student-run Firm by completing the National Affiliation Application (Word or PDF) and sending it to PRSSA Headquarters.

Standard: PRSA Connected

Examples of how a firm demonstrates this standard:

  • The firm adviser is an active PRSA member.
  • The firm adviser meets with each individual firm member at least once a year to provide direction and counsel regarding the students' professional goals.
  • The firm’s executive board meets with its PRSA Chapter executive board annually to report on the firm’s work. This meeting, in-person or through conferencing, should be attended by a PRSA Chapter executive board member and at least two other PRSA members as well as a member of the firm’s executive board and at least two other account executives. The most important part of the meeting occurs as PRSA provides feedback to the firm.

Standard: Professional and Faculty Support

Examples of how a firm demonstrates this standard:

  • Public relations practitioners and faculty members are actively supporting the firm through counseling the firm’s management, reviewing the firm’s work or providing clients to work with.


Standard: Accountable

Examples of how a firm demonstrates this standard:

  • Account executives report consistently to the firm’s executive board through written and oral reports. The nature and design of these reports may vary according to each firm’s needs. However, the key is to report consistently. This ensures that the client is well served and that all associates are participating (see more under “Outcome-driven”).
  • Once a year, the adviser to the firm should conduct at least one three-minute interview with each member. This interview does not have to be long and extensive, but it should be similar to an annual review process conducted in business with employees. While some firms may want their account executives to conduct these interviews, it is important for the firm members to have at least one short interview — even if it is three minutes — with the firm director.
  • The firm requests that all clients complete some type of questionnaire and return it to the firm at the end of the semester. Each firm may create their own questionnaire that will provide them with the information they need to improve. This will provide feedback to the firm and an opportunity to showcase to future clients those things the firm did well.

Standard: Outcome-driven

Examples of how a firm demonstrates this standard:

  • In all written and oral reports, the focus is on the impact made with the client. As time passes, technology will advance causing the means of communication to continually change. For that reason, the review process is designed to measure results rather than methods, strategies or tactics. Students must know how they are affecting real change.
  • Program planning systematically uses the research, action, communication and evaluation (RACE) model, or a similar system, in meeting the clients’ needs.

Standard: Ethically-based

Examples of how a firm demonstrates this standard:

  • The firm has a written commitment to follow the PRSA Code of Ethics.
  • All members receive basic instructions and sign a commitment to follow the code and behave ethically at all times.
  • Any member who is found to be dishonest in his or her reporting to supervisors or clients will be dismissed from the firm.

Standard: Geared toward professional practice

Examples of how a firm demonstrates this standard:

  • The firm’s executive board provides clear, written expectations and deadlines for the account associates at the beginning of each school semester or term.
  • Account associates sign the written expectations at the beginning of each semester or term, certifying their understanding of the firm’s expectations.
  • The account executives communicate the deadlines they set with their clients to the firm’s executive board each semester or term.
  • The executive board maintains a database of all the account deadlines and projects. This way, the board can serve the accounts in helping them keep their commitments to the clients.
  • Professional conduct dominates the firm’s atmosphere; this includes being on time for all meetings with clients and professionals.


Standard: Organized and structured

Examples of how a firm demonstrates this standard:

  • The firm has a documented mission statement to guide all organizational activities.
  • The firm has a well-organized and written structure similar to a professional agency (i.e., account executives, account associates, etc.).
  • The structure includes, at the minimum, a firm director and two assistant directors. Other positions may include treasurer, public relations director or any other position as needed by the individual firm.
  • The firm serves at least three clients, with three students working together to meet each client’s needs. This is a minimum standard, but the firm must ensure that at least three students are assigned to each client.
  • The firm uses a set of contracts and a defined system of billing for all clients.
  • The written structure of the organization has been approved in writing by the Adviser and included in the PRSSA three-year review process.


If your firm is doing outstanding work and you think it deserves national recognition, apply for the Student-run Firm Award for “Best Campaign” or “Best Tactic,” or enter the Dr. F.H. Teahan Chapter Awards Program in the “Best Firm” category.


Come to the PRSSA International Conference to attend the Student-run Firm Workshop to learn more about the tools and strategies your firm needs to be successful. Share ideas with other leaders and make connections that could help you find new business and partnerships.

Connect With Other Firm Leaders

If you have a question or challenge, chances are someone else has faced the same situation. Share ideas with other firm leaders via PRSSA National social media or contact the vice president of professional development.