Hill Communications began in 2001 as a shared goal among 10 Newhouse students to create a student-run public relations firm. More than 13 years later, Hill Communications has a long-standing, professional reputation, serving 11 clients with more than 100 student contributors.
The organization began as Campus Hill Public Relations, with the help of then Newhouse professor John Guiniven, as practical way for students to learn about their future profession. The group’s mission was simple: allow aspiring public relations students the opportunity to hold leadership positions while managing projects for paying clients.
In 2003, professor of practice Robert Kucharavy took over as adviser of what was then called The Firm. By 2005, the organization had more than 30 students working with clients such as a Syracuse University alumni club and SU Fashion Show, as well as national clients Chevrolet and Motorola. The group and its work continued to grow. In 2008, The Firm was renamed Hill Communications to embrace the Newhouse value of fostering professionalism.
“Over the years, I have watched Hill Communications truly become a student-run business,” Kucharavy says. “Early on, there were no codes of conduct, no professional guidelines and no finance procedures. However, it has grown more sophisticated so that it is not just a group of students doing projects, but it also has a positive reputation as a real-world business.”
Hill Communications has continued to thrive. Its recent “BE Wise” campaign featuring a series of colorful owls for SU’s Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration offered students a realistic approach to combat high-risk drinking on campus. As a result, “BE Wise” won best campaign by a student-run firm in both 2013 and 2014 from the Public Relations Society of America. The successful campaign, now in its third year, has helped Hill Communications attract new clients, including a new national relationship.
“Signing a national client will put Hill Communications in a higher caliber that few other schools can claim to be at,” says Assistant Director Natalie Allyn. “I think that we deserve to be in this category because we have a great reputation. We are one of the largest student-run firms and we are continually winning awards, which all indicate that other people recognize the work that goes on here and respect it.”
The Hill Communications Executive Board is looking at ways to expand.
“Something that I would like to see in Hill Communications in the future is that we continue to diversify,” says Allyn. “We have just added a graphics division and a video division, but I would love to get other students from other colleges involved to really make Hill Communications stand out among other student-run public relations firms.”
The most important function of Hill Communications is still what it was when the organization was founded: a valuable learning experience for participating students.
“The reason that I joined Hill Communications as a freshman was to meet other people in the public relations program,” says Assistant Director Brianna Wise. “Now I believe that it provides an experience that you cannot get anywhere else. Internships and even your first five years of work may not provide the level of professionalism that is required to be a member of Hill Communications and I could not love it more.”
—Tara Schoenborn ’14