Appalachian State University Launches Student-Led PR Agency

Appalachian State University has launched Boone, North Carolina’s, first full-service public relations and advertising agency. The agency, called Second Story Media, will exclusively serve local nonprofit organizations for the time being. 

The Second Story Media agency is run almost entirely by students, aside from a few App State faculty members who are helping guide the way for rising public relations professionals and advertising specialists. App State seniors Dennis Saunders and Olivia Remsberg are serving at the head of the Second Story Media team as agency directors.

Second Story Media Staff

Saunders said that the idea for a student-run agency was presented to him last spring by Janice Pope, the chair of the App State Communication Department. In May, Saunders and Remsberg began conducting extensive research for the agency and nearly a year later, introduced the project to the public. Last Friday, Second Story Media hosted a launch party at Ransom in downtown Boone, and the agency’s social media pages went live on Tuesday. 

“The idea has come up a lot over the years, but somehow it never found legs until now,” Pope said. With the help of a donor, retired communication executive Bob Bertini, the idea for an outlet that would give students real, hands-on experience in the communication field was brought to life. 

“Bob wanted students to have a real creative outlet, you know? Not just create work to get a grade or create something to get a degree,” Saunders said. 

Now that the agency has come to fruition, Pope said that it’s gratifying to see the students behind the project in action.

“I know how good our students are, and it’s nice for other people to see how great they are,” she said. “I love the initiative they’ve taken. I can’t stress that enough.” 

However, the students of Second Story Media couldn’t have had such success without the help of community members who believed in what the project could become. 

“We’ve had really phenomenal community support to help us get off the ground. Bob pushed us, and Janice led our research over the summer, and then Laura Brittain got involved with the agency,” Saunders said. “She was a breath of fresh air and really turned this idea into a living thing.” 

Brittain serves as the advisor of the agency and teaches the agency-related elective course that students must gain admission to if they are to join the Second Story Media staff. The student application process involves a variety of requirements, from submitting examples of past work to completing a personality assessment. Remsberg said that approximately 20 students are operating the agency this semester, and students from any of the university’s departments can join. 

Saunders and Pope agree that the students are what gives this agency its edge. Saunders said that with students being fed fresh information every semester, the agency’s vision and capabilities will never have time to become stagnant. 

Dennis Saunders

“The agency will accept new applicants every semester, so we’ll always be up to date,” Saunders said. “We won’t have an opportunity to get stuck in our old ways — our ways are always going to be changing because students are constantly learning about new developments in this industry.” 

Pope said that working with the agency will constantly improve students’ dexterity in their field. 

“What you’re learning in the classroom influences what you’re practicing in the agency, and what you practice in the agency gets carried back over to the classroom,” she said. 

As it stands, Remsberg and Saunders said that Second Story Media will look exclusively to local nonprofits to set things in motion. In the future, they hope to serve about 10 clients per semester or, if the agency is able to support them, even more. For now, they’re planning to take on one to three clients for the coming semester.

Olivia Remsberg

“Right now, this isn’t about helping businesses hit that bottom line or increase sales or web traffic — of course nonprofits do want to do those things, but it’s not for their own gain,” Saunders said. “We’re helping businesses help people. The work we’re doing here is going to impact communities across the world.”