Daily Trojan Horse | Student starts public relations firm for silenced voices
Last year Alex Zarchy found herself stressed out about managing the social media accounts of two organizations. She was spreading herself around writing and strategizing for social posts and asking for favors from friends to help her with the graphics.
Zarchy, a second year student specializing in public relations and non-governmental organizations and social change, realized that she could turn her self-proclaimed “one-person public relations firm” into a full-fledged organization, and c is exactly what she did. Two Cents Public Relations, a company dedicated to helping socially conscious businesses, nonprofits and artists, launched on February 6.
According to Zarchy, what sets Two Cents apart from other PR companies is that it is run only by 15 USC students with different specializations and talents brought in by Zarchy herself.
“None of us graduated from college or went to college, so we’re creating content that isn’t taught to us,” Zarchy said. “We’re sort of inventing it ourselves and reinventing what public relations looks like.”
One of the peers Zarchy has invited to the Two Cents team is Trinity Lee, a second year major in Art History and Law, History and Culture. While originally intended to be a writer for the organization, over time Lee also found herself in the graphic design and event planning teams.
While Lee never thought she would find herself writing press releases or designing graphics for organizations, Two Cents pushed her out of her comfort zone and gave her the confidence to try new things.
“Something that [Zarchy] I wanted us to experience different things, and if there’s something we were interested in that we wanted to try, try it, ”Lee said. “We’ve kind of dabbled in a lot of different areas of what we do. “
The team’s work is focused on the change they think their generation, Gen Z, wants to see. Before working with the socially conscious organization or a person of their choice, criteria must be met.
“Our mission is roughly formed by all of us. We are all involved in setting up what we want to do and what we want to accomplish, ”said Lee. “A big part of this is uplifting, empowering and disseminating some really important work; the things that we believe should be seen and should be exalted, it is not at this time.
The term “socially conscious” has become a sort of buzzword that has been applied to many brand identities but, in most cases, is not actively defined. For Zarchy, it was important to define this term and create something that reflected the values of everyone within the organization.
“Socially conscious businesses for us promote your creative expression, contribute to a social cause – financially or through direct action – raise the voices of the community fighting for social justice [and] have sustainable production and ethically sourced materials, ”Zarchy said.
These different entities that are raised through Two Cents are represented in the traditional sense with a promotion that includes graphics on social media, but Zarchy has also made it a priority to foster collaboration within their partnerships.
Zarchy said she wanted Two Cents to bridge the gap between different entities based on their goals. For example, if a restaurant is looking to gain more attention, the Two Cents team could put it in touch with an artist and commission a mural; if a nonprofit needed a place to host a banquet, Two Cents could direct them to a small restaurant they work with.
While social conscience is a factor in Two Cents’ selection process, meeting the criteria does not immediately give companies the corporate seal of approval. The organization organizes weekly meetings on Mondays dedicated to the in-depth understanding of their potential clients and the complementarity of their missions.
Before getting to the heart of each meeting, however, the team shares their “happy shit,” where each person shares something good and something not so good about their day. Once the ice is broken, it’s time for business.
When potential representatives attend a meeting, the team gets to know better who they can represent, so they ask questions about any goals the company may have or what its priorities are. It is then often followed by a pitch concocted by the collective.
“[We want to know] why do you want our services? What are your goals? ”Said Lee.“ And that’s followed by a pitch… [we] give you based on what each of our teams has identified as ways of delivering our services for each of your goals and what our Two Cents touch would look like for your organization.
Currently, three organizations have passed this selection process. They serve as case studies for the student-run organization to ensure Two Cents is equipped to continue and further develop their future businesses.
In the beginning, each case study would get three months of free services from Two Cents in exchange for access to their analytics and the revenue generated by their business. The first company to embrace Zarchy’s ambitious proposal was Black-owned Hot & Cool Cafe, which serves healthy food and serves as a community hub in Leimert Park, a neighborhood in Los Angeles.
Last year, Zarchy worked with a formerly incarcerated man named Tobias, whose sentence was commuted to life without parole and was later hired by the only place that would hire him – Hot and Cool Cafe. Zarchy and Tobias would meet at the cafe every Monday at 2:30 p.m. without fail.
After discussing his idea for a student-run PR organization with Tobias at one of their weekly coffee meetings, he suggested that she pitch the idea to the cafe’s owner, Tony Jolly. As soon as Jolly heard of Zarchy’s plan, he was into it.
In no time, Two Cents was able to completely reinvent the way Hot & Cool was presented on social media platforms such as Instagram.
“Our digital footprint has grown significantly. We were able to put strong content on our social media pages, ”Jolly said. “It was well received by all ages. [Two Cents] went above and beyond by adding some videography to the content by interviewing myself and interviewing employees.
All of Hot & Cool Cafe’s Instagram posts are now more cohesive and give audiences a glimpse into the lives of those who make coffee what it is. Besides adding interview snippets and food photos to the cafe’s Instagram page, Two Cents also hooked up a local artist to Hot & Cool to have merchandise designed.
He implemented changes that took the café to the next level Jolly had never imagined, all made by a group of students.
“They set a precedent [for] our image, and I couldn’t duplicate it. It’s like our image belongs to Two Cents now, ”Jolly said. “So I have to do whatever it takes to keep them. I forget that they are students. I thought I was working with a marketing agency at one point.
Besides Hot & Cool, Zarchy is in the process of integrating two more case studies into his team’s workflow. One of them is with artist Willie Baronet, who has a nonprofit called ‘We Are All Homeless’ where he buys homeless signs from people on the streets and uses them for large. art installations.
The last case study Zarchy really advocates for is representing someone pro bono and finding someone who fits their mission.
Over time, Zarchy wants to make sure Two Cents stays true to its mission and doesn’t become the dishonest stereotypical mega-company that many on the outside see as PR.
“There is so much distrust of PR companies. There is such a reputation for exaggerating the truth, ”Zarchy said. “I want people from all walks of life to be able to come in and [know] the story that will be broadcast is [their] story. [I want them to say], ‘I am paying this person to be so genuinely true to myself and the story I want to share.’ ”
While Zarchy has designed fun photo ops and created events for socially conscious businesses, Two Cents is more to her than some would consider a college project. She hopes the work she has started will expand and last a lifetime.
“I said to every person who came in [our] space [that] it’s not just a fun college startup for me, ”Zarchy said. “If I can tell stories about people I care about and people I believe in for the rest of my life,… then that’s what I can do with my life. “