Student-driven CommAgency meets needs of campus clients

For almost every unit at Penn State that has a message to share, the how-to of the communications process often boils down to buzzwords like "content" and "storytelling" -- but finding the appropriate personnel or harnessing the best technology to define what to do and then to make it happen can be a challenge.

A recently launched resource exists to help with those challenges, though.

CommAgency has been filling that void for many University partners, and the student-driven group also has been actively seeking more Penn State partners to work with in order to continue its mission.

Housed in the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications, CommAgency specializes in short, documentary-style videos and branded content for the Penn State community. That includes content tailored for commercials, fundraising and social media. 

Since its launch in 2016, CommAgency has worked with several units on campus, including the Commission for Women, the College of Health and Human Development, the Learning Factory housed in the College of Engineering, the Millennium Scholars Program, and Penn State Undergraduate Education.

“We were delighted with the end result of our ads developed by CommAgency. They listened to our overall objectives and presented multiple ideas to meet our needs and to develop a piece focused on the student audience,” said Beth Kocher Gormley, director of communications for undergraduate education. “I whole-heartedly recommend working with CommAgency. Being able to get a Penn State student perspective on how we should communicate with students was a valuable exercise. I also liked that we were able to support student learning while meeting our unit’s communications needs.”

Projects have been produced for any number of audiences across a variety of disciplines. For Catie Grant, director of CommAgency and a lecturer in the Bellisario College, the strength of the video-production effort rests on the shoulders of students. Students are selected for CommAgency as part of a competitive application process and their determination and talent shine through in terms of their commitment and professionalism.

For on-campus clients, working with CommAgency includes initial meetings, a creative treatment, filming, post-production and release. Because of student schedules, projects are completed within one semester.

“Our students come prepared with good questions and ideas. Plus, they know to listen to a client to really meet their needs,” Grant said. “We challenge them to meet the standards of our clients and often the students’ standards are even higher. They’re proud to be getting real-world experience, and they know their work matters.”

As the agency grows, Grant envisions its services expanding to include video and social media strategy, as well as tracking effectiveness through data analytics, and future growth into print, graphic design, and possibly web design as well.

“There’s no doubt we have students interested in providing those kinds of services while getting valuable hands-on experience,” she said. “We also believe there are many units on campus that would be interested in working with us, and we want to hear from them and help them meet their goals.”

Last Updated March 22, 2018