Indiana University students develop public relations campaign for local market

Public relations students create a PR strategy to increase customers and members at community co-op


Carl Nelson


Jacob Simpson, Marshall Curry


Lost River Market and Deli, Paoli, IN
Community Size
19,646 (2019 Census Estimation)
Indiana University
Sustaining Hoosier Communities
Case Type
Project Stories
Business, Public Relations
EPA Region 5, USA
Sustainable Development Goals
8 Decent Work and Economic Growth

Orange County is a rural southern Indiana county comprising four incorporated towns and a number of unincorporated communities. Residents are intent on celebrating the county’s industrial roots, natural beauty, and historic architecture while embracing and preparing for the future. Local progress is driven in large part by “grassroots cooperative leadership” (Report, Pg. 4), while legal and medical non-profits provide essential communal services. This community-oriented mentality lends itself to innovative partnerships between various actors working towards common goals in areas like infrastructure, culture, tourism, and healthcare. 

Local co-op encourages community development through food and agriculture

The Lost River Market and Deli is a member-owned local food co-op and association which serves “local growers, producers, and consumers by providing goods, services, and healthy food choices at fair value” (Lost River). More than just a place to purchase food, Lost River strives to promote its values through community development. The Paoli-based co-op needed to expand its customer and membership base in order to continue to grow its business and remain a sustainable source of local food.

Building a public relations campaign to attract new business

Moving forward, Lost River Market and Deli partnered with the Sustaining Hoosier Communities (SHC) program at Indiana University. This project involved Minjeong Kang’s public relations campaigns course in the media school. Student participants, in collaboration with community partner Debbie Turner from Lost River, worked to develop a comprehensive public relations plan aimed at expanding the co-op’s membership base. This involved meeting with owners, customers and non-customers and identifying the co-op’s strengths and weaknesses.

An original strategy geared towards future prosperity

Kang’s public relations students produced three campaign books outlining their research and implementation plan. Their recommendations, tailored to the co-op’s needs, have the potential to raise awareness and promote greater participation in this vital community center. With new customers and members comes new opportunities for expanded programming, food offerings, and collaboration with Orange County farmers, food distributors, and food lovers.

A co-op like the Lost River Market and Deli is a valuable community asset and a platform for food and health education. Students participating in this project used their public relations skills to convey that, attracting new customers and volunteers and ensuring its longevity.

Sustaining Hoosier Communities Contact Info
Jane Rogan
Sustaining Hoosier Communities Director
(812) 855-0568

Indiana University Faculty Contact Info
Minjeong Kang

Read the full story of the partnership.

Read the final student report delivered to the local gov/community partner.

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