Members of Illinois State University’s PRSSA traveled to the Windy City to tour the offices of Walker Sands and Motion PR on Friday, March 21.
Walker Sands was the first stop, where the visit was broken up into three parts. First, Christine Pietryla and ISU alumnus Andrew Cross gave an overview of the agency. Walker Sands is a technology-based agency, which offers a unique perspective compared to the previous tours this year. They deal with business-to-business (B2B) as opposed to business-to-consumer (B2C), meaning that they target businesses as opposed to promoting their clients to the general public. Pietryla and Cross provided great insight on how Walker Sands differs from other agencies.
After talking about the basics of the agency, members learned about the internship program, which Walker Sands calls “The Sandlot.” HR director Ellen Hanson spoke about what the program is like and gave some great advice on how to stand out when applying for jobs or internships. For the agency’s summer internships, Hanson reported they typically receive over 400 resumes for six to ten positions. Since Hanson sees all of Walker Sands’ internship and general applications, her advice was valuable to anyone interested in applying to an agency. Some of her tips included:
· Customize your resume to each application and rearrange the bullet points based on what the company is looking for in applicants.
· Mirror back the language of the job description and use the same terminology.
· When it comes to applications, Hanson suggests that ten quality applications will yield much better results than 100 quantity ones.
· The cover letter is a space to tell a story that isn’t on your resume but speaks to your skills and experience. Hanson gave the example of someone who was the go-to paper editor on their dorm floor. It’s not a title you can put on your resume, but it tells the recruiter or hiring manager a lot about your writing skills.
· Showing enthusiasm for the position is key, as is doing research on the company.
· If you land an interview, hiring managers are not looking for you to know everything. Instead, they want someone who shows a willingness to learn and “coachability.” The ability to be taught and take constructive criticism well is very important in this industry.
· Finally, ask good questions in interviews that demonstrate your knowledge of the company and all the research you did.
Next, members broke into small Q-and-A sessions with two Walker Sands employees to ask questions in a more personal, informal setting. It was great to have a small group discussion and to have more of a one-on-one experience. The culture of the agency was supportive and almost family-like. Members left with a wealth of information and lots of business cards.
After a quick lunch break at Corner Bakery, members walked to the Motion PR office just down the street. ISU alumnus Bruce Kennedy greeted members, along with his co-workers Erik Ansel, Derek Serafin, and one of the interns, Blair.
After introducing the employees and the agency, members were given a “How Much Do You Know About PR?” quiz. The quiz was a fun way to get members to interact with the Motion PR employees and facilitate a discussion around the answers. It offered insight on many aspects of public relations and enforced topics taught in public relations classes.
Kennedy and the rest of the team opened up for a Q-and-A session, giving great advice about the public relations world. Kennedy was able to answer questions tailored to ISU, since as a 2013 graduate, he was recently in the same shoes as the PRSSA members. The team spoke about pitching, saying that they spend the majority of their time pitching their clients. Members were able to gain insight on creating media relationships, the best way to pitch, and what to expect in the agency life. The culture was laid-back and welcoming. Motion PR team members gave out plenty of business cards and even a packet of information that included a list of every almost every public relations agency in Chicago.
Both tours were a great opportunity to see two very different public relations agencies firsthand.
Members not only gained a wealth of information about agency life and the professional world, but an invaluable opportunity to network with people in the Chicago public relations industry. Take advantage of the tours offered by ISU PRSSA whenever you can, since they are great resources to build your career!
By Lauren Vahldick
PRecisely PR is the blog of the Illinois State University Chapter of the PRSSA. We write about Chapter events, the public relations industry, member profiles, and more.