Illinois State University’s PRSSA Chapter was fortunate enough to tour the offices of Skirt PR and Zeno Group in Chicago on Friday, Feb. 21.
Skirt PR was the first stop of the day. The office was decorated with hues of pink, bright lights, jeweled pumps, and a wall of handbags. Vice President Lauren Berg was kind enough to sit down with us and chat over mini cupcakes. She explained her role and responsibilities at the agency. After Berg interned at a law firm, she told us she realized she “wanted to work with people, not paper.” She then became an intern at Skirt PR and has been there ever since.
As she shared her experiences, samples of Skirt PR’s work circulated the glass conference table. BirchBox, Warby Parker, Gilt Groupe, Oliver Peoples and Indie Lee are just a few of the brands for which they have worked. When Berg finished, she opened the floor to any questions we had.
In our Q-and-A with Berg, she provided great advice on the industry, internships and chasing dreams. One standout piece of advice is to make yourself indispensable as an intern if you are working at an agency with few job openings. Berg said that when Skirt has interns they cannot imagine losing, they create roles on the team in order to keep their talent and work ethic.
Before we left, she led us through their office and explained the history to us. Skirt PR’s office is actually in an apartment where the founder and president Adrienne Eckert Petersen used to live with her sister. Petersen’s former bedroom is now her office, and is decorated with flowers, fashion sketches, and beautifully packaged product. Berg’s office is in Petersen’s sister’s old bedroom. Her office is decorated with Indie Lee products, a pinstriped couch, and incense reeds. Each Skirt PR staff member also has a Barbie at her desk, a fun touch that reflects the agency’s clients and culture.
Our next stop was the Aon Center in the heart of the Loop. Members ate lunch in the building before heading to Zeno Group’s offices on the 52nd floor. Members were welcomed into a conference room by five Zeno Group employees: human resources coordinator Kate Aherne, senior account executive and ISU alumna Erin Brophy, corporate account executive Lyndsey Slawkowki, digital community specialist Kenzie Grob, and digital community moderator TJ Prince. They briefly explained the history of Zeno Group and their responsibilities. Part of the presentation was dedicated to case studies of some of the projects and campaigns they have worked on over the past year. Some of Zeno’s clients include Pizza Hut, Seattle’s Best Coffee, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, Kmart, DreamWorks, and Kia Motors.
Kate and the other team members also talked about Zeno’s internship program and offered tips on how to stand out among the many applicants. The program is three months long with an opportunity to extend for another three months if the intern is successful. Interns dive right in and are assigned to work with a client to get as much real world experience as you can with your time at Zeno Group.
After a great discussion, members received a quick tour of the newly renovated office. All of the interns sit together in one area of the office. A favorite aspect of the office for many was the wall of encouragement. A cork board was covered in thank you notes from different departments to people who went above and beyond. The culture of Zeno Group was undeniably welcoming and supportive.
Overall, the trip to Chicago was very insightful and a great professional development experience. ISU PRSSA members should take advantage of these invaluable opportunities to network!
By Ashley Bushala
Our chapter had the privilege of speaking with Jennifer Pruett, vice president of internal communication at FleishmanHillard, via Skype at our Feb. 11 meeting. FleishmanHillard is one of the oldest public relations agencies. Founded in St. Louis in 1946, their headquarters remains there to this day.
After giving us a brief history of her career path, Pruett discussed some of the major brands that she works with on an everyday basis, including AT&T, Energizer, Boy Scouts of America, Chevrolet, Steak n’ Shake, Buffalo Wild Wings and various pharmaceutical companies. Some of her daily tasks include working in crisis and digital communication.
Pruett next took the time to address agency life myths and facts. It is not as scary as some might think. It is true that you work long hours, but no more than you would in corporate public relations. She explained that to work in agency, you must be prepared to help your clients at any time, and be ready to act at the drop of a hat because clients can be unpredictable. It is a fast-paced work environment, but you are constantly learning about clients, old and new, as well as new channels and methods of reaching your publics. She has also found that public relations is very team-oriented. Being in constant contact with your coworkers means communication is equally as important internally as it is externally.
When asked how she stays organized, Pruett says that she is a “Post-It woman.” She also said that it is not much different than being a student, and you just have to find a method that works for you. For her, lists work best. She advises that you ask plenty of questions and understand deadlines, priorities, and how to manage them.
Writing was the next topic of discussion, which Pruett said is taken seriously and is an important aspect of agency public relations. It is likely that you will write about 80 percent of the time on an average day, even in the beginning of your career.
Finally, Pruett gave us some insight on the internship program at FleishmanHillard’s headquarters. The goal is to give interns a complete experience by allowing them to develop different skill sets by working in different areas. As an intern, you are placed in either a practice group or as a member of the creative team, based on your interests and where they see you fit. Pruett also believes that the key to a successful job search is networking and relationship-building.
Speaking with Jennifer Pruett over Skype was an enlightening experience for our whole Chapter, and we are very appreciative of her time and advice!
By Calysta Will
Tell us about yourself.
I am a junior public relations major, born and raised in Bloomington, Ill. I have one younger brother Grant, who is a freshman at Heartland Community College. I go to Illinois State University full time, nanny during the week and have worked at Victoria’s Secret for two and a half years. I am a typical Type A personality who loves to be busy. When I have nothing on my agenda I don’t know what to do with myself. Thankfully, that rarely happens.
Aside from PRSSA, are you involved in any other groups or RSO’s?
I am the secretary for the College of Arts and Sciences Council, and I am also currently on their Budget Committee.
Do you have any internship positions or career-related jobs?
I don’t have an internship this semester. I am focusing on the CAS Council and my teaching assistant position for Karla Huffman’s COM 268 class.
What are some things that you enjoy doing in your free time?
I love to read and run. But let’s face it; I love my quality time with Netflix just as much. I am a huge movie buff. My favorite movie of all time will always by “Man on Fire” with Denzel Washington. My friends make fun of me for being a walking IMDB. If you see an actor on TV or in a movie and can’t pinpoint how you recognize them, I can probably tell you exactly what he or she has been in. It’s a meaningless obsession, but it’s my meaningless obsession and I love it. Spending time with friends is a priority of mine but I’m also very adamant about making sure I have alone time to clear my head and meditate. Meditating while I run or do yoga helps me to control my inner Type A monster and make way for new writing and public relations ideas. I also dedicate a lot of my free time to my family. We are very close and like to do things together whenever possible.
Tell us one interesting fact about yourself.
My only interesting fact is that I have been to London to visit the set and meet the cast of “Harry Potter” through my brother’s Make-A-Wish. It was the most incredible experience I’ve ever had and I will never forget it.
Do you have a favorite blog or social media site?
My favorite social media site would have to be Twitter. I love that one tweet can spark a worldwide conversation where everyone can connect and share thoughts. I think it is a huge asset to public relations practitioners and has changed the way the world shares ideas and opinions.
What are some of your career aspirations?
My biggest aspiration is to get a job position in international public relations. I love the idea that publics all over the world influence each other through trends and social media. I would love to go to another country to get other perspectives and experience international public relations on a larger scale.
Questions composed by Calysta Will
There has been a lot of talk since Dong Nguyen announced that the number one game in the App Store, Flappy Bird, was going to be taken down. Not only have there been articles about Flappy Bird destroying lives, but also how the game being removed is saving lives.
The objective of the game is to tap the screen, keeping the bird afloat through the pipes without hitting them. It is a simple concept yet becomes difficult when users attempt to beat their own high score. Many gamers had high scores of just three or four while others took scores as high as 147. So why did the creator take down the game? According to BuzzFeed, he tweeted how his success was ruining his simple life, and he was making $50,000 a day from the game.
Nguyen did not handle the existence of the game very well, but instead of selling the game, he had it removed from the App Store. Although the game has been taken off the App Store, it still exists on any device that has downloaded it prior to the takedown.
From a public relations standpoint, a company must always think of its client. Nguyen’s reasoning was truthful, but perceived as selfish which gained bad publicity for the game itself. The creator had several options to minimize his “lavish” lifestyle. Nguyen could have sold the game, or released a patch to give players more lives or easier playing time. Donating part of the money he was receiving to charity could have been an option as well. When any company encounters a challenge with criticism, it is always good to acknowledge the problem to all consumers, but never just walk away. That not only gives the company a bad name, but your name as well.
By Analita Voss
Five members, including myself, of Illinois State University’s PRSSA Chapter travelled to East Lansing, Mich. on Feb. 7 to attend a PRSSA Regional Conference hosted by Michigan State University. The conference was titled “Electing Excellence” and had a political focus. Those of us attending had a particular interest in politics, and the conference did not disappoint.
“I got an awesome glimpse of what it is like to be a public relations professional in the political and public affairs world,” said junior Frank Hopper. “It was definitely worth the trip!”
“Since political public relations is not as common as agency or corporate, it was a great opportunity to learn more about the two fields that I love,” said senior Lisa Crocco.
Since we all really wanted to go, we took the initiative to make the nearly five-hour drive, and Shelby Ray, the Chapter’s National Liaison, booked the hotel room for us. Upon arrival, we were so happy to see that the hotel was close to the campus area where the conference was being held. After getting settled in the room, we grabbed some food and headed to the opening night of Conference, which was the “Sweet Soiree” mixer. There, an a cappella group performed, and there was a huge table full of sweets. Attendees of the conference mingled and got to know one another before the conference officially started.
“It was a great opportunity networking with PRSSA members from across the region. It gave me real insights about working in the industry, which will help me pinpoint where I want to work,” said Ray.
On the second day of the Conference, the breakout sessions began. There was a speaker from Martin Waymire, a public relations firm, who spoke about its Silver Anvil winning campaign, as well as the Blue Cross Blue Shield and the Department of Community Health for Michigan.
The keynote speaker was Sara Wurfel, the press secretary for Michigan’s governor. Wurfel spoke on how managing a person is different than managing a brand. The governor, Rick Snyder, “doesn’t change how he talks to people based on who he’s talking to,” according to Wurfel, which gives him a much more “real” image.
Karl Gude, the “master of infographics,” spoke during the last session of the day. He talked about how when he first created an infographic, it was because he saw a need that could be filled, which is what much of public relations is based upon. As public relations professionals, we are constantly trying to fill the needs of consumers and publics. It was amazing to see some of the graphics that he has created, especially because they were the first of their kind. Gude is definitely an innovator, and the workshop portion of his session taught attendees more about targeting a graphic to a specific audience.
Overall, the Conference was a great learning experience, and we had a lot of fun attending. Crocco said on the Conference, “Spending time with our PRSSA Chapter members and seeing MSU was a fun experience – so many laughs!”
ISU’s PRSSA Chapter will also be attending the Regional Conference held in Chicago hosted by Columbia University Chicago in March. It is highly encouraged for everyone to attend!
By Hailey Lanier
Just a few days after Klout unveiled its new model, the Internet has been buzzing with rumors that the social influence measuring service will be acquired for at least $100 million.
In the past, Klout was a largely passive measure of your social influence simplified and measured on a scale of 1-100. This meant that there wasn’t much users could proactively do to increase their scores. People with low scores were unlikely to use the service or even check it more than once or twice. Many decried Klout as a sign of social media vanity that had little practical application or worth.
Earlier this month, however, Klout unveiled its new model. Instead of (somewhat arbitrarily) measuring your influence across social networks and reporting it, the “new Klout” acts more like a content-sharing service. Mashable’s Chris Taylor describes it as “a social media dashboard, with a stream of content you’d likely want to share in order to boost your Klout score.” Klout is no longer just recording your score. It’s helping you improve it.
This is partially in response to the question Klout CEO Joe Fernandez says users ask him most frequently: “How do I increase my score?”
Now, when users log into Klout, they see a content stream instead of their profile. It is automatically populated with content based on topics in which the user is influential or has been given Klout by others. For example, my topics include social media, public relations, fashion, Disney, coffee, Illinois State University and J. Crew. Users can add other topics of interest, too, if they so desire.
Klout tags content into four categories. A piece that is “on the rise” is just starting to trend. A “crowdpleaser” is popular within your network, while not many in your network have seen the “hidden gems.” Finally, “hot off the press” content is just what it sounds like – recently published. You can share all of this content easily from your dashboard or choose to schedule it for later.
Klout’s new model could certainly help in strengthening your personal brand on social media. On an even bigger scale, Klout is considering developing a “premium version” of the service, which could be a useful tool for digital marketers, public relations professionals and community managers.
Basically, “Old Klout” told you how cool you were (or weren’t). Frankly, there wasn’t much value in that judgement. “New Klout,” on the other hand, is trying to be a useful social media tool with real, monetary value – at least, Lithium Technologies (Klout’s rumored buyer) thinks so.
By Abby Brennan
Ali Seys, a junior Illinois State University PRSSA member, is the reigning Miss Illinois Valley who finds that her pageant life is very similar to the public relations world.
Tell us about yourself.
I am from Orion, Ill., which is a small town outside of the Quad Cities. I am also the youngest of four; I have two brothers and a sister. I also have a nephew who is 13 months old, and I love hanging out with him and watching him grow. I have played soccer since I was six, so after high school I went to Scott Community College to play soccer for two years. Now I am a junior at ISU majoring in public relations and minoring in agriculture.
Did you grow up participating in pageants?
No, I grew up on a farm so my childhood was quite opposite from the pageant life you see on shows like “Toddlers and Tiaras.” I had to beg my mom for two years to let me compete, and she finally let me enter my county fair’s pageant when I was 12. Now I compete in the Miss America System (Miss Illinois Organization).
How long do you plan on participating in pageants?
I am the reigning Miss Illinois Valley and will crown my successor at the end of March. Then I will be done for this competition year because of an awesome internship opportunity I have this summer. I have said that I am done competing multiple times and always come back so I am sure I will find myself competing again.
How does your pageant experience tie in to public relations?
For the interview phase of competition, I have to submit a resume and platform statement. Before the judges even meet me, they have read my resume, and I am sure they look me up online just like an employer would. I have to be very aware of my personal brand and pitch myself to the judges in the interview. Then, throughout my reign, I have to make sure I stick to my personal brand and promote it, along with the Miss Illinois and Miss America Organizations' brands.
Why did you join ISU PRSSA?
Once I transferred here, I wanted to get involved right away. Abby Brennan, historian, and Marrison Worthington, vice president, were teaching assistants in my COM 178 class. They encouraged everyone to join, and I thought it would be a perfect way to meet people and get involved in the public relations program here at ISU.
How was your internship with Redbird Athletics last semester?
It was great! I worked with a group of interns and graduate assistants that made it an awesome experience. I got to work with real clients and be actively involved with promotional events. My favorite event was working with the Special Olympics soccer team during an ISU soccer game. It was also really neat to be on the sideline for every football game.
Are you looking into any internship opportunities for the summer?
People always ask me what I am going to do with a public relations and agriculture degree. Lucky for me, it was not that hard to find a perfect match. This summer I will be a marketing and communications intern at Wyffels Hybrids. It is a small corporate seed corn company in Geneseo, Ill. I am really excited to have this opportunity and to join the Wyffels team.
Questions composed by Analita Voss
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.