Five days of networking with professionals, non-stop tweeting and an abundance of coffee, what more could a public relations student need? The Illinois State University (ISU) Chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) attended the PRSSA 2014 National Conference in Washington from Oct. 10 to 14, where we gained the experience of a lifetime.
The Conference opened with a social event titled, "An Evening at the Embassies." This opportunity was the first for Chapters to connect, eat and dance the night away. Saturday morning started bright and early with the keynote speaker, Pam Jenkins, president of Powell Tate. Her insight and words of wisdom grasped everyone’s attention, but her final statement in the conclusion of her speech, “Millennials are ready to lead; I've seen it,” earned herself a standing ovation.
This enthusiasm was the perfect entrance for a Conference tradition, Chapter roll call. Each Chapter creates a chant to show their school spirit. ISU PRSSA created a remix to Eminem's "Just Lose It" that instantly became a crowd favorite.
Throughout the remainder of the Conference, our Chapter had the chance to attend sessions on different aspects of public relations. When we weren't filling ourselves with new knowledge, we went out to sightsee in Washington. Sightseeing included a trip to the National Mall, which included the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial and other war memorials. It was truly a sight! Other places visited by Chapter members were some of the Smithsonian museums, the Smithsonian National Zoo and Georgetown.
As our time in Washington came to a close, we spent time with our ISU PRSSA Faculty Adviser, Dr. Smudde. At lunch we reflected on our favorite sessions, the best thing we had seen and our overall experience. Needless to say, our Chapter had an amazing time in Washington and learned about the direction of our future profession. Everyone should take advantage of the opportunity to attend PRSSA National Conference as a member. It is an unforgettable experience that benefits all who attend.
By Cindy Kirchner
Ready or not, National Conference is here! The Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) 2014 National Conference, Intersections: The Meeting Place of Communications and Culture, welcomes all PRSSA members. This year’s Conference is in Washington from Oct. 10 to 14. Setting the tone for national unity, the five-day professional development journey includes agency and career tours, nationally-recognized keynote speakers, numerous panels, specific area-related workshops, networking events and socials.
It is common for students to feel under prepared for the five-day event that will transform their career paths. In an environment with endless opportunities, you may be wondering how to look the part, what items to have with you, and what to say as you grow, network and immerse yourself in the public relations world. As the crucial event creeps around the corner, it is important to know what essential tools to have by your side. Some of these tools are right at your fingertips, and there are others you don’t need to pack! So, let’s break it down.
1) Resume: Bring several copies of an updated resume. As mentioned before, there will be hundreds of public relations professionals at the Conference who are interested to see the next generation. Be prepared to show potential employers what you have to offer; this will set you apart from your peers right at the start.
2) Business cards: Carry copies of your personal card. This is a quick way to build your network and share your information with peers and possible employers.
3) Elevator speech: The 30 seconds you have to sell yourself must be perfected before this event. It can be difficult to set yourself apart while in a sea of fellow PRSSA members. So, take some time before the Conference and create an elevator speech that shows your individualism and make you stand out!
4) Pad-folio: Stay organized at the Conference and have a pad-folio or briefcase with you. This is a great way to carry your resume, business cards and pens while keeping track of the information handed your way.
5) Phone charger: Need I say more? Conversing with several people, constantly updating your social media and capturing memories will demand that your smart phone is fully charged and in the palm of your hand to keep you in the loop.
6) Twitter handle: Social media is where conversations begin and grow! Create a professional Twitter account so you can participate in the conversations occurring throughout the Conference. This is a great way to network with fellow members and public relation professionals who have endless amounts of information to share. If you are already on Twitter, follow @prssanc and use #PRSSANC!
7) Professional dress: Don’t forget this is a formal event that requires both business casual and business professional dress. If you have any questions, ask those around you who are more familiar with this dress code or look online for examples.
8) Open mind: Last but not least, having an open mind at the Conference will make the journey more enjoyable and insightful. Attend a workshop or tour an agency that would not typically be interesting to you to broaden your experience. Where else will you have the opportunity to sample everything the public relations industry has to offer?
Take advantage of your PRSSA membership and grow with your Chapter this year at the PRSSA 2014 National Conference. This is a milestone for your professional development and an opportunity that can change the path of your future. It takes meeting the right people, making the right friends and learning about the right field to kick-start your successful career.
By Ali Geary
On March 8, thirteen members of Illinois State University’s PRSSA Chapter attended “The Loop: A 360° Approach to Public Relations,” a 2014 PRSSA Regional Conference hosted by Columbia College Chicago PRSSA Chapter. ISU PRSSA members sure got a taste of Chicago after a full day of keynote speakers, sessions, lunch and of course multiple Starbucks runs!
The Conference offered a 360° approach to public relations in Chicago by offering tours of several agencies located in the city on Friday, followed by a day of professional public relations speakers on Saturday. All attendees started the morning with hearing from keynote speaker Derek Cuculich, The Onion’s director of public relations and internal communications. In Cuculich’s keynote speech, “Five Essential PR Practices to Get You Noticed and Advance Your Career,” he laid out five tips that can boost your professional career. In order to ensure that you will get noticed and advance in your career, you must be available, network, follow up, form relationships and leave your ego at the door. Hearing from Cuculich was very motivating and set the tone for the rest of the day. Everyone was eager to dive into their day of professional development.
Each breakout session had an option of two sessions students were assigned to attend, with a total of six different breakout sessions. One of the first sessions was with Caleb Gardner, the current director of social media and content for Organizing for Action, who oversees President Barack Obama’s Twitter account. Gardener’s session, “How to Get and Avoid Press through Social Media,” was filled with helpful information, real-life stories and great feedback during his Q-and-A. Gardner left attendees with helpful tips when writing for social media, which included: write early because it takes time to create effective communication, slow down because less is more and that social media is a conversation. Gardner ended his session enforcing the importance of reading because the best writers are the best readers! The other session was with Kevin Saghy, the manager of communication for the Chicago Cubs, who was accompanied by previous intern Ellie Lange. The two guests hosted an open forum that was moderated by PRSSA National president Brian Price.
After a great lunch with new friends, the Conference resumed right back to business and began with the afternoon sessions. The second breakout sessions were hosted by speakers Rolland Cailles and Ashley Lavore. Cailles, the social media director at SuperFly, spoke about facing the obstacles as a millennial, and gave everyone an insight on the stereotypes millennials have to face in the workplace and how to overcome those obstacles. Cailles left us with a few tips: find your niche, discover experiences, get made, master your 30-second elevator speech and earn it. Cailles believes that it is important to do everything you can to stay creative; it will set you apart and show your individuality. Lavore talked about how to make money in non-profit and how to raise money for your non-profit foundation.
The last breakout session was with Tressa Robbins and John Bistolfo. Robbins is the vice president of implementation at BurrellesLuce. Her session, “Media Relations: Traditional, Digital, Social,” showed the different types of media relations and how to create the most effective communication. Robbins spoke that the most successful way to navigate the changing media landscape is to be where the audiences are, participating and directing the whole organization and that messages should work in tandem. She also spoke about the “K.I.S.S.” model and how keeping it short and simple will always create the most effective communication. Bistolfo, the founder and design strategist of Bark Design hosted the “Graphic Design 101” session where he spoke about the importance of graphic design and how public relations professionals can communicate through messages and images.
Lastly, the closing keynote speakers were Ryan Beshel and Kate Jacobsen, whose session, “Runway to Reality: A Backstage Look into the World of Fashion PR,” was on how the fashion public relations industry works in Chicago and New York. This session offered information that applies to the dynamic public relations industry. This session was a great way to end the Conference because it was a fun and humorous way to tell the cold, hard truth of what public relations really entails, especially in the fashion PR industry.
The closing address speaker, PRSSA National President Brian Price, wrapped up the Conference speaking about public relations in Chicago with the help of a video created by Edelman Chicago. This type of opportunity that PRSSA offers its Chapters not only are informative and help build professional experience, but also allows time for Chapters to cultivate relationships within, network with other national Chapters and professionals. For ISU PRSSA’s Chapter attendees of “The Loop” PRSSA 2014 Regional Conference, it is safe to say all had a wonderful day in the Loop of the Windy City with the opportunity to experience a day revolved around public relations and its growing field in Chicago.
By Ali Geary
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
Illinois State University PRSSA members packed their bags on Oct. 25 and flew out to Philadelphia for this year’s PRSSA National Conference. While there, they gained knowledge and insight to bring back and share with our Chapter. Here’s what some of the attendees had to say about their experience at the conference:
“It was very inspiring to be around so many other students, just like myself, who are so passionate about the public relations industry. I couldn't have asked for a better group of people to go with. The trip was a great learning experience that was full of fun and laughs,” said junior, Ellie Matthews.
“It was about the four Ps: people, passion, public relations and Philadelphia! It was definitely the most inspiring weekend to become successful in my future career,” said senior and secretary, Melissa Fortes.
“I laughed more in those five days than I have all semester! Spending time with my fellow Chapter members was the best part of the trip. It was also an amazing networking and learning experience. I met so many people who are just as passionate as I am about public relations,” said junior, Cindy Kirchner.
“There wasn't one moment during the conference that wasn't exciting and inspiring, from the profound speakers and networking to the cuisine. Most students traveled to the conference with the goals to return with knowledge and larger networks, but those goals ended up being the icing on the cake for me. None of my experiences top the relationships that were built in Philadelphia. The best part of my trip was getting to know the members in the Chapter and building close friendships with them. This was an adventure I will never forget,” said senior and vice president, Marrison Worthington.
“I enjoyed learning more about public relations and being surrounded by people who are so passionate about it. Overall, the trip was a great experience, being able to learn more about the industry and spending time with some pretty awesome people from the Chapter,” said senior and director of Development, Sarah McSheffrey.
“I absolutely loved every session I attended while at the conference. Jason Mollica led my favorite session, ‘CEO of You.’ I will definitely be referring back to his message throughout my job search,” said senior Bateman Team member, Lauren Ulrich.
"It was so energizing to be surrounded by like-minded people who are just as excited about this industry – students and professionals alike. I thought I loved public relations before, but the National Conference just made me even more excited about this industry!" said senior and historian, Abby Brennan.
"I really loved getting to know everyone better and attending the sessions. The session on personal branding was especially relevant, because I want to create a strong personal brand before I graduate. Going to the haunted house at Eastern State Penitentiary was also really fun. I loved the historical part as well as being scared," said senior and president, Hailey Lanier.
“Attending the conference has been one of the best experiences of not only my college career, but also as a member of PRSSA. I gained so much knowledge during the sessions about public relations, branding and social media. The conference was a great opportunity for me to meet so many other passionate students, including many I have built social media friendships with over the past year and finally got to meet in person. I’d have to say that the best part was creating great friendships and hilarious memories with members while exploring a new city full of history. I truly don’t think I have laughed that much than in those five days. Everyone should go to a PRSSA National Conference at least once,” said junior and director of Relations, Maggie Ziemann.
For those on the fence about attending a PRSSA National Conference in the future, hearing what members have to say about their experiences can definitely help make that decision to go. Not only is the conference a wonderful learning and networking experience, but a time for Chapter bonding, as well.
By Cassidy Obis
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.