Public Relations Student Society of America is Fundamentally for Everyone: Why All Students Can Benefit From PRSSA
Creativity is the core of Public Relations and every career path is in desperate need of creativity thus meaning Public Relations Student Society of America at Illinois State University is the perfect Registered Student Organization for every major. I started my journey with PRSSA in November 2018 as a general member. My first chapter meeting was very impressionable. As I walked through the double doors of Schroeder 138, I was greeted by several members of the executive board. Specifically, Maddie Rose who was the Director of Progressive Image approached me and said “Welcome! I haven’t seen you at other meetings, thanks for coming,” She didn’t ask me why I was there, how I found the organization or even what my major was. There was no agenda behind her welcome, there was only genuine gratitude for my presence. I felt welcomed and at home and since that first meeting,
I attended chapter every Tuesday. I learned so many professional development skills as I was exposed to LinkedIn workshops, networking seminars and a multitude of guest speakers. After learning more about the organization I decided to become a dues-paying member. I gained access to a career-specific job center and unlimited free agency tours. Sometime later I decided to apply for an executive position and gained not only amazing resume building skills and exposure to character-building opportunities but also an extended family that will serve as a lifelong network.
According to PRSA.org “at its core, public relations is about influencing, engaging and building a relationship with key stakeholders across numerous platforms to shape and frame the public perception of an organization.” Imagine yourself as an organization or business, PRSSA can assist you on so many levels. Consider branding yourself to the point of your name being so influential that your presence is known and appreciated in every room that you're in. Perfect your elevator pitch and make a positive and lasting impression on every executive you speak with. Dive into the world of stories and discover your autonomy. If you ask me, learning and implementing networking skills are as essential to the college experience as attending classes and bar crawls. I strongly encourage all students from any major to stop by a meeting or two, what you’ll gain will be well worth the hour.
By: Taneka Newman
My fellow members and I recently had the opportunity to experience an event like no other. We took a journey in hopes to expand our knowledge and learn more about the world of Public Relations. Our PRSA international conference was held in the beautiful city of San Diego, California where we not only got to be tourists but also meet professionals that would inspire some of us overall. My team and I were able to connect with professionals in agencies and interact with other PRSSA chapters from different universities across the country.
We each attended different panel discussions based on interest and made a personal connection with keynote speakers. Each of us found it very important to brand ourselves and to always have our profile ready to go. Due to the fact that we are all apart of generation z, we were given insights into how to use algorithms, metrics, and creativity effectively. Since the movement of social media began it has shifted the way we communicate with people, so new markets have designed strategies and cults to gain their audience’s attention. I was given information and employee insights into what working inside some industries may be. I found it very beneficial to understand internal and external communication, and how it is used to strategize audiences and brands. Not only was I given an opportunity to meet professional individuals, but I was also given a chance to get to know my fellow group members more personally which would result in us growing amongst each other.
I truly feel that teamwork is very important, and after this trip, I now understand them more. Although we are all still young developing professionals just trying to make success for ourselves, we still must be aware that our audience is people; we are people. It is important that we listen, and use our knowledge to build relationships.
By: Damian Juarez
While interning at ComEd this summer I was introduced to the Dollars for Doers program from the corporate relations team at their parent company, Exelon. This program finds a way to benefit the employees, corporation and the community. Dollars for Doers rewards the employees for their volunteer work by donating grants to non-profit organizations of the employee’s choice. It allows them to support a wide-range of causes and support all areas of the community. They gave 1.1 million dollars in 2018 to non-profit organizations that employees chose. That makes an impact in every corner of society and helps the causes employees felt passionate about. It incentivized me to volunteer while I was there and I’m so happy that I did because I was able to work with and learn about so many great causes. I worked with AIDS Run Walk Chicago, Chicagoland Military Roll Call, Feed My Starving Children and others which really educated me on causes I didn’t know much about before.
I received two grants, which I gave to Project Oz, an organization that helps homeless and runaway youth in the Bloomington-Normal area. Corporate social responsibility is a big deal at ComEd and Exelon, who have been trying to separate themselves from being just the electric company for awhile and this helps that. As a regulated utility, they have to show they are conscious of the environmental impacts they have so they will have so they offer plenty of volunteer events for employees to get hours for the Dollars for Doers program. They see that people view them as a company that just takes their money, so they try to give back in all of these different places to show they understand the impact they can make and that all causes matter.
It shows how ComEd cares about the communities that it serves and how they want to make a difference in lives. It also shows employees how they want to support them and the causes they hold dear. By rewarding employees for their work in the community by giving more back to the community, it makes the company look great to the benefit of all.
By: Josh Pozniak
As many public relations majors know, a degree in PR is highly versatile. While there are the pros of being flexible within different companies, for me, it just furthered my struggle with finding my niche. Within PRSSA, I had opportunities to visit various PR agencies and hear from both corporate and institutional PR representatives. As informative and engaging each session and meeting was, I still needed to fully become immersed in the culture of public relations to understand precisely where I would fit post-graduation, and that’s when I decided to take a leap and start searching for internships.
In all honesty, my internship search was based entirely on proximity. I applied to any internship that was close by, no matter the company, and as risky as that was, I was pleasantly surprised by the outcome. The company that gave me the best offer was Marcfirst, a non-profit organization working to provide independence and acceptance to children and adults with disabilities. Beginning the first day of the job, I came in greeted with smiles, hugs, and cupcakes (my supervisor was a big sweets person)! Each day was new and exciting, whether I started the day spending hours creating design templates on Canva or measuring the increase/reductions of donor and donation amounts. I learned so much in just the four short months that I dedicated to the job, but not all of what I learned showed off my skillsets in PR. The majority of what I came to understand was what interns, employees, and management deserve within the workplace. Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought that spending countless hours sorting through excel files or working with numbers would be enjoyable. The culture of Marcfirst is so welcoming, dedicated, and inspiring. Marcfirst is the only company where an intern, like myself, could have lunch and build a friendship with the CEO of a company. My supervisor would have snack bins in her office that she would fill daily so that every time someone would come for a meeting or a quick visit, they could grab a snack or “pick-me-up” for all their hard work. The vice president would make sure each person working at Marcfirst was given a shirt and goodie-bag from the CEO to the custodians and interns.
Marcfirst is a caring group of people who are genuinely working to better the lives of the residents and make the community a more welcoming and accepting environment. I am so thankful that I was able to understand my worth as an intern while also learning valuable skills that I will take with me in my career. I highly recommend looking at the company’s goals and culture before accepting an offer. If I hadn’t been so lucky, I could have ended up with an organization that didn’t value and respect me, and it would have entirely shaped my idea on the world of public relations.
By: Gabriella Solis
I found public relations after visiting an open house during a college visit. My plan, originally, was to major in psychology. I have always had an interest in others and how they think. I was also passionate about helping others. After visiting the psychology table, I decided to look around. I saw the public relations table. I knew someone from high school that graduated a year before me that went into public relations. Not knowing much about it, my mom and I walked over to hear more about this career.
What sold me was all the things that were possible with a PR degree. Public relations wasn’t just about writing press releases or cold calling to pitch to media, it was evolving into a digital age of social media, influencers, and shared content. I was hooked and knew that is what I decided to major in.
That is when I found Illinois State. My mom found that the school had a public relations program, and a well established one too. The public relations program equips you with the essential skills needed to pursue a degree in public relations. It also gives you the freedom to I took a campus visit and knew that Illinois State University was the right school for me.
Fast forward four years later, I now hold the position of PRSSA’s chapter president at Illinois State. I joined my freshman year just trying to learn more about what public relations was. This organization has taught me countless skills that are needed in the PR world such as networking, how to properly organize your resume, and social media skills. There are also a lot of lessons I learned from outside of chapter meetings. Time management is an important skill to have, especially in a leadership position.
I also learned to always ask questions. PRSSA is a safe space where no question is worth being ignored. PRSSA wants to help you grow professionally and go into an interview, an internship, or simply networking with confidence. We want you to feel prepared and qualified for any situation.
As my time as President, I have made it my goal to help those who need it. Whether it is to find an internship
By: Megan Pellock
From LinkedIn workshops to International Conference, Illinois State University’s PRSSA chapter is jam packed with professional opportunities for students of any major. Some of the largest and most highly anticipated events of each semester in PRSSA are the fabulous and informative public relations and marketing agency tours. These tours cater to extraordinarily driven students who are ready to dive headfirst into their careers. ISU’s PRSSA chapter has been lucky enough to attend agency tours at global public relations and marketing agencies such as Golin, Ketchum, Fleishman Hillard, and even Weber Shandwick. Although these tours are filled with excitement and enthusiasm, they can also be a bit intimidating. As a third-year ISU PRSSA member and avid agency tour attendee, I’m here to explain the five emotional stages of agency tours as I have seen and experienced firsthand.
The very first emotion felt leading up to an agency tour is most certainly overwhelming confidence. You have completed extensive research on the organization, and feel as though you know the ins and outs of the agencies like the back of your hand. You have your questions completely prepared for the Q&A portion of the tour, fresh resumes printed, and business cards at the ready. You are taking all the steps necessary to ensure you are completely prepped and confident when you step through the doors of each agency.
The second emotional stage of an agency tour happens on your drive to the location of the organization. This emotion is pure, unadulterated nervousness. Are you actually dressed in business casual clothing? Did you do enough research on each company? Will you make it to the agency on time, or will you get pulled over because your chauffeur is driving 15 miles per hour over the speed limit? Bona fide panic and anxiousness are felt on the way to an agency tour.
Emotional stage number three is attentiveness. You become quiet and focused as you enter the agency and begin listening to the experienced professionals discuss their organization in depth. You are wholeheartedly interested in every single word these people are saying, and you don’t want to miss a thing. Hearing from frontline and successful employees is what you attended the tour for in the first place. All of your research and preparation has led you to this moment, and you are sure to take notes on every piece of information and advice these professionals are giving you.
Agency tour emotional stage number four is the most uncomfortable, and most commonly experienced stage of any agency tour. This stage revolves around the feeling of self-doubt. The self-doubt stage tends to occur right in the middle of the tour, when you are learning just how meticulous public relations and marking agency work can be. Some of the questions you may ask yourself at this point could revolve around your competence, if the PR field is right for you, if you can handle this type of job, etc. But not to worry! This feeling does not last forever.
The fifth and final emotional stage of an agency tour is excitement. Although you may have felt a bit overwhelmed hearing all that goes into a career in PR or marketing, you leave the agency tour feeling excited about what your future holds. You put aside the feelings of nervousness and intimidation, and look forward to what’s ahead of you. I see this feeling in every person who has attended an ISU PRSSA agency tour, and have felt this emotion myself. The fifth emotional stage of agency tours reminds all who attend that you are good enough, and that you can do this!
By: Mattie Bean
While entering my freshman year at Illinois State, I made the decision to become a Women’s and Gender Studies minor after I took a class titled, Introduction to LGBTQ Studies. In this class, I was exposed to the incredible history and impact of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer folks. Learning about past social movements, cultures and reflecting on my classmates’ thoughts and ideologies, I was inspired to proceed in this minor. Each semester, I was taking new courses that were not only educating me on the LGBTQ+ community, I was noticing my growth as an individual.
The curriculum is aimed to impact and challenge students. The lessons learned and the language that is cultivated within WGS courses have encouraged me to intervene in situations that generate change. Now proceeding as a WGS minor with a concentration is Queer Studies, my most significant goal is to use my awareness and ability to ask critical questions about myself in a professional work setting.
This past October, PRSA is celebrating Diversity and Inclusion month. By addressing the lack of diversity within the industry and improving the overall culture of public relations, I believe that this organization is taking the right steps benefit marginalized groups and LGBTQ+ professionals. Today, creating an inclusive and diverse public space within agency, corporate or institutional PR, is one of the most important factors that is valued and prioritized. While emerging myself in WGS courses, I have gained a new perspective on re-imagining what true diversity is while attending a public university and becoming more involved in PRSSA.
While developing a campaign or networking with potential employers or colleagues, being educated on recent social issues and movements can raise strategies that will increase consciousness within the industry. Now, the PRSA National Diversity and Inclusion Committee encourages all members to celebrate diversity this month by using #PRDiversity and follow @PRSADiversity to join the conversation.
By: Mia Rusch
“Joker”, directed by Todd Phillips and starring Joaquin Phoenix, was released to theaters October 4. Even though it has been about three weeks since its release and there is less media coverage, there is still something about the movie that speaks to me that needs to be said. Media coverage around such an infamous character as Joker was negative, not about the movie however. The movie itself is getting praises from every critic and casual watcher, and it’s now the highest grossing R-rated movie of all time. Instead, gatekeepers tell the wrong side of the story when it comes to this movie.
The Joker doesn’t have a specific origin, but he ends up as a man beaten down by life and driven to insanity and crime. One trait that adds to this reincarnation is that he is mentally ill. He goes to therapy run by the state hospital and gets medicine. At one point of the movie, funding to the hospital where he gets therapy is cut so he can’t receive therapy anymore. This is where Arthur Fleck starts to become the Joker. The rest of the movie is Joker inciting riots , violence and mayhem.
Leading up to the movie, mainstream media was worried that the movie would start an uprise in violence, specifically mass shootings. It was reported that there were undercover police officers in theaters in New York City in case of attempted mass shootings. Since Joker is a character that incites violence, people feared the movie would incite violence. Even though coverage as died down since its release, a more important topic was never discussed.
Arthur Fleck is severely mentally ill. He struggles in social situations and was delusional throughout the whole movie, but he was never violent. It wasn’t till after he didn’t get medication that he began his descent to madness. The lack of funding in the movie for mental health to me reflects the lack of care we have in our world. There are many days, weeks, or months dedicated to mental health, including Mental Health week early this October, and while those are great things to have more has to be done. The message and coverage of the movie instead focused on the violence instead of the more important topic that affects millions of people everyday. It is a shame that this is no longer the discussion and story for this movie, but kudos to the makers of Joker for telling a story with a message that is incredibly important.
By: Danny Rehm
May 29th was the first day of my internship this summer at David James Group. Chris, my supervisor had e-mailed me a list of what I could anticipate for my first day. As I walked into the office, I had no idea what to except it would be like, would there be someone to greet me? Would I have my own desk? Would there be training for how to do this? How will I know to do anything? Am I even prepared to intern at a Business-to-Business (B2B) agency? But don't worry, I survived.
The first hard task I was given was when I had to research TV stations within certain states where one of our clients was hosting an engineering camp for kids. I had to then call those TV stations every morning at 8 a.m. asking if they had received our news release and would be interested in hearing more about it. This my friends, is called cold calling and pitching. I had a script of what to say, but every phone call was different. Sometimes they wouldn’t answer, sometimes they would be short and hang up quickly and other times, the lucky times, they would be kind and polite and interested in hearing more, but those times were rare. Most of my luck was from my email pitching and was greatly rewarded by being picked up in CBS and ABC on TV. Getting my pitch onto TV was probably the highlight of my career so far. But don't worry, I got to do a lot more at David James besides just calling news stations the second I woke up. I was also in charge of gathering media lists for many different clients, creating email pitches to send out a press release, attend meetings and even a protest (that was pretty fun) and gather data afterwards whether or not we were able to get spots in the media.
I learned a lot in those three short months more than I had learned in the classroom. Although what I had learned in the classroom had helped me in some aspects, a lot of it was hands on learning. One piece of advice my supervisor left me with was “don’t be afraid to take feedback”. In this time period, I think a lot of people assume that what they do is perfect and that there is no room for feedback. But they’re wrong. There is always room for feedback and growing for someone in PR. There would be many times I would send Chris a pitch and he would send it back with many edits. Some people would look at that and be offended that they're work wasn’t exactly right the first time. But in PR it’s always important to get your stuff double, maybe tripled checked. You don’t want to send something with a million grammar errors or mistakes (may have had a few of those in my time), you want it to be the best version possible just like yourself. I don’t think anyone can prepare you for what working in agency is going to be like, every agency and company is different. Everyone has a different way of doing things and I think that’s something really cool about PR, it’s ever changing and you are ever learning.
Recently, stand-up comedian Louis C.K. returned to New York comedy club, the Comedy Cellar after nine months of being disgraced in the comedy/entertainment community due to sexual misconduct being brought to light in the wake of the #MeToo movement. I think what C.K. did was completely disgusting and unacceptable, but should that moronic behavior bar him from the opportunity to reflect on an awful mistake and emerge a better person? This was certainly an intense, controversial topic of discussion on social media.
Many celebrities voiced their opinion on the matter on Twitter and Instagram including “Saturday Night Live” cast member Michael Che on one side of the argument, and comedian Kathy Griffin on the other. Che made a statement saying he doesn’t know any of the accusers, but that everyone should have a chance to speak freely and make a living for themselves. Meanwhile, Kathy Griffin took to Twitter to point out that there are tons of talented, up-and-coming comics trying to get just a few minutes in the spotlight, and Louis C.K. gets to walk right back up on stage, taking that opportunity away from them.
It’s times like this when you take a step back and realize what a huge impact social media has had and the voice it’s given to so many people. Before the likes of Twitter, Instagram, etc., the public outcry over a controversy like this simply wouldn’t be heard. Whatever you might think of the Louis C.K. situation, we’re all empowered by the tiny devices in our pockets to speak publicly and demand change whenever necessary.
On the morning of August 12, 2018 racist and fat shaming tweets surfaced on Twitter belonging to beauty blogger, Laura Lee. In a series of poor actions, the YouTuber, who had amassed over 5 million subscribers, deactivated her Twitter, posted a regularly scheduled video without addressing the situation, and after backlash, uploaded a four-minute apology video.
The apology was not received well by her audience. Her subscriber count dwindled by the minute, with a total loss of over 600,000 followers. Major brands associated with the influencer, including Ulta Beauty, Morphe, Boxycharm, and more, severed ties.
In her apology video, the 29-year-old, who is an Alabama native, blamed the “so vile and disgusting” 2012 tweets on lack of knowledge, despite being 23 at the time of publication. She also claimed that they had been retweeted, when screen shots proved that they were in fact written by her. The backlash was obvious. Viewers did not believe crying for four-minutes on camera was the most effective way to acknowledge the situation. It resonated more with her feeling sorry for being caught, rather than accepting the blame of her mistake.
The infamous apology video received more than 671,000 thumbs down, earning a spot on the top 10 most disliked YouTube videos before being removed from her channel due to her believing “it doesn’t represent me well" as explained in a new video posted on September 25.
Today’s age of social media makes communication more prevalent than ever. One tweet can reach millions of people in a matter of days. Poor communication can have serious repercussions, as evident in Laura Lee’s case. By ignoring the outcry, her reputation was damaged. Now, her image will always be associated with her insensitive tweets and inability to own up to them.
On the morning of September 1, 2018, it was publicly announced that the Chicago Bears had acquired Khalil Mack from the Oakland Raiders via trade. During the three years that Mack spent in Oakland since entering the league he won numerous awards and built one of the more impressive resumés in football. Around the league, Mack had made himself known as one of the premiere defensive talents of this generation.
The Chicago Bears currently have one loss and one win on the season and seem to be picking up steam as the defense has been dominant. As an organization, they have already seen return on their investment. The Bears, after two weeks of NFL football lead the league with 10.5 sacks. According to Bleacher Report’s Winners and Losers from the Blockbuster, Khalil Mack Trade by Gary Davenport, the move to add Mack to the roster was bold but intelligent. As Davenport says, “General manager Ryan Pace demonstrated that he believes the Bears are close enough to contending that he's willing to sacrifice the future for the present.”
Behind strictly the business of the sport, it is evident that this trade was necessary to resurrect a sense of pride in the Chicago fan base. Since the Bears’ last playoff trip in 2010, Chicago has only enjoyed a singular winning season. Furthermore, since the 2013 season, the Bears only have 19 wins compared to 45 losses. In the article mentioned above, Davenport even referred to Bears fans as “beleaguered,” stating that “Over the past decade-plus, fans of the Chicago Bears have taken a beating.”
The upper management of the Chicago Bears organization have suffered a loss of support from its fan base due to a losing culture brewing in Chicago, and decided they needed to stop the bleeding. I think that with this trade, the organization had more than just on-field concerns in mind. Adding Khalil Mack to the roster was a Public Relations stunt between the franchise and its fans with a goal to reconcile the relationship between the two. As we have seen, it has already been a success. The Bears and their fans have enjoyed a win against a quality opposing team and fans have been coming out of the woodwork to show pride in the “Monsters of the Midway.” The team working to produce a revival in Chicago have seen glimpses of success as social media has been buzzing and the Bears are once again the talk of the league.
By: Ryan Musleh
By now, I am sure you all have been seeing posts on social media with the hash tag #metoo. These brave, strong survivors of sexual harassment and sexual assault are finally getting the chance to speak up about their experiences in only two simple words. This is one of the many ways that social media makes a difference. Social media has ability to bring individuals who have things in common together, no matter their location, socioeconomic status or ethnicity. We have seen this in many ways, from the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge to the hash tag #BlackLivesMatter. The #metoo joins as a powerful campaign. The hash tag #metoo is eye-opening in that it allows us to see just how many men and women have experienced sexual harassment and assault, at least those who are speaking up about it.
The message the people posting the hashtag are sending is that they all are standing up in solidarity. Social media can bring people together but has the potential to leave people behind. A large criticism of the campaign is that survivors do not need to share their story to be validated. Those who stay silent are just as valid.
The call to action for the men and women who have been seeing the hash tag #metoo is that they need to show support through social media to let these victims know that their stories are not being ignored. These individuals deserve to know their worth and know that they are not alone. This issue can no longer be ignored and with the help of media, victims can cope together with the support from everyone else.
By: Megan Rubinger
The day started early at 6:30 A.M. where 25 members of PRSSA gathered in the Student Service Center parking lot on Friday, September 15th. Our members traveled to Chicago for the first agency tour of the school year. The PRSSA members got the opportunity to tour two PR firms: Golin and Edelman.
We left Normal with seven packed cars traveling up to Chicago. The car ride was full of good music and great conversation. We arrived for our first agency tour with Golin. We all met in the lobby of the John Hancock Center where we travelled up Golin’s office space. It had a modern, open-concept style. The Golin employees welcomed us with warm, welcoming faces. Sarah Babcock, an associate at Golin, led the presentation along with other ISU alumni such as Nick Nottoli, Hannah Sheley and Kristen Kelley. In the presentation, the employees discussed the G4 method and different case studies such as Talenti, Humana and their famous client: McDonald’s. The G4 model is unique in PR; it allows professionals to have a focus whether that be research, creative content, pitching for new business or project management. As a member, I was incredibly interested in seeing the fresh take on what PR professional’s job description. After the presentation, Hannah and Sarah split us into groups and took us on an office tour (not after we took the beautiful view of the lake and the Chicago skyline).
We all met up in the lobby of the AON building where we all headed up to visit Edelman. Jordan Parisi, the Internship Coordinator for Edelman, led us to a conference room where Julia Fedor, Timothy Wrona, Molly Coyle and Jillian Collins Bohr. The time we had was spent asking questions regarding crisis communication, case studies, graduate school and many other topics. At the end of the time, we had time to network with speakers and again, take in the amazing Edel-views.
Both tours gave members the opportunity to see two Public Relations agency firms with vastly different work culture. Members were also given the chance to investigate the type of work they could be doing after graduation. The tours definitely give younger members like me something to look forward to.
By: Megan Pellock
My freshman year of college, I jumped into PRSSA and gained some great experience in the development committee, but wanted to do more even though I wasn’t sure what “more” meant. At the end of the year, I spoke to Tom Lamonica about what else I could be doing to gain experience. He suggested internships. I took that to heart and have since done seven internships. I’ve learned a few tips and tricks that I’d like to pass on:
1. It’s never too early to start! I started after my freshman year. I had grown my skills on the job in my internships rather than expecting myself to already have the knowledge.
2. It’s okay to not get paid right away. Many people told me not to intern with people that wouldn’t pay for my time. Contrary to their beliefs, I had the richest, hands-on experience with the places that couldn’t pay me. They let me jump in anywhere I wanted to learn and take on big projects.
3. Ask questions. I wanted to seem like I already knew all my stuff. I thought it would be embarrassing to tell my boss I didn’t know how to use some programs. I learned the hard way that if you don’t ask about what you don’t know, you will do something massively wrong. I promise. It’s always better to ask.
4. Use internships as a way to see what you do and don’t like. An internship is the time to try things out. It’s better to figure out that you hate media relations before you accept a fulltime position at an agency as a media relations specialist.
Most importantly, try to get to know your internship supervisor. They will be invaluable connections and friends.
By: Sydney Velez
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.