Seventeen members of the ISU PRSSA Chapter traveled to Chicago for their first agency tour of the year. Members toured Red Frog Events and Current Lifestyle Marketing on Friday, Sept. 5. Despite the early wake-up call and sporadic storms, the group showed enthusiasm for the day’s events.
Red Frog Events
Upon arrival for our first tour of the day, the Red Frog Events office portrayed a campground with a hard-working, busy, but fun energy. Just beyond the main entrance resides a life-sized tree and camper, which employees can use as a workspace. There is also a conference room that fits the campground theme. The floor looks like grass, the conference table resembles a picnic table, and the lights are encased by mason jars hanging from the ceiling.
Leading our tour was President of Passion Cynthia Yang. President of Passion? At Red Frog Events, you have the ability to create your own title. Yang began by explaining how Red Frog Events is an in-house company, meaning it works on its own events. Some of the Red Frog Events brands include Firefly Music Festival, Warrior Dash, American Beer Classic, the Bacon Chase, and more. According to Yang, only a few employees work on an event that can take at least six months to plan.
In the past, the company produced “frogs,” who are full time employees, from “tadpoles,” who were interns. For efficiency purposes, the internship program at Red Frog Events no longer exists. Now, frogs are hired from the outside as opposed to being cycled through the company. The advantages to being a frog strongly outweigh the disadvantages. Yang joked, “The only thing I have to worry about is gaining weight because there is food everywhere!” As a frog at Red Frog Events, you have the opportunity to create special bonds with fellow frogs, travel while working, and you also receive unlimited vacation days. If this wasn’t enough to convince you that Red Frog Events is a fun-loving and caring workplace, then perhaps knowing that employees are allowed to bring their dogs to work will change your mind!
Current Lifestyle Marketing
The atmosphere, employees, and work at Current Lifestyle Marketing definitely live up to its name. The office is modern with pops of color, employees were playing bags during “happy hour,” and the women who led our tour were very up-to-date and knowledgeable on “current” topics.
Four employees welcomed our group and showed us a presentation on the “current” Current Lifestyle Marketing. To expand a campaign to a wider audience and gain more attention, Current Lifestyle Marketing reaches out to celebrities to be spokespeople for the product. Country singer Kellie Pickler and football linebacker Patrick Willis recently promoted the “Rockin’ Refuel” campaign. The opportunity to work on large-scale campaigns such as this one is invaluable, especially for the one lucky intern.
The Current Lifestyle Marketing internship program offers one intern the chance to work on several accounts within different industries. This opportunity provides a way for the intern to find their “niche” within the company and put it to good use. Former ISU PRSSA member Maddie Zenz was the most recent intern and explained the variation in terms of time spent as an intern. She said there is no set limit on how long you are an intern. It is decided based on client needs and your performance.
Both Red Frog Events and Current Lifestyle Marketing taught the group about the importance of organizational culture. Members should take advantage of the agency tours because they are an excellent way to interactively learn about a company.
By Page Crane
Illinois State University PRSSA members traveled to Chicago bright and early Friday, April 11 to visit Weber Shandwick, GolinHarris, and Ogilvy.
Former ISU PRSSA President Kaitie Ries led the tour at Weber Shandwick, where she is now an assistant digital associate. Ries encouraged members to tweet about the tour with the hashtag #WSWChat. During the presentation, digital analyst Alberto Fabian used the hashtag to demonstrate how Weber Shandwick analyzes social media and trending topics.
Members learned that Weber Shandwick is the second largest public relations agency in the world. However, they have evolved into what the presenters described as an “everything” agency, offering a 360 degree integrated marketing and communications program for their clients.
Ries and her colleagues explained that Weber Shandwick is a very millennial-friendly place to work and that the agency employs people from diverse skill sets. Weber Shandwick has an “evolving talent pool” of storytellers, reputation managers, directors, strategists, chefs, and more. Bringing variety into the agency makes Weber Shandwick a better-rounded, more creative firm.
The tour presentation explained more about Weber Shandwick’s healthcare, digital, creative and analytic teams. When it comes to analytics, it’s all about reports, tracking, and environmental scanning. The analytics team at Weber Shandwick uses the program Brandwatch to monitor social media engagement. During the presentation, Fabian used it to track #WSWChat and show what kind of engagement was happening and whether it was positive or negative. Members thought this was a cool way to “show, not tell” what analytics is all about.
The internship program at Weber Shandwick is called “engaging u.” Interns are included in everything from the start of the internship, even brainstorming sessions. Ries said that an intern’s attitude toward their accounts is really important, since it will affect how they will perform and enjoy their accounts.
Many agencies are known for the long hours their employees work, so members were relieved to hear that Weber Shandwick interns only work eight hours and leave at 5:30 p.m. every day. However, employees are dedicated and work until the job is done. Public relations is a 24/7 career.
In the Q&A portion of the presentation, members asked about the benefits of working in a large agency. Ries and her colleagues explained there is more opportunity, bigger and more clients, and a bigger budget in larger agencies. At Weber Shandwick, interns get exposure to a variety of clients and a breadth of resources.
Ries went on to say that mentorship and guidance is a big part of Weber Shandwick. Interns are not just thrown into the mix without direction. At a smaller agency, however, interns really “do everything” an assistant account executive would.
After the presentation, members were divided into smaller groups where they could get advice and ask more specific or personal questions. Members were encouraged to always tell their bosses and co-workers what they are interested in helping out with and to be their own advocate.
Next, members traveled two floors up in the John Hancock Center to visit GolinHarris, Weber Shandwick’s sister agency. Al Golin founded the agency after cold-calling Ray Kroc, who had just purchased a small hamburger chain called McDonald’s. To this day, McDonald’s is still GolinHarris’s biggest client. While the agency has a young feel, many employees stay at GolinHarris for a long time.
Presenters Rachel and Brianna explained GolinHarris’s revolutionary g4 Model, which places employees into one of four communities: Catalysts, Connectors, Creators and Strategists. GolinHarris offers a short quiz on their website that tells people which community is the best fit.
Catalysts are “change agents who drive the integrated campaign execution and champion new opportunities for our clients.” Catalysts are in the “eye” of the hurricane because they make everything come together.
Connectors are “channel experts who engage consumer, business and trade audiences through 15 distinct touch points.” Connectors engage the media and are storytellers at heart.
Creators are “bold thinkers who generate game-changing ideas, and design and produce highly engaging content.” Creators bring stories to life visually and think in terms of the big picture. Both Rachel and Brianna are members of the Creator community.
Strategists are “business analysts whose insights inspire campaigns and whose analytics measure success.” Strategists bring measurable data that help make informed and meaningful decisions.
The last agency PRSSA members toured was Ogilvy. This agency provided a unique insight into its culture and values through video clips.
David Ogilvy was “The Original Mad Man” and the agency has deep roots in the advertising world. Today, Ogilvy is a fully integrated marketing communications firm. The agency has many different branches and focuses including advertising, customer engagement, cause-related marketing, direct marketing, healthcare advertising, media relations and promotional marketing.
Ogilvy seeks interns and employees who harness eight specific habits that bring out inner greatness. These habits are curiosity, idealism, courage, persistence, candor, intuition, free-spiritedness and playfulness.
Visiting the offices of WeberShandwick, GolinHarris and Ogilvy gave members an inside look into the “real world” of public relations. Members left the tour better prepared for their internship and job searches thanks to this learning and networking experience.
By Lily Sherer
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
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
Did you miss our first visit to St. Louis and FleishmanHillard? Here are five quick highlights from November’s tour:
1. FleishmanHillard is #25 in Advertising Age’s “Best Places to Work”
FleishmanHillard, an Omnicom-owned agency, is home to over 2,600 employees in 80 offices across 29 countries. Top-notch healthcare coverage, domestic partner benefits and a wellness program are just a few of the benefits that employees enjoy. The company also invests in its employees by providing training and development opportunities. When they are hiring, they look to their past and current interns to fill the spot. In fact, they are currently accepting applications at many offices, including St. Louis!
2. Diamonds are a girl’s best friend
This agency has helped promote gemstone and diamond jeweler LJ International’s ENZO diamond. If diamonds aren’t your thing, FleishmanHillard has many other well-known clients, including EA Sports, Energizer, AT&T, Barnes & Noble and Procter & Gamble. Many memorable campaigns from some respected brands have been created at this St. Louis based agency. The Kräftig Lager and Kräftig Light beer campaign, for example, was built and advertised by FleishmanHillard. They even designed the packaging for this local brew, marking a start to their transition to being more than just a public relations agency.
3. Finding your niche
FleishmanHillard serves a variety of industries, such as consumer products and services, food and agribusiness and healthcare and technology. They also focus on practice groups in brand marketing, media relations, digital, crisis management and strategic integration. The tour group had the opportunity to have a casual but informative Q-and-A with Jennifer Pruett, vice president of internal communications, and three current interns who worked on different teams: Chase, Jill and Bri. Internship seasons are available for fall, summer and winter/spring. Jen advised to apply for the fall season as it is the least competitive and you get a longer experience at the office.
4. True or false: This tour rocked. TRUE!
“TRUE“ is an online magazine that FleishmanHillard updates daily, including a quarterly themed issue. Pruett gave a great presentation about the company’s meaning of TRUE. This is just one way FleishmanHillard is bringing leaders together to create a community of executives, authors and practitioners and give insight on top issues. TRUE is the place where innovations are born, hot topics are debated and problems get solved. Members also had the chance to see how FleishmanHillard incorporates social networking into its agency. The company runs various Facebook pages for other companies such as Sleep Number and Ford.
5. Getting in touch with your inner kid
We ended the tour with a visit to the St. Louis City Museum. Home to MonstroCity, an interactive playground made of wrought iron slinkies, fire trucks, slides and a ball pit, and a Ferris wheel on its rooftop, the City Museum was a fun and memorable way to end the first St. Louis agency tour. This was a great was to bond with members and build friendships within the Chapter. With all the stress of school, this was a great way for everyone to relive what it was like to be a kid. If you didn’t have the chance to attend this agency tour, be on the watch for the next one.
Click here to see photos from our tour!
By Ali Seys & Brandy Lewis
One of the benefits of being a PRSSA member is the chance to attend agency tours. Several times throughout the semester, Illinois State University’s PRSSA chapter has the opportunity to tour various agencies and network with professionals. Agency tours provide members with the chance to see a company up close and personal and are a great way to get a feel for different types of organizations and environments. We kicked off the school year with our first tour to Red Frog Events and Zapwater Communications.
Red Frog Events
When you walk into Red Frog Events’ office, you may think to yourself, “is this a workplace or a play place?” With its unique S’mores treat stops, foosball tables, high-five practice walls, tree houses, conference rooms with swings instead of chairs and more, you can’t help but wish you worked in a place filled with so many fun amenities. Each area inside Red Frog Events has different distinctive designs, making it easy to see that it is a company driven by creativity.
Red Frog Events is known for its events, including the Great Urban Race, Warrior Dash mud run, Firefly Music Festival, American Beer Classic and more. Each year event attendance increases, the events grow bigger and Red Frog continues to become more successful.
While on the tour, members learned about the internship opportunities offered by Red Frog Events. There are many perks of being an intern at Red Frog Events, including great work experience, competitive pay, unlimited vacation days, traveling while working and many more. If you have not gotten the chance to check out Red Frog Events, take a look at all they have to offer as a company.
Zapwater Communications is a small boutique agency located in the West Loop of Chicago. They have clients in areas such as lifestyle, fashion, hospitality and education. Upon walking into the Zapwater Communications office, it feels like a laid-back work environment. The office has a studio feel, with a few rooms providing office space for the employees. Zapwater has approximately 15- 20 employees (including interns).
Assistan Publicist Megan Breehl and Senior Publicist Stephanie Poquette presented case studies and discussed some of the work Zapwater has done for its clients. Some of the agency’s clients include Topshop, Hotel Sax Chicago and The Tie Bar. They also shared general advice and insights about agency life, how to succeed in public relations and Zapwater’s internship program.
Interns at Zapwater are assigned to several accounts within different areas. This way, interns are exposed to multiple niches and are hopefully able to find their “fit.” Employees at Zapwater have to be quick, innovative thinkers to come up with new and interesting ideas for clients. Megan and Stephanie stressed the importance of company “fit” and enjoying the culture and work environment. Passion and personality are some of the keys to success at both Zapwater and other PR agencies.
It was a great opportunity to be able to get a closer look at an agency that is smaller in size. For students looking for a small, close-knit agency, Zapwater could be a perfect fit.
By Lindsay Mikrut
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.