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
After numerous rewrites, I've come to the conclusion that I can’t do the PRSSA 2014 Leadership Rally justice with a blog post, but I will try my best. The atmosphere that weekend was contagiously inspiring and energizing. I’ve never been in a room with so many talented individuals before, all of whom I’m now able to call my friends.
Our weekend kicked off Friday night with a Welcome Reception Meet and Greet. All of us presidents were able to socialize with one another before what came to be the most educational and exciting weekends I’ve had as a PRSSA member.
Saturday morning started off with keynote speaker Ron Culp, public relations consultant and director of the graduate public relations and advertising (PRAD) program at DePaul University. Culp’s personal motto, “Focus, simplify and measure,” is one of the best pieces of advice I’ve heard as an aspiring public relations professional and leader. It’s easy to get caught up in the action and lose focus of what’s at hand. As our Chapter president, I will do everything I can to make this upcoming year the best for ISU PRSSA.
Culp also provided us with PRSSA leadership advice:
· Define goals
· Increase membership
· Assign responsibilities
· Engage members
· Increase social media
· Measure and celebrate success
Afterwards, there was an interactive workshop with Culp. This session was my favorite part of the morning. As PRSSA members, we’re provided with many opportunities to hear from industry leaders. But often times we hear their speech and that’s the end of it. This workshop provided us the opportunity to digest what we heard and discuss it with one another.
Culp assigned the tables in the room by topic: increase membership, engage members, increase social media, or measure and celebrate success. I heard so many new ideas in such a short period of time, and I cannot wait to implement some of them in our Chapter this year. As Culp said, “I lost count at 150 ideas in 30 minutes.”
After lunch, our rotating breakout sessions began. My first session was “Delegating to Managing a Team,” led by “Pritch” Pritchard, National Faculty Adviser. He talked about how delegation is the most crucial part to a leader’s success. Pritchard also walked us through four ways to delegate and empower people.
Followed by Pritchard’s session, I went to “Communications for Chapter Leadership,” led by Don Egle, National Professional Adviser. The most quoted piece of advice from the weekend arose in this session: “If you can’t do your own PR, why would I hire you to do mine?” This point should sing to any aspiring public relations professional. Communication is key to this industry, and if you can’t communicate on your own behalf, no one is going to hire you to communicate for them. You need to give people a reason to listen to you.
Saturday wrapped up with an exciting presentation by two members of the National Conference Committee. Held Oct. 10-14 in Washington D.C. this year, I highly encourage every PRSSA member to attend National Conference.
To kick off Sunday, Brian Price, immediate past president, and Heather Harder, national president, led a PRSSA Report. We then heard from Kelly Davis, PRSA board liaison to PRSSA. Davis reminded us that your time with PRSSA doesn’t stop when you graduate. One benefit of your PRSSA membership is a discounted PRSA Associate Membership rate.
Following Davis’ section, we again split up for breakout sessions. My first session was “Preparing for Leadership- ethics, diversity and traits,” led by Pritchard. As he said, “the first and priceless ingredient of success is integrity.” Again, I think this advice is important for anyone entering the public relations industry. You need to be reliable and honorable, which all goes back to doing public relations for yourself.
After Pritchard’s session, I attended “Conflict Management/Resolution,” led by Egle. He talked us through five different ways that people handle conflict. You first need to understand how you handle conflict, then how those you work with handle conflict, and know that it’s important not to take conflict personally, and disagreeing is okay.
Following the breakout sessions was my favorite session of the entire weekend: “Discussions among Chapters.” We broke into small, medium or large groups, depending on your Chapter size. Having a formal opportunity to share ideas with one another truly put the icing on the cake this weekend for me.
After our smaller group discussions, the whole group came together one more time to share best practices from the weekend. After the concluding remarks, 2014 Leadership Rally officially came to a close.
It still amazes me how in such a short period of time (three days), a group of people grew so close to one another. PRSSA has that effect- it’s contagious! I couldn’t have chosen five better letters to wear in my time here at ISU. I truly encourage every PRSSA member to become as actively involved as you can. I promise you, you won’t regret it!
By Cassidy Obis, 2014-2015 president
I traveled to Charleston, S.C. not entirely sure what to expect but eager to experience all that PRSSA National Assembly had to offer. Little did I know that I would come home armed with more knowledge about leadership and a better understanding of the resources we have as members of PRSSA.
These resources are invaluable, but they are not used nearly enough. National Assembly certainly created more awareness for me about how beneficial they are. Here are three resources members should be using:
1. PRSSA Internship Center: Create a MyPRSA account to search for internships by employer, location, start date or keywords. Members can also upload their resume for employers to browse. Career tips on resumes, cover letters, portfolios, interviews, and more are also provided.
2. PRSA Jobcenter: Get access to thousands of job postings in the public relations, communications and marketing industries. Useful career advice and information is also available.
3. PRSA Ethics app: Download this easy-to-use app on your phone to have all the answers about PRSA ethics in your pocket. This app will be your aid when challenging issues arise. The app includes: The PRSA Member Statement of Professional Values, the PRSA Code Provisions, every Professional Standards Advisory, the PRSA Ethics Quiz, the PRSAY blog and email access to members of the Board of Professional Students.
During the leadership training workshops at National Assembly, I gleaned many wonderful tidbits of information about leadership that are very applicable for those in leadership roles.
There are four leadership traits that are underrated and deserve more consideration:
1. Decision Making
Decisions should be grounded in research and provide the key reasons why an idea will work. Decision making in the executive boards of PRSSA Chapters should always have the members in mind. Understanding the wants and needs of the members should be the foundation of every decision. Being able to stand up for decisions when facing questioning is also a needed skill. A helpful question to ask when making decisions is, “How does the decision fit into the big picture theme or goals for the society?”
“Tact is the lubricant that makes possible smooth human relations,” said the 2011-2013 PRSSA National Faculty Adviser Robert “Pritch” Pritchard.
Tact is knowing when to do or say something and when not to. Tact implies a spirit of cooperation; it is not limited to being polite. Tact is a sensitive and an intuitive appreciation for what is right. It is also an insight into the motives of others.
Part of being a courageous leader is identifying your goal and setting tangible objectives. Courageous leaders prepare and set goals for the year during meetings prior to the start of the school year. Courage also means learning to accept responsibility for projects and ideas. Lastly, courage is accepting failures and growing from them.
4. Humor and personality
In order to create a good environment for Chapter members, it is important to use humor and to show your personality as a leader. Human interaction goes a long way in retaining members because it creates relationships. To show personality and humor is to be vulnerable with Chapter members, and that creates a mutual respect.
National Assembly was truly life-changing, and I know that it helped me become a more informed leader. I am so thankful to have the opportunity to pass along this knowledge to my Chapter.
By Lily Sherer
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.