PRSSA National Conference 2017

Every year PRSSA hosts a national conference in conjunction with PRSA’s national conference. This year, six of our executive board members were fortunate enough to attend the conference in Boston. For five days, our six board members learned the best ways to lead and develop our chapter, and heard from current PR professionals about different career paths in PR. Each attendee wanted to describe her favorite session, and what she learned from it.

Ann Klinck

One of the most valuable sessions for me, was the Chapter President’s Leadership Workshop ran by Ben Butler founder of Top Hat. Butler reviewed several different tactics of how to best lead a group of people, that are ultimately your friends. When working in any student organization, you’re likely to become friends with those around. It can be hard to tell your friends no when you’re there so excited about an idea, but Butler reminded us that any leader is meant to guide the ship, and if your friend’s idea isn’t on track with the goals for your group, that needs to be made clear.

Butler’s presentation was interactive, and gave us the opportunity to make use of the other leaders around us, by having us engage and give each other tips for how to deal with difficult situations. Butler also gave us his seven tips to how to be a BAD leader:

  1. Don’t care about your people
  2. Don’t have a roadmap a all
  3. Say yes to everything
  4. Don’t delegate
  5. Don’t do what you say
  6. Don’t be resourceful
  7. Don’t have mentors

Butler’s best piece of advice was leaders, was “To be in loop, not the loop itself.” Leaders should be hands-on, but not in the nitty gritty. You need to be able to trust the people you work with to do the tasks expected of them, and if you can’t, then you have the wrong team. At the end, I felt ready to come back to the chapter to start new projects, and knew that my team was ready for them.

Kayla Ramans

PRSSA National Conference exceeded my expectations. The word “conference” can have a boring connotation, but last weekend was far from it. It made me excited to go into the professional world in less than a year. Every single professional that I talked to stressed the message that you should be in a job that you love. I was lucky enough to travel with 5 other executive board members of our chapter who are smart, driven, young women of public relations. National Conference provided a lot of opportunities to listen to accomplished PR professionals speak, but I’d have to say that my favorite speaker was Jason Rentner from the Professional Football Hall of Fame. As the Director of Digital and Social Media, Rentner generates almost all of the content for the Professional Football Hall of Fame. This past summer, I worked at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville, Tennessee so I have a newfound love and interest in Halls of Fame. I left conference feeling motivated to research and find a job that I am passionate about. Lastly, Boston won me over and I can’t wait to go back some day.

Sara Salter

The 2017 PRSSA National Conference was an entirely new experience for me — and a unique one for sure! I have never seen such a dedicated crowd from all over the country that care so much about the public relations field all in one room. It was great to see so many professionals willing to share even just a fraction of their knowledge with us students. Also, Boston was an absolute delight to explore when we had time. I would highly recommend to anyone that has an opportunity to go that they take advantage of it in the years to come! Overall, it was such a fantastic and educational experience!

My favorite session was called “Heartbeat Heard ‘round the World: PR is Nonprofits Lifeline “. Mary Klemenok, Lori Steele, and Kirsten Heintz spoke about their viral story experience. They were part of an organization called LOPA , Louisiana Organ Procurement Agency, that focused on promoting the benefits of organ donation and getting people to consider becoming a donor. Their session followed the story of a man who was cycling through many states to hear his daughter’s heart which went to a young man who had a heart attack. It was extremely emotional and highly interesting how they handled the many uncertainties of the scenario such as when he would arrive on father’s day and how they would get the press to be there. They went so far as to get him a stethoscope and a recording of the heart for his trek home. The press coverage was extremely raw, emotional ,and highly successful. It spread like wildfire and there was no negative feedback like most viral videos. The family involved all became huge advocates for LOPA’s cause. I really enjoyed seeing how they handled everything from start to finish as well as how they were able to get media hits all around the world to spread this fantastic cause.

Elissa Hill

My favorite session from National Conference was called “Invention in PR” with a presentation from Adam Ritchie, who owns his own public relations and branding agency. The session was ultimately analyzing a case study of a project he had done for a specific client — his own band.

The band decided to go the nontraditional route in releasing a new album actually on the label of a beer can. They collaborated with a local brewery to craft the beer itself and designed a label with instructions on how to tweet at the band with a specific hashtag in order to receive instructions on how to download the songs.

The PR plan was incredibly unique and cross-bred a few great vantage points for the brand: music, food, and technology. Because of this, they were able to take advantage of a ton of different opportunities for earned media coverage, both in trade magazines and national publications. Quite simply, no one had ever done anything like it before.

Ritchie’s ultimate message focused on the creative side of public relations and designing campaigns. There’s nearly always value in doing something that has never been done before, and all it takes is an idea and a client willing to put that idea into action.

Morisa Young

My favorite session from conference was “Tips From New Professionals”, led by a panel including Laura Daronatsy Fooks from Lockheed Martin, Chad Furst from Booz Allen Hamilton, Andrea Gils from the University of Kentucky International Center, and Veronica Mingrone from Canvas Blue. They answered questions about worries that we might have as young people heading into the professional world.

All four panelists emphasized the importance of PRSSA, explaining that it is valuable for experience and interviews. They recommended treating PRSSA like an internship. There are many opportunities that arise and prioritizing PRSSA will allow you to gain the most of your experience. They also suggested connecting with PRSA members in the companies and fields that you are interested in working for. PRSA has an abundance of members who are willing and eager to help young professionals, and they can help build your network.

The panelists also gave advice on how to balance social and professional relationships. They focused on the idea of “have fun at work, but still get the job done,” emphasizing that your job comes first. It is likely that your coworkers will be some of your closest friends because you are spending over 40 hours a week with them, so it is also important to be yourself. If you find that you are working at a place where you can’t be yourself then you should consider finding a new job. “In the end, a job is just a job.”

Meghan Reinhardt

I was incredibly excited to travel to Boston, Ma. last weekend to represent Penn State PRSSA alongside some of my great executive board members. As a public relations major with a passion for video, I would definitely say that the most valuable session for me was ‘Message in Motion: Visual Storytelling’ by Ian Cohen, Global Executive Producer & President, Content Creation and Innovation at Weber Shandwick.

Cohen had incredible experiences to pull from before coming into his role at Weber Shandwick including working for Martha Stewart and Rachael Ray. He started off his presentation by saying that the power has shifted from publishers to platforms, meaning that content that turns viral isn’t in the hands of writers or media outlets, but platforms such as Facebook or Twitter. This shift has created a new way that communications professionals have to adapt. We don’t work in a newscycle anymore. We are now working in a ‘viewscycle.’ Cohen discussed how the best work nowadays shouldn’t have to be ‘sold in,’ the media outlets should be the ones wanting to grab the content from the hands of the PR firm or company generating it.

But, Cohen didn’t leave us hanging as he gave advice on how to achieve success when creating branded content ‘in a distributed world.’ The five principles he taught us were to add value, be trustworthy, produce at a high quality, make a newscycle, and be experimental. After giving us the insight on the keys to success, Cohen shared with us some fun case studies that he oversaw at Weber Shandwick. My favorite case study he showed us was the Ocean Spray video he did. Basically, Jimmy Fallon mentioned on his show that he wanted cranberry slices to be a thing. Weber Shandwick picked up on this after Jimmy mentioned the slices again. The creative team exemplified Cohen’s idea that ‘content trumps cash’ in that they made a cheap, high-quality and playful video of the team creating Ocean Spray Cranberry Slices. They tweet the video to Jimmy and ended up getting millions of views and shares. Cohen shared with the group that to have Jimmy actually be in the video, it would have taken $2.1 million. Instead, they got creative and found a cheaper way to get just as many impressions on the video. Case studies like this make me excited and eager to work in a field with endless creative possibilities.

After going through case studies, Cohen left us with a message that had me a bit stunned. He told us that ‘the pace of change will never be this slow again’ which after hearing that I totally agree but it was never something I had thought about prior to this talk. It is absolutely frightening to think about, but it also creates a challenge for the current and future communication specialists of the world. Not only did I walk away from this talk inspired by the possibilities of my future career, but I also saw the type of boss I’d like to work for. Cohen is constantly pushing the envelope, challenging his employees and still seems passionate about the work he is doing even after six years at Weber Shandwick. That is something I didn’t expect to get out of this conference, but as a senior about to enter the workforce, I found that a valuable takeaway.

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