Networking is arguably the most important practice in the world of public relations. Everyday we are given opportunities to grow our networks with peers, colleagues, and professionals. Organizations such as PRSSA and GrandPR are excellent ways to initiate these connections. My time with PRSSA has taught me the importance of networking and how beneficial it can be. When I joined PRSSA the thought of introducing myself to the Kelly Rossmans and Andy Hetzels of the world terrified me. I had no idea what to say or how to say it, and when I did say it; did they really care?
Today, my position as Vice President of Professional Development with PRSSA requires constant networking. Scheduling and organizing agency tours with some of Michigan’s most prominent names does not happen overnight. As part of my position, it is necessary that I make connections and continuously maintain my networks. Through this, I am able to connect PRSSA members to area professionals.
The following are my suggestions when it comes to networking:
Initiation: When you are presented with a networking opportunity, take it! These opportunities can be in the form of mixers, agency tours, lectures, and event volunteering. Be active while you’re in attendance, standing on the sidelines watching other people shake hands won’t expand your network! Chances are, professionals are there for the same reason you are.
Make sure you have your name rehearsed (I’m not kidding, this comes from experience). It helps if you have a reason for connecting with this particular person. Are you trying to land an internship with their company, schedule a job shadow, or simply to make a connection?
Example: “Hello my name is Kelsey Manas, it’s so nice to meet you! I was considering applying for your internship this winter, would you mind telling me more about this?”
The person you are speaking with is either going to:
- Tell you more about it
- Connect you with someone who can tell you more about it
- Schedule a time where they can tell you more about it
Follow-up: Congratulations! You have expanded your network. The next and most important step is to maintain this connection. Introducing yourself once and exchanging business cards does not warrant a connection.
- Send a quick e-mail following your interaction
- Be sure to note your name and reference the topic you discussed during your first meeting
- If it seems appropriate, suggest a time the two of you could meet for coffee
Keep in mind the schedule of a PR practitioner; most of us are lucky to sit down for dinner once a week. If they are unable to schedule a time, don’t take it personally.
Stay Connected: Occasionally check in with your connection following a second meeting. A great way to do this is through social media. Connect with them on the most popular platforms, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. By interacting with them via social media, your name stays top-of-the-mind without becoming creepy or annoying.
Once you know how to network, it is easy and fun. I suggest starting with your class and PRSSA/GrandPR peers. People love to talk about themselves, so start there. You truly never know when you will need the expertise or help of someone in your network. Do not discount any connection, and don’t let any go to your head.
Vice President of Professional Development
Starting my college career as an advertising and public relations major at GVSU, I was prepared to face the facts and realize that I’d be pulling all-nighters working on class projects- the CAP 220 plan book or CAP 321 media kit, for example. In addition to class assignments and my bad habit of acting as the grammar police among all of my non-PR friends, I decided to put my writing and communication skills to a more productive use by working for real clients in the greater Grand Rapids area as a GrandPR staff member.
I was hired as an Account Associate for GrandPR as a sophomore and within just one semester I gained experience, knowledge, and attained a stronger passion for this firm and the field. Throughout my sophomore and junior year, I had the opportunity to work with a variety of clients ranging from nonprofits, to small businesses, and even a music festival. I was able to not only acquire more skills and experience, but also a greater understanding of various areas of PR.
This year as the CEO, I’m responsible for recruiting new clients, working directly with our clients, running our bi-weekly general assembly meetings, serving as a liaison between GrandPR and PRSSA, and managing the entire staff. I’m thankful to gain leadership experience in this new role and work with a great group of aspiring PR professionals.
Being active in GrandPR and PRSSA has been extremely beneficial for me. Professors, professionals, and alum always stress the importance of networking – so get out there and do it! Take the time to volunteer for a local PR firm. Take advantage of mentor mixers and other networking opportunities. Constantly make connections – even with peers! Grab a coffee with someone in your CAP 220 class. Sit next to someone new at every PRSSA meeting. Attend PRSSA national and regional conferences. You never know who could be a beneficial connection for you in the future. I’m grateful that I’ve been able to have these opportunities and I hope that you become involved and gain rewards of your own.
GrandPR is currently hiring for the Winter 2014 semester! The application can be found at grandpr.org under “Employment.” Please email your completed application and resume to Audra Hartges at email@example.com. Applications will be due Wednesday, November 20.
I’m always happy to connect – if you have any questions about GrandPR, PRSSA, classes, etc. you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow me on Twitter @morganyingst
CEO of GrandPR
On November 8, Grand Valley PRSSA members had the opportunity to travel to Detroit for a series of agency tours with the Detroit Lions, Fox Theater and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. From sports PR to entertainment PR and health communication, our chapter was able to experience a number of real-life examples of how public relations is effectively being executed on a daily basis. The Detroit Lions, our first stop on the agency tours, gave us a unique look into how public relations campaigns have helped to not only communicate a message and build brand awareness, but to also help revitalize the city of Detroit during a time when they needed it most.
Elizabeth Parkinson, Senior Vice President of marketing and partnerships for the Detroit Lions, shared how these four simple words have helped engage their fans on a whole new level and align with their commitment to the city at the same time.
“This campaign is genuine, simple and Detroit-centric with creative executions that allow for seamless integration across all communication platforms.” –Elizabeth Parkinson
The One Detroit One Pride Message:
- This very intentional message was featured in the Detroit Free Press after the city declared bankruptcy, helping to communicate that the NFL team was committed to partnering with the city during this tough time
- Billboards also featured the message in the city throughout the campaign
- The campaign integrated the message into every game ensuring that fans come to the game and leave without any question of what the theme for that night is – ex. Hispanic Heritage and Breast Cancer Awareness Month
- The stadium tunnel features the message, providing a unique view for fans to help tie the message together
In Stadium Giveaways
- The Lions worked with Nike, a national retailer, to extend the campaign farther than they could alone through the sale of One Detroit One Pride merchandise
- Through social media, fans are able to submit photos using the #OnePride hashtag. Photos are then featured on the Lions’ website and rotate on the messaging boards in the stadium on game day
- This has resulted in over 14,000 submissions from fans and caused the #OnePride hashtag to trend nationally
- A video of Lions players reciting a pledge, which is the foundation of the campaign, plays before every game helping to unite and rally fans, players and coaches behind the overall movement: The Pledge
Overall, the campaign has been a huge success and has helped to connect the Lions team as an integral part of the revitalization of the city of Detroit. This was a great example of how a genuine message can be integrated across a number of channels to create tangible results and become more than just words.
“Anytime you have a message, you need to follow it up with action. People know when it starts feeling fabricated.” –Elizabeth Parkinson
The Lions have also launched Living For The City, a philanthropic program with a goal to support transformational efforts that improve the well-being of metro Detroit’s underserved communities. This campaign partners with organizations to create a more proactive presence for the Lions in the community during a time of resurgence in Detroit.
- Jessica Hines
Vice President of Public Relations
On Wednesday, October 30, I went through a process that many advertising and public relations majors will have to go through, the internship interview. There are many things that run through my mind when preparing for any type of interview: What will I wear? Will I get lost finding the place? What time should I leave to arrive at an appropriate time? While all these things are important, none of it will matter if you can’t answer the questions the interviewer asks you in an honest and informed way. These are a few areas that I focus most on when going into an interview:
- Do Your Research
When I’m about to go through an interview I think it’s important to do your research. One of the questions I was asked was what I knew about the organization. Since I had looked at the website I was able to say some facts that I found. Research is also a good way to show how interested you are in the organization.
- Stay Humble
I know something I struggle with is attempting to be humble and sell myself at the same time while being unique. A question that I was asked is how I would describe myself in two words. Questions like this are difficult because you want to have out-of-the-box answers while remaining humble.
- Be Honest
Being honest is really important when interviewing. If you start saying you can do anything and everything when in reality you can’t, when you are hired you will be clueless and look foolish. It’s good to be aware of what you excel at and what you need help improving. For instance, at the interview I was asked if I knew how to use Excel. I do but I made sure to say that even though I did I’m still looking to improve my skills in it. By saying something along those lines you are letting them know that you know the basics but may need to ask questions
- Have Questions Ready to Ask
It is good to be ready to answer every question an interviewer throws at you. But it is also important to have questions ready for the person who is interviewing you. You may be interested in the job, but you have to make sure it’s also the right fit for you. Some questions I tend to ask include: What are kind of hours will I have if I get this internship? Will I have a supervisor or someone to check over my work? What kind of duties will I be doing specifically? Some of these questions may be answered in the interview, so it’s good to have some back up questions.
- Be Confident
In the end, an interview is simply a conversation. Both the interviewer and you are looking to gain something from this experience. Don’t think they aren’t as nervous as you either. The interviewing process can be a stressful one for both parties, because they want to find the best candidate for the job as much as you want to be that best fit. My last piece of advice would be to simply go into the interview prepared and confident, because if you do you will ace any interview that comes your way!
A side note, I did end up getting the internship I am basing this blog on. Hopefully my advice will help someone land their first or next internship. Good luck!
- Stephanie Kotschevar
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania is known as the birthplace of American democracy and referred to as the “City of Brotherly Love.” As the home to Declaration of Independence, the Liberty Bell, and Independence Hall, the site for this year’s Public Relations Student Society of America National Conference is rich in history. The seven GVSU PRSSA members who were fortunate enough to attend the conference from October 25-29 not only indulged in the city’s history, but it’s culture as well.
From the start of our stay, we were introduced to the history of Philadelphia through our temporary home, The Lowes Hotel. Located in the center of the city and in close vicinity to the historic district, the hotel had a history of it’s own as being recognized as the first skyscraper built in Philadelphia. Over 1,000 PRSSA students from across the country gathered at the hotel for the conference.
In between chapter development sessions and prominent speakers within the field, we were able to spend our downtime exploring the city. We walked to various restaurants within the area including Hard Rock Cafe and Green Eggs, a local favorite for brunch. In addition, we also made a couple trips to the Reading Terminal Market, home to lots of fresh food, delicious pastries and chocolate treats.
We were thrilled to be able to experience the conference with fellow PRSSA students in such a historic city, but our trip wouldn’t be complete without an iconic Philly cheese steak. We decided to make the experience as authentic as possible by engaging in the infamous battle between the two cheese steak heavyweights, Geno’s and Pat’s.
Situated on the corner of 9th Street and Passyunk in South Philly, Geno’s and Pat’s have been competing for the title of “Best Philly Cheese Steak” for almost 50 years. Pat’s, “The Original,” is acknowledged as inventing the sandwich in 1930, though when Geno’s opened across the street in 1966, Pat’s competition claimed they had perfected the Philly staple. The competitors both include rib-eye steak, melted cheese, and grilled onions in their sandwiches, with options for different types of cheese. The restaurants distinguish the locals from the tourists by having unique methods in ordering a sandwich. After we had the privilege of tasting a Philly cheese steak from Geno’s and Pat’s – the majority of our members made our vote. The winner: Pat’s!
We couldn’t leave Philadelphia without stopping by other infamous locations in the city. Just a short walk from our hotel, we went to LOVE Park to see the LOVE statue. We also stopped by Congress Hall where the United States Congress met from 1790-1800. Just across the street, we saw Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell – one of our nation’s most recognizable symbols of freedom that dates back to 1776 when it summoned citizens to the reading of the Declaration of Independence.
Attending the 2013 PRSSA National Conference not only allowed us to meet other PRSSA students from across the country and network with prominent professionals in the industry, but also indulge in the culture, history, and mouthwatering sandwiches that Philadelphia offers. I highly encourage PRSSA members to take advantage of the opportunities available by attending national conference. Next’s year’s conference will be held in our nation’s capital – Washington D.C.!
- Morgan Yingst
PRSSA’s 2013 National Conference was held in Philadelphia, and offered a variety of opportunities for its 1,100 attendees to learn, explore, and discuss the public relations profession. Each day, students at the conference were able to choose from a smorgasbord of workshops and sessions led by fellow students or industry pros. Here are brief recaps of three sessions that left a big impression on me:
From the Crisis Trenches: Blazing a New Trail in Communications – Rae Bazzarre & Katherine McLane, LIVESTRONG Foundation
On a name recognition scale from 1 to 10, Lance Armstrong is a 20. That’s why, when the America’s most famous cyclist admitted to doping in 2012, the LIVESTRONG Foundation (link to: www.livestrong.org), which he founded, went into crisis mode.
Rae Bazzarre and Katherine McLane were the public relations team at the foundation, and handled the wave of questions and media attention that Armstrong’s admission triggered. Bazzarre and McLane turned the crisis to an opportunity by integrating the nonprofit’s mission into each of their statements.
“When your mission is in jeopardy, it’s not time to whisper, it’s time to shout.” – Rae Bazarre
The crisis response was so successful that it earned the LIVESTRONG Foundation a Silver Anvil- the public relations industry’s highest award.
The Passion Conversation: Be an Explorer of Your Own Passions – Geno Church, Brains on Fire @genochurch
“No passion, no conversation. No conversation, no word of mouth. No word of mouth, no successful business.”
The Passion Conversation (link to: www.brainsonfire.com/books.thepassionconversation.html), co-written by Geno Church, is on my Christmas list. Geno’s presentation at National Conference touched on how organizations, businesses, and products really succeed when their audiences and consumers are passionate about them. He pointed out that advertising prompts only 22% of conversation about any product.
As PR experts, communicators, and marketers we need to realize the importance of word-of-mouth, and find ways to cultivate, among publics, the passion that will help our organizations succeed.
Chapter Presidents’ Leadership Workshop – Cassandra Bailey, Slice Communications @cassoryl
If I could only take away one thing from all of National Conference, it would be five words that Cassandra Bailey said during her presentation to chapter presidents…“Different is better than better.”
Cassandra pointed out that our lives are so full, and the markets so flooded, that it is a struggle for anything to stand out. Slice Communications (link to: www.slicecommunications.com), her Philly-based PR firm, turns molds upside down and creates success for clients by helping them be truly different than their competitors.
Cassandra also shared how individuals can gain success by being different. Some of her top tips?
- Find and embrace your unique brand. Be both interested and interesting.
- Study everything. Be well read and constantly evolve and a person and professional.
- To really stand out, love every minute of your work.
Each of these sessions at National Conference presented new ideas, inspired me, and had me furiously taking notes in nearly illegible shorthand. To learn about more National Conference sessions visit www.prssa.org.
- Audra Hartges
President of PRSSA
On October 11, Grand Valley PRSSA had the opportunity to travel to Lansing for the second agency tours of the semester. While there, members toured the House Republican Communications, Truscott Rossman, and Lambert Edwards & Associates. Members were also able to network with fellow PR students during a social with the Michigan State University PRSSA Chapter. Overall, the Lansing agency tours gave members an opportunity to gain valuable perspective into a number of different sectors of the public relations industry. GVSU PRSSA is looking forward to the Detroit agency tours coming up on November 8.
First Stop: House Republican Communications
“During media training, you should drill them a lot harder than the media do.”
- House Republican Communications
Exploring our state’s Capitol Building and getting a glimpse into the world of public affairs.
Next stop on the tours: Truscott Rossman
“You absolutely have to be able to communicate through writing and you have to be fearless.”
- Kelly Rossman, CEO and Principal Truscott Rossman
“The beauty of agency work is that it is constantly changing.”
Final Stop: Lambert Edwards & Associates
Members were encouraged to share things they LEArned during their time with LE&A associates:
“It’s not who you know, it’s what you know.” -Stephanie Kotschevar
“Start early! Things like approvals take some unexpected time.” -Alana Holland
“You’re going to lose a client, get to a place where you’re okay with that because it’s not personal.”
“As a PR practitioner you should be able to make both a pro argument and con argument for each client you have.” -Leah Mitchell
“Be strategic when you get your shot.” -Kristen King
“The Lansing agency tours gave me an incredible opportunity to gain advice that will help me be successful in my future. These agency tours allowed me to make beneficial connections, gain life-long knowledge, and learn about the business from a professionals stand point.”–Katie Vanderlinde
Gaining valuable internship experience is an important part of developing into a young professional who is ready to enter the “real world” after graduation. Too often however, PR students get caught up with the notion that the only place to gain this experience is by working for a big name PR agency or firm. My advice when it comes to internships is to start small and don’t be afraid to explore all aspects of the communications field.
If you have strong writing skills don’t be afraid to put them to good use in any setting. This simplest way to put it is WRITE! This is one of the most important skills for PR professionals to have mastered. Whether it is for your school newspaper, blogging for your PRSSA chapter or even your own personal blog..WRITE! Don’t shy away from journalistic opportunities either – you will be able to learn the ins and outs of interviewing and writing news style content which is extremely helpful when you’re communicating with the media themselves one day.
Although this is an entirely different major in the big scary world of the business school, having these basic skills will only increase your own marketability when looking for a job! Although “street teams” sometimes get the rap of being the dirty work, but don’t discount them all so easily. Street team marketing gives you valuable experience interacting directly with the consumer and learning how to work on all aspects of promotions from start to finish. Don’t shy away from opportunities like this – and many companies are looking for students to fill these roles!
Whether it’s a small gathering for employees at the company you are interning at, a Twitter chat for your PRSSA chapter or a large-scale event that you play a smaller role with, being able to say you know how to plan and organize an event is an appealing skill set as well. Even if you don’t take an “event planning” internship, seek out ways to get involved with whatever your business or organization is planning – and trust me every company plans events in one way or another.
This is the one skill that I think many students tend to overlook. I think all PR professionals should possess the basic skills needed to create content that can help deliver a message. You don’t even need to have an internship to get these skills – just start practicing! Take photos and create content that is visually appealing. Learn the basics of Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign – they make YouTube videos that even the most technologically challenged people can understand, I promise!
We all know the importance of having a working knowledge of a variety of social media platforms. Even though you won’t be running your company’s accounts from day one, have the courage to suggest potential content that will knock your employer right off their feet. Also, make sure you are constantly promoting a positive social media presence on your personal accounts because we all know employers are looking!
…and of course
Ahhh, our two favorite words. Having all these other skills in your back pocket is important but don’t forget to search for internships that will not only treat you like the young professional you are, but will challenge you and give you responsibilities that will both grow your strengths and challenge your weaknesses.
- Jessica Hines
Vice President of Public Relations
On October 2, 2013, GVSU PRSSA members had the chance to attend the WMPRSA Mentor Hub Mixer, an event that allows business professionals to offer career counsel, knowledge, and wisdom to those students from local colleges and universities looking to make their career in communications. The mixer took place at The Factory located on Fulton Street in downtown Grand Rapids. Upon arriving to The Factory, members were offered light refreshments and had to opportunity to network with both students and local professionals.
Shortly after, the evening moved on to a ‘bio auction’ where mentors were introduced by Derek DeVries, senior associate at Lambert Edwards & Associates, in game show-style with information from their resume, including current and past professional experiences and hobbies. Mentors came from a variety of backgrounds and sectors of the public relations industry. After the formal introductions students had the opportunity to seek out and talk with a number of professionals according to their personal areas of interest.
Mentors provided a range of advice including tips on how to get an internship, resume advice and other useful strategies to get noticed by employers. Other discussions involved learning what each mentor did and what their typical work environments and social lives looked like. Students attempted to meet with as many mentors as possible in the time allotted. Afterwards, mentees were able to rank who they would like to be their mentor and from their both mentors and mentees would be paired in groups to start the mentor process on a more intimate and beneficial level.
This was an amazing opportunity for GVSU PRSSA to meet and create connections with experienced professionals in the area. PRSSA members gained valuable insight into what the professional world is like and will be able to pair with mentors that hold positions in the industries that interest them and begin the process of learning and growing together.
Written by: Stephanie Kotschevar
Mercy Health Saint Mary’s Agency Tour
On September 27, 2013 GV PRSSA had to opportunity to visit the Mercy Health Saint Mary’s campus on the first agency tour of the semester to hear from a number of communications professions. Upon arrival we were escorted to the Lack’s Cancer Center Grand Conference Room where cookies and beverages were provided for us, which we were all very excited about.
The agency visit kicked off with an introduction from Katie Halloran, the APR, PR and Communications Manager for the Grand Rapids market, who set up this amazing opportunity for us. She talked a little bit about the background of Saint Mary’s and their recent merge with Mercy Health Partners and we were shown a short video that was part of the internal communication efforts for the re-branding.
Kyle Pressley, Social Media Specialist for Mercy Health, talked about the role social media has played in the merge between the Saint Mary’s Grand Rapids and Mercy Health Muskegon campuses. Kyle manages all of the hospital’s social media accounts including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. All of these outlets allow him to tell the story of the hospital and the stories of their patients. Since the merge with Mercy Health is still so new, Kyle said it has been a challenge combining the social media for all the various sectors but a change that benefits the brand overall.
Next Keri Kujala, who manages Special Events and Donor Relations, talked about what her job entails. Keri is responsible for all aspects of events from start to finish whether that is stuffing envelopes, moving tables or standing next to the CEO introducing him to donors. Although she is responsible for the event planning aspect of communications, she said that having a public relations background has really helped her writing skills when creating copy and invitations and allows her to have an understanding of how to maintain successful relationships with the various companies and donors she works with.
Angela Klinske, an integrated communications consultant, then talked about how she manages all the different aspects of communication relating to the recent merge. She said in the beginning she had to overcome some resistance to change in different aspects such as the logo and colors. She explained the difficulties that exist when two competing companies come together as one and stated that it is her job to help various audiences understand how the merge works best for both Saint Mary’s and Mercy Health and enables them to share their best practices and become a stronger brand. Angela also explained that in all aspects of health communication, “Story telling has become a big part of marketing.”
To wrap up the presentation Katie Halloran talked in more detail about her position. She explained her three main roles which include being the gatekeeper of information for both patients and media, being on call 24/7 to handle possible crisis situations and coordinating strategic PR initiatives from a regional standpoint. She is also responsible for the internal communications of the hospital which involves keeping and maintaining employee engagement. Katie said she enjoys working for Saint Mary’s and encouraged students that when they find a company that fits their own values and mission and it makes it all worth it.
GV PRSSA was interested in learning about the background of the professionals, what their day to day schedules looked like, and some of the things they struggled with when first starting off in their careers. The communications professionals came from varying backgrounds and degrees but Keri explained that going into any new position requires a lot of on the spot learning and as a young professional you just have to be able to roll with it. Overall, the agency visit was helpful and informational to all the GV PRSSA members and gave great insight into all aspects of health communication and public relations in a health care setting.
Written by: Stephanie Kotschevar and Jessica Hines