This past Friday, November 4, the Grand Valley PRSSA Chapter was joined by members of the Wayne State and U of M Dearborn Chapters to embark on some insightful agency tours in Detroit. The morning started with a gathering at Starbucks in the Renaissance Center (that is once everyone fought through Detroit traffic and a confusing design layout).
View from the 29th Floor in the RenCen courtesy of @wsuprssa
Our first tour was with General Motors (GM). Although GM is not an agency, it gave us a great feel for corporate PR and also how corporate integrates the use of agencies. GM talked a lot about how their communication department is organized; that includes everything from product communication to retiree communication. While walking around the department we stumbled upon GV PRSSA’s former presidents, Stephanie Rice, desk. This is where agency comes into play with corporate. Stephanie is actually an employee of Weber Shandwick. Corporate communication departments will work with a particular agency and integrate their professionals into their daily PR tasks. Oftentimes, the company does not have enough staff to cover everything so they use an agency. They search for a particular agency that specializes in a particular need so they will use those professionals. Stephanie is working onsite at GM doing PR for the numerous auto-shows that happen during the year. After learning about GM and how their communication department works, they talked to us about their internship program. They only take the best of the best and they hire very early for their summer internship program (had completed hiring by Nov 2011 for summer 2012).
The second agency tour we went on was at Lovio-George. This is a small agency in Mid-Town Detroit. The agency is in an old, three-story house, creating a beautiful environment and a homey feel. There were between 7-10 employees and one intern. Although the agency is rather small, they work(ed) on some very large accounts, some of which include the Parade Company, River Days and the 2006 Superbowl. One of the most enthralling things about this agency was their true love for Detroit. The owner, Christina Lovio-George, gave us one of the most inspirational pep talks about Detroit I have ever heard. Knowing their true love for the city really gave us an idea about the type of work and time they put into their clients.
After a brief, but yummy, lunch at Panera, we headed to Weber Shandwick in Birmingham. This tour was much different than the first two because they essentially let us run it. They gave us a tour of their building which was very cool. It used to be an old department store so it was an open layout with lots of natural light. After the tour, we sat with a few of the agency professionals and asked them numerous questions ranging from tips for graduating seniors to information about their clients. At Weber Shandwick, we grew a better understanding of the integration of agency employee’s into corporate offices. Weber Shandwick does a lot of work with GM and has a few people on-site with them. It was interesting to see the agency side of working with corporate after hearing about it from the corporate perspective earlier that morning with GM. Although we probably could have talked for another hour, we had to get back to the Renissance Center to tour one last agency, Franco PR Group.
Franco PR Group attracted all of our attention by sitting us at a table that was full of candy. Like Lovio-George, Franco does a lot of work with only a small number of people (17). Each member of their team works on numerous accounts and some of those accounts are full campaigns, not just special needs. The team at Franco really gave a sense of family and devotion to their work. We learned that to intern at this agency, one must have prior internship experience. Even if your experience wasn’t as challenging or exciting as you would have liked, Franco likes to see that you simply have had the experience and are still striving to learn more.
With a long day behind us, it was time to say goodbye to Detroit (for now). The day was filled with excitement and learning, and I was glad I was able to be a part of this opportunity. Each agency had something new to teach us and I think by the end of the day, our group was even more excited to be in PR than we were before the day began.
Blog post written by GV PRSSA Chapter member Allison Golan.
GV PRSSA’s next agency visit will be Friday, November 11, 1:00pm at Haworth, Inc in Holland.
OSU Regional Activity 2011 Recap by Molly Murray
Last Thursday, eight GVSU PRSSA members headed to Columbus, OH for Regional Activity at Ohio State University. The weekend was filled with tours, networking, speakers, panels and lots of lessons to bring home to Grand Rapids.
We began Friday morning at SBC Advertising, a fully integrated agency that works with clients such as Elmer’s Glue and Bed, Bath & Beyond. We toured its creative, interactive and public relations departments and then sat down with the PR team, who did an excellent job answering our never-ending questions.
Tip from SBC: If you want a job in another city, don’t just send out your resume. Tell them WHY you want to work in that specific city.
After a quick lunch we were off to Paul Werth Associates. Also an integrated firm, Paul Werth works with a variety of clients, most notably in public affairs. We sat down with some of the Paul Werth team and learned more life lessons to help us succeed as young professionals.
Tip from Paul Werth: Always take the meeting. Explore every opportunity, even if it isn’t the best fit for you right now. You never know what connections you’ll make.
Last but not least, we went out to Easton to visit Fahlgren Mortine, yet another integrated agency with an impressive reputation. Fahlgren works with clients in a variety of industries from consumer to healthcare to automotive. Most well known by Michiganders: McDonald’s and Kroger. After a tour, we sat down with the Fahlgren PR team to learn more about the world of agency PR. They were an awesome group and we could see how much they loved their jobs and how important teamwork is in an agency.
Tip from Fahlgren: Never underestimate the power of networking. Even if it doesn’t work out the first time around, making the connections is what matters. Keep in touch and don’t be afraid to take someone out for coffee.
After an afternoon of superb shopping, GVSU PRSSA was off to Dave & Buster’s for dinner, networking and fun with local professionals and fellow conference attendees. It was a great event, we caught up with a few of our new friends from Fahlgren and met many more (and I blew everyone out of the water when it came to arcade games… just sayin’).
Saturday was another early morning, this time at Ohio State University for breakfast and a day full of speakers, networking and problem-solving. Everyone (minus our beloved Sarah Myles) stayed loyal to the Mitten State and upheld the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry (respectfully, of course).
Enough about the Buckeyes. Breakfast was followed by our first session with Brandi Hann of SBC Advertising (we were lucky enough to see her again) who spoke to us about interoffice dynamics. Brandi’s presentation was especially helpful to those of us about to start our first job.
Tip: Refill the coffee. Don’t know how to do it? It’s called Google… or use that college brain of yours. You’ll figure it out.
Next we participated in a crisis communications exercise with fellow PRSSA members. The crisis involved a local ice cream shop that had a chemical leak while the owner was away and had to recall weeks worth of product. Serious business. GVSU PRSSA was more than prepared to react: identifying key publics and a spokesperson, communicating with employees and alerting the media, all with poise and transparency.
A quick lunch break followed where we heard from our good friend Nick Lucido, National PRSSA President and recent Michigan State University graduate. Nick had great advice, as always, but lost points with GVSU when he threw Michigan under the bus and sided with the Buckeyes. We’ll forgive him, eventually.
Lastly, we attended two young professional panels: one “recent young professionals” and one “veteran young professionals.” They provided us with tons of tips and shared their experiences as “newbies” in the PR world.
Tips: Ask questions. Be confident. Enjoy the experience of job-hunting. Don’t feel ashamed when you cry upon receiving your first loan bill.
Here is what the rest of the group had to say about Columbus:
“I enjoyed hearing from the recent grads who have successfully started their careers. They gave me more confidence to go out and get a position after school. I really learned a lot from all their tips and suggestions and hearing their stories. I also found myself critically thinking and examining myself, my resume, and how I am branding myself, all of which, I believe, will help me move forward into my career.” – Alex Page
“I enjoyed touring different agencies outside of Michigan to see how their daily operations may differ from what we typically see. The ability to network with professionals and peers was an absolute plus.” – Kristina Green
“I learned the value of a phone call. HR people receive endless amounts of emails and sometimes it is best to just pick up the phone and ask when they are hiring and if you can set up an informational interview. It’s best to call in the early morning or at the end of the agency day. If applying for a position it’s always best to follow up 2-3 days after.” – Sarah Myles
“I really enjoyed connecting with other young professionals while hearing how PR is being taught and used by them.” – Kevin Virant
“I was excited that our chapter had the most members attending the Regional Conference. Our chapter is growing and becoming more involved in national initiatives and this proved to our region that we are involved and will participate in networking opportunities with other PRSSA members.” – Stacey Nardozzi
“I liked the networking and real life examples offered by the professionals. It was helpful to hear from Brandi Haan from SBC Advertising regarding what employers are looking for in a new hire. I learned that experience is key and who you know can be very beneficial since the majority of professionals we heard from had obtained their job through someone in their network… I also learned that GVSU PRSSA has got it goin’ on and we know a LOT compared to other schools… AKA our competition. It was a blast and I met a ton of new people that I plan on keeping in touch with.” - Adrienne Rehm
We had a great weekend and I’m sure the whole group will be more than willing to let you in on some more insider secrets.
With graduation right around the corner (TWELVE DAYS), Sarah, Stephanie, Adrienne and I were constantly reminded of how much we have benefited from PRSSA and our last big event was a great send-off. We encourage all of the underclassmen to take advantage of these opportunities next year and cannot stress enough the value of networking, both with professionals and your peers.
For more updates on the conference, check out the hashtag #PRCapital on Twitter!