As the co-coordinator for this year’s Regional Activity, PR Advanced: Brand Yourself, the last six months of my life have been dedicated to planning and executing this event. I am extremely passionate about three things: PRSSA, event planning, and most importantly, the Regional Activity. That made the last six months of my life not easier, but enjoyable. After working hard to secure speakers in December after worrying that they would not want to attend the event, working with Boston University’s Student Activities Office to fill our paperwork, figuring our logistics, schedules, committee agendas, delegating tasks to the conference committee, seeking sponsorship and career fair participants, promoting the event through social media outlets, talking to other chapters via Twitter, Facebook, e-mail, and phone calls, and more (I seriously could ramble on and on), the event finally came together on February 27, 2010. Not only did we have a stellar line-up of speakers, but we had a stellar committee and as Brandi Boatner, Immediate National PRSSA President put it, ROCK STARS as our participants.
The committee arrived at the Photonics Center to begin setting up at 8:00 am. One of the things that I really liked that we did this year was having donations to send to Haiti. We always have a raffle, and usually every participant gets a raffle ticket. But this year, we charged for raffle tickets and were able to raise $87 to send to Haiti. We also had people sign up forPenelope Trunk’s website, Brazen Careerist.
To start out the conference, Chelsea Alexander (the other conference co-coordinator) and I introduced Penelope Trunk, who spoke about her five tips to branding.
1) Stick with it: She told us that she was awake at 5:00 in the morning before coming to our conference to write a blog post to send to her editor. That is pretty early, but she knew that is what she had to do. I know what she means. I have stuck with my blog for almost two years now. I try to write a blog post at least once a week (it usually ends up being 2-3 per month) because I know that I have something to say. I can come up with an idea. I can write what is on my mind. And I can give up 30-40 minutes to do so.
2) Be optimistic: You might not succeed the first time. You might not even succeed the second time. But if you stick with it (see above) and stay optimistic, good things will come. You need to be positive in order to make things work.
3) Do cool things: Attending the conference is cool. Joining and becoming involved in PRSSA is cool. I think I already have this one set!
4) Take leaps: Do something you would not normally do. Take chances. Take risks. Great things do not happen to those who simply wait on the sideline.
5) Be known for your ideas: In a world where people might be afraid of other stealing your ideas, YOU CAN’T BE. If someone takes one of your ideas, great-you had an AWESOME idea. There are more where that came from. Don’t get discouraged, and don’t be afraid to tell everyone what you are thinking.
The next part of the conference was a breakout session. There were 5 speakers: Jacob Cass, junior creative at Carrot Creative, Heather Huhman, founder and president of Come Recommended, Joe Januszewski, vice president of corporate partnerships at the Boston Red Sox, Linda Shear, executive coordinator of Whole Foods, and Karen Raskopf, senior vice president of corporate communications at Dunkin’ Brands. I was running all over the place, but I did have the chance to stop by Heather Huhman’s session for a little bit. She spoke about the importance of buying your own domain name, starting a blog and website (I have the blog part, now I need the website part), buying business cards, and really developing your brand. She told us to Google ourselves and see what comes up. I have to admit, I have a Google Alert for my name, and I do Google myself from time to time. My blog,Twitter, Facebook (I have mine completely public-I am proud of my Facebook and have nothing to hide), PRSSA involvement,LinkedIn page, JSPRAA scholarship award, high school basketball stats, Gold Congressional Award, and others come up. Sometimes, pages that say “Rachel sprung into action” come up, but for the most part, my personal brand through Google is in tact. Phew! I can check that off!
After lunch, we had another breakout session, where participants were able to attend another of the five speakers from above. I was welcoming speakers for the next part of our day, so I helped set things up instead of attending a session.
Our next part was dedicated to the HR Panel. We had Chris Gaturu from the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, Kate DiChristopher from Marina Maher Communications, Maggie van der Leeuw from Burson-Marsteller, and Jason Glashow fromFleishman-Hillard. They sat at a table in front of all the participants. The cool part about this session was that we had a projector showing TweetDeck in the back. I was the moderator and alternated between taking questions from the audience and taking questions from TweetDeck. It was an interesting combination of corporate, boutique, and larger agency points-of-view. For example, Chris thought that your GPA should always be on your resume, and Jason did not agree. The larger agencies looked for certain qualities that the smaller agencies did not. The agencies expected written thank you notes, while corporate expected you to shine in an interview without the thank you note being too influential. It was interesting to see them go back and forth about these issues. It was also interesting to hear about using Skype for interviews (especially when people are interviewing from other countries), the use of e-portfolios, assessments on site after interviews, etc. We spoke about the role of social media, of course, and how that influences a candidate’s chance of an internship or job. They all did agree upon one thing: ASK QUESTIONS IN AN INTERVIEW. If you are properly prepared for an interview, you should know a lot about the company, and you should have a question based on that research. Before you step in the door, know a company from the front to the back. If you really want the internship, PROVE IT!
Next, Brandi Boatner spoke about PRSSA and encouraged participants to join and utilize all the benefits this organization provides. Now she knows how to energize and excite an audience! I’m already an active member of PRSSA, but listening to her speak only made me want to be even more involved. She was seriously the energy of the conference, especially when everyone was growing tired toward the end. I cannot wait to see her again soon!
Next, I introduced our keynote, Fiona Morrisson, director of brand and advertising at JetBlue. Her presentation was wonderful! She told us how JetBlue branded itself against larger companies in a way to ensure success. One way was they said they were “jetting” instead of “flying” from place to place. They used the slogan “Happy jetting.” She also spoke about the creation of T5 in the JFK airport to give customers the ultimate JetBlue experience from the time the person arrives at the airport to the time they are gathering their bags at the destination’s airport. Then she connected everything back to personal branding and how important it is for all individuals. She was truly fabulous and fantastic. During the career fair, many people approached her.
The career fair was truly spectacular. We had agencies including 360 Public Relations, Burson-Marsteller, Business Wire, Cone, Edelman, Fleishman-Hillard, HubSpot,Internshipratings.com, Marina Maher Communications, ML Strategies, Morrissey & Company, MS&L Worldwide, On-Message, PRSA Boston, Pub Club of New England, Racepoint Group, Solomon McCown, and TalentCulture. And during this time, we also found out that we were the #2 trending topic in Boston (see above picture)!
Following the career fair, we went to Eastern Standard for appetizers and conversations. This gave us the opportunity to talk further with professionals and may students from out of the state. Participants were glowing with all of the information they had learned throughout the day. It was truly fabulous to hear how grateful they were to attend an event like this. I was proud of our committee and the event we were able to plan, but I also had great pride when I heard this was the best conference they had ever been to. I was approached by many people asking if they could meet me to talk about getting an internship, even if they did not have experience. They wanted to get involved in PRSSA. They wanted to start their own blogs. They wanted to create websites. They just wanted to make sure they were properly branding themselves. THAT is what these conferences is all about. I’m truly proud to have been involved in this for my third year.