A Year on the PRSSA National Committee

I stood in front of more than 150 PRSSA students across the country and began my speech, “Hello everyone!  I’m so honored to be standing here to talk about my goals and dreams for the position as Vice President of Regional Activities.”  We were in Austin, Texas for the PRSSA National Assembly.  I was running against five other candidates for a role that had truly made me fall in love with public relations.

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I started my journey in PRSSA as a member of the Regional Activity planning committee as a freshman and continued onto the role as Regional Activity Coordinator as a junior.  The opportunity to work with PR students across the country to plan similar conferences was a dream.  And that dream was made a reality as I assumed the role as National Vice President of Regional Activities.

A year later as I finish my term, I look back and am nostalgic for all the amazing times I had in this position and grateful for the opportunities it gave me to meet and work with inspirational students across the country.  The most interesting part of this position is the interaction with students you never would have otherwise been in touch with.  The organization has 10,000 students.  That is 10,000 students with different interests, different personalities, different accents, different goals and different dreams.  Some students aspire to be in a large city, and other students aspire to be in a small town.  Some students aspire to work in non-profit organizations, and others aspire to work in agencies.  Some studies are interested in new media, and other students are more focused on traditional media.  But one thing is for sure, every student I have met has inspired me in different ways.

So for those of you who are fortunate enough to have more years in PRSSA, make the most of it.  I can honestly say that my time in PRSSA has been the best part of college.  Traveling around the country to different conferences to learn more about public relations and meet the future of the industry is more fulfilling than I can even put into words.  Witnessing the satisfaction and excitement of the Regional Activity coordinators when they secured a speaker or a sponsor was probably just as exciting for me as it was for them.  I have always loved mentoring other students, and being in this position gives you the ability to help so many more students than you even thought was possible.  As a member of the National Committee, you go beyond your position.  I was in charge of managing the Regional Activities, but I found myself helping students secure internships, editing resumes and cover letters and giving general career advice.

Even though being active in PRSSA can seem daunting, it ends up being so fulfilling.  We may always preach about professional development and networking opportunities, but do not forget about peer networking.  Your peers will one day be your colleagues and may even be your boss.  Learning to work with people who are different from you will be valuable in your future career.  And making those connections will not only be a way to make new friends but may lead to future job opportunities.

I know I am a bit of a PRSSA fanatic, but I have good reasons for that.  Become active in your local Chapter and even on the national level.  The end result will make your time spent SO worthwhile.  And as I pass the torch to the next Vice President of Regional Activities, I am only excited and thrilled to see what the committee will accomplish.

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Complain Online Lately?

It is pretty much a known fact that I am brand loyal.  Whether it is VerizonPoland SpringsStaplesJetBluePantene Pro-v,FedEx (I’m literally looking around my room and naming off brands), I stick to what I like and feel comfortable with.  No, this isn’t a blog post about brand loyalty again, but it is a post about what goes happens with some of the other brands that I haven’t had the greatest experiences with.

It is known that negative feedback about a company has a larger impact than positive feedback.  People want to know the bad things that are happening in the world.  The good news is not always as interesting, and the public tends to ignore it.

Within the last year, I have come into a habit of complaining about brands over the Internet when I have a bad experience.  My first instinct is to immediately pull out my phone or computer and tweet about the bad experience, update my Facebook status or even write a blog post about it.  When did this sudden change come?  Why do we all of a sudden feel the need to complain publicly instead of dealing with the problem by ourselves and moving on.  I guarantee there are much worse things in life than UPS not delivering a package on time (see, there I go again with my “not so subtle” complaints).

I remember when I was younger, my family was going on a trip to Florida.  When we got to the airport, our flight was canceled and I swore that we should never fly with that airline again.  I started telling everyone (who would listen at least) that we should always fly Continental, and it became an ongoing joke with my family.  (This was the pre-JetBlue days).  But when did it become necessary to tell as many people as possible and in real time when a company drives me crazy?

Honestly, I want to be the one to tell one of those amazing stories that I complained about a company on Twitter, they DMed me and fixed all of my problems.  I would LOVE to write a blog post about how my flight was canceled (even though JetBlue would never do that), but they came to the rescue and fixed it!  That is actually 95% of the reason that I tweeted a lot when I was stuck in Dallas in March (the other 5% was because I was very angry).

Advertising Age just wrote an article called “Are Major Marketers Training John Q. Public to Whine on Web?” This article was exactly what I was planning to write my blog post about.  There are so many stories published about companies virtually “coming to the rescue” to fix a problem.  As more and more companies invest in digital to increase revenue via Twitter and other social media outlets, more and more consumers take advantage of the possibility that their problems may be solved quicker than they think.

So what does this teach us?  To complain about our problems publicly?  To take word of mouth communication to the next level?  To target companies that have departments to handle virtual complaints?  Will the companies really be able to handle the massive amounts of complaints they receive?  Sure we hear some of the solutions to the problems, but how many issues do they really resolve?

And to end my blog post, I need to give a special shout out to Verizon for the the launch of their new campaign Rule the Air.  Check it out on the website!

 

General Update

I think this has been the longest that I haven’t updated my blog, so instead of writing about a specific topic, I decided I was going to just give a general update (thus the creative title) about what has been going on in my life.

So after spending a few weeks at home (for the first time since I went to college – maybe even before that), I started my internship at Burson-Marsteller.  I did not know what to expect walking into the internship.  Every student who has taken PR classes heard about some of the famous campaigns that this agency has led.  Even though it has only been a couple weeks, I have constantly been impressed by the time and attention the interns in this program receive.  Everyone has gone out of their way to make sure I understand assignments and clients.  They explain how my contributions are a piece of a puzzle that accomplishes a larger goal.  I have been quickly welcomed as part of a team by my supervisor and practice group.

In addition to learning from hands-on experience, I have gained a lot of knowledge and insight through the training sessions provided to the intern program.  Our session on media relations provided me with a greater understanding of the strategy behind reaching out to reports for placements.  The presentation showed me yet another piece to the puzzle that makes up Burson-Marsteller.  We have more presentations on the agenda for the summer, but we will also have the opportunity to learn from past interns and evenHarold Burson at luncheons throughout the summer.  The combination of learning from presentations and mentors is extremely beneficial as we become public relations professionals.

I also went to Scottsdale with the new PRSSA National Committee.  We had two days of meetings and discussed all of our plans for the upcoming year.  It was truly motivating to be in a room of such ambitious and intelligent people.  And I must say, this organization is going to see great things in the upcoming year starting immediately.  But I am honestly counting down the days already until the PRSSA 2010 National Conference in Washington D.C.

And even though this is completely off topic from my internship and retreat, I have to mention it.  I saw Toy Story 3 in 3D.  I laughed, and I cried (literally cried with tears streaming down my cheeks).  It was a great movie.  But it also made me realize that one day EVERYTHING is going to be in 3D.  I wonder what things my children will laugh at me for not having when I was younger (like I laugh at my mom for not having color TV or things like that), and I realized that this is going to be one of them.

So that is the gist of what has been going on in my life.  I’m exploring NYC, interning, PRSSAing (yes, that should be a verb) and seeing movies (Eclipse to come in 9 days!)  More posts to come (and not just “general updates”)!

 

Graduation Reflection

This past weekend, I attended Boston University’s Commencement Weekend.  It was basically my one last hurrah with many of my friends who are a year older than I am.  We spent some time in Cape Cod and then came back to Boston for graduation.  It was a great weekend, but it felt like any other weekend at college.  It did not really hit me until I was driving back home from Boston that my experience at Boston University would be very different in the future.  Many people who have been in my classes and who have been easy to get into contact with will not be there anymore.  One of my close friends is moving to Mississippi for Teach for America so I will not see her for at least two years.  Others will be going back home to California, Florida, New York, and even Scotland.  College as I know it will be different.

So all of this got me thinking: What do I want to remember from college?  What experiences, professionally and socially, are important to me?  What do I want to make of my senior year?  Do I have any regrets from the past three years?  Should I have done something different?  Is there something I need to experience in Boston before I graduate?  Will I live in New York City after I graduate as I have always planned?  Should I look into other cities to live in besides Boston and New York City?  What is keeping me on the East Coast?

I remember when my sister and brother-in-law graduated from college.  They had been in Philadelphia for the past four years but had not experienced everything Philly had to offer.  My brother-in-law went back after graduation to relive some of the historical sites that he had not visited during his time at the University of Pennsylvania.  This made me think too.

The past semester, I tried to go out of my way to do some things that I may not have done in the past.  If I was too tired to meet up with a friend who just graduated, I made myself do it anyway.  If I was too tired at night to go to a networking event, I made myself do it anyway.  I wanted to make sure I made the most of my time in Boston because I was realizing, slowly, that it was limited.

With only nine months left in Boston, I want to take this to the next level.  My goal for my senior year is to do one thing each week that I normally would not do.  That may be a tourist attraction or going to dinner at a restaurant besides Noodle Street (which is a feat for me).  But whatever it is for that particular week, I want to go the extra mile to take advantage of college and Boston.

People always say that your college years are the best years of your life.  That may be true for some but not all.  I am a positive person and hope that my future will be just as fulfilling if not more than college.  However, I want to make the most of the opportunities I am fortunate to have in the meantime.  Anyone have any suggestions about Week 1?  I have until September to decide!

 

The Dreaded Day…Valentine’s Day

It comes around each year.  Some people fear it, some people look forward to it.  Yes, it is February 14th, Valentine’s Day.  It forces people to deal with their feelings about a significant other or someone they hope to be with.  It forces some people to spend a great deal of time and effort (or money) to show another person they care.  And then it forces certain people to spend a day sulking because they do not have another person to share this special day with (those are the people who call it a “Hallmark” holiday.  Which brings me to my point…is it a Hallmark holiday?  When did it become generated by this company?  How is PR related to Valentine’s Day?

In many ways it is a Hallmark holiday.  Besides Christmas, Valentine’s Day is probably the day that the card industry makes the most amount of money.  People must buy multiple cards to send to friends and family or boyfriends or girlfriends to show they care.  And when Hallmark sells candy or teddy bears, their profit increases even more because these are the “necessary” essentials for a Valentine’s Day date.  Advertisements are prevalent leading up to this day too.  Every company is trying to convince people to buy from them – buy flowers, buy jewelry, buy a vacation package, buy SOMETHING for that special someone.  They convince every person that if they do not buy something that his or her significant other will feel unloved or unappreciated.  Even though the PR of Valentine’s Day is discussed in all different forms of media, the advertisements take this holiday to an extreme level.

So think about your own personal experiences.  Did your boyfriend or husband take you out to a night restaurant?  Did he buy you roses?  Did you go on a romantic date?  If he did not do this, would you have been displeased with him?  Would you have told him it was a problem that he did not do this?  If you do not have a boyfriend at the moment, did you spend the day hating the holiday and everything it stands for?  Did you hang out with your girlfriends and talk about how dumb this holiday is?

That’s public relations for you.  PR is what makes people dwell on this holiday.  It is what drives profits upward in preparation for the 14th.  Personally, I love the holiday, and I love PR, so it all works out for me.  But the magic of Valentine’s Day doesn’t lie with the love felt on Valentine’s Day, but it lies within the field of public relations.