PR Advanced: Be the Change (Boston University’s Regional Activity)

Every year Boston University hosts a conference, and every year I have been impressed by the dedication of the conference committee, caliber of speakers and involvement of professionals, agencies and professors.  This year my expectations were completely surpassed under the leadership of conference coordinator, Ginny Soskey.  I have had a different perspective of the conference this year as I worked with PRSSA Nationals to oversee the Regional Activities across the country.  But it was nice to be at Boston University to see the process throughout the past few semesters.  I saw as Ginny dedicated her life and put her heart and soul into this event.  Not a day went by without her working to make it a success, and it was better than I could have imagined.  I’m truly excited to see all the wonderful things Ginny (who is only a sophomore) is going to do in the future with BU PRSSA and beyond.

For those of you who were not able to attend PR Advanced: Be the Change, there were many fantastic speakers who I was able to listen to.

Jon Iwata, Senior Vice President, Marketing and Communications, IBM


Jon Iwata started off by discussing the strengths of public relations: listening and adapting.  He then spoke about the marketing funnel:

He then split his talk into four sections: Forge a shared belief, Spur people to act, Sustain Behavior and Enable advocacy.

In this digital age, people find out about things almost instantaneously.  During his presentation, he admitted that people were probably posting about his presentation, and he didn’t know what they were saying.  It could be bad things, but he has no control over that.

He spoke about why belief is important.  He used a scenario about bottled water as an example.  It used to be the belief that bottled water was better than tap water, but we now know that isn’t true.  He said, “We ought not to confuse fact with what people believe.”  Belief matters in the public relations field, and it is over predetermined by customers.  It is the job of public relations professionals to distinguish beliefs from fact.

People don’t like change.  Iwata suggested to not try to convince people to change but eliminate the inertia that is preventing them from changing.  He gave the example of hotels trying to convince people to reuse towels.  There was a 26% increase in people who used towels in hotels for more than one night when the signs said “Hotel guests use towels more than once” instead of telling people to use towels more than once to help the environment.

He continued by quoting The Social Network:

He spoke about the multiplier effect and how Facebook was able to grow so quickly.

Finally, he spoke about something everyone was waiting to hear about: Watson.

He told us that he actually competed against Watson (and lost) before they went public with him!  We watched a clip from Jeopardy and spoke about the benefits to Watson.  During questions, he said the next step for Watson would be health care to help physicians stay on top of all the literature.

And did I mention “Jon Iwata” was a trending topic in Boston almost immediately?

The conference continued with two breakout sessions.  I attended both agency panels.

Session 1 – Opportunities Worldwide

This panel covered topics from skills and personality traits to getting your first job to client relations.

Barri Rafferty, Senior Partner and Director, Ketchum New York

She spoke about the importance of being able to translate social media skills to the corporate role.  You might be able to use Facebook and Twitter, but can you use it in a professional setting?  You also need to be a good communicator verbally and orally.  Finally, be open to trying new things.  Don’t be afraid of doing something you have not previously worked on.

Meaghan Smith, Senior Account Supervisor, Edelman New York

When you start a new job, you need to learn other people’s working styles and be organized.  Keeping up relationships when searching for your ideal job is important.  Something may not be available right away, but in a few months you could get something you are looking for.  It is also important to give a business case to clients to convince them it is worth investing in your company.  That’s where business classes come in handy.  Finally, there is not a line between personal and professional social media.  You always represent your company so be careful what you say about the company and its clients.

Katherine Wilburn, Consultant, Gagen McDonald

Resiliency is important.  You may finish a plan for a client and have to redo it.  It is important to try to make clarity out of chaos in an agency setting.  Remember to listen and ask the right questions to arrive at a solution.  Keeping in touch with people is important.  If you see an agency is in the media, show that you saw the article and congratulate them (if appropriate).  Take as many business classes as possible, especially negotiations.  It may come in handy when working with clients to tell them what the consequences of their decisions may be.

Session 1 – Opportunities in Boston

This panel focused more on the Boston market.

Sarah D’Souza, Vice President of Corporate Social Responsibility, Edelman

Agencies never know when they will need to hire so it is important to keep in touch with people.  They are looking for interns who will get their hands dirty and work on multiple accounts.  It is important to learn to juggle multiple projects at the same time.  Internships are like long job interviews so it is important to show your best work.

Jason Glashow, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Fleishman-Hillard

The Boston market has an entrepreneurial environment that creates a lot of opportunities.  There is an untapped opportunity as some of these companies try to figure out their social strategies (which will be very important in the future).  Things change very quickly and constantly which is important to get used to in an agency.

Christine Perkett, Founder, PerkettPR

The ways you can reach reporters are now different.  Twitter may be a great resource, but sometimes reporters want to be reached in the “old fashioned ways.”  It is important for interns to learn how to juggle multiple clients.  Interns should take initiative and walk in with ideas.  If you can talk through a strategy for a class project and show you understand strategic thinking, that is great!

Margery Kraus, Founder, President and CEO, APCO Worldwide

The afternoon started off with another keynote address.  She told us about the way APCO has survived and made a name for itself.

  • Be the partner of choice with clients.
  • Push the boundaries of communication.
  • Provide a global service, culture by culture.
  • Do not build an organization by yourself.  Build it with a team of people.
  • Help companies, organizations and governments build, defend and monetize their reputation.

Clients often are looking for a solution but do not know how to get there.  It is the job of the PR agency to think about what they need and how it can be achieved.

The formula that APCO lives by is ROR (Return on Reputation) + ROI (Return on Investment) = Market Share.

They also live by the word passion.

  • Passion provides the fuel for our souls and minds.
  • Passion makes us work better and smarter.
  • Passion makes it more than a job.
  • Passion builds relationships that live beyond the project.
  • Passion is our secret weapon.

Ginny Soskey, Regional Activity Coordinator

I then had the honor of recognizing Ginny for all her hard work on behalf of the National Committee.  Mike DeFilippis recognized her on behalf of the conference committee.

I should also mention that by this time #pradvanced, Jon Iwata and Margery Kraus were all trending topics in Boston on Twitter.  And #pradvanced was a trending topic in the United States on Twitter.

Career Panel

Stephanie Deitzer, Founder and President, Style at Work

She gave advice about what to wear in an interview.  Know your audience when deciding what to wear.  Think of it as a first date.  What impression are you trying to make?  And she said you can never fail with the blazer!

Kate DiChristopher, HR Manager, Marina Maher Communications

When you go into an interview, show that you are passionate about the agency.  She is looking for people who know a lot about the company and are digitally savvy.  Also, be prepared to talk about the ways you consume media.  You should be able to name a few blogs you read and talk about why you read them.

Eric Leist, Emerging Technology Strategist, Allen & Gerritsen

When people come in for an interview, they are asked three main questions: Are you curious about technology?  What are you curious about?  How do you fulfill your curiosity?  It is good to ask questions that show you know what’s going on in the industry.  Look at your skills and passions and think about what you want before choosing a job.

Maggie Van der Leeuw, Manager of Human Resources, Burson-Marsteller

Show your personality during your interviews.  Does your personality online match with your personality in person?  It should!  It is good to show that you have a life outside of the industry, but also show you have industry knowledge through Twitter.  During the interview, show that you went beyond the basics of the website.  Don’t settle.  As an employer, they want to know you are going to dedicate yourself to your job.

Other Parts of the Conference

There were also many other speakers that I did not get a chance to see including Mariana Agathoklis, Director of Communications, MTV, Peter Stringer, Director of Interactive Media, Boston Celtics and Jamie Thompson, Founder and CEO, Pongr.

Additionally, Twitter was a constant throughout the conference.  Students were tweeting the entire time, but they also were asking questions of the panelists through Twitter.  Questions were answered by people raising their hands but also taken right off Twitter.

The day ended with a career fair with companies including 360 PR, Allen & Gerritsen, Boston University College of Communication Graduate Program, Burson-Marsteller, Cone, LLC, EMC CorporationFleishman-Hillard, Hill Holliday, Ketchum, Lewis PR, Marina Maher CommunicationsMSL Group, NYU School of Continuing and Professional Studies, Porter Novelli, PRSA Boston and the Publicity Club of New England.

Once again, congratulations to Boston University and the entire conference committee!  Another job well done!

DePaul University Regional Activity

This past weekend I had the exciting chance to make my first trip to the Midwest and visit Chicago.  In addition to going to Millennium Park, the Willis Tower (aka Sears Tower) and Lincoln Park and seeing the Bean and Lake Michigan (I have never seen a Great Lake before), I had the chance to attend DePaul University’s Regional Activity, Transforming Traditional into Digital: The New Ways of PR (@NewWaysPR).  I have worked closely with the coordinator, Jamie Harris, since September, and her hard work truly paid off.  They had a great conference full of agency tours, intelligent and informative speakers and a career fair.  Their organization made the conference flow very smoothly and go off without a hitch.  Jamie and the entire conference committee should be very proud of their hard work and success!

I had the chance to sit in on their keynote speaker, Rick Murray, President of Edelman Chicago, Chris Barr, Yahoo! Senior Editorial Director, and Trent Frager, Senior Vice President at GolinHarris.  All three speakers were very informative and taught us a lot about the changing landscape of public relations.

Rick Murray, President of Edelman Chicago

It was very interesting to hear Rick Murray speak again.  When I was a freshman, he spoke at Boston University’s Regional Activity, and I found it very interesting to hear about the changes in public relations from that time until now.  He started off by telling us that the job descriptions for what we’ll all be doing in five years won’t be written for another five years.  But that’s what keeps the industry exciting – it is always changing, and there is always something new to learn.  As the former president of Edelman Digital, he knows this fact better than anyone.

The three questions that we need to ask as PR practitioners are:

1) What should you destroy?

2) What should you preserve?

3) What should you create?

Public relations is about public engagement and finding out what is important to an audience.  Murray said we play in the space of truth and authenticity, and it is important to blend passion and purpose to reach out and truly connect with an audience.  The content used to reach an audience will vary from person to person.  Some people want their information on their phone, some want it on their iPad and some want it in a newspaper.  In a time when there are so many ways to reach out to people, it is important to focus on media, ALL types of media.  That means new, old, traditional, everything.

To become a successful PR professional, it is important to keep a few things in mind.

1) Stay on top of what influences culture and the public.

2) Live and work global.  (With new ways to immediately reach people around the work, it is important to have a global way of thinking.)

3) Create value every day by thinking about goals you can measure.

4) Find your passion, and chase it.  If you are not passionate about your work, you are hurting yourself, your company and your client.

5) Making mistakes is how you grow.  Don’t be afraid to make them.

Chris Barr, Yahoo! Senior Editorial Director

Chris Barr gave some valuable advice when writing for the Internet versus written publications.  Writing online is VERY different especially when 79% of people scan web pages, and half of adults in the United States read at the 8th grade level or lower.  So in order to keep attention for as long as possible, it is necessary to do a few things.

1) Get to the point.

2) Make text scannable.

3) Write for the world.

When organizing your story, it is important to keep a few things in mind in order to once again keep the attention of your readers.

1) Front-load the most important information.  People will stop reading at some point on the web page so it is important to get as much information up front as possible.

2) You have 3-5 seconds to hook readers.

3) Limit stories to about 300 words per page.

In a digital world, it is also important to think about how the story will appear on a mobile device.  Now more than ever, people are reading news on the go on their cell phones.

Finally, he spoke about headlines and how to write them in a way that will be clear to readers and appear in search engines.  His overall advice for this aspect of writing online was that accuracy and clarity are more important than cleverness.

Trent Frager, Senior Vice President at GolinHarris

The focus of this session was crisis communications.  In particular, he focused on the impact of social media on a crisis, something that agencies have had to learn over the past few years.  There is now a lot less predictability about how your company is perceived in a crisis.  Even so, only 20.7% of companies have social media crisis plans set.  That is very low considering the impact that social media tools have on a crisis.

From the company’s perspective, it is important to have a few plans in place in case of a crisis.

1) Assess your footprint.  Figure out where your audience is on the Internet, and make sure you are interacting with them.  When a crisis hits, it will be helpful to have this contact already in place.

2) Find the right team to work on a crisis.  Prepare an advisory group.  Provide social media response training.  Online reputation management requires a strong team.

3) Be able to distinguish “baseline chatter” vs. an escalating issue.  Some people may complain online about your company, but it may not truly affect the company’s overall image.  It is important to be able to discern between the two.

All three speakers truly hit on the changing landscape of public relations.  While it is important to remember to interact with traditional media outlets, it is also important to learn how to converse with an online audience.  Whether writing a basic story or dealing with a crisis, there is a completely different set of skills necessary to succeed with social media.

And once again, congratulations to DePaul University on a fantastic Regional Activity!

Final Post of the Year

As the year comes to an end, I wanted to take this time to write about my most memorable moments from the past year (1 per month).

January

In the beginning of the year, I was lucky enough to win the Jersey Shore Public Relations and Advertising Association (JSPRAA) James R. McCormick Scholarship.  I was invited to attend a luncheon and met some incredible public relations and advertising professionals who work in the Jersey Shore area.  I also met some very talented students from the Jersey Shore area who were also awarded the scholarship.  Steven Lubetkin took a picture of us at the luncheon.

February

The PR Advanced: Brand Yourself conference that I helped plan as co-coordinator of Boston University’s Regional Activity was on February 27.  More details about the conference are at the PR Advanced: Brand Yourself post.  The conference was a culmination of my love for the Public Relations Student Society of America, public relations and event planning.  I had an incredible committee who contributed to its success, and it was truly an exceptional day to see everything come together.

March

In this month, my life changed for the better.  I went to PRSSA National Assembly in Austin and was elected to serve as the 2010-2011 National Vice President of Regional Activities.  Not only do I get to assist in the Regional Activities across the country, but I have had the chance to get to know some incredible people on the National Committee and in other Chapters who are truly going to make a huge impact on the industry.

April

After filling out and submitting many applications and cover letters and researching a lot of agencies, I accepted an offer from Burson-Marsteller to intern in their Corporate and Financial Department in New York City.  More details about the internship are in my Lessons From A PR Intern post.  I didn’t know it then, but I would gain a lot of public relations experience, interact with some of the industry’s top PR professionals and work on many interesting clients (often at the same time).

May

I have always befriended people who are older than me so it only made sense that I attend Boston University’s graduation ceremony.  It was a great “last hurrah” to spend with my friends who were graduating, but it also made me think a lot about my future (and the fact that I only had a year left to enjoy college and potentially Boston).  I wrote about my thoughts in my Graduation Reflection post.

June

There will obviously be a common theme about PRSSA in this blog post, but in June I really began to understand the organization inside and out.  Every year the PRSSA National Committee goes to Scottsdale, Arizona for a few days for a retreat to kick off the year.  I was amazed at the talent and leadership in the room as we discussed our platforms for the year and got to know each other.  The four days I spent with these people were truly the best days of my summer.

July

On July 14…I turned 21!  It was a great birthday and definitely exciting to be considered more of an “adult.”  Below is the best birthday card I have ever received!

August

For my grandmother’s 80th birthday, she took my family on a Mediterranean cruise that left from Barcelona.  We traveled to Capri, Rome, Pisa, Cannes, Monaco and Toulon.  It was my first time in Europe and truly an incredible experience.

Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona, Spain

Capri, Italy

Rome, Italy

Pisa, Italy

Pisa, Italy

Cannes, France

Monaco

Toulon, France

September

In September I started my last year at Boston University and my last year of school forever.  It is crazy to think that after so many years of school and classes, I will not be starting a new year next September!

October

In October I spent 10 days in Washington, D.C. first at the University of Maryland and then at the PRSSA National Conference.  More details about the conference are in my 2010 PRSSA National Conference: Washington, D.C. post.  Long story short, the conference was the greatest week of my life.

November

November was a very busy month.  I felt like I had a different event/commitment every night.  But I did one thing that I have always wanted to do.  I competed with Chris Wilcox in the Mr. and Miss BU pageant as Mr. and Miss COM!  We had a few challenges and prepared a skit and dance to Lady Gaga’s “Telephone.”  We got 2nd place, and it was a lot of fun!

December

I was hoping to talk about my smartphone here but since I still have my Blackberry (see #downwithblackberry), I will discuss 2 tweet-ups I went to that I really enjoyed!  Harrison Kratz asked me to plan Boston’s TweetDrive to gather toys for needy children.  More details about this event are in the Boston TweetDrive post.  Zach Cole asked me to be part of a social media task force at the MegaTweetup 2.  More details about this event are in the MegaTweetup 2 post.

TweetDrive

MegaTweetup 2

Happy New Year to everyone, and I look forward to many more memories in the next year as I have had this past year.

The Leadership Challenge

This semester, I am taking a class called “The Leadership Challenge.”  On the first day of class, we started by asking the questions: “What is a leader?”  “What characteristics does a leader have?”  “Who do you consider a leader in your life?” etc.  There are always people you know that you admire and look up to as a role model, but what TRULY makes a person a leader?

The first person that came to mind was my PR professor and faculty advisor for PRSSA (Public Relations Student Society of America).  Not only do people look up to him and admire him, but he is motivational, inspirational, and trustworthy.  When he has an idea, people take him seriously.  When he said he will do something to help you out, he will ACTUALLY do it (for example, I needed a recommendation letter last minute once, and he had it to me in less than a week).  When you work on a project with him and seek his advice, not only does he provide great ideas, but he is always confident that it will get done.  As they say, he “walks the talk.”

At my last internship at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, my supervisor was looked upon as a leader.  Whenever I said that I was his intern, I was immediately taken more seriously because of his positive reputation.  He had proven himself throughout the years to others and shown that he was dedicated to his work and helping others, reliable, and truly an inspiration.  When someone needed help on an assignment, they knew they could count on him for insight and a job well done.

When I look at the reputation of these two leaders, I strive to act in the same way.  I try to motivate and inspire others and show that I will complete tasks that I say I will complete.  I try to ask everyone’s opinion about certain topics before moving onto a different discussion.  I try to show others that I am trustworthy.  I try to “walk the talk.”  A true leader is able to show these qualities and more to not only complete tasks by himself/herself but to inspire confidence in others.

I started reading the textbook for the semester called The Leadership Challenge by Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner (http://www.leadershipchallenge.com/WileyCDA/).  They cite examples from corporate executives where these leaders did not show that they were working hard to earn a promotion but because they truly cared about their work and their cause.  They speak about the Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership: Model the Way, Inspire a Shared Vision, Challenge the Process, Enable Others to Act, and Encourage the Heart.  By employing these 5 examples (and of course expanding on their meanings), companies are able to perform better and leaders are able to set a better example.

What does the word “leader” mean to you?

PR Advanced: Innovation Through Leadership

So this week I am going to take a break from relating PR to my every day life to talk about a planning committee I am on.  I am the treasurer for Boston University’s Public Relations Student Society of America but am also on the planning committee for our regional conference.  On Saturday, we are hosting our third annual Public Relations Regional Conference.  The first year, our keynote speaker was Larry Weber, from Weber Shandwick.  Last year, our keynote speaker was Rick Murray, from Edelman.  We also had David Meerman Scott do a book signing with his book titled, The Rules of Marketing and PR.  This year, our keynote speaker is the Director of Communications at General Electric, Gary Sheffer.  Additionally, we have four break-out sessions, a raffle, and a career fair at the end of the conference.  Last year, the conference proved extremely successful through its speakers, networking opportunities, and participation of professionals from New York City and Boston and students from 13 different universities.  Our committee has worked extremely hard since September to plan every detail of the conference, led by our wonderful and talented leader, Heather Papsun.  This year is sure to be quite the success, and I hope to see you on Saturday!