PRSA Boston’s New Young Professionals (YPN) Section

Great ideas are often created in the most casual situations.  Laura Schroeder and I met regularly for dinner after she graduated.  We had worked together at Boston University on the PRSSA executive board.  We missed those times and decided then that we had to work on something together in PRSA Boston.

One of the things that made me want to stay in Boston is the strong networking and PR community. PRSA Boston took an active role with students, and you always felt welcomed when you went to their events.  However, there are a lot of young professionals who may be intimidated by going to these events. BUT there are so many young professionals in Boston and many who could benefit from an organization like PRSA.  So Laura and I decided it only made sense to start a Young Professionals Section (YPN) as part of PRSA Boston.

So we pitched the idea to the board and got more support than we even thought possible!  So our first event will be Tuesday, August 23 at Tia’s on the Waterfront to kick off an exciting addition to an already great Chapter and city. So now is the part we need YOUR help with.

Our social media channels are set up: Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.  But we have to spread the word.  Our kick off event is going to be the start of a great social and learning experience.  We will alternate between having social events and workshops.  If you want to be more involved, we have positions on our committee for that.  If you simply want to enjoy the events without spending additional time, that’s fine too!  We are simply excited to build a network for young professionals in a city that thrives on young professionals.

So come to our event, invite your friends, tweet and post about us!  But most importantly, tell us what YOU want to see in a group like this.  What do you want to learn about?

From College Years to the Real World

The last 12 days have been a whirlwind.  I graduated and a little over a week later started my first full-time job.  So before my posts change from being “Rachel Sprung on PR: The College Years” to “Rachel Sprung on PR: The Real World,” I wanted to write a post about my time at Boston University.  My last two posts highlighted my love for Boston and my love for PRSSA.  But without understanding my background story, these posts may not make any sense at all.  Because my love for the two really came from my incredible experience as a Boston University student.

I decided to come to Boston University for it’s public relations program.  Unlike most high school students, I knew I wanted to be in communications, and I knew I wanted to be in public relations.  The program at Boston University is known around the country for producing some of the finest public relations professionals, and I wanted to have a similar opportunity.  I also wanted to be in the city, and BU really fit all of my criteria.

But when I got my acceptance letter (early decision, of course), I had no idea what was in store for the next four years.  I did not know that I would be traveling around the country meeting other incredible public relations students.  I did not know that I would become an active part of a public relations circle in Boston.  I did not know that I would not only plan various events on campus but around the city of Boston.  I did not know that I would be so immersed and excited over technology.  I did not know that I would love Boston as much as I did and ultimately make it my home.  And I truly owe that to Boston University.

The thing about Boston University that makes it unique from other schools is not only its location and curriculum but the way faculty and administration put themselves out for their students.  What other Dean of Students do you know would come to an off-campus event you put on to support you?  Dean Elmore does.  How many faculty would answer your frantic emails about life’s problems at odd hours of the night?  Professor Quigley does.  I cannot even name the number of times I have asked for help from various professors, and they have dropped everything to give me advice or given me a contact in the area who could help me out.  Boston University faculty try to get to know their students at a personal level in order to help them make the best decisions during and after college.  And they truly succeed and graduate some of the best students in the country.

Graduation weekend was full of exciting events to celebrate the last four years.  So I obviously have to share some pictures!

Scarlet Key Ceremony

First, you sign the book.

Then you get knighted!

Then you get a pin!

Blue Chip Award

Blue Chip Recipients

School of Management Commencement

My Cap!

Getting My Diploma!

Commencement

Katie Couric!

With the Family!

College of Communication Commencement

Getting My Diploma!

Tyler Hicks, NYT Journalist

So to everyone who has touched my life at Boston University, thank you for an incredible four years.  I really believe this is the best institution, and I could not have gotten a better education anywhere else.  So thank you, Boston University!  I plan to be a very active alum 😉

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.

Photobucket

Photobucket

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

A New Yorker Who Decided to Stay in Boston: Reflections of an ALMOST College Graduate

When I first visited BU, I loved everything about it.  My parents and I got out of the car on Bay State Road to get a tour, and I immediately told them that this was the college I HAD to go to.  (To which they responded, “You have to look at the school first.”)  It was a rainy day, but I was in love.  And everyone kept saying to me that if I loved it that much on a day like that, then I would love it even more when it was nicer out (which I obviously found out was a small percentage of the time thanks to New England weather).  My tour guide was a PR student, and I asked her a million questions.  Long story short, I knew I wanted to go to BU, and I knew I wanted to be a PR major.

I also had other goals in mind even from the time I was a freshman.  As I entered my freshman year, my sister and future brother-in-law were moving to New York City.  As a Jersey Shore girl, I decided that I too would graduate and move to New York City.  I also realized I had extra space in my schedule and decided to do a dual degree between PR and Business Administration.  That summer I had my first internship at Nike Communications (a boutique PR agency focusing on luxury brands) and absolutely fell in love with the city.  At that point I decided that when I graduated I was going to move to New York City and work at a PR agency.  Keep in mind, I still had three years left of college.

The following summer I was at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.  Even when I was there, I told my supervisors that the plan was to go back to NYC and work in a PR agency.  But when that next semester started, something weird happened.  I was on my routine run around the Charles River, and as I crossed the Mass Ave. bridge and looked at the city, I felt at home.  I felt more at home than I had even when I was at home or in New York City.  But I ignored that, because I had said for so many years that New York City would be my home.

So I continued to intern in New York City during the summers.  I spent the next summer at Burson-Marsteller, and the plan remained the same.  I had the Jersey Shore a train ride away, the city at my disposal and many friends and family in the city.  Plus, there was no doubt that I was a New Yorker at heart.  I loved the hecticness of Wall Street, walked just as quickly as the locals and enjoyed the crowds.  The fact that NYC isn’t really clean didn’t bother me.  Spending a lot of money on small amounts of food didn’t really get to me either.  So why would I live anywhere else?

As I entered my senior year, everything changed.  The thought of moving away from Boston made me miserable.  I loved the feeling I got when I arrived back in South Station or Logan, and going to Penn Station did not give me that same feeling.  How could I move away from a place that I loved so much?  How could I move away from a place that I had made my home for the past four years?  I always called Boston my “college city,” when in fact, it should have been called my “home city.”

Changing your future when you have had a plan for so many years is difficult.  I had always planned to start my career in New York at a big agency.  Deciding to stay in Boston at potentially a much smaller agency was scary.  It was really hard to realize that I wanted something different.  And it was really hard to realize that sometimes the work/life balance and happiness outside of work should be a huge factor in deciding where to live after graduation.  Yes, work takes up a lot of time, but it is also important to love the city you are in.  Choosing a city that is not New York City does not diminish your accomplishments and is not any less prestigious.  The larger cities are not necessarily the right fit.  I know I could move to New York City, thrive in an agency and survive off a low salary in an expensive city.  I could do it, but it would not be the choice that would make me the happiest.  And that’s how I made my decision to stay in Boston after years of saying I would move to New York no matter what.

So after making this decision, I want to give some advice to those who may be in my position as they enter their senior years (or even as they think about these choices before senior year).

1) Don’t miss out on networking opportunities because you never know what city you will end up in.  I went to many events in and around Boston even though I thought I was going to end up in New York.  There are many professionals in Boston who can connect you with people in other cities.  BUT, you also do not know where you will end up until you are graduating.  There may have been a few events I decided not to go to because I “knew” I wanted to be in Boston.  But look where I ended up.  Always take advantage of the opportunities you have in your city/college town.  They really do pay off.

2) You do not have to be in New York City to be successful.  Many people have the idea in their head that because it is the largest city and the hub of many industries, it is the only place you can make a name for yourself.  Yes, there are thousands of incredible people there, but there are also thousands of incredible people in other cities.  New York will always be there.  You can always go to the city later in life.  And when you are at a smaller agency in a smaller city, you may have the opportunity to have more responsibilities and learn more than you would have at a larger agency in the larger city.

3) When looking at agencies, look at the culture.  Look at the people who work there.  Look at the work they do.  Look at the work/life balance.  The name of the agency is not always everything.  A name will not make you happy.  Other things do.

4) Try new things before you graduate.  This past year I have stopped going to so many traditional PR events and gone to many digital/social media events.  I used to only go to PRSA events, but now I have gone to events put on by The Publicity Club of New England and The Ad Club.  Don’t limit yourself.  Try out new things, and see what you like.  You could be completely surprised by what interests you.

5) Make the most of your college years.  Go to professional events, but also be a student.  I didn’t learn this as much until my senior year when I really felt like I had a good balance.  The balance is key when you are a professional, but it is also key when you are a student.

So to all those who are skeptical of moving to another city, take it from a New Yorker who decided to stay in Boston: I’m proud of it, and I’m excited to start my career in Boston.

Foursquare Day

A lot of people laugh at me that I check in wherever I go.  But ever since I got my smartphone in September, I have been addicted to checking in on Foursquare.  So when I heard that there was an actual Foursquare Day, I was obviously excited to celebrate.  Foursquare Day is on 4/16 every year.

For those of you who do not realize the connection:

Four = 4

Four Squared = 42 = 16

So, Foursquare Day is on 4/16.

To celebrate this holiday, I joined Allen & Gerritsen for a day of playing Foursquare in the Boston Common.  I had actually never played foursquare before (apparently I was deprived as a child during recess), but it was a lot of fun.  We ended up changing the rules a bit by allowing the mayor to make up a new rule.  That definitely added a twist to things and made it more exciting.  Check out more pictures from the day at Allen and Gerritsen’s Flickr for #4sqdayBOS.

Photo taken by Tina Yip (@tina_yip)

Thanks to the Digital Incubator at A&G, we also received a great deal at Boloco On the Common to celebrate Foursquare.  When you said “Digital Incubator,” you received discounted burritos.  (They pretended like they didn’t know what I was talking about at first so I went on and on about Foursquare Day, and they just laughed and said they knew what I was talking about from the beginning.  The staff there was really great and fun-spirited!)

To complete a day of recognizing Foursquare, the Explore feature that is part of Version 3.0 chose the places I was going to at night.  It was great to try a new restaurant and new bar in an area of Boston I had never really explored (aka Brookline Village).  I had used the Explore feature before, but I did not find anything I liked too much until this past weekend.  It was great to try out a new place especially on Foursquare Day.

I hope everyone had a great Foursquare Day this past weekend!  Til next year!

2011 PRSSA National Assembly

This year PRSSA’s National Assembly was in Seattle.  The National Committee arrived on Wednesday so we could have our full day of meetings on Thursday.  We made the finishing touches on our goals for the rest of the term (which ends on May 31) and had a very productive meeting.  Then delegates from many Chapters arrived on Thursday for the Day-of Competition.

For the Day-of Competition, seven teams had an hour to prepare a campaign to promote Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign.  Then they had 8 minutes to present to a panel of judges and 2 minutes to answer questions.  The winning team (pictured below) won because of their in depth research and measurements to show whether or not their campaign would be successful.

The next day, the National Committee led a series of Leadership Training Workshops focusing on branding, ethics and PRSSA national initiatives.  Along with Brandi Boatner, Danielle DuPree, Kara Robinson and Julie Henderson, I helped lead the branding workshop.  We started off with PR Idol which asked members to give a 30 second elevator pitch about their Chapters.  Then we went into the do’s and don’ts of Chapter branding which took a look at fundraising ideas and Twitter and Facebook etiquette.  Finally, we had discussions about the proper ways to brand your Chapter and resources available by PRSSA for branding guidelines.

We had a chance to tour the city a bit as well.  We went to Pike Place Market (where I took part in catching a fish, apparently a Seattle tradition) and the first Starbucks.

The next day we had elections for the 2011-2012 National Committee.  The following people (pictured below) were elected:

Nick Lucido, Immediate Past President

Adam Aisner, National President

JR Rochester, Vice President of Advocacy

Kendall Schmidt, Vice President of Chapter Development

Joe Clarkson, Vice President of Internships/Job Services

Vanessa Perkins, Vice President of Member Services

Jessica Noonan, Vice President of Professional Development

Lauren Gray, Vice President of Public Relations

Haley Higgs, Vice President of Regional Conferences

Amy Bishop, FORUM Editor-in-Chief

From left to right: Haley, Lauren, Jessica, Vanessa, Joe, Kendall, JR, Amy, Adam, Nick

The next day Frank Shaw, the Corporate Vice President of Corporate Communications at Microsoft spoke as our keynote.  He said that PR people tell stories and manage issues.  He used a great quote from Mark Twain that said “A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.”  He also touched upon the importance of aligning with business objectives and working with people in marketing and sales.  He spoke about his experience in crisis communications and said that you have to prove your leadership to others.  While dealing with a crisis, you need to try to prevent it from happening but also react when it does.  He also spoke about some of Microsoft’s responsibilities and its structure.

After the keynote, Nick recognized the National Committee for our work throughout the year.  He spoke about some of our memories from the year as well as our accomplishments.  It was so great to share everything we have done this year with the delegates.  I was presented with the Elaine Averick Outstanding National Committee Member Award for my dedication to the society which was SUCH a great honor.  I also had the chance to recognize Nick for everything he has done for the society at National President.  (Video to come!)

 

So I still have until May 31 for my PRSSA term, so I am not going to reflect on that quite yet.   But I do have to say I’m so excited and proud of the new committee.  They are already fired up and ready to go with great ideas, and I know Adam will lead them to great success just like Nick led us!

The Reality of PR: A Survivor’s Guide to the Public Relations World (Penn State Regional Activity)

This past weekend I went to my last Regional Activity (very bittersweet).  But after working with Andrea Crawford all year, I was so happy to see the event come together.  The event was called The Reality of PR: A Survivor’s Guide to the Public Relations World.  They had a great social on Friday night and a day full of excellent speakers on Saturday.  In addition to the speakers, they had an etiquette luncheon and networking reception.  Many schools from around the region came, and the committee made everything run very smoothly.  Congratulations on a great event!

Steve Manuel, Professor at Penn State University

In addition to being a former Penn State professor, Steve Manuel is also a former public affairs officer for the Office of the Secretary of Defense and Marine Corps spokesman.  His stories about his adventures doing photojournalism and other PR work were very interesting, and the engagement he had of his students was very inspiring (and reminded me of my PRSSA Faculty Adviser, Steve Quigley).  A few things that stood out in my mind when he spoke were the following.

  • 10% of people working on a group project will not pull their wait.  As students, we can definitely relate to that (or even say 10% may be underestimated).
  • We spoke about how it has been over 10 years since the 9/11 tragedy and we still have not found Osama bin Laden.  But what would happen if we actually found him?  What would the government do?  What would the public demand?  And who would become our new “#1 target?”  There will always be a new bad guy.
  • He also said you should always have a communications objective in your pocket.  And make sure you are clear about what your objective is.

After his presentation, we played PR Jeopardy.  There were questions about PR History, Agencies, AP Style the National Committee (I was an answer!) and Penn State.  My team won, and the Regional Activity committee gave us t-shirts, cups and a zip drive!

Michael Hinman, Account Executive & Media Manager at Environmental PR Group

The keynote speaker came all the way from Tampa to speak to us about environmental PR.  He started off by giving us some background about the work he does and some environmental PR issues.  Then he gave us some suggestions when dealing with media relations.  He cited Steve Jobs as an example of someone who has the ability to tell us what we want before we even know we want it.  That is how you have to treat media relations.  The Internet helps us create and own a conversation, but you also have to tailor your message to every audience.  Every target audience has their own wants and needs, and it is our job to figure out what that is.  Personalize your outreach by looking up every beat and publication of the people you are pitching to.  Utilizing social media is great, but you have to have followers and an established base or it will not do any good.

He also talked to us a bit about SEO news releases.  He showed us his own example that he did for Water Optimizer.  He told us that reporters have less time than ever before, and it is important as PR professionals to do anything you can to make it easier for a reporter to do research on your story.  They do not have the time to do in depth research like they used to so this is our opportunity to do it for them so we can still have the story published.

Ron Smith, Senior Lecturer at Penn State University

I next went to a technology session where they taught us how to use Illustrator.  It was a great refresher about some of the basic tools you need to know to use the program.  I thought this was an excellent addition to the Regional Activity.  They also had an InDesign workshop later in the day.

Jeff Boggie, Chef-Instructor at Penn State University

During lunch, we had an etiquette presentation.  There were some interesting tips he gave us about how to present ourselves in a business setting.

  • Deliver a firm handshake.
  • Stand when introduced or being introduced.
  • Travel light (you need both hands).
  • Don’t go in cold.  Have a purpose, be prepared and visualize.
  • Walk the walk aka be confident.
  • Follow up with questions about them.  Show you are interested in them.
  • Don’t arrive hungry.
  • Do not treat staff poorly.

He also displayed the following diagram to show us what utensils are used for the different courses.

Mindy Bianca, Public Relations Director at Hershey Entertainment and Resorts and Cara O’Donnell, Associate Vice President of Public Relations at Tierney

The next session I attended was about tourism PR.  This session was the most engaging session of the day.  Both Mindy and Cara are former journalists so they understand PR in a unique way.  They stressed the importance of having a background in journalism or at least interning in journalism.  When you have this background, you understand what the media is looking for and can tailor your news releases to that.  You also learn the structure of a news room and know who to pitch.

They spoke about the tourism and travel industry being more proactive than reactive.  It is also built on relationships that take years to develop. They told us some funny stories about some of the ways they have developed these relationships with journalists.  Even though they were funny, they proved to be successful relationships for both parties.

Even though travel and tourism PR seems very glamorous because of all the traveling, they did stress the long hours.  When you are traveling during the day, you have to do work all night that you didn’t get to finish during the day.

They also gave us some interviewing advice.  Present yourself well from the moment you walk into a building because you are interviewing with everyone from the receptionist who welcomes you to the recruiter.  Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there.  Have inner-confidence without being arrogant.

Meredith Topalanchik, Vice President & Director, Client Services at CooperKatz

This session was about agency life and a lot of the decisions you need to make when you are in an entry-level position.

  • Don’t accept a job on the spot.  If they want you, they can wait.
  • There is no other place you can get as much experience right out of college than a PR agency.
  • Most work is in media relations.  It is very valuable to learn how to pitch.
  • Your organizational style will change within the first year.

Patricia Whalen, Assistant Professor at DePaul University and Board Member of the Board of Ethics and Professional Standars of the Public Relations Society of America

To end the day, was the Ben Bronstein Lecture called “Can PR Pros Act as the Corporate Conscience.”  It was all about the ethical dilemmas that PR professionals face.

Whalen emphasized the importance of standing up for yourself.  Don’t be afraid to speak the truth to power.  It is better to get fired and find another job than engage in unethical actions.  She said to do the right thing because there is a huge benefit to both you and your organization.  By doing this, you can build up trust which will come in handy long-term.  Every organization will make a mistake at one point, but if you have built up a trust bank, the people will forgive you.

She gave us some interesting facts about the people who are practicing PR.  Many have not been trained in PR so do not always know how to work in PR.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics says that 500,000 people practice PR but only 32,000 are in PRSA (less than 7%).

A lot of times there is a question between whether PR people or lawyers should be the ethical conscience of an organization.  But there is a difference between being legal and being ethical.

She told us to focus on strategic advocacy and enlightened self interest.  She explained that enlightened self-interest means that an organization is a member of society.  So corporate citizens benefit in the long run in reputation and profits.

Networking Reception

To conclude the day, we had a networking reception where we talked to some of the speakers and students from different schools.  Overall, Penn State did a great job putting on this conference, and I’m so glad I was able to attend!

With the Penn State Nittany Lion, Dana Bubonovich, Immediate Past President of Penn State PRSSA and the FIT PRSSA Chapter