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.



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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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!

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!

Michael Jackson: RIP June 25, 2009

Thursday, June 25, 2009 was a sad day for the music industry and the entire world after the loss of Michael Jackson.  To lose such an inspirational artist at such a young age is such a tragedy, and he will be remembered by many generations to come.  It was truly amazing to see the entire world mourn this loss as vigils were held across the world.  His story is truly inspirational from the start of his career at age 5, to the hardships he faced as an adult immersed in the media, to his final moments in Los Angeles.  With a tour in London ahead, no one could have guessed that his days were numbered.

When I come home from work, I usually do not check the news.  However, when I was on Twitter, I found out about his heart attack and eventual death.  When TMZ reported it first, I did not completely believe it.  However, when the Los Angeles Times and New York Times followed TMZ?s reporting, I knew that it was the truth.  (I guess that is the last time I will question TMZ – congratulations to them for breaking the news!)  Even though I know Michael Jackson was a huge part of pop culture, it shocked me how much media attention he received from all outlets.  Even the Wall Street Journal, a financial newspaper, dedicated front page articles to his story.

Days later (which I am sure will continue into months and years later), he is still being covered by the news.  His passing has taken over the news and forced the world to forget about the other recent deaths of Billy Mays, Farrah Fawcett, and Ed McMahon.  Any station, newspaper, website, or other publication that is not covering his story is ignored.  Vigils across the world have included playing his music (every radio station and MTV played Jackson’s music over and over on Thursday), doing the moonwalk, and attention from political leaders.  President Obama even wrote a personal letter to the Jackson family sending his condolences.

Both Twitter and Google crashed during the time when everyone was unsure whether he was alive or dead.  Twitter users talking about MJ reached 15% compared to less than 5% for the Iran election (and as you may know, the Iran election was a hot topic for Twitter).  Google thought that it was being hacked into because so many users were searching for “Michael Jackson.”  Wikipedia even reported a crash because so many people were trying to find out the truth (I have to admit, I used all 3 websites and was lucky enough to not experience any problems even though TweetDeck temporarily stopped reporting new tweets.)

My predictions: Jackson’s album sales are going to tremendously increase, MTV will temporarily be more successful if they continue their tributes with music videos, and his funeral will be highly attended and well remembered.  The hardships Jackson faced throughout the past years are finally being forgotten and forgiven, but it is sad that he reached justice in such a tragic way.


In a country of opportunity, the United States attracts people from all over the world.  Though many people may feel discouraged (especially with this economy) when they enter this country, it still brings the promise of hope and education to many people.  One such hard-working boy comes from Haiti.  He moved to the United States during 8th grade and completely committed himself to his education.  He is now not only graduating as the valedictorian of his class but has earned a full scholarship to MIT in the fall.  For more details on his story, seehttp://www.boston.com/news/education/k_12/articles/2009/06/07/blazing_a_path_for_fellow_students_to_follow_math_wiz_bound_for_mit_leaped_obstacles_on_way_from_haiti_at_top_of_class_haitian_beats_path_to_mit_still_blazing_a_path/.

When I was told to read this inspiration article, I figured it would be just another story of someone was given all of the opportunities in the world to succeed.  But that was not the case for this protagonist.  He truly had to prove himself in a new country and work hard to achieve his success.  He did not always have the work ethic to succeed, but he knew if he developed this dedication, it would prove beneficial to him later in life.  And what can be better than attending MIT, especially with a full scholarship?

Even with a terrible economy, difficulty finding jobs, and a more competitive environment, there are still truly inspiring success stories.  It is still possible to succeed and be given opportunities that you deserve.  Many of the people in the most recent graduating class feel hopeless because all of their hard work is not resulting in a job.  But there is still hope for dreams to come true, as Paul has shown.

With no special connections or privileges, he earned his way to the top in the most natural way.  Hard work.