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!


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).


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.


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.


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.


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).


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.


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.


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!


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


Toulon, France


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!


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 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!


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.


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.

Minier Coke Can

Going off of the last blog post on branding, Coca Cola Company has done it again.  This December, it is coming out with a 90-calorie mini can, similar to its 100-calorie mini can that they came out with a few years ago (  Instead of the normal 12 ounce can, it will be 7.5 ounces.  However, I question the marketing strategy behind this new product.

First of all, there are many health issues related to this new product.  Even though Coke has a new health initiative by partnering with the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation by encouraging a healthy balance between its products and others and exercising, this new product goes against this plan.  Even though it is less calories, what other artificial chemicals are put into this product to make it taste similar to the normal sized Coke products?  Additionally, it has been proven that when there are food products with fewer calories, people eat or drink more of them.  Whereas a person would have stopped at the 155 calorie cans, they will now drink two of the smaller cans, which add up to 190 calories.  So much for drinking/eating fewer calories with these smaller cans.

Also, many people grab Coke out of vending machines or at gas stations.  However, these unique cans will not be sold in these places, eliminating this large target segment.  Yes, they will be sold in grocery stores, but the availability of Coke at multiple places is part of its charm.

I’m sure the product will be successful.  After all, Coke has the most valuable brand out there.  However, there are clear complications against it from the availability to the health concerns.  Yes, there will be people who simply drink the one smaller can and do not drink more, proving the benefits of the product.  But there will also be the people who drink more cans because mentally they think they are drinking less (which is something I would do).  Despite these factors, it is a good strategy to launch the product in New York City and Washington, D.C. before introducing it to rest of the country in December.  They will be able to adjust their marketing strategies and hopefully put the product in place to be more successful.  However, there are definitely hardships to come, and it may turn out that it is worth only having the 100-calorie mini can.  We’ll see how it does next year!

New York City’s Solution for the Homeless

It only takes one visit to New York City to see many homeless people.  Whether you are in Central Park, Penn Station, or Greenwich Village, you will come across people without homes.  However, leave it to New York City to come up with a solution to solve this problem.  They are flying these people home, whether across the country or to the other side of the world.  People have been sent to 24 countries in 5 continents including Paris, Johannesburg, and San Juan.  The city even follows up with the person with a phone call to make sure he or she has arrived safely.  Even the cost to make this program possible is around $500,000, New York City makes the effort to give these people a better life off the streets.  See the Times article:

When I saw this article, I was so impressed with the efforts by New York City.  With all of the other issues in this area including crime, the economy, safety, etc., who knew it would still find the time to spend so much effort and money on the fact that so many people are living on the streets.  Whenever I am in the area, I feel so bad for the people who are forced to live on the streets even though many of them have come to New York City hoping for a better life.  I always wonder how they are able to survive for a long period of time with this lifestyle.  It truly warms my heart to see that New York City is giving them hope to get back their former lifestyle and live in their former home.

However, what about the future?  How long can New York City send people back to their homes?  How many people actually know about this program?  How many people are STILL left on the streets?  Yes, hundreds are people are returned to their homes, but what about the remaining thousands?  This program is simply a temporary solution to a bigger problem.  Of course there are shelters and programs to help people get on their feet, but more and more people are coming to the city that is supposed to be full of opportunities and finding that there is not as much hope for them as they previously thought.  In New York City, outsiders think that they will come, find great success, and live a luxurious life.  However, that is not the case as the city becomes more competitive than ever before.  Another solution needs to be put in place alongside this one, whether through free job counseling, free brokers, etc. to get people on their feet.  This program even gives up on foreigners who have come to the city to be successful by sending them back home without helping them make a life for themselves in the city.

I truly commend the Bloomberg administration for reaching out to its citizens and truly trying to make a difference.  But I hope they will continue these efforts and put in place better regulations and laws to help these people get on their feet instead of shipping them off to their homes.  Yes, not everyone will be able to survive in New York City.  It is high paced, competitive, and harsh.  But there is always hope for people who are not used to that high pace.  According to Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers, success is due to outside factors that affect a person, whether encouragement, familial support, or long hours of hard work.  These factors may be all the homeless people need to survive in New York City.

Transportation By Bus: From New York City to Boston and Back

So the first time I attempted to get to New York City from Boston, it took 12 hours.  Granted, it was during Thanksgiving, but I also waited in line for over an hour to get on the bus.  The second time I attempted to get to New York City from Boston, the same thing happened.  I understand that there is traffic during the holiday season, but the seats were uncomfortable, I was cramped next to the person beside me, the overhead light didn’t work so I could not even read because it was dark outside, and my phone died so I could not charge my phone.  Basically, the next time I took the trip between New York City and Boston, I took the train.

However, compared to a $15 bus ticket (or now $1 bus ticket in some cases), the train is a lot more expensive.  For a college student, this fee is not always feasible.  So I have tried to give the bus a chance (aka tried to make sure I could sleep the entire time).  During the summer, I traveled from New York City to Boston, and though the ride was long due to traffic, it was much more comfortable (surprisingly, these were the seats less than $15).  However, on the way back to New York City, the bus was not only late, but as it pulled out to leave South Station, it hit another bus, and we were stranded.  I was told, “Well, you are on your own.”  I quickly climbed onto the Chinatown bus and made myself sleep the entire time.

By now, you would think that I would stick with the train.  But I never learn.  I spent 7 hours on a bus from Boston to New York City, trying to surprise my family for the holidays.  The bus went from 7th Avenue and 59th Street to 11th Avenue and 59th Street, over to 11th Avenue 57th Street and back to 7th Avenue and 57th Street…in FORTY FIVE MINUTES.  Then the passengers on the bus started giving the bus driver directions.  Needless to say, I was not happy AGAIN.

But now, I took the Bolt Bus.  I had heard of its wireless internet godliness and its comfortable leather seats, so I figured that even though it was a bit more expensive than the $1 (being $15), it was worth a try.  Well, I was completely satisfied.  The trip was 3 1/2 hours (granted, I left New York City on a Tuesday afternoon at 1:00 pm), the wireless was as perfect as anything (I immediately connected to the Internet, responded to my e-mails, checked my Facebook, Twittered etc.), and I have never spelt so well on a bus before.  The bus driver was enthusiastic and energetic when he introduced himself before our departure.  It was a bus rider’s dream come true!  From now on, I know what company I will be using (Bolt Bus) and will recommend it to anyone traveling between these two cities by bus.