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?


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!

2009 PRSSA National Conference – San Diego, California

Last weekend, I had the honor of traveling to San Diego for the 2009 PRSSA National Conference.  It was my first year, and I had pretty high expectations.  I had seen the National Conference committee tweet and send out Facebook messages promoting the speakers and how many PRSSA members would be attending.  My excitement was overwhelming as I counted down the days to my trip across country.

The second we stepped onto the hotel property, we were immediately greeted by the National Committee and other PRSSA members.  It was truly thrilling to immediately learn about other PRSSA chapters and the opportunities they offer.

The following morning, we had the opportunity to see San Diego.  But I couldn’t wait until I was back at the hotel to attend the first breakout sessions of the conference.  That first day we attend chapter development sessions hosted by The University of Texas at Austin, Indiana State, Roger Williams University, and University at Wisconsin-Madison.  University of Texas at Austin proved to be my favorite as they discussed a thematic approach to chapters.  I was so impressed by the way they retain so many of their members and truly reach out to PR professionals in Austin.  They have a Mentorship Program partnering PR professionals with PRSSA members, and I really hope to implement that at our chapter at BU.  Their professionalism, charisma, and the hard work demonstrated by their executive board was clear and inspiring.  Indiana State spoke about their experience with e-portfolios and provided anecdotes about how it personally has helped their PR careers.  Roger Williams University spoke about their annual Gala and the importance of particular event planning skills.  University at Wisconsin-Madison gave tips on promoting professionalism whether when networking or applying for internships.

After that, I attended a workshop for Chapter Presidents led by the President of the OC PRSA.  This workshop was an outstanding opportunity to hear about the strengths and struggles of other chapters.  I talked to presidents from across the country and learned about how they deal with being the leader of such a prestigious organization.

That night, an event to meet other chapters was held in the hotel.  Everyone wore either their school colors or PRSSA shirts.  I found it hilarious to read some of the shirts that people had for their chapters, such as “Hello public, let’s relate.”  It was a great opportunity to once again meet people from different chapters and hear about what makes their chapters unique and promote our Regional Activity event.

The next day was the official start of the conference.  Mona Pasquil, a former public affairs director under Bill Clinton, was the keynote speaker.  She gave an inspiring addressing about how to be prepared while under pressure and truly have confidence in yourself.  The next activity was a brunch for Chapter Presidents, which gave me a chance to learn about other chapters once again.  The breakout sessions throughout the rest of the day were given my professionals.  I attended a session about media relations with Joseph V. Trahan, III, President & CEO of Trahan & Associates.  He was absolutely incredible.  He was so engaging and had such useful advice.  He spoke about preparation before dealing with the media, how to prepare your clients, how to figure out the information, and how to get the attention of journalists.  He told stories about himself in these situations, and stressed the importance to tell the truth, even if it means losing your job.

Next, I attended a session about how young talent can stand out given by Ron Culp, Partner and Corporate Director of Ketchum, and Kevin Saghy, an Account Executive at Ketchum.  They spoke about the different perspective of how interns and entry-level employees can advance themselves.  Ron Culp gave the senior management perspective, and Kevin Saghy gave the entry-level perspective.  They spoke with employees at many PR agencies to get their opinions as well.  It was eye opening to hear the differences in opinions.

Finally, I head Sheri Oppenheimer, the Communications Manager at Campbell’s Soup talk about her experiences.  She was at the company during a time of change and saw it transition from a company with bad employee relations to one of the best in its industry.  It was interesting to hear her talk about specific employee relations techniques, as my internship this past summer consisted of working with internal relations.

The next day, I started off my day by leading a breakout session about the Regional Activity with Jenna Huskinson, the VP of Regional Activity on the National Committee.  It was such an honor to speak about my experiences the past 2 years on this event because the Regional Activity attracted me to PRSSA in the first place.  I had a wonderful time, and it made me even more excited to be a co-coordinator for the event.  Additionally, we met with the other coordinators after this workshop and discussed our ideas for our events.

After, we were lucky enough to attend the PRSA Conference and hear Arianna Huffington speak.  Not only did we hear her advice on engaging the public and proper etiquette when dealing with the media, but we saw her interview Wendell Potter about his stand against health care.  After, we were able to stay at the PRSA Conference for a bit and talk to companies who provide services to PR organizations, such as Cision and Vocus.  I had questions about both programs that were promptly answered.

When we arrived back at our conference, we attended more breakout sessions.  First, we went to a session on Corporate vs. Agency given by Rana Kay, the PR Manager at the Hard Rock Café, and Tim Wheatcroft, General Manager of Allison & Partners.  They discussed differences between the two work styles and even pointed out many misconceptions, such as corporate employees make A LOT more than agency employees (it is actually only 85% of what agencies make).

The last session of the day was about Investor Relations and Ethics and discussed the PRSA Code of Ethics.  David Silver of Silver Public Relations, Deborah A. Silverman, Assistant Professor of Communication at Buffalo State College, and Jonathan R. Slater, Professor at State University of New York at Plattsburgh led the discussion and even a case study at the end.

On our final day, we went to the PRSA Conference again to hear their next keynote speaker, Todd Buccholz speak.  He was by far my favorite speaker of the conference.  He spoke about the economy, clearly a hard topic to keep listeners engaged, but he did a fantastic job of keeping everyone intrigued and fascinated.  I cannot even express how much he inspired me, and I plan to read his books over my winter break.  FABULOUS!

The next session was led by Dennis John Gaschen, Professor at California State University, Fullerton and Bey-Ling Sha, Ph.D., Associate Professor at San Diego State University.  They were such a good pair together!  They spoke about being accredited in PR (aka getting your APR) and gave advice on graduate school, internships, and key tips to keep in mind while being more involved in the field.

The final session was on interviewing, resumes, and networking led by Walter R. Bateman II, Retired CEO of The Harleysville Group and Natalie Neczypor, Marketing Executive at Ernst & Young LLP.  They gave SUCH valuable advice about how to tailor your resume, network, research a company, questions to ask in an interview, and steps to follow up an interview.

We ended our stay at San Diego by attending the Awards Ceremony.  Our own graduate student from Boston University won the highest ethics award given out to PR students.

My time at this conference was nothing short of spectacular.  I heard fantastic speakers and was able to have incredible discussions about their workshops with other PRSSA students afterwards.  I networked with PRSA professionals and PRSSA students.  I learned more about the industry than I could have ever hoped.  I learned how to develop our chapter at Boston University.  I gained tips to benefit my career in the future and learned how to stand out in this competitive environment.  I discussed other chapters’ opportunities, including Regional Activities, speakers, meeting agendas, retaining members, and being a leader.  The four days I spent in San Diego changed my perspective on PR, increased my enthusiasm of PR, and benefited my future.

For more information on specific workshops, go to see members of Boston University’s PRSSA e-board speak about everything they learned.

Law and PR

As I pursue my dual degree in Public Relations and Business Administration, I am required to take a business law class.  At first, I did not know what to expect.  I only knew 2 things about law: 1) My sister was in law school. 2) Public Relations and law have a close-knit relationship because often public relations professionals and lawyers cross paths.  However, I have been pleasantly surprised about how much I have enjoyed the class, and I feel that it will greatly enhance my future in public relations by being aware of legal issues.

PR professionals believe that they need to maintain good relations with lawyers in order to seek their professional help and advice.  Though some lawyers do not appreciate PR professionals? lack of knowledge about the law, they do respect their ability to act in a crisis.  However, when promoting a product or cause, employees in PR may be unaware of certain laws.  Additionally, ethics greatly comes into play when one is immersed in the field of Public Relations.  For example, if an employer tells you to write on a blog promoting the product or cause that you work for, do you do it?  If you report the wrong information and discover it later, do you change it, even if that means hurting a client?  The Public Relations Society of America has a Code of Ethics ( to maintain their high ethical standards, but at times, professionals may ignore this document and run into trouble.  Additionally, many PR professionals do not know much about contracts, libel, slander, malpractice, or intellectual property.  That is where the relationship with lawyers may come in handy.

For example, a potential client approaches you and says he is starting a business to produce cookies and other baked goods.  He has a great recipe, but he needs the help of a professional to get his name out.  You agree to the terms and sign a contract.  However, a few weeks later you find out that he stole the recipe from Mrs. Fields and can no longer have his business.  In the meantime, you passed over another client to take him on.  Are you entitled to any damages?

In another case, you may find yourself ordering supplies to help your PR business.  You agree with a friend who sells office supplies that he will give you supplies on the 1st of every month.  You do not sign a contract ? after all, he is your friend!  You owe him $450 every month.  However, after three months of this business deal, he stops selling you the products, and you are now forced to pay $1000 for the same amount of supplies from another retailer.  Are you entitled to any damages?  (I actually just learned yesterday in my class that all contracts for the sale of goods that are over $500 must be in writing).

In another situation, your client is a restaurant and is quoted in a newspaper saying that its competitor not only does not clean the facility before cooking but uses various chemicals that are unhealthy without telling its customers.  However, your client knows this information is not true and says it anyway.  You think it is a crisis communication situation but really the competitor is planning its lawsuit against the restaurant, YOUR client!

These issues are three of many that PR professionals may not have much prior knowledge or experience with.    Many law issues may seem like situations that can just be handled by contacting the press and using crisis communications strategies, but in fact, they have the potential to turn into lawsuits if not handled properly.  The importance of communication and networking opportunities between lawyers and public relations professionals is just as important, if not more, than communication and networking between the media and public relations professionals.  A PR professional could easily lose his or her good reputation due to the unfortunate case of a law-breaking client.  Thank goodness for this law class!


The World of Networking

I attended Boston PRSA’s annual holiday party tonight for the second year in a row.  When I went to this event last year, it made me fall more in love with the field of Public Relations.  This year, the event lived up to my expectations and was even better than last year.  One of the things I always love about PRSA is how friendly and welcoming all of the members are.  Everyone wants to talk to you and hear about your experiences, share useful information for your future, and tell stories about their time in Public Relations, which can greatly benefit your future.  It is amazing that in such a competitive world, people like this come together and are so willing to share their success.

As one of the only students at the event, it seems intimidating at once.  On one hand, I do not want to be the annoying younger person running around seeming like all I want is an internship or attendance/sponsorship for the annual conference that I am helping to plan at Boston University.  On the other hand, everyone is so willing to talk about their experiences, that even if I am not offered an internship or help for the conference, I still enjoy talking to everyone and feel accomplished at the end of the night.  I learned things about technology PR that I did not know that really opened my eyes to this subset of PR.  I also saw the implications of the economy as many people were at this event to find jobs as they had previously been laid off.  I also heard professionals’ opinions about what my next step should be to succeed in the world PR.  Surprisingly, many people just suggested that I should travel before working because I have the chance when I am younger.  As always, it was VERY inspirational to hear the PR professionals tell me that the dual degree I am pursuing in Public Relations and Business will be very beneficial to my future in PR.

I am not a shy person.  Not by any means.  This fact makes these events fun, and I truly look forward to them.  I love walking up to a person and just striking up a conversation.  At times, the conversation drifts from PR to music or hobbies.  I talked to some fellow people from New Jersey about various Bruce Springsteen concerts that they have attended.  The atmosphere of people in Public Relations is so comfortable and inviting, that it makes me look forward to the time when I will have a degree in Public Relations and get to spend every day working in something I love.