PRSSA members attend national conference
Three Media School public relations students from IU’s chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America traveled with faculty advisor Dave Groobert to attend the annual PRSSA National Conference from Oct. 5-7 in Austin, Texas. Students met with some of the industry’s top practitioners and attended sessions relating to their evolving field. They blogged about their experiences afterward.
The evolution of public relations
By Sydney Heile
Public relations is a dynamic field. However, there is a disconnect between what the public thinks is PR (media relations) and what PR actually is (event planning, crisis communication, internal relations, digital/new media, etc.). PR operates in so many spaces and involves so many skills that being the best practitioner means being more than a good writer.
I attended two sessions about the evolution of the field: “The Art of PR Meets Neuroscience and Big Data” and “Code for Communications.” Both sessions touched on the impossibly large quantity of data created every day – 2.5 quintillion bytes – and the value of that information.
The “Neuroscience/Big Data” session focused on the power of research, while “Code for Communications” was skill-focused. The Media School requires a PR research course as part of our strategic communications training. I’m currently taking this class, MSCH-R348, and it was great to see that what I’m gaining in the classroom will translate to the real world.
The “Code for Communications” session listed the top 15 skills of PR professionals. Highlights included: social media listening, SEO, content creation, basic coding and metrics. Though the PR track is still developing, I’ve been able to build a curriculum at IU that hits on all of the previously listed skills. It feels great to know I’m on the right path as a future practitioner, and it’s awesome to have so many opportunities at The Media School to develop that growth.
The future of PR isn’t certain. However, the professionals who spoke on the various PRSSA panels all shared one message: “Be a news junkie!” In addition to the list of technical skills and improved research literacy, reading as much news as possible is officially added to my to-dos.
The pillars of PR: Relationships, curiosity and passion
By Bryn Eudy
As I entered the final day of the 2018 Public Relations Student Society of America National Conference, I was already planning my next tasks once I returned to Bloomington. I had follow-up emails and LinkedIn requests to send, resumes and cover letters to edit, and internship applications to submit. However, my approach to all three of these areas will be framed differently following my attendance at the conference. At the final panel my peers and I attended, we heard from Cheryl I. Procter-Rogers, APR, fellow PRSA and Raymond L. Kotcher, fellow PRSA. It was a “Living Legends” panel that focused on three general topics.
Both Procter-Rogers and Kotcher discussed the importance of maintaining meaningful relationships with others in the profession and making deeper connections than shallow networking attempts. We were told to hold off on the “elevator pitch” and instead genuinely connect with the other person. Find out what you can do for her. As evident by the hundreds of talented future PR professionals, we cannot overlook the importance of curating professional relationships with our peers. As someone who has greatly benefited from peer mentors, it was encouraging to hear this discussed on a broader scale. According to Procter-Rogers, your mentor should be your challenger and cheerleader, and provide you with a different perspective that challenges your own.
Another area of emphasis during this panel was the importance of curiosity. Learning doesn’t end with the completion of an undergraduate degree. Kotcher encouraged us to utilize the internet and resources like EdX to develop skills. Procter-Rogers encouraged us to grow our general skills in the first few years while identifying an area that we have intense curiosity for, and make that our specialization. Short workshops and webinars through professional organizations, like the Plank Center, are a great place to start. Back in my classes, I will remember that I am fortunate to be able to learn more about my chosen field – attending class shouldn’t be looked at as another task to complete.
My final takeaway from the conference was the importance of having a passion for public relations. It is passion that will ultimately fuel your curiosity and your desire to maintain your relationships with others in the field. It’s events like these, where I get to meet students interested in the same profession as me, that help to reinforce my desire to work in PR. I found my passion by joining PRSSA at IU, where I was fortunate to be able to get involved early in my time at IU and work with fantastic students and faculty to deepen my understanding of the profession. When I write my next cover letter or try to nail down exactly which aspect of public relations I want to pursue, I will remember that following my passion, not current industry trends, should be my goal.
Mentors and life-long learning
By Brittney Mwonya
My fall break consisted of Southern comfort food, hotel amenities and lots and lots of public relations. I spent the weekend in Austin, Texas, with other members of the Public Relations Student Society of America from all over the United States and South America. While the weekend was both entertaining and educational, my biggest takeaway came from a panel with two PR professionals, Ray Kotcher and Cheryl Procter-Rogers. Some of what they said was standard advice, such as know your field and build a network, but there were a few pieces of advice that stood out to me in particular.
The first was that having a degree in public relations will not benefit you entirely unless you can find a way to continuously incorporate education into your life and emphasize your skills. They emphasized the importance of always finding ways to continue your education through workshops, conferences and online courses through programs such as Edx. We were also advised to emphasize our skills through bringing up related life experiences and specific courses that taught certain competencies during interviews.
The second was to find both mentors and sponsors and to know the difference between the two. Mentors can be helpful in choosing career paths and providing diverse perspectives. They are sounding boards for our choices and next steps. Sponsors, on the other hand, can help to advance your career. They often serve as positive references and help us to get our foot in the door of new companies or industries. Both mentors and sponsors can be found through research and common connections.
These are two of the best pieces of advice I heard at the conference. Utilizing them is fairly simple, and they can be the difference between almost getting a position and actually earning that position. The conference was a success to me because I took away these and other pieces of advice.