On Friday, Sept 14, PRSSA Kent celebrated 50 years as an founding chapter at Kent State. PRSSA also celebrated the retirement of Associate Professor Bill Sledzik. At the 50th celebration, there was a discussion panel with previous PR Kent Graduates and PR professionals. The discussion of the panel focused around the saying, “Telling the stories of our students, professors, and alumni”. Natalie Meek, the president of PRSSA Kent 2018-2019 was the moderator for the panel.
First on the panel was Chris Baldwin, the founder and CEO of True Digital. Baldwin provided several internships and opportunities for PR Kent Students and graduates. Next on the panel was Latisha Ellison, PRSSA Kent President 2017-2018 and graduated in May 2018. Ellison currently works in Chicago at Public Communication Inc. (PCI) as an Assistant Account Executive, and she specializes in controlling and maintaining relationships with national and local media, and much more. Also on the panel, Amanda Vasil, who is currently working at Global Prairie, and is an integrated marketing communications strategist. She specializes in digital/ social media and public relations. Next on the panel, Noelle Pennyman, who works at Progressive Insurance as the marketing strategy lead for commercial lines that has target audience of small businesses. Pennyman held the Intercampus Liaison position in PRSSA Kent and graduated in May 2009. The final panelist is Carrie Kandes, APR, a communication and brand consultant who specializes in advancing organizations and their brands. Kandes is also a current PRSSA Kent professional adviser.
Some of the topics that the panel covered was trends in PR, graduation expectations in the work force, storytelling, the role of PR, and advice for students in the PR world.
On the topic of trends in PR, Kandes stated that a major trend she is seeing is that people are central to brands. “Social responsibility is becoming more central to a brand reputation, and we need to be constantly planning and acting to constantly have our audience and people as the central focus to our organization,” said Kandes. Chris Baldwin even stated that brands are looking for much more than public relations. “People no longer want PR, people want content, and that is a major trend among brand,” said Baldwin. “It’s important to keep people at the core of our brand and what we learn here at Kent is that our audience is the center of our brands, and to not forget that as PR changes,” said Baldwin.
Another topic of public relations that came up was if the panelists thought digital storytelling was the future of the public relations profession and Kandes made an important point. “I think one of the things we need to remember is that storytelling is important, but public relations is activating and engaging an audience,” said Kandes. “Brand loyalty is at an all-time low and it’s because the relationship depth isn’t there anymore. We can’t abandon our other channels just because of one platform [digital], we need to excersize them all with the same power and enthusiasm,” said Kandes.
The panel closed with Meek asking the panel for their advice to students, as graduation approaches and throughout PR student’s careers. “I am always asking questions,” Ellison said. “Learning tends and know what else I can do is important for constant improvement.” Vasil stated that writing was a skill that is everlasting. “Writing isn’t something that you doing only for so long,” said Vasil. “It is so important to write more than a text or a tweet, because one day you’re going to be writing one day and you need to keep those skills sharp.” Vasil said.
Meek closed and thanked the panel and handed off conversation to professor Stephanie Moore. Moore moved into the sharing of stories about Associate Professor Bill Sledzick, who is retiring this December. The panelists, current professors, and even a video of past students all thanked Sledzik for his teaching and continuous support in the public relations sequence.