Navigating Fake News
By Ian Gillan
Fake news. Two words that have dominated the media in recent months, and some lucky #PRKent students got to learn all about it at PRSSA’s National Conference in Boston. Panelist Tom Fiedler, David Dahl, Kelley Chunn and John Carroll gave a brief history of fake news in the journalism industry in addition to providing students with tips on how to avoid and combat fake news.
While the mainstream coverage of fake news is a recent phenomenon, it’s crucial to remember that the existence of fake news itself is not. Historians have always been questioned and false news stories have always found a way to gain traction. These stories could be internet gossip that an animal rights group is planning to use ticks to give humans an allergy to meat, or a New York publication claiming there was life on the moon.
Unfortunately, the term ‘fake news’ has recently been reinterpreted from being a story that is based on objectively false information to apply to any story the reader deems untrue. This major shift in definition came in the wake of the 2016 election with over half of the American population thinking news organizations promote fake news.
In its most basic form fake news exist for two major reason: to make money, or to promote a political agenda. Regardless of the source of the information, it is becoming increasingly important to be able to sort fact from fiction when looking for stories, sources, and new information. Ultimately, combating fake news comes down to the consumers, and while there is no way to completely avoid false news, you can evaluate what news you are consuming. When consuming information, always remember to:
Tips from New PR Professionals
By Hannah Wagner
Starting an entry-level position in public relations can be intimidating. Luckily, at PRSSA National Conference, I listened to a group of new PR professionals who had broken into the industry and were willing to share their experience with us.
The panel, consisting of Laura Fooks, Communications LDP Associate at Lockheed Martin; Andrea Gils, Marketing and Communications Manager at the University of Kentucky International Center; Veronica Mingrone, Digital Analyst at Canvas Blue; and Chad Furst, Communications Senior Consultant at Booz Allen Hamilton, shared an “inside scoop” about what it was like to land, have and keep that first job after graduation.
1. Utilize PRSSA
If you’re involved in PRSSA, put it on your resume! With that being said, if PRSSA is on the resume, be able to speak to it. Make it something you were involved in and discuss how it added to your college experience. Take advantage of your Chapter’s leadership opportunities. Don’t be afraid to run for the e-board or initiate a new tradition, you want to show employers you were involved whether it was a volunteering opportunity or the president of your chapter. A big thing the panel stressed was to never downplay PRSSA. Plug the organization and fill it with pride!
2. Leverage your network
Your panel is everything. The network you build in college will be your lifejacket when you enter the real world. Make sure to make those connections inside your organization like PRSSA and out at professional events like national conference. When starting your job search, look for someone in the company you know or that was involved in the same organization or Chapter as you. One connection can go a long way!
3. Informational Interviews are KEY
“You want to know as much as you can going into a new job,” is one thing the panel kept repeating. Informational interviews allow you to learn more about a company’s work culture and learn more about what you do and don’t like. It’s the perfect opportunity to ask questions and get the “inside scoop” of what working there will really be like in addition to showing you’re really interested in their company. You want to think about the people you’ll be surrounded with and the location you’ll be stationed at. Make sure it is a good fit!
4. Be a team player
Going into a entry-level job, you’re not expected to be perfect, so don’t be afraid to try new things. Take the extra steps to show you’re trying, like volunteering to join a committee within your company, or take classes that will give you unique skills such as coding, analytics and accounting.You want to emulate someone YOU yourself would want to work with. Be nice, respect your bosses and make an effort to get to know your coworkers.
5. Be yourself and know your values
When starting your job search, have two things that you really want, the rest is extra. By figuring out what’s most important, like if it’s a well-known agency, if it’s close to family, if it has flexible hours, etc., it will help you find the best fit. This job will be something you do on a daily basis, so you want to make sure you feel comfortable and happy there. The panel warned sometimes you won’t feel fulfilled when you first start your job, and that’s okay! What you need to do is focus on your niche, something you can do really well at your company. Finally, the panel stresses to show your personality, be yourself! You don’t want to fake your way through your first job, if you can’t be yourself, the panel suggested to find another job.
Adjusting to your first job will take some time, and the panel made it clear that it is OK to make mistakes along the way. We are all human and we all continue to learn each day. The final advice the panel left us with was to be a real person, be who you are; take the extra steps to help out the company and know when it is time to be serious, observe a lot during the first few months to see how co-workers and your boss behaves, you don’t want to be the one who doesn’t get it. You’re only entry-level once, so take advantage of it!
By Lauren Garczynski
There is no real substitute for experience.This is what Elizabeth Guyton, communications director for Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker believes. What might sound like a cliché statement is actually something Guyton and her own expansive experience can attest to.
Guyton served as a speaker for the political PR session at National Conference in Boston. Joined by Mike DeFilippis, project manager of Direct Impact which operates as a grassroots communications campaign, the two discussed what goes into a political PR career and the steps to achieve that position.
Guyton originally began her career as an English major, stating that upon entering college there was, “not a political bone in my body.” Although the motions would soon be set for a career in political communications as she searched for her niche, she knew her future would involve writing and a fast-paced environment.
Guyton emphasized that her hard work and passion for doing what she set out to do helped her reach the position she is at right now. Initiating her political experience through working on campaigns, she described how her time working on Kelly Ayotte’s senate campaign as a field representative, drew her into press communications. Guyton keenly soaked in all that was going on around her especially when it came to networking with fellow communication staffers on the campaign. Through this experience, she allowed herself to get her foot in the door and came to the realization that this was what she wanted to do. After Ayotte won the race, Guyton’s hard work paid off too as he later went on to become a staff assistant.
Three political campaigns later, Guyton has a strong appreciation for finding her niche in political communications. For a year now, Guyton has been serving as communications director for Massachusetts Governor, Charlie Baker. As communications director, Guyton oversees and manages communications and relationships with the press. Through her experience she has recognized and shared three important points for those interested in political communications.
Guyton reminded attendees of the session that experience can help pave the way to realizing your potential and provide stepping stones for your first job. In terms of experience and getting your feet wet, she said, “there is a lot of value in getting out into the world and absorbing it.”
The Transformation of PR
By Charleah Trombitas
Mike Fernandez, CEO of Burson-Marsteller, shared his journey to success and spoke about the transformation of PR during one of the sessions at PRSSA National Conference in Boston. He began by telling us how he was raised in somewhat of a lower-class family, nobody ever thought he would amount to much. His parents pushed him to do his best and he ended up getting a job on Capitol Hill after six weeks of knocking on doors. He shared that he just needed to learn to ask the right questions. Instead of “Hello, do you have any job openings?” he got a job when he asked, “You guys look busy. Do you need any help around here?” With that, it began his career filled with asking the right questions.
As Fernandez worked his way up, he was infatuated with the idea of making something better. When most people ran from a crisis, that’s when he would step up. He was hired into multiple companies during a time of crisis, always excited for the opportunity to turn a bad situation around. As he worked through crisis after crisis, he took note on how populations were changing. “We have a responsibility as PR people to think. We have to think about how demographics are changing and how the world is changing,” Fernandez said.
Communications is changing; the world is more social. These tips made me realize how much the world really is changing. As a graduating senior, I will be entering the workforce with an entirely different media landscape than those out of school for a few years. This session emphasized, for me, the importance of active learning. If we as PR professionals can learn all throughout our careers, we will be ahead of the curve and ready to tackle changes at any time.
Fernandez also touched on the basic need to be human as PR people. “PR means people rule,” Fernandez said. Being human in a PR role is something a lot of speakers touched on in sessions at conference. It can be easy to get caught up in statistics and business goals, but at the end of the day, the function as a PR representative is to reach, connect and inspire PEOPLE. His words were refreshing to hear that sometimes in the hardest of situations, remembering that everyone is human can be the solution to a dilemma.
Mike Fernandez explaining the “new definition” of PR
For his final takeaways, he left the crowd with these words of wisdom:
If Mike Fernandez is advocating for us to be our full selves in our profession, I think we should listen. We should all feel a little more inspired to be our true selves in all aspects of our life. As Fernandez said, everyone can use their own experiences to their advantage in the workplace!