By: Macy Rosen
Brenna Parker, a 2017 public relations graduate of Kent State’s School of Media and Journalism (formerly named School of Journalism and Mass Communication), who now serves as the Digital Director for Vice President Kamala Harris at the White House, shared highlights of her career journey with a packed room of students in Franklin Hall, the same building Parker said she could never forget.
She did not know what she wanted to do throughout high school and college, but “she looks for high adventure,” Professor Stephanie Smith said. When Parker graduated, that’s just what she did. Parker moved to Washington D.C. after college and started working for the nonprofit, Civic Nation.
In the years following her graduation from Kent State, Brenna has worked on some of the biggest movements of the last five years, including leading digital communications for the National Domestic Workers Alliance during the #MeToo movement, the family separation crisis for Families Belong Together and media relations for the student walkouts in response to the 2018 Parkland shooting.
Currently, Parker is responsible for all of Vice President Harris’ social media accounts, content partnerships, online content and more. Parker said she must be intentional about her content in this position. Parker returned to campus to be honored with the Outstanding New Professional award from the Kent State Alumni Association. She made time to speak with students and faculty about her experiences and shared valuable career and life advice.
Madison Goerl, PRSSA Vice President of Professional Relations, served as a moderator for the conversation with Parker. Interestingly, Parker served in the same PRSSA Kent leadership role when she was a Kent State student.
“Working with Brenna was such a great experience,” Goerl said. “She is truly paving the way for women in the field.”
Parker encouraged every student to take the leap if they want to; move out of Ohio and make connections. She told students they can be just as successful as Ivy League graduates.
“If you're somebody from Ohio and you're trying to break through (in a big market), you're competing against people that already live in cities, you're competing with students at GW, you're competing with students at NYU,” Parker said. “They're already there making those connections and building those networks.”
She advised students to begin networking while they’re in college and to be strategic when applying for jobs. Rather than blindly applying for jobs, Parker advised students to be selective and conduct research. She recommended students try to find someone they may know at the organization and share their interest in the job with that person.
“Brenna’s story was truly so inspiring to me,” said Angie Robinette, a freshman public relations major. “She explained how networking is very important in the PR world, and you should always put yourself out there because you never know who can connect you to an opportunity.”
When discussing the topic of dignity and respect in the workplace, Parker inspired every female in the room. She told students her experiences of often being the youngest person in the room and having to fight for ideas and strategies to reach people effectively.
“Learning how to advocate for yourself looks different for everybody, it is sometimes the hardest thing to do, and it changes with every year, every job that you do,” Parker said.
Her experiences and opinions brought tears to the eyes of many students in the room.
“Brenna was one of the most inspirational speakers I've had the privilege of listening to at Kent State,” PRKent student Francesca Malinky said. “I really enjoyed hearing about her honest tribulations through her career in D.C., and it was comforting to think that I am in the same position she was in college. That really gave me a lot of inspiration and hope for my future as a PR major.”
By: Katie Masko
Our first meeting, “Satisfying Your PR Craving,” brought three public relations professionals from the food and beverage industry to discuss their day-to-day work and most important skills for working in the field in Franklin Hall September 26.
“Most messaging starts and ends with us,” said Brandi Neloms, the chief strategy officer at Sipping Black Only, about the most important part of working in the industry. “We are drafting what sounds good and what's true.”
Social Media Strategist at Nestle, Deanna Langer, and VP of Communications at J.M. Smucker, Abbey Linville, joined Neloms to share their experiences on digital analytics, crisis strategy and essential transferable skills learned in the PR Kent program.
Langer and Linville quickly agreed good writing is the most important skill a PR professional should have when entering the workforce.
“If you can write, you can do almost anything,” Linville said.
When discussing crisis strategies, Langer shared that a minor crisis can potentially change all social media plans for the rest of the month.
“Social moves really fast… you'll have a content calendar planned for the whole month and then something terrible happens,” she said.
Langer also spoke about her use of digital analytics in social media, bringing light to why Digital Analytics in Advertising and Public Relations is an essential class for PR majors to take.
“We work really closely with our consumer marketplace insights team, and they do tons of market research on our consumer, how people are interacting with our brands, and what channels they're on,” Langer said.
Their final pieces of advice went beyond standard networking advice.
“Look for ways to constantly engage with people so that when you do have a need, or you do have an opportunity for them, it's more of an authentic symbiotic relationship than it is just you tapping on the shoulder and asking for things,” Neloms said.
By: William Dakin
Coming from a small town of just over 3,500 people, the only thing I knew was “Community." Traveling to San Francisco in April was a huge step, visiting one of the largest cities in the United States. I expected individuality; every man for himself. I thought business owners wouldn’t have the time or motivation to help their local community. To my surprise , a majority of the businesses I encountered prioritize the local community.
While in Napa, NMGZ broke us into teams to help advise two local coffee companies. We talked about marketing, subscriptions, and. The coffee company I helped was Ohm Coffee. Being a team leader on this project allowed me to personally speak to Derek Bromley, the founder and owner of OHM Coffee Roasters.
Derek has an amazing sense of community. Because their coffee shop is run out of a food truck, community is essential for their brand’s success. .. Over dinner, Derek talked about the festivals and weddings his coffee truck has catered.. Every Tuesday and Saturday, they serve coffee at the Napa farmers market. I grew up around farmers markets and they were always the core of community involvement. I love how the produce and products are made by community members, for community members. Ohm Coffee wants to be a company that does just that. They want to be a place for the community to hang out, relax, and connect. Derek and Ohm Coffee have found a way to keep that core value of coffee shops, even on the road. .
Going forward, Derek hopes to open a brick-and-mortar location, a coffee roastery. Derek is a musician in the band “Mama Said,” which often performs in the Napa Valley area. The coffee roastery will give local musicians and bands a place to perform..
Traveling from Newcomerstown, a town with 3,800 people to San Francisco, home to 875,000, I never thought I would find a similar sense of community among businesses and their customers. The community within NMGZ is what sets us apart. Finding a similar connection in Ohm Coffee made my trip to San Francisco extra special.