By Latisha Ellison
DePaul PRSSA hosted a regional conference for music and entertainment PR called PRpalooza. I had the pleasure of sitting in on two sessions: one with Rob Walton from Allied Integrated Marketing (AIM) and the other with the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE). AIM represents major film studios and Walton heads GrassRoots Promotion and red carpet events, while DCASE is responsible for organizing and promoting seven free music festivals for the city of Chicago. It was my first time in Chicago, I had a blast, and even learned a few things along the way.
1. Entertainment PR is not glamorous.
It's hard work. These PR professionals work 18-hour days and wear several hats. They are part event planner, part travel agent, part tour guide and part food critic; that's what it means to be a publicist. As an entertainment publicist you will be up at 5 a.m. picking up talent to do press tours for the day or getting the media ready for an event happening later in the day. Then, you will be up late because your company will want a full report of the day's work. In Chicago, the PR professionals are right in the middle of two time zones, so Walton is expected to be answering emails until at least 7:30 p.m. to accommodate all clients. If you're thinking about entertainment PR, just remember red carpets are fun, but you're behind the scenes keeping everything from falling apart, not modeling for the shoe cam.
2. Genuine connections are crucial.
We are always told how important it is to network, but I think that sometimes we forget that part of networking is forming a real connection with someone. PR is all about relationships and now is the time to start building genuine relationships with those going into same industry as you. National and regional conferences are great places to meet your peers who will eventually become your colleagues. If the relationship is real, the connections will be better and mutually beneficial. I think this is especially true when networking with professionals in the industry. Real connections will last longer than the two-minute conversation you have after a breakout session.
3. Creativity is important.
AIM represented the movie "Sausage Party," and Walton had to discover a way to get some publicity for the film, so he reached out to the food section of the paper that wrote about different types of sausage and he got some buzz going about the film. Another time he did some research for a film and found that it had a connection to a local theater. Through his research he was able to connect the film to the city of Chicago which helped generate even more press. In entertainment, as in all branches of PR, you really have to think about who your audience is and what will make them interested in your movie or event. Thinking outside the box can make you more appealing to more people.
4. Current Events are important.
It's always important to know what's going on in the world, regardless of the industry you're in. In entertainment, knowing about the world can help you create more ideas for your communication plan. In the film industry, promotional screenings are held to get a preview of what the public will think about the film and how the publicists have to frame their messaging. The movie "Patriot's Day" came out at the same time the Chicago Police Department was facing scrutiny in the media. AIM invited 30 members of the Chicago PD to a screening of the movie as a way of calming things down a bit.
5. PRKent is preparing us for the real world.
Listening to DCASE's presentation made me feel like I was sitting in Eric Mansfield's media relations class and Professor Armour's PR Tactics class. Press releases aren't dead. In fact, they're incredibly important and need to grab the attention of the reporter reading it, and that reporter had better be the right person to receive the release! In entertainment PR it is so important to follow a communication plan, using a workback, months before your event. This plan includes a roadmap for the event and leaves room for potential roadblocks that are sure to happen. Research is the key to a successful event because through research we learn who our audience is and how they will receive our messages. Our key messages have to be targeted the right way--with a strong call to action--to each of our audiences if we want a successful event.
I learned a lot at PRpalooza and had a great time. Special thanks to DePaul PRSSA for planning a great regional conference! If any PRSSA Kent members are interested in attending future PRSSA conferences, talk to the PRSSA officers and learn about how you can attend.
Latisha Ellison is a junior public relations major and is PRSSA Kent's YouToo Committee Chairperson. Contact her at email@example.com.
By Meghan Caprez
Around this time of year, I’m busy taking final exams and writing research papers. However, I can also be found hunched over my desk writing out holiday cards to the professionals in my network.
I like – no, I LOVE – sending snail mail. My friends receive dozens of post cards from me each year, and I much prefer writing out a thank you note to sending one via email. So it makes sense that I would enjoy writing out holiday cards. But why do I send them to professionals, too?
It’s personal. It lets those in my network know that I’m thinking about them outside of a stiff, career-focused business atmosphere. It takes time to write out, address and mail a physical holiday card, so professionals know that our relationship matters to me.
It’s different. Not a lot of college students think to send holiday cards to their family and friends, let alone to professionals in their network. While I’ve only mailed holiday cards for the past three years, professionals have now come to expect it from me. Just call me the Christmas card girl!
It’s global. The great thing about the holiday season is that it is nearly universal. If you aren’t celebrating a religious holiday, you’re celebrating the winter solstice or the new year. Because I studied abroad, I have professional contacts in London and Dublin, too. The holiday season is a great excuse to send them some snail mail love.
But I get it; winter holiday cards aren’t for everyone, and keeping in touch with contacts in your professional network can be tough. Over the past few years, I’ve been lucky to meet tons of great networkers at PRSSA National events. Here are just a few of their suggestions for staying in contact with professionals:
If you’re a PR or communication major, chances are you need coffee (or hot chocolate) to survive. So why not make your daily Starbucks run a networking opportunity? Once or twice a year, reach out to the professionals in your network and invite them to catch up over coffee.
If you’re like me, your network is spread out throughout the country…and even the world. It’s not as easy to set up a coffee date when your mentor is in New York City and you live in Ohio. Instead of catching up over a warm beverage, catch up over a warm keyboard. Send professionals a note every season to see how things are going.
Send a treat
One of my friends from PRSSA National said she sends her internship supervisors an Edible Arrangement every year around the time she started working for them. Maybe your old officemates had a sweet tooth, so a dozen cookies might be the way to go. This is a great way to show your thanks for the opportunity and let your old employers know you’re thinking of them. It can get pricey, so adopt this method sparingly.
Find your own holiday card
When you talk to professionals, pay attention to the things they say they enjoy. One professional shared that she connected with a student over their mutual love of Halloween. Now, every year, the student sends her a Halloween treat. Look for unique opportunities like that to connect with professionals in your network, whether it’s emailing them silly cat videos or mailing them a $5 Dairy Queen gift card each National Ice Cream Day.
Meghan Caprez is a graduate student studing communications studies at Kent State. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Confessions of a Freshman PR Major
By Natalie Meek
As a freshman, I’ve learned how to survive two straight days of class with no sleep and a venti sized coffee. I’ve learned how to start a conversation with a complete stranger, and to not be embarrassed for eating an entire pizza at three in the morning. But thanks to PRSSA, I have also learned how to start a resume, network with professionals, and how to prepare for future internships.
Many freshmen, like myself, come into college with a vague vision for their future. We take an array of classes, join various clubs and organizations, and meet as many people as we can in hopes to prepare for our eventual life after college. However, because of PRSSA, I can honestly say that I have a clearer idea of my future as a public relations professional.
There are so many valuable lessons and skills that people can take away from being a PRSSA member. I would encourage anyone to become involved- especially as an underclassman. Being a PRSSA member not only helps me constantly keep my professional goals in mind, but also pushes me to stretch those goals to more than I would have ever imagined otherwise. By being exposed to dozens of professionals from local and national businesses, you are able to see first-hand the different types of opportunities that are available for this career. Attending networking events like Communications Connected as a freshman can also be incredibly valuable. Although you probably aren’t looking to connect for an immediate internship, it is never too early to start making connections and putting your name out there.
The PRSSA meetings that occur every other Wednesday have been a great way to start this learning process. In just one semester, I have learned about PR opportunities in non-profits, the fashion industry, entertainment, and government. Because you have no experience in PR, it is so valuable to hear about these categories right off the bat. After listening to professionals explain their career responsibilities, it is much easier to have a clearer vision of what you like and what you do not. When you have a better idea of where you want to take your future career, you are able to make your classes and internships much more beneficial.
One of the events I attended this semester was PRSSA National Conference in Indianapolis. This was an amazing event that hosted hundreds of PRSSA students from across the nation. We all had the opportunity to network with each other and with the professionals that spoke at the conference. There were sessions given by PR professionals working for Vera Bradley, Warner Brothers, the NCAA, nonprofit organizations, and many other companies. There were multiple opportunities for resume critique and workshops, and we even attended a few sessions with the professional organization, PRSA. Being surrounded by other aspiring public relations professionals created a very exciting atmosphere, and speaking with the professionals who had already achieved many of the goals that we set for ourselves was incredibly inspiring.
PRSSA Kent has been more than just a career starter for me. I came to Kent State not knowing many people, and I wasn’t incredibly active on campus because everything was so new to me. But PRSSA has been nothing but welcoming since the very first meeting. The upperclassmen on the executive board are role models like no other. They are smart, driven, experienced students and there are so many lessons that I have learned simply by watching them run our chapter. So many upperclassmen, especially at National Conference, reached out to me with advice and I am lucky to have formed friendships with such a smart, supportive group of people.
It’s normal, and in most cases, expected, to have confusion concerning your future professional life; and PRSSA knows that. The faculty assistance, diversity, and events within PRSSA make this organization extremely beneficial. I have made friends, mentors, and connections by joining PRSSA, and I am so glad that I chose to start this journey as a freshman.
Natalie Meek is a freshman PR major and is PRSSA Kent's editor. Contact her at email@example.com.
At the beginning of August, I had the wonderful opportunity to attend PRSSA’s New York Alumni and Interns Summer Reception at its headquarters located in Manhattan’s beautiful Financial District. The evening was filled with great food, refreshments and conversations surrounding the public relations field. I met many seasoned PR professionals, as well as young PR professionals at the beginning of their careers. It was interesting to hear each individual’s career path and learn about other PRSSA chapters throughout the country. I walked away from the event with an awesome goodie bag, new friends, mentors and perspectives about my own journey within the field of public relations. I believe networking events are some of the most powerful ways young PR professionals can take the next steps in their careers. With that being said, it is important to make the most out of these networking opportunities, especially in larger cities. Here are some quick tips that will help you gain the most value out of future networking experiences:
1. Arrive prepared.
This is the most important tip I can give you when prepping you for a networking event. Prior to an event, polish and print your business cards, as well as résumé. You never know who will ask you for your contact and experience information. Even if someone doesn’t directly ask you for your business card or résumé, offer him or her your information anyway. Consider preparing a 30-second elevator pitch about yourself to further impress professionals at an event.
2. Dress to impress.
Professionalism is key. Although some networking events may be held in more laid back settings, such as cocktail hours, it is still important to look your best and display professionalism. Always act, speak and present yourself with professionalism to gain credibility and show others how serious you are about your career. I recommend asking event officials what attire is preferred prior to an event date. Business casual attire is usually a safe option.
3. Be confident.
Don’t be afraid to engage with each individual at a networking event. Exude confidence by walking around the room and speaking with everyone. It is crucial to step outside of your comfort zone and show you have the personality to communicate with a diverse group of people. Kent State University’s PR Program has prepared you to stand out in the competitive world of PR, so show everyone the strength and versatility of a Kent State degree.
4. Ask questions.
Never be afraid to ask questions. You never know when a simple question may lead to a future job opportunity. Seasoned PR professionals appreciate curiosity and critical thinking about the industry. I encourage individuals to think of two or three possible questions they want answered prior to attending a networking event; these may be broad or specific questions. Enter an event with a purpose.
PR is about cultivating genuine relationships. After a networking event, reach out to the individuals that you met, in order to continue conversations and further professional relationships. I also encourage you to connect with your newly acquired contacts via LinkedIn or other social media platforms. Reconnect with individuals within a week of a networking event to ensure you stay fresh in their minds.
Victoria Manenti is a senior public relations major and marketing minor. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Stephanie Martoccia
Last Friday, I attended the CCI Career Expo in Cleveland, and it was quite the experience. I met a lot of people, collected many business cards and learned a lot about what to do differently next time. It was an amazing experience, and I advise everyone to attend at least one career fair before seriously looking for internships.
Know what you want to get out of your experience
Before you step foot inside of a career expo, know what you want to get out of it. Are you attending to get an internship or job? When do you want the internship or job? Maybe you just want to network with professionals. Whatever your objective is, implement a strategy of how you plan to make that objective happen.
Show up on time.
Yes, I was late for the career fair. It was from 1-4 p.m. and I thought that three hours was too much time to speak to professionals. I took extra time doing my hair, stopped for coffee on my drive up and got off at the wrong highway exit. Oops! I soon learned that three hours was not nearly enough time to speak to all of the companies that I had wanted to speak with.
Don’t be nervous.
After arriving late, I walked into the room in which the career expo was held. I faced a whirlwind of emotions so I cannot imagine what my face looked like, but a very polite stranger told me that I looked terrified. After she mentioned that, I realized that my jaw was nearly touching the floor, and I was whispering to myself “Oh my goodness, what do I do?” After speaking to a few friends, I became more comfortable and realized that there is nothing to be scared of. These people were not vicious, they wanted to help build my professional career.
Wear comfortable shoes.
There will be a lot of aspiring professionals in comparison to company representatives which means waiting. Lots and lots of waiting in lines to speak with companies of your choice. That being said, wear shoes that you will be comfortable with standing in for the duration of the event.
Read about the company prior to speaking with its representatives.
While you are waiting in those long lines to speak to representatives, it is a great idea to read about what they do and what opportunities are available for jobs and internships. This information can sometimes be found in resources provided at the expo or simply searched on your smartphone. Reading about a company before you speak with them will show that you care about them. The conversation can also be more about your professional development instead of what the company does. You can google them, but they will not google you (unless you are famous or something, then maybe). For example, I am a PR major looking for PR careers. It would not be smart to wait 20 minutes in line for a graphic design company simply because you didn’t know it was only for graphic design.
Make power moves!
As I mentioned earlier, I was very nervous when I first arrived at the career fair so I decided to speak with some friends. While I was chatting with my friends, I was taking up time that I could have spent with professionals. Make power moves and approach every table that you have interest in. When you approach the tables, be confident and introduce yourself first. Show that you are attending the career fair with purpose!
Make sure to wash and moisturize your hands.
An important part of what I consider to be a ‘power move’ is introducing yourself by shaking someone’s hand. When doing this, the last thing you want to do is leave a negative impression before you even get to have a conversation with a company. Make sure you wash and moisturize your hands. It sounds strange, but the kind of handshake you give will leave a lasting impression. It seems strange, but make sure the first impression you give is clean and smooth!
Print more resumes than you think necessary.
There is nothing worse than being unprepared, especially at an event like a career expo. How prepared you are at an event like this can determine if you get a job or not. Print more resumes than you think you need in order to be prepared to hand them out like free candy.
Never talk badly about another company who is at the career expo.
Even if the company you did not like is not near you, it does not mean that someone else will not hear. Remember, what Bob says about Sally says more about Bob than Sally.
Think of your strengths and weaknesses ahead of time.
Every representative asked me some variation of my strengths and/or weaknesses. After speaking with three or four professionals, I had my spiel ready to go. I could have sounded much better to the first few professionals if I had thought of my strengths or weaknesses prior to the career fair.
Congratulations! You have finished my 10 steps to surviving your first career expo. Now take what you have learned and become the ambitious professional that you are meant to be.