PRoviding Insight – Paladin Dinner

beccaBecca Bellush, Hofstra’s PRSSA President, attended the PRSA Paladin Dinner April 20th.

Jeneen Garcia, from PRSA, invited me to a PRSA Foundation Paladin Dinner at the W Hotel in Manhattan. Although it was the same night as Theda Sandiford, I couldn’t help but be dazzled by the W Hotel and a “black tie optional” label on the invitation. I RSVP’ed yes, feeling confident in my E-board to handle Theda’s event.

Monday, April 20th, if you recall was disgusting, cold and rainy. Nonetheless, I hauled through the subway from my internship to the W Hotel in Union Square. It is gorgeous inside, with a deep purple and burgundy theme and soothing lights lit in the lobby. The upstairs looked even fancier for the event.

I grabbed my nametag once I got upstairs and entered the cocktail hour. I was there alone, knew no one and felt weird about being a college student sipping on a cocktail. I grabbed a glass of water and an older man from the PRSA Foundation board introduced himself to me. Phew…awkwardness averted! He explained to me that the Foundation is the fundraising and non-profit aspect of PRSA, and this dinner was the first of its kind. I was the only PRSSA president who attended the cocktail hour, and I was glad I did. It allowed me to break into a whole new kind of networking.


Dinner started soon after I arrived and Kathy Lewton, the Foundation’s Board of Trustees President, was the emcee for the night. She shared her stories of starting out the public relations before it ever really existed. She got her masters in communications, and spoke of a project she had, where she had to ask a professional about the world of PR. She looked up “public relations” in the phone book and called the first person she saw. He happened to be Daniel Edelman, the founder of the Edelman Public Relations. The attendees laughed at Kathy’s ability to get the attention of one of the founders of PR. She used this anecdote to introduce Daniel’s son, Richard. He thanked everyone for the support of his father and congratulated John Graham on his award.


I sat next to Jeneen at dinner and she said that Richard Edelman is an incredible speaker and she has seen him on a number of occasions. He is kind of a celebrity in the PR world. When speaking, he very animated and clearly a well-versed PR professional. Richard only spoke for ten minutes, but I hope that I have the opportunity to see him again.


At her next turn to speak, Kathy mentioned the scholarship winners in the room and the two PRSSA presidents…hey that’s me! Then it was time for her to introduce John Graham, the chairman of Fleishman- Hillard International Communications.

His speech was very intellectual and prepared, but his poise proved he was at the top of the PR game.

Once the speeches were over, I befriended Steve Shivinsky, the VP of Corporate Communications for Trinity Health. Trinity Health is a pharmaceuticals company based outside of Detroit. He gave me follow-up advice and enlightened me on healthcare public relations. He was really excited because his group is just inching into the world of social media, and it’s taking off. After the evening was over, he gave me his card and asked me to call if I was ever in the area. I just sent him a “thanks for chatting with me” email yesterday.


The Paladin Dinner was the swankiest event I’d ever been to, but what an opportunity to be a guest there. The people I spoke to gave me invaluable advice and I learned to network in a room full of strangers. All of the PRSA members encouraged me to hold on to my Associate PRSA membership because of all of the friends and contacts they’ve made. Many of the people had been involved for over 20 years, which made me believe that I should stay involved in PRSA for years to come.


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