March 26, Hofstra’s chapter of PRSSA visited Pennsylvania State University to attend “The Reality of PR: A Survivor’s Guide to the Public Relations World,” a regional activity hosted by Penn State’s PRSSA chapter.
The day began with keynote speaker Michael Hinman (@AirlockAlpha) of the Environmental PR Group (LINK: http://www.eprgroup.com). Mr. Hinman spoke about the United States’ dependency on foreign oil, and how he and the rest of the team at EPR are working to generate interest in renewable energy sources.
Mr. Hinman stressed the importance of knowing your audience and personalizing your outreach. In other words, it’s bad form to send one general press release to all of your media contacts. A business journal has different needs than a consumer magazine, and it’s critical as PR people to understand those needs. Mr. Hinman also urged the many PR hopefuls in the room to be persistent; don’t be discouraged if you don’t hear back from a media source. Keep up your PR game and the media will take notice.
Following the keynote speaker, the “PR Survivors” broke off into seminars. These included lectures on corporate communications, personal branding, and connecting with online consumers. Tutorials in InDesign and Photoshop were also offered in lieu of these seminars. I attended the personal branding seminar, and learned a lot about representing yourself in the best way possible. Here are a few tips presented by Linda Burkley of Ardis Communications LLC:
- You only have seven seconds to make a first impression
- You only have 1/20 of a second to make that impression online
- Focus on the big picture; look for moments when you can use your tools to their full advantage
- Learning, speaking, and writing skills are crucial in the communications industry—and these skills cannot necessarily be taught
The seminars were followed by an Etiquette Luncheon at Penn State’s Nittany Lion Inn, a beautiful hall with a grand ballroom. PRSSA attendees were treated to a fantastic four-course meal while listening to a presentation on proper table etiquette by Penn State Chef and Hospitality Professor Jeff Boggie. Key tip: make sure your portfolio and business cards are within reach at a business event!
After lunch, attendees broke off into two more sessions of their choosing. Sessions included: Healthcare Communications, Tourism PR, Finding Your Niche, Sports Communication, Agency PR, and Government PR.
A helpful piece of information from the Tourism session: treat all news media with the utmost respect, whether they are a camera operator or the host of a show. This type of respect is key to building meaningful relationships with the media.
Merideth Topalanchik of CooperKatz had a lot of useful information to offer PRSSA members looking to work in a PR agency. These included:
- Don’t take a job right on the spot. Politely let the company know that you wish to explore your options.
- Media relations is incredibly important in an agency
- It is often best to start at a small agency to get a more hands-on experience
- Multitasking skills and organization are key to working at an agency
- Internships are important to finding out what type of work you don’t want to do!
The final session was a discussion on public relations ethics presented by Patricia Whalen of DePaul University. The presentation included very colorful, tongue-in-cheek views of public relations ethics. Some believe PR practitioners have no code of ethics at all, which Ms. Whalen proved to be completely untrue. One key point: saying “I’m Sorry,” is crucial in dealing with a crisis. Recognize your mistake, and let your publics know what you are doing right now to make it right.
The activity wrapped up with a Networking Social, which allowed all attendees to get connected and recap from the event.
Alissa Crist, Freshman, Public Relations major