This year I attended my last PRSSA National Conference. Although I’m excited to graduate and enter the real world this May, it was bittersweet to leave Philadelphia knowing that it was the last time I’d attend Conference as a student.
During the awards dinner on the last night we were all given a note card that says, “today’s preparation determines tomorrow’s achievement.” On the back is an acronym for A.C.H.I.E.V.E., which I think is an excellent summary of the insight shared during PRSSA National Conference.
A is for aspire.
Aspiration has been a main theme of every PRSSA event I’ve attended. Aspire means to align your hopes toward achieving something. PRSSA encourages students to set big goals and chase after them, which is, of course, much easier said than done.
Mary Henige and Mary Beth West are admirable speakers who presented at Conference. These two women are strong role models for pre-professionals and encouraged attendees to stretch further to achieve success. Here are some words of wisdom given during their presentations:
- Be a life-long learner. I was surprised to see that even West was taking notes when the other panelists were speaking during the Living Legends panel, showing that she embraces that there is always more to learn!
- Showing up is not enough. Have a roll-up-your sleeves approach to your work.
- Squeeze everything you can out of college. Learn all you can so you’ll leave with a rounded education.
- Don’t underestimate the power of reverse mentoring. Just because you’re young does not mean you can’t teach others who are older than you.
- It’s okay to not know where you’re going, but everything you do should be driven by goals.
- Quality of experience not quantity (salary). A person of initiative doesn’t sit back and get frustrated about something, they change it. – Mary Heinigie
- Applying for jobs is scary. Don’t let that stop you.
“Don’t create obstacles for yourself- stop thinking of yourself as a woman. Think of yourself as a professional” – Mary Beth West
It all comes down to the fact that it’s not someone else’s job to prepare you for your career. College is the best time to start your legacy of initiative and integrity.
C is for challenge
One of my favorite parts of PRSSA National Conference is sitting in on PRSA ICON sessions. This year Brian Solis presented on leaning forward. Although my generation grew up with social media, I know it will not stop with what we have now. Social media is always changing and what’s “in” today won’t necessarily be “in” tomorrow. It’s important to embrace change and avoid pulling back, because brands that embrace change are the brands that stay relevant to consumers
Social media has a reputation of being narcissistic, but when social media is done well, it’s not about me, or the brand I’m representing. The A.R.T. of social media is actions, reactions and transactions. We live in an age where brands are now people and people are now brands. How can we leverage this as PR professionals?
Here is a Storify summary of the Twitter conversations revolving around Solis’ lecture.
“Humbly recognize there’s more to learn. Learning helps us lead and learning brings about change.” – Brian Solis #LeanForward
H is for hope
When I was a kid I didn’t think twice about how fortunate I was that I could read. The PRSA ICON presentation by John Wood, who explained how a library card could be the passport to a better life, was very inspiring. Wood is very passionate about making education accessible to boys and girls all over the world. In fact, he is so passionate about this mission that he quit his job at Microsoft to develop his nonprofit organization, Room to Read, from scratch.
I was deeply touched by this man’s passion and willingness to take a risk. He taught that bold goals attract bold people and that hope can go a long way. He encourages attendees to strive for more than just small-scale leadership. “Don’t be the leader of an organization,” he said. “I want to be one of many leaders of a global movement.”
As a future professional it’s important to have big, hairy audacious goals (B.H.A.G.S.) and learn to have hope in what might seem impossible.
“An entrepreneur is someone who does something with resources not yet acquired.” – John Wood, Room to Read
I is for insight
Insight is a key asset for job seekers to leverage themselves as an asset to a public relations team. Valuable hires come into a company ready to put their knowledge to work for a company or a brand. In a session on analytics and big data led by Adam Singer, Shonali Burke and Deidre Breakenridge, we learned a few of the ways data is used in real-world applications:
- Use data to tell stories with visual representations.
- Use data to pitch- No one likes receiving pitches that are not based on factual evidence.
- Use data to influence strategy decisions.
- Use data to predict future outcomes.
One of the best examples given was for crises. Data can help make responses more efficient and can even save lives. Another good example discussed was the clever campaign created for Kingsford Coal, which involved sending Santa to visit the nicest social media user. The lucky winner in the photo (left) was found through data-driven research. The number of times he said, “thank you” and “please” on social media were monitored and his politeness was recognized. Who knew good manners could help you win a visit from Santa?
Here are some of the basic tools PR students can familiarize themselves with, suggested by Adam Singer from Google:
E is for enthusiasm
Of the many areas in PR, agency life was emphasized in the sessions at Conference. Juggling life at an agency is often challenging for new professionals that are employed at agencies right after college.
New professionals are typically younger, unmarried and can handle more stress than employees that have been in the workforce for a longer period of time. Because of this, they are often pushed to accomplish more. Every professional is faced with the challenge at one time or another to decide their limit and maintain the work-life balance that works for them. In addition, if you’re enthusiastic about your job it won’t feel like work, but if you dread going to the office, it might be time to try something new.
Members of the panel included Jessica Noonan of Burson-Marsteller, Joe Clarkson of Taylor Strategy and Nick Lucido of Edelman Public Relations. Here are a few tips they shared during the panel discussion:
- Have an outlet for creativity and fun. Too much work will inevitably lead to burnout.
- Don’t work hard; work smart. Working inefficiently is actually a disservice for your clients.
- Love what you do, because if you’re in it for the money, you’re in for a let-down.
“Be nice to people. The PR world is very, very small and your relationships can help or hurt you.” –Nick Lucido, Edelman Public Relations
V is for voice
There was a special session for Chapter presidents on the first night of Conference. Cassandra Bailey, principal at Slice Communications in Philadelphia shared her wisdom on the importance of uniqueness and drive. She advised students to embrace personal branding as a chance to show authenticity and individuality.
Here are some of her key points:
- Ideas, time and insights are the currency of PR agencies. What values do your ideas have over those of other agencies?
- Your personal brand should be unique as a fingerprint. What’s unique about you? How can you communicate this with others?
- There is inherent value in being different. How can your voice be distinguishable in the sea of noise?
“There is inherent value in being different.” –Cassandra Bailey
E is for enjoy
With all the sessions and presentations at PRSSANC and PRSA ICON, luckily I found some time to enjoy Philadelphia. I ate a Philadelphia cheese steak (Two, actually. We found a place called Zio’s that was so we good we had to come back again before leaving the city), visited LOVE park, saw the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, and even made some new friends.
This post would be incomplete without photos from the trip!
If you are a PR student I highly recommend joining PRSSA and attending National Conference. Although it’s expensive, attending events helps you meet speakers and other PRSSA members that will help you learn and grow as a future professional. I am so thankful I joined this organization as a sophomore journalism student and that I invested as much as I have so far. I know what I’ve learned and the connections I’ve made will help me succeed as a professional in the pubic relations industry.
View my PRSSANC Recap presentation for UNT PRSSA on Prezi.