SDC: Behind the Scenes

On December 5, 2014, PRSSA hosted our annual Student Development Conference. Attendees of the conference enjoyed advice from three notable speakers, networking and a resume building workshop. While EMU PRSSA members and guests of the University enjoyed the day, the members of the PRSSA E-Board stepped back and watched as an event born of months of collaborative effort came to fruition.

Our Vice President of Public Relations, Leah Rodriguez, was a critical part of our SDC planning operation, as most responsibilities ranging from communicating with catering to making centerpieces fell to her. Leah was truly instrumental in making the day a success. In addition to her hard work, each member of the executive board played their part in making the day everything that it was. Here is a breakdown of what my role as the Chief Financial Officer was, and what I learned from each task that I completed:

Appeal for funding:

This was single handedly the biggest task that I personally worked on in the process of working towards SDC. Ken Bowen, our PRSSA president and I used one of our Tuesday meeting nights to appeal for funding from Student Government here on campus. I can’t even lie to you – the process was so incredibly stressful. The members of Student Government have a clear job to do, which is to not delegate university funds to something that isn’t worth the investment. I respect the job that they need to get done, and recognize that part of the process of doing such is adding a little stress and a lot of questions to the lives of those looking for funding.

Source: Under30Ceo

Source: Under30Ceo

The questions asked of Ken and I revolved around what the event was going to entail, who it would benefit and other related topics. With each passing question, my overthinking got more and more convinced that our appeal for funding would not get approved. However, my overreacting could not have been more incorrect and we ultimately were unanimously approved for the funding.

What I learned from this task was that we needed to be aware of where our funds were coming from and how we were going to use every penny. In the process of preparing for our meeting with Student Government, I created a budget breakdown that itemized each and every thing that we would be purchasing for SDC. During the meeting, Student Government referenced this budget frequently in order to make sure that they too understood exactly where the money was going.

I aspire to be an event coordinator for a non-profit organization one day, and the skills and experiences that I gained from working with the financial side of SDC will prove to be incredibly useful one day. This experience was a good eye opener to how aware and cautious you truly have to be when it comes to funding an event. Just as the old cliché goes, money does not grow on trees. I had to know exactly what each item would cost, how much money we as an organization could put forth, and how much funding from outside organizations we would need to pull in. All of these things also have to be minded when planning larger or corporate events, therefore appealing for funding for SDC provided me with a very educational experience that will without a doubt prove to be useful in the future.

Word of mouth, word of mouth, word of mouth!

A second huge component of planning for SDC was getting people to register and come! For us as E-Board members that meant tweeting about it, retweeting tweets from our chapter’s Twitter page, posting about it on Facebook, and talking it up in our classes. Whether that meant answering questions, bringing it up to the class, or reminding people to register, spreading the news about SDC via word of mouth was one of the most important steps throughout the SDC planning process.

On top of discussing the event with my Eastern Michigan University peers, I also was presented with an opportunity to chat about SDC with the president of a PRSSA chapter from a different institution. This particular individual ultimately ended up attending the event and bringing other members from her chapter with her, thus broadening our networking spectrum and helping students even beyond our own student body develop themselves professional.

The takeaway from that for me as a future PR practitioner is simple: Without publicity, an event could very well flop and on top of that, word of mouth is a free, convenient and effective form of publicity. Sure, as a future PR person I will have other means and potentially more funding to spread the message about an event through a different mean, however, the lesson that I learned while helping plan SDC is that you have to use the resources available to you, and cannot be afraid to speak up about something that you are working hard for!

Sit back, relax, and enjoy!

Come the day of SDC, we were all excited for the event that was going to unfold. Little did I know that yet another valuable lesson was waiting for me at the event. Being one of the very few individuals at EMU whose life contains a Friday class, I was very regretfully unable to attend the morning of the conference and hear what the three speakers had to say. However, I was able to scramble my way over to the student center after my class and arrive in time to enjoy lunch, the resume panel and the resume workshop. These tools were priceless to me in my professional development. In addition to the lessons that I learned about resumes, I also gained perhaps the most important lesson of them all. At the end of all the planning and all of the stress, I realized during my time at SDC that enjoying the event that you poured so much heart and soul into is just as crucial as the event planning itself.

Someday, I will be working in the public relations field and hopefully I will be planning events for the organization in which I work for. At the end of all the planning, a very valuable takeaway from SDC was that it is so incredibly important to enjoy the event you worked so hard for. Thinking in terms of SDC, we had guest attendees from other institutions. Had we acted as if the conference didn’t matter to us or that we were not having fun, the experiences that our guests had would have been greatly diminished. On the flip side of that, someday if I am given the opportunity to work on large corporate scale events, attendees would be highly likely to not have as good of a time if they see that the people who planned the whole day were not enjoying themselves and the work and effort they put into things.

Whether you attended SDC or not, there were a plethora of valuable takeaways and lessons for the future both in the content presented at the conference, but also in the behind the scenes work that the E-Board did to make the day happen. If you didn’t attend SDC, you’re in luck, it’s an annual event! If you did (or didn’t) but working behind the scenes on such a thing is something that intrigues you, please consider running for E-Board! As an E-Board member you have the chance to experience valuable professional development opportunities that will be priceless in the future. And plus you get to meet a lot of awesome people who love PR as much as you, which is a great bonus.

Andrea Mellendorf
Chief Financial Officer
EMU PRSSA

Set yourself apart

While at the SDC was taking place, I learned some very interesting.

The first speaker was Luke Capizzo from Identity. He had a multitude of things that he talked about, one of his points that he referenced is if the press release is dead or not. He hates the press release today because they are not personalized. It is just a mass release to reporters who aren’t even interested in that release. I talked to one of my classmates and he said that he thinks it is dead. Mostly because of how ineffective it is today.

The second speaker that came was Brittany Brown, a 2013 graduate from Eastern Michigan University. She dealt a lot with being an entrepreneur and how to be your own person in terms of setting yourself apart. But one of the points both Brittany and Luke both made was how to set yourself apart.

Now what does that mean exactly, setting yourself apart. What that means to me is how do you differentiate yourself from the next person. If your writing skills are great, if you’re on social media, have a blog, and all these different types of things, what makes you that much special? Luke in some detail talked about having good writing skills.

Fact: if you do not have good writing skills as working in public relations, you will not be in public relations for much longer.

Source: Fansofdavid.com

Source: Fansofdavid.com

Trying to get your foot in the door is maybe the most difficult thing you have to do when trying to establish yourself as a potential candidate for a company. I think the most important thing you need to do is to have a personality. I love the second point Bent Marketing’s blog makes. BE YOU! “You were born unique” is the first sentence. Make the company notice who you are and what you are capable of. Now that does not mean not being professional. Still have to do that anyways. But companies are trying to find that one complete person with brains, creativity, and a personality.

Brittany started her own firm, The Bee Agency Public Relations and she has notable clients such as Tommey Walker. As she walking out to meet a friend I asked her a question, “How do you differentiate yourself when everyone is doing the same things as you.” I asked her this question previously but I didn’t have time to get an answer because the next speaker was up. But as she was both walking and thinking about her next encounter after the last speaker spoke, I could tell she was deep in thought about this question. She told me she developed a reputation amongst her peers as a go getter and hard worker. If someone asked her to do something, she got it done no questions asked. That’s part of her personality, to be able to get things done no matter the situation.

Even though the position of the public relations practitioner is a widely demanded job, setting yourself apart from the pack is a great way in getting your foot in the door, and building yourself a good reputation. Yes, you do need to be professional: be courteous, get your work on time, etc; you also have to have that personality trait that is needed for your company.

 JuWan Graham
Guest Blogger
EMU PR Student

Entrepreneurship

Source: University of New York in Prague

Source: University of New York in Prague

I know what I want to do and where I want to go after graduation. But after listening to the guest speakers at the Student Development Conference I have realized it may not always work out the way I plan it. I want to be a broadcast journalist because I want to give people news they should know, not what they want us to know. I also want to be an entrepreneur and when one of the speakers talked about it I was very enlightened. I am still not sure of exactly what it is I want to do with the business I create but I know it has to be something that defines me.

Being an entrepreneur is a non-stop job you have to eat, sleep and breathe your brand to make it a success.

Networking and connecting with people is a must, you never know who can be an asset to you. You also never know who is watching you so presenting yourself in a good manner is essential to you and to your brand. Your brand is a reflection of you. I learned that there is no x, y and z on how to be a successful business owner so you have to try different things and see what works. When building your brand the key is knowing the who, what and why. The who is your target audience, the why is the reason for your vision and the what is what you want to do with the brand and how far you want to go with it.

Creating a timeline for the goals of the company is always good. It’s no better feeling then being able to cross things off your to do list. It helps you stay on track. The thing to keep in mind when making your timeline as it pertains to your business is to make the list obtainable not something unrealistic.

I heard some very inspirational things at SDC and I was happy to be there. I have never heard someone say create your own internships and that was something I had never thought about but it makes sense. When you’re going into a certain field they want you to have hands on experience to show them you can handle whatever they put in your hands. Connecting with people in the field you wish to enter is so important. You can ask to shadow someone for a day or two to see first hand what it is like.

Kierra Smith
Guest Blogger
EMU PR Student

Is the press release outdated?

Source: Propel Growth

Source: Propel Growth

Personally, I was taught all throughout college that a key part of doing public relations was writing a successful press release. While I believe this to be partially true, after attending the SDC and listening to the events keynote speaker, Luke Capizzo, talk about the Convergence of Public Relations, I now have a different view of them.

As we all know, press releases are designed to communicate newsworthy information to journalists in hopes to get a story out of it. This is not the aspect of a press release that I now think is outdated, but instead it is the format.

Times have changed, technology has improved and people’s tastes are different, all of this adds up to a need for a change in the press release. As Capizzo talked about, the press release is too generalized, journalist don’t want the same release as everyone else, they want one that is individualized and tailored for them.

With new technologies and improved ways to get messages to the masses, is a printed paper press release really the best way? I don’t think so. I think we should be using technology to better get our messages out and craft them for our intended audiences.

Alternatives to the paper press release

Social media

Use your company’s social media presence to get information out by posting news about your company on facebook and twitter. This may not be a direct link to journalists, but it will lead to potential stories journalist could pick up.

Sponsored posts

These are those things you see on your facebook and twitter feeds that are from other companies, do this for your company. Instead of trying to pitch your press release to a journalist to get a story, skip the middle-man and write your own story and pay to have it sponsored on appropriate blogs and social media websites.

To sum up, is the press release dead? No, but the format and they way we currently are taught to write and send them out is. There are many ways to get a “press release” out, and we as PR practitioners should not be limited to a 300-500 word typed up paper. Use the resources our technologically advanced society has provided.

David Goosen
Guest Blogger
EMU PR Student

EMU PRSSA’s white elephant holiday party

EMU PRSSA will be hosting our annual white elephant holiday party on Tuesday, Dec. 9, 2014. This year theme is ugly christmas sweater. To participate in the white elephant holiday please bring a gift worth no more than $10. Also, please bring a package snack to share.

Come join us for our holiday party at 5:30 p.m. in the 302sc

Raven’s recap of PRSSA 2014 National Conference

In October, I had the wonderful opportunity to travel to our nation’s capital. It wasn’t for pleasure but I did have a blast. I traveled to Washington D.C. to attend the 2014 Public Relations Student Society of America National Conference. The site seeing was absolutely amazing and getting to relearn some of our nation’s history was enlightening. Through the five days of various student development sessions, networking opportunities, and breakout sessions, I learned a large handful of things.

Here my top 10 takeaways from the conference. (In no particular order)

  1. Say “Hello”

Being all by myself in a place that I’ve never been to was scary yet liberating. If I wanted to be around people during our evenings out, I had to actively meet people and establish relationships. Don’t just stay in one place, get out and say “hello” to a stranger every once in a while. You never know who you’ll meet.

  1. Peers can be mentors

Having a mentor is almost essential to the way our society works. There’s just something about getting to know someone who was once in your shoes. Professionals are good to have but peers were also once in your place. They know what you’re going through differently than a professional may because they were there very recently. Don’t be afraid to reach out to someone only a few years older than you.

  1. It’s the Era of Engagement

Keynote speaker and President of Powell Tate, Pam Jenkins, believes now is our time to do stuff. “We have to do something because we have the skills to make a difference,” says Jenkins. The engagement means that people no longer turn to experts when they need something. They turn towards the people. Be the people who lead others towards good.

  1. Develop your skills, but understand your weaknesses

We can’t all be graphic designers, video editors, copy editors, social media gurus, etc. Take a minute ant think about what you do well. Develop those skills even more! If you can’t do everything then you might as well be good at what you can do. And at the very least, respect and understand the people who are good at your weaknesses.

  1. Teachers are right!

The relationship between public relations practitioners and journalists is built on trust. Teachers tell you that the relationship is built on trust and a good relationship and they are absolutely right. During a breakaway session, I learned that a lot happens off the record so you have to truly develop those relationship to get to that point. Understand that everyone has a boss breathing down their necks and definitely respect everyone.

C/O Raven Gardiner

C/O Raven Gardiner

  1. You’re making your connections now

The people that I’ve met at the conference and the people I’m meeting in classes now are going to be my coworkers, bosses, and employees years later. People are so concerned having networking events but not many realize that getting to know classmates is hugely important.

  1. Three Bone Approach

To succeed, three bones are necessary. A funny bone. A back bone. A wish bone.

  1. Life is like gym class

You fail if you don’t show up but if you do then you at least get a “B”. Go to events. Go to PRSSA. Even go to PRSA events and meetings. Get involved and you’ll be just fine.

  1. Agency versus Corporation

Both are every good options. Weigh the possibilities for both. Take a look at your personality type as well and see which works best for yourself. Think about the environment you really want to in.

  1. Move people towards action

Simply telling people how things are isn’t going to get them moving. We have to move people from awareness to action. Speaking of which, comment below with any recent takeaways that you have learned from a conference, networking opportunity, or class. You can even comment with what you want to learn from PRSSA throughout our meetings next semester!

If you want any more information on the National Conference or even upcoming National Assembly or Regional Conference then don’t hesitate to take action and email me!

Let’s Talk ResLife

If you live on campus here at Eastern, listen up. This post is for you. We’ve hit the time of year that Housing and Residence Life is looking to recruit their new staff for the upcoming academic year. I serve as a resident adviser on campus and I thought I would share the ways in which being an RA helps me in public relations.

Time Management

Bulletin boards due at the end of the month? Program proposals due? Working as an RA means working to make sure you get everything done by a deadline. This will help me in my future public relations career as I work to accomplish tasks by a deadline. Being an RA is fast-paced and busy, and you have to have a good grip on how you use your time. Being active in your time management is crucial when working in ResLife, and will also greatly help you when you are working on a time crunch as a PR practitioner one day. In the time that I have served as an RA I have learned to prioritize and invest my time in only the things that are truly worthwhile. While this isn’t always easy, it has been a great learning experience.

Teamwork

Okay, maybe it sounds cliché. However, serving as an RA has given me a wonderful opportunity to serve with a team and work towards a common goal. There are nine other RAs in my building and beyond being my coworkers, they are also my friends. I have learned so much from them, and thrive in my job knowing that I have a whole team of people there to help me when I need it and always have my back. Someday, I will be working as a professional PR person, presumably with coworkers. My current working situation has taught me to truly value my coworkers and the differing perspectives that everyone brings to the table.

Andrea Mellendorf and her co-workers

Andrea Mellendorf and her co-workers

Stay on your toes

No organization expects to have to jump into their crisis communication plan.  In the same way, I don’t ever expect a fire alarm to go off in the middle of the night or someone to need the spare key to their room at four in the morning. Being an RA has taught me to stay on my toes and always know how to tackle a situation even if it hadn’t even occurred yet. This mindset also holds true with organizations, when they need to know how to tackle crisis situations before they even occur.

Love your job – always.

Hands down the most important thing that I have learned as I serve as an RA is that I should always love my job. Each day, some aspect of my job as an RA puts a smile on my face and reminds me why I am doing what I am doing, and why I hope to keep doing it for a long time. Someday, I will being working a job in the PR field. From being an RA I have learned that it is possible to have a job that you genuinely love, and that you don’t have to settle for anything less. I look forward to the day in which I have a PR job that I love just as much as I genuinely love being a resident adviser.

 Andrea Mellendorf
Chief Financial Officer
EMU PRSSA