By: Nicole Raymond
Conferences are a great way to build a network in your related field, but they also provide information to help you succeed and better yourself as a professional in your career. The Generation Grand Regional Public Relations Student Society of America Conference was full of networking and learning opportunities for students from across the region. The weekend-long event consisted of tours, networking opportunities, sessions, and panels on several different facets of public relations.
While there were several sessions with amazing learning opportunities throughout the weekend, I decided to focus on the Saturday morning sessions, which were titled “PR for the Earth: Green Thinking” and “PR for a Better World: Corporate Responsibility.”
“PR for the Earth: Green Thinking” was moderated by Adam Russo from COM 161 and was filled with professionals from organizations that were serious about sustainability. This session focused on how organizations can make an impact in their community and in their world by rooting the idea of sustainability in their business culture and the effects of sustainable practices on an organization’s bottom line. Sharon Darby from Cascade Engineering stated that if you do what is good for the environment and the people, it will be good for business. However, another panelist Josh Leffingwell from Well Design Studio says that it is no longer newsworthy when organizations do good, rather it is a baseline that an organization must go above and beyond to be recognized by the media. People want sustainable products made by sustainable companies and many consumers will search for these sustainable practices and buy from organizations that have a sustainable commitment. When it comes to sustainability, there is always more that can be done and there is always room for improvement. Sustainability is becoming increasingly important in a society that votes with their money on the most sustainable organizations and products. When an organization commits to a culture of sustainable practices it will bring in customers and build a business.
The second session was “PR for a Better World: Corporate Responsibility” moderated by Dino Baskovic from Vincena and was paneled by Stacie Behler from Meijer, Michelle Meulendyk from Amway, Audra Hartges from Steelcase, and Kelley Freridge from Wolverine World Wide. This session outlined why corporate responsibility is important for organizations and how those organizations can choose the corporate responsibility initiative that is right for them and the communities in which they reside. Community development is the footprint that is left behind. One of the first questions was “Why should corporate social responsibility be a priority of organizations?” Meulendyk answered by stating if we don’t, then who will?
Another ‘why’ factor of corporate responsibility is it’s the right thing and organizations should always be willing to do what is right. Consumers are creating a culture where corporate responsibility matters and not just talking, but doing and seeing the impact through the bottom line, social and feedback. Each community is different and Behler explained the importance of doing good in the community by matching community needs to the acts of service or donations provided to the community by businesses. Panelists were also asked how to help employees think of corporate social responsibility and the desire to make the community a better place by their employees. They explained that it was important to instill a culture of service within the work community and hire those who already have that culture instilled in them.
The earth and the community are important to our society and can play an important role in the money making ability of an organization. As more consumers care about how their products were made, it has become more important for businesses to practice green thinking and corporate responsibility.
Nicole Raymond is senior majoring in public relations and double minoring in marketing and communications. This is her first year serving on EMU PRSSA’s E-Board as VP of External Relations. Nicole is a wife, aunt, daughter, sister and friend. Connect with her on Twitter and Instagram @nicoleraymond74.