By: Abby Cousineau
A recap of the last few sessions of PRSSA’s Regional Conference.
Being on the executive board of PRSSA has been a great experience this year. I have learned so much, gained lifelong friends and have gotten the chance to network with many professionals. However, as the end of my first year on E-Board was nearing, I realized I hadn’t attended any conferences, something I had wanted to do since initially joining PRSSA. Luckily for me, our Regional Conference was coming up in Grand Rapids and I decided there was no reason not to attend.
If you have kept up with our blog, you already read about Friday’s events from Hope Salyer, and the first part of Saturday from Nicole Raymond. The last few sessions of Saturday covered beer, crisis communications, and the importance of visual design in PR. So let’s jump in!
The first session after lunch was all about beer, and since we were in Beer City, USA (aka Grand Rapids) this was such an appropriate topic. We got to hear from marketing representatives from Founders (Grand Rapids’ OG brewery), Perrin and Brewery Vivant. Each marketer was coming from a different place, with Founders being a national brand, and Perrin and Brewery Vivant being fairly new to the game. Here are some of the takeaways:
- Marketing beer is different than promoting other products because it’s a more personal relationship. Craft beer companies aim to provide an individual experience for each customer.
- Marketers focus on beer reviews, social media influencers, one-on-one conversations with customers, samplings, beer festivals, and local media engagement to garner attention for their brands and products.
During the second session, we heard from local healthcare professionals from Mercy Health, Mary Free Bed and Spectrum Health about how to handle crisis situations. One thing our PR professors tell us over and over again is that it’s not whether a crisis will happen, but when one will happen. In other words, we must prepare for a crisis to happen. Some crisis communication tips the speakers mentioned were:
- Having relationships with the media prior to a crisis is extremely helpful.
- Be prepared in advance: have standby statements crafted, which can be used when information is being gathered. Have a crisis communication plan prepared in advance.
- Utilize intranet systems to notify employees when a crisis occurs. Use texts, emails, printed materials, overhead intercom systems…whatever will get the word out the fastest.
- Have a cellphone charger handy! In a crisis, things happen fast while the media, employees, and higher-ups are blowing up your phone looking for answers.
During the last session of the day, we got to hear from creative directors and designers from 834 Integrated Communications, BoxBoom Creative, and Visualhero Design Company about the importance of visual design in PR. The speakers discussed the creative process, overcoming creative block, and creative advice for PR students. This is what I took away from the conversation:
- One of the most important parts of the creative process is research. Learn everything you can about your client, customers, and the message the client wants to convey.
- Some of the best ways to get out of a creative rut are to: change your physical surroundings; don’t force yourself to be creative, just take a break and come back to the project; seclude yourself so you can focus; create a journey map and reference it frequently; use your team, bring in other people to brainstorm and get opinions; and look at many different visuals to get inspiration.
- Some creative advice to PR students is to be curious, don’t be afraid to ask questions, and suspend judgement.
Attending Regional Conference was a great experience, and I would definitely recommend everyone go to at least one before graduating college!
Abby Cousineau is a junior at EMU majoring in public relations and minoring in graphic design and marketing. Abby is currently serving her first year on EMU PRSSA E-Board as social media director. She was drawn to social media because it allows her to merge her passions of writing and design. You can usually find her outside any time the weather is nice, or exploring the Ann Arbor restaurant scene. Connect with Abby on Twitter @abcattt.