Category Archives: National Conference

A PRSSA Love Story

By: Josie Bobeck

2017 was a good year for the Eleanor Wright Chapter of PRSSA at Eastern Michigan University. We worked hard, stressed out a little bit, and laughed a lot. We held professional development events, went on agency tours, and traveled to Boston for National Conference.

They get it. PRSSA is unlike any organization I have ever belonged to. We function like a well-oiled machine – always having each other’s backs no matter what. Not only are they my colleagues, but some of my best friends. I mean, you really bond with people when you live together in a tiny apartment for five days.

They’re my network. A lot of us graduate at the same time, and we don’t know where life will take us. May we end up at an agency, a nonprofit, or graduate school, we always have people we can call when we need a reference or a favor, and that makes me feel a lot better about not knowing what I’m doing come April.

They are so smart. We are all so different in our talents, and we work so well together. I can’t imagine being in this organization without any one of them. We know when we need to ask for help and everyone is willing to step in, and the support is a truly amazing feeling.

I have made so many memories with these people. From figuring out the bus system in Boston to stressing out at E-Board meetings, I wouldn’t want to be doing this with anyone else. I’m so lucky to be a part of such a wonderful organization with the people who have helped me shape the person I am today.

Josie Bobeck is a senior majoring in public relations and minoring in communication. She is currently the VP of Public Relations, previously serving as VP of Member Relations. Josie hopes to one day work in a creative environment in a big city. Connect with Josie on Twitter at @Josephine3laine or by email at

#PRSSANC: Sports Public Relations with Nikki Barjon Recap

By Hope Salyer



The amount of sessions at PRSSA National Conference can be overwhelming when trying to decide your schedule for the conference. This year’s sessions ranged from Sports Public Relations to Celebrity PR. I’ve decided to write a recap of the Sports Public Relations session with Nikki Barjon of The Barjon Group in Atlanta. Be sure to keep an eye on the EMU PRSSA blog for more session recaps from my fellow e-board members.

Barjon started the session with the energy of a walk-off home run in the final game of the World Series. Right from the start Barjon gave an honest, straight to the point presentation.

In the beginning of the session, Barjon told the audience that landing a job in sports is high-stakes, intense and not for the weak or fake. The industry is very cut-throat in today’s world, and it is easy to pick out those who can’t handle the stakes. As Barjon pointed out, you are working with multi-million dollar deals, and your client’s livelihood is at stake if you screw up.

Barjon said because of this, as a practitioner, it is your job to be your client’s coach. You have to constantly be thinking about the big picture: offense and defense. Barjon stated she can’t risk focusing only on offense because you never know when the other shoe is going to drop.

In the world of sports PR, practitioners also have to remember that they are working with a sort of celebrity PR as well. Practitioners have to always be nonjudgmental. You can’t risk or take the time to judge your client. You just need to figure out how to solve whatever problems you are presented with.

You also have to always remember to ask, “Is this what happened?” With celebrity PR, the old saying there are three sides to every story rings truer than ever. Barjon stated that she is always either one of two phone calls in a crisis situation: the first or the last. Ideally, Barjon says she should be the first; however, more times than not she is the last. In these types of situations, Barjon has to always ask if she is going to get the real story, or a dwindled down version. It is critical to ask this questions because as a practitioner, you can’t do your job to solve the problem and minimize the impact if you don’t have the whole story.

Barjon ended the session by stressing the importance of getting your own playbook. She said she is always surprised by the number of people who come up to her and tell her they want to be just like her. Barjon said no one is ever going to be her because every individual has his or her own strengths and weaknesses, and passions and goals. What worked for Barjon to get where she is today is not going to work for someone else who doesn’t have her same skillsets or interests.

For this reason, Barjon says you need to get your own playbook. Find what you are interested in and what you are good at, and work your way up from there. What works for the Broncos is not going to work for the Lions, and the same goes for practitioners. Once you figure out what your passions are, don’t stop until you get what you want.

Barjon ended the session with one final piece of advise, and it stuck with me so well I wanted to end my blog with it as well. “Do what you need to do to win because losing sucks!”

Hope Salyer is a senior public relations major and journalism and communication double minor. Hope is serving as the Vice President of Special Events and Programming of EMU PRSSA. This is Hope’s second year serving for the PRSSA E-Board. A Michigan native, she hopes to start her career working for an agency or local nonprofit in Michigan. Her dream is to become the public relations coordinator for the Detroit Tigers. Contact Hope on Twitter @hsalyer01 or by email

National Conference from my eyes

By: Nikki Mikolon


Photo created by Nikki Mikolon using Canva

Hundreds of students across the country, and even some from Peru paid a visit to Indianapolis at the end of October for the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) National Conference.

The energy in the city over the five days of National Conference was high as PR students from all over dressed their best to meet and mingle with fellow students and PR professionals in the field.

A national-level event in the society is different from events held at Chapter levels; even regional conferences don’t quite match up to the precedent that the National Conference sets for the society.

A reoccurring theme this year that was mentioned countless times at agency tours and workshops, and was reiterated at National Conference, was the idea of uniqueness. According to, to be unique is “having no like or equal; unparalleled; or incomparable.”

We as a Chapter do not quite do things exactly like the society as a whole or other Chapters, and this is due to the fact that we are unique.

This type of uniqueness does not mean that we cannot compare. The Eleanor Wright EMU PRSSA Chapter operates in different ways and has a significantly smaller Chapter than many that we encountered at National Conference; this is not to say that we don’t have something different to bring to the table.

Myself and two other members of EMU PRSSA had the pleasure of presenting a Chapter development session on the first day of the conference. We were pleased to learn that many of the topics we discussed intrigued many other Chapters, as they wanted to take back our ideas to their Chapters and implement our processes. This brings me to my next point.

EMU PRSSA is different than other Chapters, as we as individuals are distinct from one another. Sure we are learning similar course material, general procedures, and skills needed to succeed in the PR field. But the biggest takeaway from National Conference is that as we are reaching near the end of our education, there is no right or wrong way to go. There is no cookie cutter key to success to do well in this business. Of course, there are the several skills repeated to us over and over again, such as being good writers, staying curious and networking with people. These are all skills that are going to get us far in our careers, but the greatest thing about PR is that we are allowed to be unique.

Being unique is what will set us apart from all those who believe they live and breath PR. The nature of PR is unpredictable. We need those unique people and unique perspectives that will bring new ideas to the table. We need those crazy ideas that someone may go with and say, “That just might work!”

In the realm of PR, it always seems like there is a checklist of things that aspiring practitioners need to be “successful.” But on the flip side, the idea of uniqueness has been changing my own perspective on the topic.

The uniqueness of PR is the reason why it is so hard to define. It is also the reason why I fell in love with it. We are individuals with contrasting likes, dislikes and passions. There is no one way to be successful in PR. There are so many branches of the field and something for everyone, no matter who you are. As long as you have the right mindset, you are destined to go far in the field wherever you may fit in.

In closing, as students or practicing practitioners, don’t try too hard to fit in. Find what fits you best and make it your own.

Nikki Mikolon is a senior majoring in public relations and minoring in marketing. As a Detroit native, she hopes to spend her beginning years working for the city and being a part of its renaissance. Connect with Nikki on Twitter @nikkimikolon.

Rebranding like a girl: What we can learn from Vera Bradley

By: Andrea Mellendorf



At the 2016 PRSSA National Conference, I had the awesome opportunity to attend a session about corporate rebranding, led by Holly Wagner from Vera Bradley. Now, if you’ve ever seen me around campus or been in my apartment, you’ve probably noticed that I’m a huge Vera fan, so of course I was not going to pass up the opportunity to hear from one of my favorite brands. What I expected to be a presentation that piqued my interest because of the brand itself, turned into some of the most valuable rebranding lessons ever shared with me.

In her presentation, Holly highlighted some really important key points to keep in mind when developing, redeveloping and critiquing your brand. These are things that her team discussed, discovered and took to heart during the “It’s Good to be a Girl” campaign sponsored by Vera Bradley that launched in August. Here are a few:

  • You are never just marketing to your target audience—you are marketing to everyone and hoping it reaches the target audience in an effective way.
  • Want to be relevant? Better be engaging with millennials.
  • Drive your brand visibility through multiple platforms and opportunities.
  • Engage, engage, engage! Loyal stakeholders are created through engagement.
  • Create social energy surrounding your brand.

In addition to these key tidbits, Holly mentioned more than once that “everything has a beautiful solution.” She used this phrase in reference to the problems that the rebrand was trying to address. Though they were indeed problems, Holly’s team elected to look at them as opportunities that held the potential to have a beautiful, better and fruitful solution. As an up-and-coming practitioner, this positivity during times of change or adaptation is one that I look forward to bringing to my workplace.

In the presentation, rebranding was also described as “an evolution, not a revolution.” So often, brands lose every element of their genuine selves while attempting to reinvent their product, service or social strategy, which in the end confuses, upsets or loses the attention of stakeholders. Vera Bradley viewed their rebrand as an evolution of their brand as they grow to the next big thing.

So not only is Vera Bradley a company that sells adorable and practical backpacks and accessories for me as a college student, they also provide top-notch lessons in rebranding and public relations to me as a student. I look forward to someday entering a career with an awesome Vera bag and useful knowledge of rebranding!

Andrea Mellendorf is a senior and serves as the Chapter President for EMU PRSSA. She previously has served as the Chief Financial Officer and Vice President of Special Events and Programs for EMU PRSSA, and as an intern for the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum. Andrea currently is the Social Media Operator for The Honors College where she manages their Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, and for the College of Arts and Sciences, where she manages their Facebook and Twitter. Connect with Andrea on Twitter – @AndreaMell!

Why I’m excited for National Conference—and you should be too

By: Josie Bobeck

This October, the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) will be holding the organization’s National Conference in Indianapolis, and I could not be more excited! The theme of the conference this year is “Crossroads of Public Relations,” which is appropriate since PR is so broad. Here are four reasons why I’m excited for this year’s conference.

 1. Traveling!

I’ve always heard so many wonderful things about Indy. I’m excited to get to experience a new city with a student organization I’m so passionate about with people that I love spending time with.

2. Conference sessions.

So many interesting presentations will be held by the best of the best in the industry, which could not be more beneficial. Sessions include nonprofit PR, the tourism industry, creating effective campaigns, entertainment PR in the Midwest, blogging, and event planning—just to name a handful!

3. Networking.

Between all of the PRSSA members and industry professionals, it’s almost impossible not to make connections with those who could be future employers or colleagues in the industry. If you don’t have business cards, now is a good time to make some!

4. Presenting!

This is the first time the EMU Eleanor Wright Chapter of PRSSA has ever presented at National Conference, and while I’m super nervous to be one of three executive board members presenting (shout out to Andrea and Nikki—we make a great team), it will be a wonderful experience. The goal is to inspire other Chapters, which will be easy breezy!

National Conference is going to be a great experience, and I could not be more fortunate to be able to attend! To learn more, visit

Josie Bobeck is a junior majoring in public relations with a double minor in electronic media and film studies, and marketing, and serves as VP of Member Relations in PRSSA. She hopes to one day work in the entertainment/pop culture industry. Josie loves her dogs, Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and has freckles on her arm shaped like the little dipper. You can connect with her on Twitter at @JosieBobeckPR.

Setting yourself apart:the importance of speaking up and standing out

By: Leah Rodriguez

As students we all know the struggles of having our opinions and ideas heard. We’re constantly being told to set ourselves apart from our peers and to break the mold. While we prepare to enter the real world and begin our careers, it may become difficult for us to understand how to stand out from other applicants who seem just as qualified. At the PRSSA National Conference in Atlanta, Georgia this November I was able to hear from Hilary McKean, Partner and Managing Director of Global Practices at Ketchum. She spoke about ways to “Speak Up and Stand Out” in the work world and gave advice on ways to set ourselves apart.

1. “You are a brand manager.”

 Ask yourself, “Who are you?” “How do you want people to see you?” and “Does your social media and resume represent that?” These questions are often brought up in the classroom, but do we honestly think about them on a daily basis? Figure out who you are from a branding perspective and try to cultivate that into the way you want employers to see you. Edit your resume and manage your social media accordingly so they can get a broader image of who you truly are.

2. “Showcase your interests and knowledge, and package yourself.”

If your interests are cooking and baking, blog about it. If you love to hike, bike, camp, and fish, share your images on Instagram. Showcase your interests and stand out by becoming an advocate for them. Prove you are a great writer by blogging about them.


3.“Raise your hand and be willing to try and do new things.”

McKean’s employees call her to “go-to” girl because she created a reputation for her willingness to try new things. If you’re in a meeting and your boss asks for someone to do something and nobody else raises their hand, RAISE YOUR HAND. What is it going to hurt? Even if you aren’t familiar with the task at hand, familiarize yourself with it and learn something new. Your efforts will be noticed and go a long way.


4.“Merchandise your value. Promote and advocate yourself in ways that are authentic to you. Be yourself and have a true north.”


Never settle for something that you don’t believe in and always be willing to stand up for what you believe in. No job is so great that you need to sell your values for it.


This advice helped me to understand that setting myself apart is not a difficult task. I know my experience and interests might be a dime a dozen, but what I choose to do with them is what will make me stand out.

Leah Rodriguez is a senior majoring in public relations and minoring in marketing. This is her second year on EMU PRSSA’s executive board, having served as VP of PR and VP of Special Events and Programs in 2014-2015. She is the social media intern for EMU’s College of Arts & Sciences, where she manages their Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Four Key Takeaways From the PRSSA National Conference

By: Rachel Dwornick

Recently I attended the PRSSA National Conference in Atlanta, Georgia. The conference was truly amazing and I learned a ton of great information. Here are my four key takeaways from the national conference.

1. “Shine your own shoes and iron your own shirt.”

Scott Williamson, VP, PAC for Coca-Cola North America, reminded us that no matter how successful you are it is important to remember that no job is too small for you to give your best effort. So simply give your best effort no matter the task and always shine your own shoes and iron your own shirt.

2. Your entire portfolio will be way more interesting if you are.

Dan Balser from Creative Circus reminded us that you want your portfolio to be interesting. We often are taught to give the facts, but to set ourselves apart we need to show who we are. Our portfolios are a representation of who we are and what we are passionate about, so why not show people?

3. You are your own brand manager.

Hilary McKean from Ketchum Global talked about how we are our own brand managers now. Who you are, what you want to be and how you present yourself is important to remember. From a simple post on Twitter to your resume, how you brand yourself is important, and we must start branding ourselves now.

4. Find a mentor, then be a mentor.

Lastly, Patrick Ford, VP of Burson, talked about the importance of having a mentor and then being one. Even now you can be a mentor to someone because you know more than someone else. A mentor is someone to use as a sounding board or can help bring insights to you. All you have to do is simply ask.