Highlights from 2013 National Conference

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We’ve gathered some highlights from the 2013 Public Relations Student Society of America National Conference, which was held in Philadelphia.

This year’s theme was “Foundation for Innovation.” The conference, in conjunction with the professional group, Public Relations Society of America, lasted four days and featured keynote addresses, professional development sessions and a career fair.

Our chapter won the Star Chapter award and Teahan Award for Outstanding Chapter Website. IU PRSSA president Christine Spasoff won the National President’s Citation.

Standing out from the crowd
By Christine Spasoff, IU PRSSA president

As chapter president, I was especially excited to attend the presidents’ leadership workshop on Friday. Cassandra Bailey, principal at Slice Communications, presented the session. I really enjoyed her candid remarks about standing out in the professional sphere. She said, “Different is better than better.” It’s hard to prove that you are better than someone, but it is a lot easier to show that you are different.

To break out of the norm, Bailey recommended listening. She explained that her clients often don’t know they are similar to their competitors because they aren’t listening to what the competitors are saying. Instead, she recommended listening and gathering feedback to ensure that you stand out.

Bailey also advocated that we “slay the calf.” By this, she meant that we shouldn’t always stick to the status quo. It is easier to be different if we take a unique approach to a situation. This could range from opting to not use press releases when promoting a new product to using a QR code on your business cards.

Bailey highlighted the importance of being generous.

“We need to be creatively and intellectually generous,” she said. “This is the currency for which an agency exists.”

This includes helping out colleagues when they are swamped with a project or volunteering an idea during a meeting.

I left this session feeling energized to dare to be different rather than blend in with the herd. Bailey’s frank conversation was the perfect way to kick off National Conference for me this year.

To follow the conversation from PRSSA National Conference, check the hashtag #PRSSANC on Twitter.

“Invest in yourself”
By Maggie Stephens

As I sipped my morning coffee and shoved my iPhone charger in my overstuffed bag on Sunday morning, I was mentally preparing myself for a day that I knew would be chock-full of valuable information.

When I made the nine block trek to the Loew’s hotel and walked into the packed conference room, that thought was verified. Sitting at the front of the room were three high-powered, intelligent people: Kevin Saghy of the Chicago Cubs, Keith Burton of Brunswick group, and MaryBeth West of MaryBeth West LLC. As a female student with hopes of one day owning my own agency, I was eager to hear what West had to say.

From the moment she spoke, I knew this woman was highly intelligent. Her opening remark was “diversity is key” in the PR industry. Diversity means not limiting yourself to just corporate or just agency PR. She stressed the importance of getting as much PR experience as you possibly can, especially while in your formative years.

She also delivered one of the most important messages I heard over the course of the three-day conference. With seriousness in her eyes and urgency in her voice, she said, “It’s not someone else’s job to make you prepared. It’s yours. Take responsibility, invest in yourself.”

We, as students, have to pursue internship opportunities. We have to put forth our best effort and work in those internships. We have to take initiative when work is not given and create our own projects. We have to go to class every day and absorb all of the knowledge we can.

It has become easy to rely on professors and employers to land us a job, but ultimately we hold that key. That key is the key to knowledge and is the key to our futures.

Gathering ideas for membership
By Eliza Williams

As director of membership for IU PRSSA, I am always looking for ways to improve our club for members. IU is a huge campus with hundreds of clubs and organizations for students to choose from, so it is a continual challenge to make PRSSA stand out from the crowd.

After spending my weekend in Philadelphia for PRSSA National Conference, I found myself returning to Bloomington feeling inspired and motivated by the thousands of other PR students and professionals who surrounded me for four days.

One of the events that I found most helpful and inspiring was an officer discussion led by national board members. The room was full of peers who held similar officer positions to mine. For about an hour, we exchanged stories, advice, tips, questions, and concerns, our pens frantically scratching at paper as we all wrote down ideas from other chapter officers. Other chapters in the discussion were based as far away as California, yet we could all relate and exchange advice and stories.

This discussion opened my eyes to new possibilities for our chapter. I left with a list of new ideas and inspiration, as well as connections with members from chapters all over the country.

I am excited to talk with my fellow executive board members and get the ideas flowing. This is going to be a great year for IU PRSSA, and I can’t wait to share all that we gained at national conference with our members.

Stefanoni talks food PR
By Becca DuPont

I have known for a while that I want to pursue a career in food and beverage public relations. When I found out that Arianna Stefanoni, manager of communications for Pepperidge Farm, was coming to speak on food PR at the PRSSA national conference, I was ecstatic.

Stefanoni focused on a few main topics during her chat with PRSSA members.

The rising importance of food to consumers
Stefanoni stated that it is an interesting and good time for food. It holds a new importance to people. Consumers are beginning to care more about what they are buying and putting into their bodies due to food allergies and the goal of healthier lifestyles. Food and beverage public relations professionals are in high demand because of these trends.
What you need to know to go in to food public relations
There is a lot of information in regards to the food industry. In order to do PR for a client who specializes in food, you need to know three main things: the brand inside and out (products, advertisements, past problems), the consumers who buy the brand, and general information about health related topics, such as GMOs.

The value of food public relations
Food public relations is one of the most rewarding fields to work in, Stefanoni mentioned while discussing why she decided to work for Pepperidge Farm. The goal is to make people happy, because they can buy a product they trust, and it will fill them up with joy, quite literally. Sometimes in this field, the work that is done is taken for granted. But Stefanoni said we have to make sure people see the value and importance in what we do. People want to work in this field because they want to add value to a product and a consumer’s experience.

Stefanoni closed her discussion with a quote that resonated with everyone in the room. She said, “Love what you do. Love this craft. Love this field. But do it because you love what your job, client, company, and yourself is worth.”

I have never been so excited to get out into the work force.

Quesenberry describes IMC
By Cassandra Ehrhart

One of the keynote speakers for the conference was Keith Quesenberry, a lecturer for marketing and communications at the Center for Leadership Education at Johns Hopkins University. He also teaches in the Integrated Marketing Communications graduate program at West Virginia University. Quesenberry had useful social media advice about the emerging world of IMC, so I thought I’d share his five steps on how to use social media for successful Integrated Marketing Communications.

Research (traditional and non-traditional)
Real-time marketing and social media is more popular and relevant than ever. Do as much research as possible on your consumer and discover where they’re talking and picking up new messages. Traditional research still matters, but there are new ways (specifically with social media) to find out in-depth information about your consumer.
Crowdsourcing
Let the consumers tell you what they want. Social media allows the consumer participate and get involved. Engage with your consumer and let them help you. Quesenberry cited a great example from Facebook. When Facebook was trying to translate the site into other languages, it allowed users of Facebook who were bilingual to help out. The site achieved what it was trying to accomplish much quicker than if it would have hired someone to do it. Co-create with your crowd, and you will get earned media. The great aspect about this technique is that it is almost always much less expensive than traditional techniques for consumer research.

Branded content
Branded content is a great way to leverage consumers, but you must put out valuable, relevant content. Quesenberry used Best Buy as an example. Best Buy recently implemented a customer service Twitter team called Twelpforce. The Twelpforce team offers 24-hour expert technical help through Twitter. Another great example is Home Depot. Home Depot realized that consumers were not receiving enough the individual help in stores, so it started creating YouTube videos that offered helpful answers to DIY questions and to the everyday struggles of their consumers.

Consumer evangelism 
Find out who the most influential people are for your consumers. Find the experts, innovators and adapters that your consumers listen to. Use tools like Klout to find out who has a big reach on social media. Find the people who are passionate about whatever it is that you’re putting out there. A great example Quesenberry gave was Leggos ambassador program. Many people wouldn’t think of Leggos as a hot topic of conversation, so the company sought out the select few who are passionate about Leggos, and let them do the talking for the brand.

Customer service
Every brand has a consumer expectation that must be filled, so use social media to your advantage when satisfying that consumer expectation. The great thing about social media is that most people already know how to use it, have almost constant access to it, and actively use it as a major tool for communication. Use the employees that you already have to set up a customer service social media outlet where customers can go 24-hours a day to talk to someone.

Overall, Quesenberry‘s message was to listen, engage, and adjust to this ever-changing world that we live in, especially when it comes to social media.

Reynolds’s career inspires
MaryClaire Cieply

“Know your shit.”

These were the main words of advice from Rakia Reynolds, president of Skai Blue Media, delivered during a workshop Sunday.

While this may seem like a pretty vague and almost crude statement of guidance, it couldn’t have been said any better when describing the fast-paced, cut-throat industry of fashion public relations.

Reynolds said a fashion PR pro needs to know not only whom to contact and when to contact him or her, but also must be able to predict the trends, forecast stories and position yourself as an expert.

The flow of information coming from Reynolds was intimidating but inspiring all at the same time. As a senior at Indiana University hoping to break into the professional world soon, I was so motivated after listening to the realistic and hard-knock truths Reynolds was sharing with us.

While I may not be a fashion expert right now, attending this seminar gave me the assurance that I can become one over the years after developing myself. Reynolds explained her career path to us—a business major turned TV producer turned PR pro. She took so many twists and turns to become the successful woman she is today and encouraged us to do the same.

I think all of us need to keep this in mind as we transition into the professional world: where you begin is not where you will end up. You can achieve any dreams you may have if you are willing to work for it.

I may not start out in the fashion PR industry, but once I think I “know my shit,” you better believe I will be.

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