Chicago Agency Tours 2016: Recap

Chicago, Ill. – On Feb. 11-13, 24 PRSSA members, ranging from freshmen to graduating seniors, visited the Windy City for the first time to visit agencies and network with alumni. Members divided into groups for media visits and concluded the day with a dinner with IU alumni. Read some of our members experiences here:


by Alyssa Schor

IU PRSSA members pick up some PR tips from IU alumni at Edelman Chicago.

My first stop on our day of agency tours was at Edelman. We walked into a conference room, where seven IU alumni greeted us. Over the course of the next hour and a half, we had the opportunity to ask this panel any question about Edelman, working at a large agency, getting started as a intern and living in Chicago.

Throughout the session, the alumni kept touching on a common theme: passion. They said even as an intern, don’t hesitate to speak up and ask to work on projects for clients in which you’re especially interested. As Kevin Kearney, a media supervisor, said, “When you’re excited about stuff, it really, really shows.”

The panel also talked a lot about the collaborative culture in the office. People at every level are willing to help each other. A large agency feels like a big university, said Clare Marshall, a senior account executive in the corporate affairs department. You can make it feel smaller and get more in depth with the brands you work with.

Overall, I really enjoyed the visit and gained great insight into life at the agency. I loved hearing from everyone not only about their work, but their experiences living in Chicago. It reminded me why I want to begin my career in this city and do so at an agency like Edelman.


by Joe Knight

They are one of the best public relations firms worldwide for a reason, and after visiting Ketchum this past weekend in Chicago, I saw firsthand exactly why.

Founded in 1919, Ketchum has offices in 23 different companies and focus in five major practice areas: brand marketing, corporate communications, healthcare, food, and technology. While visiting, I was fortunate enough to learn about one of Ketchum’s most recent and successful campaigns with client, Trix for General Mills. General Mills was attempting to completely change their cereal formula, abandoning all preservatives in the cereal by 2017, and in addition, also wanting to rebrand the Trix cereal image to be more authentic instead of the cartoon rabbit they have currently. This is where Ketchum introduced the #RealTrixRabbit campaign, where anyone could submit their pet rabbit as the new face of Trix cereal. Through a variety of multimedia news releases and the help of many pet influencers, General Mills received over 7,500 entries for the contest. Dozens of major news outlets, such as NBC’s Today Show, picked up the story, providing exactly what General Mills set out to accomplish: publicity for their new cereal formula. The winner was the adorable Cinnabon, from Houston, Texas.

As seen throughout touring the Chicago Ketchum office, I got a sense of a great work culture. Ketchum employees not only love working for the firm, but also enjoy working together. All of these factors, plus many others, are what make Ketchum such a successful worldwide public relations firm.


by Marah Harbison

IU alumni Johnny Ford, Sara Brazeal, Lauren Kotarski and Bob Gosman gave the group a sample of PCI’s work, offered insight into the daily lives of a PR professional and shared tips on how to start a career in PR. Here are three ways PCI sets itself apart from Chicago PR agencies. Read more here.


by Annie Theobold

As I walked through the doors of Ogilvy Public Relations, I could tell that something different was in the air. As OPR went through their creative and inspiring work, it was  the energy, the environment, and the people of OPR are truly some of the most creative in the business. Read more here.

by Alexa Tupper

There were no mistakes made when PRSSA decided to visit Leo Burnett in Chicago. It was a tour that showcased Leo’s depth in advertising, ranging from the Always #LikeAGirl campaign to Allstate’s famous Mayhem commercials.

Upon stepping off the elevator, we were greeted by a Ronald McDonald statue, a tribute to one of their largest clients. After being ushered into a meeting room, we were handed pencils without erasers, which can be traced back to Leo Burnett himself, who believed that every idea had value, and that you should never erase a thought.

That ideal seems to be working for the Leo team, as they’ve won numerous awards for their work. Part of the presentation was focused on how they start training from early beginnings – in the summer internship program, you’re given a real client to create a campaign for throughout the summer.

Overall, I was impressed with the professionals at Leo Burnett and the work that they’ve produced. It’s clear, creative, and impactful – everything that we strive to be while in PRSSA.

by Cat Huynh

Last, but certainly not least: Golin. Our group met with IU alums Ben Lincoln BAJ’03, Maddy Weil BAJ’15, and other talented Golin team members to learn more about the integrated communications powerhouse.

At Golin, their motto is “go all in,” which is their agency’s dedication to going above and beyond for themselves and their clients through collaboration, unconventional thinking and embracing change. Golin is made up of “integrated communicators who are relevance-obsessed,” Lincoln said. Their commitment to “go all in” was evident to our group as we went through their client work, from the papal visit to the U.S., to learning about Al’s Week, Golin’s annual week of service to the local community of Chicago.

To our delight, we even had Scott Farrell, president of Golin’s global corporate communications, pop in to give us a lesson on crisis communications. A crisis, which Farrell defines as an event that is “people-stopping, product-stopping, and show-stopping,” should be dealt with using the 6 R’s: rapid response, responsibility, regret, restitution, and reform. Then rebuilding begins.

Shortly after the presentation, we went on a tour. Their office space is reflective of their philosophy as their workspaces are open – even the executives are in an open space. Each conference room is open and one can see actual work and collaboration going on through the glass (Fun fact: Each room is named after a film created in Chicago, so imagine emailing your team: “Hey, wanna meet in The Breakfast Club later?”). Also, have you heard of The Bridge? It’s an incredible concept that helps drive real-time communications.

The biggest takeaway of our time at Golin is if one is looking to succeed and create change within communications, one can’t go halfheartedly – you have to be adaptable in our ever-changing world and you have to “go all in.” Bravery over mediocrity, always.


IU PRSSA members chat with IU alum, Arika Jeter BAJ’14.

After a long day of being “on”, talking to media and communications professionals, touring agencies and running around Chicago, I was anxious and reluctant to bear the cold and meet an IU alumna in the snowy weather. However, dinner with IU alum, MaryClaire Cieply BAJ’14 was refreshing and worth trekking through the Windy City.

MaryClaire discussed with three other PRSSA members and I what employers really want in new hires: a sense of responsiblity and relentlessly hard working, that GPA never trumps great experience and tips on fun activities for a twenty-something in Chicago. She warned us that we need to be ready to work incredibly hard in any internship to prove ourselves and harder once we secure a position in an agency. To validate her point, MaryClaire shared that she woke up before 6 a.m. every single workday for 18 months to complete a media monitor for a client. As we munched on the yummiest burgers and salads from Rockit (located in River North), MaryClaire allowed us to have a “no rules” conversation and gave us the opportunity to ask her any and everything about the industry, tips to get ahead, best practices and where the best happy hours in the city takes place. It was refreshing to have a real and open conversation with a successful alumna at a reputable company. Thank you, MaryClaire!



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