PRSSA tours Indy agencies, gains insights from Marilyn Shank

By Sydney Heile

The IU Beth Wood Chapter of PRSSA met with Marilyn Shank  during our annual Indy Agency Tour this November. Shank shared her career path from starting at WTIU all the way to her current position with Eskenazi Health. Both she and her husband began their careers in radio and TV. They enjoyed working in Bloomington before opportunity drew them to Colorado. There, Shank worked as a promotions and production director for KRDO-AM-FM-TV. However, it wasn’t long before they returned to Indianapolis. Shank worked for WISH-TV and continued to gain valuable newsroom experience before she and her husband founded Shank Public Relations Counselors in 1987. Shank currently works as Eskenazi Health’s communications coordinator.

One of her favorite projects while working for Shank PR was a project with the Indianapolis Public Schools. She had to coordinate communications for multiple departments on issues ranging from school lunch menus to bus routes and circle drive construction. One of the skills she highlighted for us during this discussion was the value of research. Because the IPS project had such a broad range of issues, Shank found herself doing research and having to become an expert on the topics she wrote about. However, she made sure to tell us how important asking questions is.

“Understanding what you’re writing about is key to having your audience understand,” Shank said.

In our hour and a half lunch with Marilyn Shank, I was struck by how invaluable news room experience is and how much research plays a part in communicating. Although Shank’s insight may seem like common sense, we’ve all been guilty of writing something we didn’t understand because we didn’t want to do the extra work. However, being clear and concise in our writing also applies to concepts. If we, as communicators, understand what our news release is about and have written in plain English, our readers understand as well.

Also, knowing how the news release will go from being received to being published will add a huge advantage. Understanding of the news process and applying it to communications with reporters and editors will increase the likelihood of your release being published.

In all, I am confident we all gained new knowledge. But specifically, the news room and research components were the most valuable to me. Meeting and speaking with Shank was interesting, fun, and a learning experience. I speak for all of us when I say we enjoyed meeting and learning from her and look forward to our next networking opportunity.


National Conference 2017


By Carrie Latimer

Five members of IU PRSSA, along with our chapter advisor, traveled to Boston for the 2017 PRSSA National Conference. This was my third National Conference and in my opinion, the best one yet.

We got up before the sun on Friday to head to the airport, all wearing matching t-shirts like an annoying family at Disney World. When we arrived in Boston, we were all eager to explore the city. We wandered around and found ourselves on a self-guided tour of the Freedom Trail, a 2.5-mile trail in the city featuring 16 historical monuments. We saw the Massachusetts State House, Granary Burying Ground, Paul Revere’s House, and many other monuments full of history.

After exploring for hours, we got ready for the opening night celebration of the Conference, hosted in the beautiful grand ballroom of the Boston Park Plaza Hotel. We networked with other chapters and enjoyed ballpark-themed snacks.

The speakers and workshops at this year’s conference were based around the theme: “The Revolution Continues”. In the keynote address, we heard from Jon Iwata with IBM on innovation in the digital age. During our lunch break, we hustled over to Newbury Street to enjoy some Halloween-themed treats from Georgetown Cupcake.

Sunday held another day of exciting sessions, including the PRSA keynote featuring Morgan Spurlock from the documentary Supersize Me, and a special PRSSA session featuring Judy Smith, the inspiration behind Olivia Pope from Scandal. Judy roamed through the audience answering questions, and Caitlin even got to high-five her (#jealous).

National Conference is always an incredible weekend of inspiration, learning and networking, and this year was no exception.

Alumni Spotlight: Cat Huynh

Cat Huynh, class of 2016, is currently a Content Strategist at NMD Communications in the LA area. Screen Shot 2017-09-21 at 4.39.18 PM

What did you study at IU? What was your extracurricular involvement like?

“I studied Journalism and Communication & Culture, specializing in PR & Advertising, with a minor in Sociology. Some fun things I did during my time at IU include reporting for the Indiana Daily Student, being a part of IU PRSSA’s executive board, joining Agency 7, serving as an IU Media School Ambassador and working as a Resident Assistant for the (Mc)Nutt House. 

Can you tell me about a typical day for you at work?

“As a Content Strategist for an advertising agency, every day is different. The past few months, I’ve been working closely with two clients to help execute their each respective rebrand, one being a hospital system and the other being a nonprofit that supports kids with disabilities and their families. From assisting with creative, such as directing design and imagery style, all the way down to the strategic copywriting, my job is to ensure that each rebranding effort, whether a website landing page or informational brochure, are not only creative and consistent with the new brand, but effective.”

What is your long-term career goal?

“That’s a great question. I don’t exactly have that figured out yet, but the good news is every day I’m learning what I like to do and what I don’t like to do. What’s great about our field is that you have so many career options, but for the same reason it’s great, it’s also overwhelming. I also think this industry is always changing because how we communicate with each other is always changing, so for me, it’s hard to imagine being in a certain role forever. At the end of the day though, I love being able to flex my creativity and strategic thinking and I will always want to create conversations and content that make a difference.”

Do you have any favorite memories from PRSSA? 

“So many great memories come to mind, it’s hard to choose!! One minute, our chapter is dancing to “Hotline Bling” in an elevator in Atlanta, and the next, we’re at an awe-inspiring agency, listening to creatives talk about their passion projects. For me, I can’t imagine my time at IU without PRSSA because it has developed a lot of my favorite friendships that inspire me. And I think what’s really special about PRSSA—it’s an organization that is based on developing relationships, one that thrives on both professional and personal connections.”

What advice would you give to current PRSSA members?
“I like lists, so here’s a brief one:

1.  Go on the trips, tours, join a committee, etc. — cliché, but get involved. You learn so much about all the types of media jobs out there, shape the kind of professional you want to turn into, get real experience with real clients and generate real resultsall while making a really great group of friends.
2. Don’t compare yourself to others. It’s hard and I fall into that super anxiety-inducing trap sometimes, especially when it gets down to finding your next job or internship, but it’s so important to remember that everyone moves at their own pace—that’s okay. Be nice to yourself! 
3. Be an eternal student. Shift happens in PR, advertising, marketing, etc., and it’s going to keep happening and that’s good. Whether the change is with society, culture or technology, always want to know more.”

Soft Skills

By Sydney Heile

First off, in order to get a job you need the skills-skills. By that, I mean you have to be able to DO the job they’re hiring you to do. But you also need to be able to do more than that.

Now you may be thinking, what? Why do I need to do more than what they said in the job description? Well, I’ll let you in on a little secret: sometimes the things that aren’t written down matter the most.

This is where soft skills come in. Soft skills are the things you do as a person. I’m talking your personal drive, your ability to relate to a co-worker, be friendly, and so on and so forth.

Sometimes when an employer is looking to hire, they see basically the same thing on every resume, so you have to stand out in your one-on-one interactions. You can do this by demonstrating your soft skills!

To give you a quick list of the most desirable soft skills (as learned from

  • Drive
  • Self-awareness
  • Accountability
  • Tenacity
  • Empathy
  • Authenticity
  • Ingenuity
  • Fast learner
  • Positive attitude

Those soft skills are about getting the work done, yes, but about HOW you get it done. Some of those qualities listed above may seem like common sense, but to quote Hack Wilson (former MLB player):

“In life, you need many more things besides talent. Things like… common sense.”

Summer Internship Spotlight 2017: Katie Chrisco

By Katie Chrisco

          This summer, I had the opportunity to intern with ascendant, a firm specializing in CEO branding. My previous internship experience was at a firm with a wide range of clients, including Fortune 500 companies and non-profit organizations, so working with clients as individuals was definitely a unique experience for me.

            I learned about Ascendant through a family friend, and shortly after sending in my resume, I was added to a conference call with the CEO for an interview. After accepting the position, we worked out the logistics of my situation.

            Since Ascendant’s main office is in Delaware, but there is another office in Indianapolis, we decided I would work remotely and commute to Indianapolis weekly. This allowed me to work part-time in Bloomington while completing my internship.

            Through this experience, I learned so much about CEO branding. CEO branding is about building a clear, personal brand through creating visibility. The main ways that Ascendant creates this visibility for a client is through social media, public appearances, and book deals. During my internship I conducted research for clients, helped with the editing of manuscripts, and did a lot of social media.

            The most rewarding experience I had during my time with Ascendant was having the opportunity to live-tweet an event for one of our clients. The Vice President of Diversity for Walgreens hosted a charity event, which included an auction and screening of a film based on his time in the foster care system as a child. Our CEO trusted me to travel to Chicago for the event. I was given social media passwords and instructed to greet the client, then live-tweet, as well as post on Instagram and Facebook throughout the event.

            I was extremely nervous, as I had never live-tweeted an event before. I was also nervous to engage with our client face-to-face since I had been mainly working remotely up until that point. However, the event went smoothly and afterwards I received praise both from the client and Ascendant’s CEO. I was ecstatic to receive such positive feedback, and that’s something that will definitely help me stand out when looking for jobs and internships in the future.

            I think my favorite part of this experience is the level of trust and responsibility I was given. Some companies don’t give interns very much responsibility, and they are simply given menial tasks. I am so thankful that Ascendant trusted me enough to have me work directly with clients, have access to social media accounts, and communicate with the CEO.

            I’m not sure if I would like to work at a firm specializing in CEO branding after graduation, but I think my internship was a great experience. One of the challenges was that my work wasn’t structured since I was working remotely. However, it was also a benefit in a way since I could work on my own schedule. I feel like I learned what it would be like to freelance, and I think that’s a very valuable takeaway as well. Overall, I’m happy with my internship experience and can’t wait to see what the future holds for me after graduation this spring!

Summer Internship Spotlight 2017: Sydney Heile

Hi! My name is Sydney Heile and this summer I interned with Keep Indianapolis Beautiful, Inc. KIB is a non-profit organization based in Indianapolis dedicated to

kib logo

engaging with the Indianapolis community to create vibrant public places and helping people and nature thrive. This is to say they plant and maintaining GreenSpaces, Pocket Parks, trees, gardens, and other public spaces to make them more beautiful so the community is healthier and more connected.

I was a PR/marketing intern for the non-profit and my responsibilities included everything from managing a new campaign’s social media and blog, It’s My City, to helping plan and organize KIB’s largest fundraiser coming this September, THRIVE.

I started the application process in early November, and it took until about March to hear back and get interviews/resumes/transcripts all sorted out. My interviews included two phone calls, one coffee meet-up, and multiple emails back and forth. To be perfectly honest, my summer schedule was pretty hectic so choosing the internship that afforded me the most flexibility was key and KIB gave me the freedom I needed.

The most important thing I’ve learned from the whole application process and the internship as a whole is as simple as this: take the risk and put yourself out there.

Whether you have a question about what an acronym means from a meeting you attended or you’ve finished a task early and would rather not sit and twiddle your thumbs, it’s up to you to make the most of your internship. How much you put in is how much you’re going to get out and I can’t stress enough how important it is to take advantage of the opportunities you’re given. Internship programs are developed for you growth and the company’s continued success, but there is only so much your boss/mentor/supervisor can do to help you learn along the way.

And let me tell you, there is always so much to learn. While we have great professors at IU, the things you took notes on in class will make so much more sense in practice. To give you an example, when I took R321 with Professor Yang he lectured on the importance of having good employee relations because they are a huge factor of how good/bad an organization’s reputation can be. I saw this first hand at KIB. Because we are a smaller non-profit in Indianapolis with such a niche ‘market,’ one of our biggest publics were internal. The city knew about us from our projects, but they had a fondness and appreciation for our work because our employees and volunteer coordinators and all other KIB affiliated persons were so passionate and kind when working. They really helped give our organization a human face.

Internship Spotlight 2017: Annie Quigley

AnnaQuigleyInternshipBlogAnnie Quigley, a junior majoring in media studies with a concentration in public relations, talks about her summer internship at Do317 Media. 

Ironically, I found out about my summer 2017 internship from the IU PRSSA newsletter! Last November, the newsletter mentioned that the Indianapolis company, Do317 Media, was seeking an intern to fill the position of Social Media Marketing and Promotions. I applied through the online application over Thanksgiving break. I then interviewed with the company’s general manager during winter break. After a successful interview process, she offered me the internship position for the summer, and I gladly accepted.

My position mainly involved writing and copyediting the promotional and organic content I published on the company’s social media channels. I also measured social media analytics from the content I wrote. I gathered information for cultural events within client campaigns, and transferred this research into promotional and marketing strategies. With the use of social media analytics, I discovered which strategies obtained the most engagement with Do317 Media’s users. Given that Do317 Media would not be as successful if it weren’t for social media, my internship came with a hefty workload. However, I was grateful that the internship kept me busy because I knew I was truly contributing to the company.

One of the key things I learned from my internship experience at Do317 Media is how to work within client campaigns. I learned how to compose content for clients that had an event or venue they wanted publicized on Do317 Media’s social channels.

The biggest takeaway from this internship was the importance of completing all my tasks independently and confidently. I would say I’m the person who always has millions of questions to ask. I was lucky that my supervisor encouraged me to always ask questions. Yet, as I became more acclimated to my internship position, I found that I could produce great work entirely on my own. I learned that if the answer could be discovered with extra digging on my part, I did not need to ask the question. In any field, people are hired not only because of their qualifications, but by how they can contribute to a company. My supervisor already had a lot of responsibilities on her plate. When I worked hard on my tasks, I proved to be a valuable asset to the company. Proceeding with confidence and creativity is usually better than proceeding with guidance. Those who achieve are typically the ones that go above and beyond what is expected of them. They do not stop to ask questions that they could find the answers to on their own. Although I understand that sometimes questions are necessary, completing my work independently helped me grow in my career path. From my internship at Do317 Media, I personally gained so much experience that I can apply to the next phase of my professional career.