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A publication of the Illinois State University Chapter of PRSSA


2014 newsletter

Alumni Spotlight: Brendan Griffith By Brittany Martin

Brendan Griffith, an Illinois State University graduate and PRSSA alumnus, quickly put the experience he gained as a PRSSA member to use. Griffith started in a media relations position at Fishman Public Relations in Northbrook, Ill. He then moved on to work for Reputation Partners and remains with the company two and a half years later. Reputation Partners is a boutique Chicago public relations firm where he is currently a senior associate. In this position, he oversees a variety of client programs from healthcare to commercial retail and real estate for local, national and international clients. While at Illinois State, Griffith gained an abundance of public relations experience with the three internships he held. Griffith interned for Alumni Relations at ISU, Good Shepherd Hospital as a communications and government relations intern and finally for the Special Olympics as the communications and publications intern. To gain some insight from our inspiring alumnus, we asked Griffith a few questions about his experience and lessons learned in the public relations industry to date. What made you want to be in the public relations industry? I originally went to ISU as an aspiring education major with the goal of landing a job post-graduation as a high school teacher. Two years went by filled with classwork and practicum experiences before I realized there was one small problem – I didn’t enjoy the act of teaching. Already in my junior year, I began exploring alternative fields through conversations with various family friends when I finally learned about public relations from my cousin’s wife. After receiving more real-world insight on the profession, along with reviewing the School of Communication’s website, I decided to pursue public relations. While my interest in teaching may have faded, the idea of educating remained a focal point. I already had a passion for writing and I saw PR as a way to help companies educate their audiences by crafting various campaigns and messages designed to enhance and/or protect their overall reputation with the public. Fast-forward to now and I couldn’t be happier with the career change.

Brendan Griffith, ISU Alumnus How did your experience in ISU PRSSA’s Chapter help prepare you for the world of public relations, post-graduation? I realize this more now, but looking back on my time in PRSSA, the best assets were all the individuals sitting around me in Schroeder Hall at weekly meetings. Everyone always talks about the importance of networking with professionals and creating relationships with those close to you on a daily basis and it’s really true. ISU PRSSA shared details of internship experiences in various public relations industries, highlighted what the work was like on Chicago agency tours and showcased professional development opportunities pursued by its members. The Chapter and its members helped give a more well-rounded view of a growing profession that has so much to offer. Fun fact: I ended up working with someone who was in PRSSA with me, so you never know which classmates could turn into colleagues. If you could give current PRSSA members a bit of advice they don’t always hear on succeeding in the public relations industry, what would it be? Far too often, students hear the same advice over and over again. I know I did. Complete as many internships as possible to set yourself apart. Sign up for professional development seminars/classes to enhance your skills. Attend industry trade shows, conferences and events to meet and network with other professionals. (Continued on page 2)

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Alumni Newsletter

Alumni Spotlight (Cont’d.) I fully support each suggestion, but I’m fairly confident those are pieces of advice every person reading this already knows and doesn’t need to hear again. So what’s my advice? One word: curiosity. Staying curious will help to drive your critical thinking, which is a skill not everyone displays but every employer seeks. When you think critically, you’re always looking at situations or tasks and asking yourself if there is a better way to accomplish your goal. Is this the best media platform to pitch my client? Could I look at the data differently to identify a new trend? What new technology might my client benefit from in the coming year? Curiosity can be contagious and fosters the creative thought process that yields positive results – even in the classroom. You’re going to make mistakes when you begin your professional career and that’s expected, but consistently demonstrating your curious mind will undoubtedly catch your future employer’s eye and bring value to your client(s). Where do you hope to find yourself at the peak of your public relations career and how do you plan to get there? It’s great to see the growing importance corporations are placing on public relations (or any company for that matter) in order to manage their reputations in today’s volatile and hyper-competitive business environment. Because of this, the position of chief communications officer is either becoming more prominent within a company or being created to lead the ongoing task of reputation management.

As an agency guy, I work with clients in various industries, and I’m still exploring which ones I have a true passion for. Once I figure that out, I’ll be looking to work in-house, ideally at a Fortune 500 company. Until then, I plan to continue taking advantage of the various classes and professional development opportunities available within the industry that can help further my knowledge of various public relations tools and focus areas I’ll need to take the next step toward my goal. *** As an already accomplished individual in the PR field, Griffith stays loyal to the Redbirds and plans to return to speak on an agency panel for this year’s School of Communication COM Week in April. He will share his insights with students and aspiring public relations professionals, a position he was in not too long ago. The School of Communication looks forward to welcoming him back! Check the website for more information on other accomplished Redbird alums set to attend COM Week 2014 this April. u

Hey, you! By Lisa Crocco

Yes, you! Think back to your memorable days as an Illinois State University PRSSA Chapter member and the experiences and friends you made. We want you to continue to be part of our PRSSA family. Even though we may not see you at our weekly meetings anymore, you can still contribute to improving our award-winning Chapter. Here are some simple ways you can contribute:

the years to come. Email if you are interested in contributing to our Chapter. We greatly appreciate your time and effort! Thank you for your efforts and consideration of the Illinois State University PRSSA Chapter. u

• Please donate to PRSSA to help us lower the cost of Chapter dues, socials, conferences, tours, etc. • Write for our monthly newsletter and blog! • Inform us of any internship or job opportunities. • Come speak to our Chapter about your experiences in public relations and advice for future PR professionals. We are so proud of our Chapter at Illinois State University and we put immense amounts of time and work into its continuous growth. Please help us to make this possible for

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Fall Accomplishments By Ali Seys

With the start of the New Year, many people spend time reflecting on the memories and accomplishments of 2013. Fittingly, Illinois State University’s PRSSA Chapter has done the same, reflecting on its accomplishments of the Fall 2013 semester. Last semester was full of memories, new friends and building networks both near and far. Take a look at some of what we were able to do: •

• • • • • • • • • • •

ISU’s public relations program was awarded the Certification in Education for Public Relations by the Public Relations Society of America. The strength of a school’s PRSSA Chapter is a major component of the award. PRogressive Image landed the following clients for the 20132014 academic year: Christmas Without Cancer (a Chicago nonprofit), Two Blokes and a Bus (a food truck/”bustaurant” in a double decker bus), and HerCampus ISU (the local chapter of a national blog focused on college life). Nineteen members attended PRSSA National Conference in Philadelphia, Penn. Hosted a nonprofit panel featuring ISU PRSSA alumni Lindsey Probst and Brennan Wielgopolan. Toured Red Frog Events and Zapwater Communications in Chicago and FleishmanHillard in St. Louis. AP Style Workshop with Dr. Smudde. Attended two Central Illinois PRSA Chapter Meetings, one in Peoria and one in Springfield. Volunteered for the March of Dimes Signature Chefs Auction and the ISU Career Institute Career Night. The mentor-mentee program hosted a few events so members could get to know each other, including a cookout and a murder-mystery party. Hosted the “Chill and Thrill” fall social. Welcomed guest speaker Annie Hughes of Allstate, an ISU alumna, to talk about sports public relations and corproate public relations. Hosted the annual holiday social, which this year was catered by our PRi client Two Blokes and a Bus. Received the Star Chapter Award from PRSSA National.

As a Chapter, PRSSA is thankful to all who helped participate in making the fall semester full of accomplishments and experiences for its members. Thanks to the continued support of our friends, alumni, faculty and members, spring semester has many more to come! u

Top to bottom: National Conference, The FleishmanHillard Tour, Christmas Party at Two Blokes and a Bus

Thank you! By Cassidy Obis

Illinois State University’s PRSSA wants to extend our sincere thanks to those alumni who have donated to our Chapter. Your generous donations have helped grow and advance our Chapter and all members within. Through your donations, you have served the public relations industry by helping develop well-prepared professionals. Thank you!

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Alumni Newsletter

The Value of PRSSA By Maggie Ziemann

As communication majors at Illinois State University, we have the advantage of being part of a well-recognized and accomplished program. The University is the first and only school in Illinois to be awarded the Certification in Education for Public Relations (CEPR) by the Public Relations Society of America. Along with this, the School of Communication has top professors and a plethora of courses to choose from that cover all aspects of communication. Although there are many opportunities, there is only so much one can learn in the classroom. Illinois State University’s Public Relations Student Society of America Chapter offers not just public relations majors, but all majors, opportunities to go beyond the classroom and get involved in communications first hand. PRSSA allows students to gain experience and build their portfolios by being a part of one of our three committees. The relations committee allows students to build their portfolio with published blog posts and newsletter articles. The development team puts students’ planning skills to the test when putting together Chapter fundraisers and social

events. PRogressive Image is our student-run firm that allows students to get first-hand experience working with real-world clients. In addition to our three committees, our Chapter often brings in guest speakers and panel discussions to provide professional insight during weekly meetings. Examples include a nonprofit panel, writing workshops and speakers from various aspects of public relations, such as corporate and agency. Outside of Chapter meetings, members are able to attend events such as PRSA Chapter meetings, agency tours in major markets such as Chicago and St. Louis and PRSSA National and Regional Conferences. A student will get out of PRSSA as much as he/she puts into it. The Chapter provides an abundance of options for students to take advantage of to build their portfolio and prepare themselves for the real world. Many members have found opportunities through PRSSA that will help them succeed professionally, from internships to networking connections. It is the continued success of our members, and later our alumni, that makes our Chapter so strong. u

A Look at Spring By Shelby Ray Illinois State University’s PRSSA Chapter had a busy fall semester and is looking even busier this spring.

This is a look of what we have already accomplished this Spring Semester: • • • • • • • • •

Executed our first fundraiser to kick off 2014 at Windy City Weiners in Uptown Normal. Volunteered for the Top of the Class Antique Show sponsored by the School of Communication. Welcomed guest speaker Jennifer Pruett, Vice President of Internal Communications at FleishmanHillard, via Skype at one of our Chapter meetings. Attended the Michigan State University Regional Conference “Electing Excellence: Public Relations in Government and Politics.” Raised money through our Valentine’s Day bake sale in Fell Hall. Attended Columbia College Chicago’s Regional Conference “The Loop: A 360 Degree Approach to Public Relations in Chicago.” Appointed and sent a delegate to PRSSA National Assembly in Charelston, South Carolina. Hosted the annual Chapter Semi-Formal, “A Night on the Red Carpet,” at Firehouse Pizza and Pub. Toured four public relations organizations: Skirt PR, Zeno Group, Walker Sands Communication and Motion PR.

• •

Welcomed guest speaker Jason Mollica from Buffalo, N.Y. to present “March Brandness,” an event focused on personal branding. Jason spoke at PRSSA National Conference 2013. Attended two PRSA Central Illinois Chapter Meetings. Implemented a variety of workshops to improve public relations and professional skills at our weekly Chapter meetings.

As the year begins to wind down, we are excited to wrap up with our last few events. These include an agency tour to Weber Shandwick, Golin Harris and Ogilvy Public Relations, our final social, and of course, the last Chapter meeting. We have done so much this year and are excited to see what the next year will bring. u

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Faculty Adviser Dr. Smudde and executive board with Jason Mollica


Illinois State University Awarded CEPR Certification

Senior to Watch

By Ashley Funderburk

Being “number one” is a great achievement and a great responsibility to retain. Illinois State University is the first school in the state to be credited with a Certification in Education for Public Relations (CEPR) through the endorsement of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA). The PRSA sets “the global standard in public relations education.” The CEPR program was founded in 1999, with the goal of setting curricular guidelines that prepare students for the challenges of a career in public relations. The purpose is to establish credibility and trust between institutions and the public. CEPR standards are based on curriculum, faculty, resources and facilities, students, professional relationships, strength of the institution’s PRSSA chapter, and other factors. Faculty are graded on their credentials and resources used in class. Students are judged on how well they retain the knowledge and skill sets taught in the academic program. The quality of student learning and the academic program is not only a goal for PRSA, but also the purpose of the CEPR accreditation. The process for accreditation takes about a full year, from the time someone starts preparing the application for accreditation to the time a decision is made to confer or not to confer accreditation on a PR program. Illinois State applied in November 2012, and a two-person review team visited campus in late March 2013 to evaluate the program. The PRSA Educational Affairs Committee thoroughly reviewed the team’s report and ISU’s original application for accreditation. The committee made its final decision to approve ISU for CEPR accreditation on Sept. 3, 2013. Illinois State will have to reapply for CEPR every five years to ensure the continued strength of the public relations program. Becoming CEPR accredited recognizes the strength of the faculty and students in Illinois State’s public relations program. Having an active, nationally recognized Public Relations Student Society of America Chapter (PRSSA) also helped during the review process. The Chapter is nationally recognized and has received the Star Chapter award three out of the last four years at the PRSSA National Conference. Becoming CEPR will strengthen ISU’s academic program and benefit students, faculty and the profession. CEPR can be instrumental in strengthening the program in various ways, from resources to curriculum. Faculty gain recognition as teachers in an accredited program. CEPR gives students an advantage in the competitive internship and job market because they came through an accredited program, while the profession benefits from better prepared entry-level personnel. Illinois State University was officially honored at this year’s PRSA National Conference in Philadelphia on Oct. 26. u

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Lauren Ulrich MAJOR: Public Relations MINOR: Civic Engagement & Responsibility MOST RECENT EXPERIENCE: New Life Media/WCIC, Promotions Intern May 2013 – July 2013 Tremont Turkey Festival, Publicity Co-Chair March 2013 – June 2013 Illinois Central College/NJCAA, Public Relations Intern January 2012 – May 2013 Caterpillar Inc, Student Trainee June 2011 – May 2012 SKILLS: •Blogging •Internal Communication •Volunteer Management •Brand Management •Promotions •Speech Writing •Social Media •Media Relations •Employee Relations •InDesign CONTACT INFORMATION: Email: Phone: 309-202-9994 LinkedIn: Twitter: @LaurenUlrichPR

2014 Alumni Newsletter  

This issue of the alumni newsletter includes Alumni Spotlight, Fall Accomplishments, The Value of PRSSA, A Look at Spring, Senior to Watch,...

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