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PR emier

A monthly publication of the Illinois State University Chapter of PRSSA

By Becca Williams

the trek from Buffalo, N.Y. to share his secrets about the importance of personal branding.

What does it mean to be the CEO of you? Jason Mollica, president of JRM Comm Inc., took the stage at Illinois State University PRSSA’s Chapter meeting on Tuesday, March 25 to answer this question and provide students with advice on how to craft your own personal brand. The event, titled “March Brandness,” was co-hosted by ISU PRSSA and the Student Government Association. Mollica graduated from Temple University and began his career writing and producing sports segments with NBC 10 in Philadelphia. He moved on to work for Comcast SportsNet and later, Fox News. In 2005, he made the jump into public relations with his work as the assistant director of public relations at Niagra University. Mollica has remained in the public relations industry and currently works as the president of JRM Comm Inc., making

“When conducting your own brand analysis, be honest with yourself about your weaknesses,” said Mollica. Weaknesses that are identified now can be turned into strengths and opportunities in the future. Above all, be honest and make sure that the person you present online is the same person you present offline. In other words, be authentic! With all of the social networking sites available, it is easy for students in any major to feel overwhelmed. Mollica emphasized that you do not have to be on every social network to land a job. He suggests devoting the time to the ones that you feel you can make great, even if it’s only one platform. LinkedIn is a great place to start. It is the number one social media site employers look at when reviewing applicants. Your LinkedIn profile does not replace your resume, but a strong summary pulls the viewer in and encourages them to read the rest of your profile. (Continued on page 2)

A LOOK INSIDE... k11 Ways You Know You're an ISU PRSSA Member lThe Value of PRSSA lValenine's Day Bake Sale

m#VotePR nThe Power of Informational Interviews nPRSA Chapter Dinner

o COM Week pLetter From Exec: February Letter From Exec: March

February/March 2014

Faculty Adviser Dr. Smudde, ISU PRSSA executive board and Jason Mollica

Mollica suggested doing a personal analysis of your presence on all social media and organizing the information in an Excel document.

Throughout the event, attendees were encouraged to tweet using the hashtags #CEOofYou and #MarchBrandness. Mollica began by explaining the concept behind his phrase “CEO of You.” Few professionals actually aspire to be the CEO of a company, but that doesn’t mean you should not think like a CEO when creating your personal brand. Some of the ways Mollica suggested doing this are by being the boss of your brand, being trustworthy, and taking responsibility for everything you post on social media sites.

Volume 3

March Brandness: A Recap

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February/March 2014

Volume 3

March Brandness: A Recap (Cont’d.) Mollica provided attendees with a wealth of personal branding tips and tricks that apply to not only public relations but all other career fields. Throughout the presentation, his passion for public relations and personal branding resonated with students.

“To inspire others and establish yourself, you have to love what you do,” said Mollica. Mollica is very passionate and loves his profession and has inspired Illinois State Redbirds to get out and make their personal brand’s sing! u

11 Ways You Know You’re an ISU PRSSA Member By Abby Brennan

Sites like BuzzFeed have made list articles super trendy, with topics ranging from “77 Facts That Sound Like Huge Lies But Are Actually Completely True” to “21 Babies Meeting Dogs for the First Time.” Well, here at Illinois State University PRSSA, we were not about to be left out of the list action. Below, find 11 ways you know you’re an ISU PRSSA member: 1. You spend entirely too much time in Fell Hall. Eight hours, twelve hours, fifteen hours… none of those phase you. It helps that Fell is one of the prettiest buildings on campus and definitely home to the best people. However, you’re not sure if it’s cool or sad that when you call Jimmy John’s, they know you by name and that you are ordering to Fell. 2. You see nothing weird about tweeting your professors. Twitter is an important public relations tool, so it’s natural that the people teaching us about public relations are helping us learn how to use it. Or you could just be live tweeting with them during the Oscars (looking at you, @DrBeckyHayes). 3. You actually really, really love talking about your major and PRSSA. ISU PRSSA majors are a passionate bunch. We are also a talkative bunch. This means we just love to share our passions, no matter what the situation. There have been a few times I have been out with non-public relations friends and I catch myself rambling on about internships, classes or PRSSA. They get sick of it pretty quickly. 4. You live for agency tours. About once a month, ISU PRSSA members wake up very early on a Friday and make the drive to Chicago to visit a variety of public relations organizations. This includes large agencies like Edelman, smaller ones like Motion PR, and even niche organizations like Red Frog Events. It’s a great way to bond with fellow members and get a taste of real world public relations. 5. National Conference is like Christmas to you. What is better than flying to a major city with ISU PRSSA friends, where you get to make more PRSSA friends from

Chapters all over the country and hear from world-renowned speakers and public relations professionals? Nothing, that’s what. 6. Your planner is completely full and color coded. Some of your other friends are probably tired of hearing “Sorry, I can’t, I have a PRSSA thing,” or, alternatively, “an internship thing.” The average person looking at your planner might also need a codebook in order to decipher it. Similarly, “free time” is likely a foreign concept to you. 7. A classic: you drink so much coffee that you’re pretty sure you bleed it at this point. Granted, this is true of almost all public relations majors and professionals. When a fellow public relations person tells you they don’t like coffee, you tend to respond with shock and awe. Unless, of course, you are that rare non-coffee-drinking person. 8. Some of your friends and family think it’s really funny to say “gesundheit” whenever you say “PRSSA.” And they still aren’t quite clear on what the organization – or even public relations – actually is or does. 9. Your closet has more business casual clothing than the average ISU student. Not including, of course, business majors. They probably have more suits. 10. You’re proud to be part of one of the largest PRSSA Chapters in the country. It’s a pretty cool feeling to be recognized and admired by other members at National Conference when you say you’re from ISU. 11. Finally…8:00 p.m. Tuesday is one of your favorite times of the week. That’s because it is Chapter Tuesday and you get to see all of your ISU PRSSA friends in one place! u

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February/March 2014

Volume 3

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

Valentine’s Day Bake Sale By Becca Williams

The Illinois State University PRSSA Chapter held a Valentine’s Day bake sale from Monday Feb. 10 to Thursday Feb. 13 in the lobby of Fell Hall. Members from the PRSSA development committee and throughout the Chapter baked delicious treats for the fundraiser. Top sellers included Cindy Kirchner’s cupcakes, Analita Voss’ puppy chow, Lauren Ward’s red velvet cheesecake brownies, and Sarah McScheffrey’s cake pops! Besides baking tasty treats, members volunteered their time by selling the baked goods throughout the week. Overall the bakes sale was a huge success, raising over $220 for the Chapter. Thank you to all the wonderful members of ISU PRSSA who volunteered their time and baked goods to this event. u

The famous Cindy Kirchner cupcakes

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February/March 2014

Volume 3

#VotePR By Lisa Crocco

Political public relations is not as common a field as corporate or agency public relations, but it is definitely one worth learning about. Five Illinois State University PRSSA Chapter members ventured to Michigan State University on Feb. 7 for the Electing Excellence Regional Conference. Chapter President Hailey Lanier, National Liaison Shelby Ray, as well as Chapter members Frank Hopper, Connor Jacobs and myself traveled to East Lansing, Mich. for the three day Conference experience. We spent Friday night mingling with other Chapters at the Sweet Soirée mixer. Meeting other PRSSA members and learning about their passion for public relations was a wonderful experience. Attendees also spent most of Friday exploring the charming town of East Lansing and eating at local restaurants.

Left to right: Connor Jacobs, Lisa Crocco, Hailey Lanier, Frank Hopper and Shelby Ray

Saturday was a full day of listening to speakers and attending workshops. From sessions on healthcare public relations, to press secretary work, there was a breakout session for everyone’s interest. The keynote speaker was Sara Wurfel, APR, who serves as the Press Secretary for Michigan Governor Rick Snyder. She talked about her experiences with the field and provided insights to Conference attendees who are unsure about their political public relations path. “Learning never stops. Don’t ever think you know it all,” said Wurfel. “Be a news junkie. You can’t be a news maker if you don’t know the news.” After Wurfel’s presentation, Karl Gude wrapped up the Conference with a workshop on infographics. Gude is thought to be the “father of infographics” for his work as a former director of information graphics for Newsweek in New York City. His presentation highlighted the importance of using infographics with public relations pieces we write and produce. They add to the design, look and interest in the piece. The presentation was beneficial and informative.

Left to right: Shelby Ray, Frank Hopper, Lisa Crocco, Hailey Lanier, Connor Jacobs and Jessica Frost

The Conference was a terrific experience and helped members learn more about political public relations. The weekend was spent laughing and learning—many wonderful memories were made at Conference! On March 8, ISU PRSSA members also attended The Loop: A 360 Approach to Public Relations at Colombia College Chicago. Search #VotePR on Twitter to recap from the live tweets during the Michigan State University Conference. u

Members from several different PRSSA Chapters around the nation at the MSU Conference

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February/March 2014

Volume 3

The Power of Informational Interviews By Melissa Fortes

Whether you are a freshman who is just starting to dive into your major or a soon-to-be senior about to enter the real world, informational interviews are a key professional development tool. The fusion of a networking opportunity, information session and job interview makes informational interviews a valuable way to learn about the different career paths or a particular company or industry. So, what steps should you take to make this happen? Explore the company Start by doing your research with a specific company in mind. Look up employees on LinkedIn or even a summer intern featured in the company’s latest blog post. Identifying professionals who hold a position of interest to you will get you started on the right track. You do not want to end up meeting with an accountant in a company’s finance department when you are a public relations major hoping to learn more about communications! Reach out to the professional The initial contact you make is essential in creating a good first impression. Remember, you are not meeting with them to find a job. While that may be a long term goal, the simple purpose of an informational interview is to start networking with employees at the company and learn about their career paths. Prepare for the big day An informational interview is unlike normal job interviews in that you are running the show. You are responsible for asking

the questions and keeping the conversation going. Doing your research on the company and interview should help create a natural flow of conversation. Remember that you are using a professional’s valuable time, so you want to make the most of it with well-thought out, quality questions. During the interview While this is not a formal interview for a job, it still matters and should be treated as if it were a “real” interview. Show your enthusiasm while chatting with the professional. Genuine interest is easily seen and, let’s face it, people enjoy talking about themselves. This will create a more welcoming, friendly atmosphere for you both. Smile, stay engaged, and put your best professional, yet personal, face forward. Follow up after the meeting Now that you’ve met with the individual you are all done, right? Wrong. The most vital step to take is thanking the employee for their time and staying connected with them in the future. If a job opens at the company, and if you’re fresh in their mind, you may be one of the first people considered. A simple email every couple of months just checking in, seeing how things are going with them, and maybe mentioning any accomplishments you’ve had is enough to keep in touch. It’s a small but effective task many job seekers forget. Networking is power, and informational interviews are a great place to start. They are a vital tool to help you begin your career and land that dream job. Happy job searching! u

PRSA Chapter Dinner By Lily Sherer

Laurel Hart, partner at LOGOS Consulting Group and adjunct instructor at New York University, is an expert on social media and crisis management. She traveled to Bloomington, Ill. on March 5 to share best practices and new strategies in social media and crisis communication at the Central Illinois PRSA Chapter meeting.

old. Today, 87 percent of American adults use the internet and 73 percent of them also use some sort of social networking. 90 percent of Americans ages 18 to 29 use social networking, and that percent is only going to keep increasing.

Illinois State University PRSSA members attended the meeting to network and learn about the broader implications of crisis management in a dynamic social media climate.

Will there ever be a time when 99 percent of American adults use social media? How would that change our culture? How would that change the way we purchase and consume? How would that change the life cycle of crises?

We think the internet and technology that we have today is advanced, and it is, but the web is really only about 25 years

Hart defined a crisis as “A crucial or decisive point or situation; a turning point.”

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Volume 3

PRSA Chapter Dinner (Cont’d.) This turning point is where an organization must make choices that will leave them either in danger or with an opportunity, winning or losing their reputation. Crisis management is always changing as technology changes. When social media is involved, it can be a tool to help resolve crises. But social media can also cause crises if not used properly.

The best crisis management tool is prevention, according to Hart. This can be achieved by planning ahead and identifying the vulnerabilities of the organization to better prepare for a potential crisis. The second way to prevent a crisis, or diminish damage from a crisis, is by building social media communities in advance. This means that an organization should put the “social” back into social media. Engagement and interaction between the organization and its followers is crucial to building and maintaining relationships with them.

Social media can be an organizations’ best friend or worst enemy, depending on how it chooses to use it. Here are a few examples of social media usage gone wrong: •Business issues and self-inflicted harm can be amplified If an organization has built a loyal community on social by social media. media through quality engagement, that community will be •A crisis can start as self-inflicted harm beginning on much more likely to give the organization the benefit of the social media. doubt in times of crisis. The community will likely defend the •An external rumor or hoax can also cause a crisis on organization and support them if a crisis should arise. social media if not managed effectively. As the number of social media users increases, dependency Hart presented a quote that explains the gravity of social on social media and the internet for information and media blunders during crises: interaction will also increase. This potential means that brands will have the opportunity to cultivate even more loyal “Flailing around and looking helpless aren’t inspiring to your communities and niches that will be the lifeblood of the stakeholders,” said Ron Alsop, former editor and reporter for brand’s existence. u The Wall Street Journal.

Envision, Engage and Embark at COM Week 2014 By Abby Brennan

Every year, the School of Communication Promotions and Development Team (SoCPD) brings dozens of panels and keynote speakers to the Illinois State University campus for the annual tradition of COM Week. This year, we invite students to “envision the possibilities, engage with others, and embark on their journey.” With nine keynote speakers, 15 panels, a documentary film festival, career institute, and awards and scholarships luncheon, COM Week 2014 provides countless opportunities to students of all majors. Panels will cover topics such as agency public relations, event planning, crisis communication, sports communication, and more. Keynotes will include speakers from Comcast SportsNet Chicago, Edelman, Weber Shandwick, Rolling Stone and The Everygirl.

Students can track all of the COM Week action on social media using the hashtag #COMWeek2014 and by following the School of Communication on Facebook and Twitter (ISUSOC). This year, the COM Week schedule will be available via app for the first time. Attendees can download Guidebook on their smartphones and search “COM Week 2014” to access the app. Through the app, attendees can customize their own schedules, connect with speakers and students, submit photos, and even view the School of Communication Twitter and Facebook. For more information, visit comweek.ilstu.edu. u

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Volume 3

Letter from Executive Board: February By Ryan Smart

I came to Illinois State University in the fall of 2010 as a biology major. I quickly learned that biology was not for me, and that I had a passion for something different, public relations. I joined the Public Relations Student Society of America during my sophomore year and dedicated myself to learning as much as possible about the public relations industry. Soon enough, I was attending every meeting and getting involved within the Chapter. I quickly became committed to the major and the School of Communication and found myself earning a position on ISU PRSSA’s executive board. In three short years, I have met so many peers who are just as passionate about public relations as I am. I believed an executive board position would allow me to strengthen my skills as well as build new ones. Being on ISU PRSSA’s executive board has taught me so much in my senior year. I am always learning from my fellow executive board members, Dr. Peter Smudde, and the many members in the Chapter. I have always enjoyed conversing with others and I’m not afraid to be pushed out of my comfort zone, which is a perfect fit for a position on the executive board. Initially, I was quite skeptical of becoming the treasurer because I am guilty of poorly budgeting my own money. I thought it was ironic, but it has benefitted me with both my Ryan studying abroad in Paris professional career and my personal life. As treasurer, responsibilities to the Chapter include managing and monitoring the budget. These events range from socials, conferences, and PRSA dinners to paying for general Chapter needs. Aside from budgeting, I coordinate the mentor-mentee program and track the member incentive points (MIPs). The MIPs dictate who the member of the month is based on their involvement in the Chapter. I write funny and creative songs dedicated to the member of the month, teach them to the rest of the executive board, and we sing to the Chapter to honor that member. Within this past academic year, I have learned that having an executive position includes organization and planning. Specifically, my position as treasurer includes being responsible for an Excel document that tracks where all of the funds go. This ensures that the Chapter knows where it has room to spend. A large part of managing and monitoring the budget is being responsible for Chapter dues. I am proud to say that in my time as treasurer there has been an increase in Chapter membership by about 20 more members than last year. We are up to an all-time high of 110 members! My favorite responsibility as treasurer is directing the mentor-mentee program, which has been a huge success this year. Upperclassmen or experienced PRSSA members are paired up with a mentee, typically an underclassmen or new PRSSA member. The program is meant to provide members with career advice as well as resume, interview, general PRSSA tips, and a new friend! I coordinate with the executive board on what events we will host. This year, the mentor-mentee socials have included a food crawl throughout Uptown Normal, a Bloomington Thunder hockey game, a murder mystery party and a cookout. All these socials are great opportunities for members to bond and get to know each other outside of Chapter. I enjoy coordinating the mentor-mentee program the most because I’m able to use my creative side. It really shows that PRSSA is about building each other up for our professional careers and providing insight to all members on what they can get out of the organization.

Ryan with the 2013-2014 Executive Board

I encourage all Chapter members to not only come to the weekly meetings, but to get involved within the organization itself. Become a mentor or mentee and apply for an executive board position. It has helped me in my personal and professional life more than I had ever expected. u

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Volume 3

Letter from Executive Board: March By Abby Brennan

Earlier in March, I was in faculty adviser Dr. Smudde’s office when it dawned on me: “I’m the last historian!” He chuckled at my proclamation, but it’s true. I will be the last Illinois State University PRSSA member to formally hold the title of historian. This is a really exciting time to be part of ISU PRSSA. We are one of the largest and most-respected Chapters in the nation, and being able to be a part of that has been such an honor. As an executive board, we have made some changes this year that I truly believe will benefit the Chapter and help build our reputation even more.

Abby Brennan,


One of these changes directly affects my position. While I may be “the last historian,” the position will still be around, just with a snazzy new title. Since many of my responsibilities deal with digital and social media, the executive board decided that the title “director of digital media” was a better fit.

My duties include managing all of the Chapter’s social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram) and the website. In addition, I document all Chapter events and accomplishments, including member and alumni accomplishments. The sight of me rounding everyone up for a photo at various Chapter events is a pretty common one! I also work very closely with the blog chair, Cassidy Obis, to help manage the Chapter blog PRecisely PR and promote our posts across social media. Looking back, it’s crazy to think that I wanted any other executive board position. Yet when I applied, I ranked historian as my last choice. I very clearly remember a moment in my interview when the 2012-2013 executive board asked why it was so low. “I have a lot of social media experience already, and I don’t want to just be ‘the social media girl,’” I told them. (Rather stupidly, I might add.) Well, luckily last year’s executive board knew me better than I did, because this position ended up being a perfect fit. Historian/director of digital media is ideal for someone who is always connected and on the pulse of all things social. In fact, I’m thinking of asking future applicants what their Klout scores are. (Kidding! Mostly.) A big part of my job is always knowing what’s going on in our Chapter and all that our members are achieving so that I can share that information online. Secretary Melissa Fortes has been super helpful with keeping me up-to-date on Chapter events thanks to her wonderful minutes and agendas. I usually use them when updating the calendar of events on our website and planning social media posts for the week. Sometimes, people say that public relations is a thankless job, because there often isn’t a lot of recognition. In some ways, this is true of my position. There is a lot to do when it comes to keeping track of accomplishments, updating our accounts, engaging with members, and generally keeping everything updated. Unlike the speakers introduced by the vice president or tours planned by the national liaison, it is definitely behind-the-scenes work. However, I do get to act as the online face of ISU PRSSA, which is pretty darn cool. Serving on the executive board this year has given me so many opportunities to grow personally and professionally. It is hard to believe that I only joined PRSSA a year ago, in the spring of 2013. I was newly admitted to the public relations major and eager to get involved. Looking back, I am so grateful for this organization, my fellow executive board members, Dr. Smudde, and our amazing Chapter for making my time at ISU truly wonderful. It’s hard to believe it is already March and I have a few short weeks left before graduation. I cannot wait to see what next year’s executive board brings to the Chapter, especially the new director of digital media. I’ll definitely be checking in via Facebook and Twitter to see what they are up to! With lots of #PRSSALove, Abby Brennan, (the last) Historian u


w Tour Train w Recap of COM Week

Profile for Illinois State University PRSSA

PRemier Newsletter: February/March 2014  

This issue of PRemier includes a recap of March Brandness, 11 Ways Know You're an ISU PRSSA Member, The Value of PRSSA, #VotePR, Information...

PRemier Newsletter: February/March 2014  

This issue of PRemier includes a recap of March Brandness, 11 Ways Know You're an ISU PRSSA Member, The Value of PRSSA, #VotePR, Information...