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WINTER 2014 | VOLUME 46, ISSUE 2 | The Publication of the Public Relations Student Society of America

Consumer Interaction Humanizes Brands

by samantha watson University of Toledo What began as a little bit of fun during PRSSA’s August 2013 Twitter chat soon became a valuable lesson in the importance of brands interacting with their audience. As a joke, I tweeted about my new puppy becoming the mascot of PRSSA, using the hashtag #PuplicRelations. A few other students joined in the fun, and we tweeted at the pet care company Purina, owned by Nestlé. Two days later, they replied with a picture of Kobe: “Puplic Relations” Manager. Of course the puppy was actually an employee’s dog and didn’t have an official title, but Purina’s response was what really mattered in this situation. “We saw it as an opportunity to engage with passionate social media users around our favorite subject — pets!” said Kirstyn Nimmo, social media communications manager at Deep Focus, a digital marketing agency that works closely with Purina. “As a brand, Purina is committed to the idea that pets and people are better together, so we love it when we can enter into genuine conversations about those topics.” Purina is not alone — many companies interact with customers every day on social

2014 Regional Conferences Michigan State University “Electing Excellence: Public Relations in Government and Politics” When: Feb. 7–8 Where: East Lansing, Mich.

Boston University “PRAdvanced: #FuelTheFuture” When: Feb. 15 Where: Boston, Mass.

University of Oklahoma and University Texas, Austin “Red River Regional Conference” When: Feb. 28–March 1 Where: Dallas, Texas

courtesy screenshot | Samantha watson

media because they see it as such a valuable tool. Not only can they receive feedback in real time, but speaking with consumers makes them appear more human. “It helps in terms of

customer interaction,” said Kayla Lemay, secretary of PRSSA at Bridgewater State University, who participated in the


Mercyhurst University “The Perfect Fit: An Outlet for Every PR Passion” When: April 11–12 Where: Erie, Pa. Georgia State University “A New PRspective on Diversity” When: April 4–6 Where: Atlanta, Ga.


Ohio State University “Inspiration: Looking Ahead to the Future of Public Relations” When: April 12 Where: Columbus, Ohio.

Syracuse University “PR at the Heart of New York: The Secret to Social Commerce” When: March 1–2 Where: Syracuse, N.Y. Purina responds to tweets by PRSSA members Samantha Watson and Kayla Lemay. The conversation began when Watson tweeted a picture of her puppy during a PRSSA Twitter Chat with the hashtag #puplicrelations.

Louisiana State University “Hollywood Under the Oaks”; When: March 21–23 Where: Baton Rouge, La.

Columbia College Chicago “The Loop - A 360 Approach to Public Relations in Chicago” When: March 7–8 Where: Chicago, Ill.

San Jose State University “Sincerely, PR” When: April 25–27 Where: San Jose, Calif.

National Conference Attendees Leave Mark on Philadelphia Students participated in successful Career Wardrobe donation drive Chris Bonelli PRSSA 2013-2014 Vice President of Chapter Development

Students packed extra bags for the PRSSA 2013 National Conference – not for themselves, but for countless women in the Philadelphia area. Participants donated professional accessories to Career Wardrobe for PRSSA’s

2013 Community Service Initiative, which would benefit aspiring women professionals. Career Wardrobe, the largest nonprofit organization of its kind, empowers women re-entering the workforce by providing them with professional attire, educational programs and networking opportunities. Many of these women have been out of work for more than 10 years, some experiencing homelessness, single motherhood and substance abuse. “Career Wardrobe was honored to be the charity of choice for the PRSA and PRSSA




courtesy photo | PRSSA 2013 National Conference Committee

PRSSA members from around the country donated seven boxes of clothing items and professional accessories to Philadelphia-based nonprofit Career Wardrobe during the PRSSA 2013 National Conference.

Learn how to make yourself stand out in an automated application.


Couldn’t attend the PRSSA 2013 National Conference? Check out an infographic recap of the event.


What does it take to be a Professional Adviser? Hear it straight from the source.


Winter 2014 | Volume 46, Issue 2 |

An Inside Look at Automated Application Systems by Brett Nachman Arizona State University Write. Apply. Repeat. Automated filtering systems are here to stay, filtering out candidates and minimizing the applicant pool for employers. For many, the impersonal review can prevent landing that dream job or internship. Nevertheless, applicants can succeed in this system by better understanding how it operates. Bruce Davis, executive director for city of Scottsdale in Arizona, who also served as Los Angeles County’s senior manager for human resources and as a consultant for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), has seen the evolution of automated tracking systems. These systems often implement programmed measures, which eliminates the need for someone to assess each application. The systems expedite the process by detecting the

most qualified candidates. However, some applicants feel the present systems do not look at the big picture. The automated filtering systems possess a mix of benefits and drawbacks. “You start receiving applicants from the minute a job is posted, and with people having access to job search agents…once a job is posted that [you’re] interested in, you already hit that pool immediately,” Davis said. From the human resources side, these systems can save time, money and resources. But sometimes companies or organizations must deal with issues like unqualified people moving further in the application process and qualified individuals being rejected early in the process. “The more specific you can be with the screening questions, the better,” Davis said. Screening questions assess candidates’ skills and experiences, advancing those who meet

requirements to the interview stage. Yet, one must first craft a top-notch résumé. Elizabeth Smith, outreach director for the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, served as a certified professional résumé writer for many years. She counsels individuals on how to stand out, as evidenced in her e-book, “What’s Your Magic Power?” Smith suggested customizing each résumé to the respective position, using key words that identify one’s functionality. “It’s like [search engine optimization], but for your résumé… maximizing your ‘searchability,’” Smith said. “The responsibility for not getting through that filter falls on the candidate.” Networking with individuals and already working at the company can prove worthwhile, too. “Maybe you won’t get that job, but maybe that interview results in

someone saying, ‘You know, you’re wrong for us, but I have this friend who’s hiring for this other position that you’re perfect for, [so] let me put in a good word for you,’” Smith said. Meenah Rincon, an Arizona State University public relations student who serves as a government agency supervisor, also sees the value of referrals. “The people that are in the agency or in the company that you’re going to apply for really can testify to your character and how you are as a worker,” Rincon said. Rincon said she has always received notification regarding the application’s outcome, whether positive or negative. Often landing a position connects back to a résumé’s quality. But one thing cannot be overlooked: strong writing skills. “As long as you have good writing skills, I think everything else can be taught,” Rincon said.

Public Relations in Small Communities Reinforces Importance of Relationships by aaron krish University of Wisconsin Stevens Point Public relations may vary, but the ideas behind its practice are fundamentally the same, no matter the location or size of the city. Smart, experienced professionals know how to leverage resources to their advantage. Practicing public relations in a small town should not be undervalued or underestimated. Stevens Point, Wis., is a community of approximately 26,000 people with four smaller cities in the surrounding area. It’s largely rural

FORUM® STAFF 2013-2014

Publications Editor in Chief Mallory Richardson Managing Editor Emily Herrington Photo Editor Christina Riviere Design Editor Carli Thibodeaux Copy Editor Elise Bernard FORUM® is published three times a year for PRSSA members. The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of the Society or staff. The Editor in Chief reserves the right to refuse all copy. Article submissions, comments and suggestions may be made via email to the FORUM® Editor in Chief at FORUM® is produced by students at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, La.

and located nearly two hours away from more populated cities like Green Bay, Madison and Milwaukee. While it houses a public university, the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, and other large businesses, there is major competition with larger markets for media coverage and response from various publics. Higher Education Kate Worster and Nick Schultz, executive director and media relations director, respectively, of the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point University Relations and Communications, described public relations as building relationships with whomever you encounter – whether they are a member of the media or the community. A smaller geographic area allows you to get to know these individuals on a more personal level and build more meaningful and long-term relationships. Worster stressed the importance of media relationships with reporters but explained that her public relations efforts are often more difficult when a fair number of reporters move out of the area after a few years to pursue careers in larger markets. Working in a small area offers small windows of coverage, and getting the media to care about something 40 miles away is difficult, especially when media organizations are short-staffed. Schultz said the likelihood that you run into someone at the supermarket is much higher than in a larger city. There is more face-toface interaction, and you see people in and out of their personal and professional environments, making it easier to create meaningful connections. “In a small community, what you do for a living is reflected on by the community. People know who you are,” Schultz said. “People recognize you without you even

knowing them, and it’s easier to build relationships because the pool is smaller.” Not only are media relationships important to the University, but with the community as well. The community is more attuned and constantly watching the actions of the University because it is one of the larger entities in the area. As a result, the faculty of the University is generally well known and what they do in the community serves as a mode for public relations. The Arts Ann Huntoon, executive director for the Central Wisconsin Symphony Orchestra, feels that her public relations efforts are largely focused on educating and bringing the community together through a cultural experience. With a low budget, Huntoon’s public relations efforts greatly rely on what is available to the symphony. Relationships with local and state media organizations are vital partnerships the symphony needs to stay alive in the rural community. In comparison to a larger area that draws most of its audience from the same city, Huntoon has the challenge of drawing the symphony’s audience not only from Stevens Point, but also from four other cities in the surrounding area. To further draw attendance, the symphony often hosts its season in two venues, both of which are 40 miles apart, stretching the resources of the symphony. “What we have to do is provide an education of what advocacy is and how to support each other, building community through what we do,” Huntoon said. “We’re here because we believe in our community.” Tourism Melissa Sabel, communications manager at the Stevens Point Area Convention and Visitors Bureau,

goes through many of the same efforts as Huntoon, Worster and Schultz. She works daily with media organizations in larger markets, bringing different audiences to the community for travel purposes. She is also an advocate for building local relationships and keeping the community involved as much as possible through public relations activities. For example, Sabel writes a weekly column in one of the local newspapers entitled “One Hour One Day” that highlights various locations and activities that community members and travelers alike can dedicate an hour or entire day of their time to around the area. Similarly, an annual survey is distributed throughout the community to educate the locals on the assets of the area as a means to open their eyes to what is being offered where they live that they might not necessarily know about. Sabel’s public relations efforts within the tourism realm show that while external messages are important to bring travelers to town, those living in the community are just as important to target. Ultimately, the best public relations initiatives come from the idea that “what makes a place great to visit is what makes it a great place to live,” Sabel said. Highlight what you have available to you in the community and the coverage you receive will revolve around the quality of the community you promote. The fundamentals of public relations do not change based on the size of the location, and they still primarily involve building relationships and a sense of community. A small market does not hinder public relations professionals — it strengthens the reasons why they practice public relations.


Engaging with PRSA BRIAN PRIce PRSSA 2013-2014 National President

PRSA has almost 22,000 members. Think about that number for a minute and let it sink in. There are 22,000 public relations and communications professionals that we have access to through our PRSSA membership. My experience in PRSSA has brought me in contact with a multitude of PRSA members, from my Chapter’s relationship with PRSA Northeast Wisconsin to attending the PRSA 2013 Leadership Rally to speakers at conferences. I’d like to share what I have observed about the members of our parent Society. One of the most memorable impressions students can make on PRSA members is showing both enthusiasm and curiosity. Demonstrating a willingness to learn and asking questions to increase your knowledge of the industry can often directly lead to an extraordinary encounter. Let PRSA members teach you and provide background. Showcasing passion and energy for our future career can really put a spark into a professional’s day. PRSA members put themselves in situations to meet students because they want to give back. They want us to ask questions—the easy ones and the tough ones. Don’t hesitate to engage in conversation. Not every encounter will lead to an internship or a new mentor, but it is always a learning opportunity. Professionals might be interested in us, but we should be more interested in them. Be sure to disclose relevant information about yourself and your talents, but focus on expanding your knowledge. Networking with professionals is our time to experience a new school of thought, a different viewpoint on a familiar subject and unique ideas. Of course, it is much easier to meet and talk with PRSA members if your Chapter has a relationship with its PRSA sponsor Chapter. Talk to your Chapter president about incorporating your sponsor Chapter more. There are often monthly luncheons or meetings to attend, as well as opportunities for PRSA members to be guest speakers. Contact information for PRSA executive board members is available on most PRSA Chapter websites. Reach out to PRSSA National if you need help contacting your PRSA sponsor Chapter. So polish your elevator pitch and reach out. Take advantage of opportunities to network with PRSA, make the approach and listen more than you speak. A network of 22,000 professionals awaits you.



Winter 2014 | Volume 46, issue 2 |

Firm oF the issue

By helmA von ZADow PRSSA 2013-2014 Vice President of Professional Development Housed in Ball State University’s Department of Journalism is Cardinal Communications, one of PRSSA’s most successful student-run firms. Operating since 1976, Cardinal Communications has built a solid client base serving organizations such as the American Red Cross, the MLK Dream Team,

the Muncie-Delaware County Chamber of Commerce, the Asian American Alliance, Inc. and Goodwill. “As a completely studentrun organization, we come together to form a one-of-a-kind agency comprised of energetic, lively students who are passionate about communications, public relations, marketing and design,” said the firm’s leadership team. Cardinal Communications embraces teamwork by training students to collaborate in addition to performing their own specific duties. Three students serve as account directors and preside over the entire agency. They oversee the account directors, who, in turn, lead teams of

account coordinators. Not only does Cardinal Communications have an established team structure, but they also have an outstanding website. “We pride ourselves on our ability to provide more than 80 members with professional work experience that will be able to help them shape their careers and futures outside of Ball State University,” said Dylan Stone, executive director at Cardinal Communications. The organization also recently moved to a new office called the Holden Strategic Communications Center, said Stone. “It has state-of-the-art technology and provides our members with great tools for collaboration and innovation,” said Stone.

courtesy photo | CARDiNAL CommUNiCATioNS

members of Ball State University’s PRSSA student-run firm, Cardinal Communications, work from their new state-of-the-art office, the Holden Strategic Communications Center.

letter From the eDitor

Let’s Make 2014 a Year to Remember mAllory richArDson PRSSA 2013-2014 Publications Editor in Chief

Have you ever realized how connected and disconnected our world is at the same time? The last week I was on LSU’s campus I noticed how many students either walk with a phone in their hand or use it while walking. So, I put my phone in my bookbag and conducted a little experiment during my 5-minute walk to class, counting how many people in my direct line of vision were holding or using a phone. I counted 103. Majority of these people were walking alone.

In this day and age we want everything instantaneously, causing impatience to be heightened to a whole new level. When people don’t answer our calls, texts, emails or Facebook messages immediately, we get annoyed. When our Internet browsers take forever to load, we act like the world’s ending. When the Google maps application on my iPhone can’t find a signal fast enough, I freak. (Partly because I’m terrible with directions.) Is it our tendency to forget “the little things” the reason why we snapshot every moment of our lives? Are we afraid of human interaction? Or are we afraid of missing out? Whatever the case may be, it’s important to put down the

phone if it’s not a critical time, such as when you’re at work expecting an important phone call. My boyfriend has let me know multiple times that I am on it too much, and I realize that I have done little to change my behavior. I even told him that I was writing this reflection piece, and he laughed at me. I’ll admit that walking without holding a phone left me feeling kind of exposed. But it made me realize that we don’t always have to: 1. 2. 3.

It’s important to live in the moment, especially when spending quality time with family and friends. Putting your phone away for a little while is a simple but meaningful gesture. So, in 2014 I plan to savor my food rather than take a picture of it. I’m going to turn my phone on silent when I’m at the movie theater and resist answering if I see the screen light up. When I take a

hiking trip this summer, I want to soak in nature’s beauty instead of Vining what I’m experiencing. Let’s make 2014 a year to remember—literally. Best,

Wait for something, like a text or an Instagram favorite. Avoid something, like boredom or people. Document something, like a sunset.

Social Media Connection FrienDs, Followers & more

#prssA twitter chAt

top tweet oF 2013

prsA intelliGence

Stay tuned for the 2014 Twitter Chat schedule.

@PRSSANational: “#PR is a mix of journalism, psychology, and lawyeringit’s an ever-changing and always interesting landscape.” -Ronn Torossian

Blogs, podcasts and webinars from PRSA can broaden your knowledge of trends in the industry.


follow Twitter Chats using the hashtag #PRSSA.

Delegates have the opportunity to:

Join the conversAtion follow the newest additions to the PRSSA social media family:

Visit for more information.

Connect with us further on our existing platforms:

• • • •

Vote on bylaw changes Attend leadership training sessions Elect the 2014-2015 National Committee Participate in the Day-of-Competition, creating a “real world” campaign in one hour.



Winter 2014 | Volume 46, issue 2 |

FORUM GrAphic By lAuren Foster



Winter 2014 | Volume 46, Issue 2 |

DRESSING TO IMPRESS Style at PRSSA 2013 National Conference by emma finkbeiner, Northern Michigan University Ian Michael Crumm Drexel University pre-junior Position in Chapter: Vice President & Programs Director of National Conference Committee Outfit Jacket: Juicy Couture Shoes: Ashton Gray Tie: Vintage – Great Grandpa’s 1. How would you describe you personal style? “Eclectic, quirky and colorful.” 2. Who influences your personal style? “Brad Goreski and past decades. I like vintage thrift stores.” 3. What is your favorite part about National Conference? “The opportunity for networking.”

Brittnie Curtis

Texas Sate University San Marcos junior Position in Chapter: Social Media Manager Outfit Pants: Forever 21 Top and Blazer: JC Penney Shoes: Charlotte Russe Bag: Target 1. Who inspires your style? “Kerri Washington and E! Network.” 2. What have you taken away from Conference? “It solidified for me that this is what I really want to do.” 3. What is your favorite part of the public relations industry? “The fact that you can be in almost any field. Everybody needs public relations!”

Anna Case University of Alabama senior Position in Chapter: Member

Alvin Odems University of Toledo junior Position in Chapter: Member

Outfit Blazer and Pants: J. Crew Top: Francesca’s

Outfit JC Penney and Macy’s 1. Who influences your personal style? “I’m influenced by Russell Simmons, GQ, Larry Burns and my fraternity Phi Beta Sigma.”

1. How would you describe your personal style? “Comfortable and neutral, with a lot of fun accessories.” 2. What have you learned at Conference? “I’ve learned that there is so much more to learn. I’m learning about a variety of careers in public relations.”

2. What has been your favorite part of National Conference? “There are so many successful people here. I really liked the “CEO of You” session. I like the idea of branding yourself.

3. What is your favorite part of the public relations industry? “With public relations I’m staying busy, and I like that. There will always be a need for public relations.”


CONTINUED FROM PAGE 1 interaction on Twitter. “It makes them seem more down-to-earth and less of a giant corporation that’s unreachable.” Lemay is right — social media is the perfect tool for a big company like Purina to interact with an audience on a more personal level. And because it is so easy now for social media users to connect with companies, consumers expect that sort of interaction from the brands they love. According to Cone Com-

3. What is your favorite part about being a member of PRSSA? “Networking! I like meeting people because we all have the same mind set.”

munications, 53 percent of new media users believe brands should have a presence in new media, interacting with consumers as needed or by request only. In addition, 36 percent demand a new media presence with regular interaction. “There’s tremendous value in brands interacting with current and potential customers through social media,” Nimmo said. “The digital space is now a place where users can share both positive and negative brand experiences. When brands can communicate with customers in a genuine way, genuine relationships are created.”


CONTINUED FROM PAGE 1 2013 Conferences,” said Career Wardrobe Program Manager Caitlin Day. “We were overwhelmed by the generous support of the attendees, as evidenced by the many donations that we received.” PRSSA challenged its Chapters and Conference attendees to donate gently used items such as scarves, belts, jewelry, handbags and shoes. Many members brought donations from their home, Chapters and communities, while others bought new hosiery and makeup onsite. Among the 1,100 Conference

attendees, PRSSA collected seven large boxes of donations that were filled to the brim. “The donations trickled in to start, but quickly began to add up,” said National Conference Coordinator Melissa Clawson. “Even with help, we still needed to use two hand trucks to deliver the donations to Career Wardrobe.” With October being PRSA/ PRSSA Relationship Month, the community service initiative was in partnership with the PRSA Philly Chapter and the PRSA 2013 International Conference. All three groups exhibited their commitment to the local community in one unified effort.

“Our annual Community Service initiative is intended to have a positive impact on the city that hosts our National Conference each year,” said PRSSA National President Brian Price. “We’re glad to be partnering with such a great nonprofit like Career Wardrobe. As business pre-professionals, we know how important it can be to have appropriate accessories and clothing when re-entering the workforce.” The success of this year’s community service initiative shows the passion and spirit of service that our Society’s members share. PRSSA members truly left their mark on Philadelphia.


Winter 2014 | Volume 46, Issue 2 |


Listening to liaisons

Lasting Impressions: Advice for Future Advisers Jane Dvorak, APR, Fellow PRSA PRSSA Board Liaison

Most of us probably don’t wake up each day and think much about how we can influence or inspire another person. These kinds of things often happen without us even knowing the impact we’re having on an individual. What am I talking about? Being a Professional Adviser to aspiring public relations students, of course. I’m grateful for the mentors who have served as champions for me over my career, many of whom I met as a bright-eyed, take-the-world-bystorm college student — more specifically, those professionals who took on the role of adviser as we PRSSA students were preparing to maneuver the real world. As a Professional Adviser to the Colorado State University PRSSA Chapter for more than a decade, I can personally speak to this role. I’ve also had the honor of serving on the PRSSA National Committee in my role as a PRSA board liaison. I always leave these PRSSA events inspired with renewed energy for the work I do. I admit, being an adviser and PRSA board liaison feels much like a mother hen and all her chicks. I find

great joy in seeing a student transition into a professional, the accomplishments they achieve and the challenges they overcome. I’m honored to have such an opportunity on a variety of levels. Whether it be participating in a Twitter chat, making a presentation, generating ideas or simply engaging in conversation, I always come away richer from the experience. The role of the Professional Adviser is a critical one and one I take with great pride — not just for our PRSSA students but for the profession itself. There are many qualities that make a great adviser, but I believe making an investment, being a champion and serving as a connector are most essential to this role. Investment It takes an investment of time and energy to attend meetings and be committed to having a real, visible presence. This means making the drive, scheduling Skype calls, conducting portfolio reviews and providing guidance as PRSSA students gain leadership skills. I regularly make the drive up I-25 to CSU, and during that hour-long commute, I trust that my presence among these enthusiastic members will somehow let them know they are not alone in their quest for internships, first jobs or preparation of their Capstone projects. The investment is as much physical as it is emotional.

There’s a file folder bulging with the résumés I’ve been able to “red pen” as students prepare for their first interviews. I offer this “bloodletting” to anyone seeking to improve their chances at landing that coveted internship or new job. It certainly takes time, but if it increases the chance of a student getting a position, it’s a pretty small contribution on my part. Of course, they owe me lunch/coffee once they land the job! Successful advisers are committed to making that kind of investment – not just once, but time and again. It is more than an investment in the students who directly benefit; it’s an investment in the profession as a whole. Advisers bring continuity to the professionals who will be driving business and organizational communications in the coming decades. That’s a pretty hefty assignment, but an investment worth making. Champion Sometimes it is better to get a pep talk from an outsider than your professor, your parents or even your fellow students. To champion, an adviser needs to simply embrace the optimism that overflows from these soon-to-be professionals. A little encouragement can go a long way. I find that being approachable and accessible helps the hesitation dissipate. There are lots of ways to be a champion in an adviser role.

Sometimes being a champion is sitting back and letting students work through a decisionmaking process. It may mean helping PRSSA Chapter leaders solve a fundraising or programming issue. It could be a gentle nudge in the right direction. It may mean giving them insight in their planning. Whatever the case, serving as a safety net can bolster their ability to improve Chapter programs, challenge them to engage at higher levels and hone their leadership skills. Sometimes students just want to know there’s a reliable, objective champion in their corner. This also means helping them to put their best foot forward, ensuring they are prepared for the workplace. It might mean meeting for coffee, having a short phone call or providing an informational interview. Whatever the capacity of need, advisers should be nothing less than a champion for the rising stars of our profession. Connector Advisers should be connectors. This means tapping networks to expand exposure to the industry and the potential breadth of careers to be had. Advisers play a critical role in bringing the professional PRSA Chapter and PRSSA Chapters together. This can mean hosting collaborative programs or inviting students to monthly meetings. The sooner these students have a connection to PRSA and the local profes-

sionals, the sooner they can feel a part of the greater community and profession. Advisers can give students the opportunity to learn about the various kinds of jobs and disciplines by connecting with Chapter leaders; however, this works both ways. PRSSA can connect with their PRSA Chapter by helping with annual events, participating in programming and assisting with member activities. Still, it is the advisers who initiate this circle of connection. I have to say, my time at the PRSSA National Conference was quite an energy boost. To be able to address the graduating seniors during the farewell banquet was an honor, and to see so many Professional Advisers in attendance was heartwarming. There is much ahead for these bright minds and creative thinkers. When I think back on my career, I find it often returns to those individuals who took time to serve as an adviser that left lasting impressions on me; I hope I have—in some small way—been able to do the same. As my term as national board liaison comes to an end in December, I know that the students I have had the pleasure to meet—and those that are yet to come—are poised to elevate the profession to even greater heights. I’m grateful for the opportunity and am far richer for the experience.

The Best Month to Cross the Stage: Graduating in December vs. May by Brianna rooney Temple University The “G” word taunts us all from the beginning of our freshman year until the end of our senior year: graduation. We are constantly questioned about when we are graduating and our post-graduation plans. No matter how we answer this question, it is followed by even more questions such as “Why are you graduating then?” and “How do you plan on getting a job after graduation?” To make these conversations less painful, here are some pros and cons of graduating in December versus May. December Graduation Because graduating in December is less common, you’ll encounter less competition because fewer people are entering the job market. According to Christine Gaiser, career service director at Bryant & Stratton College Online, graduating in December “can make [students] more attractive job candidates since they are available to start right away, while their peers may have to wait until after May.”

Mackenzie Krott, current member of PRSSA at Temple University and immediate past president of the Chapter, said, “Pushing my graduation date back one semester to graduate in the winter has been one of the best decisions I’ve made while in college. The decision that prompted the switch was declaring a second major. For me, I’m proud of the fact I could complete two degrees in fourand-a-half years. Some may see staying an extra semester as a burden, but I have always seen it as an opportunity.” Krott said she is excited that she could take advantage of an extra summer and semester to gain more internship experience, and is optimistic about her chances of landing a job in the winter. A major con for some graduating in December is the fact you are not graduating with many of your friends and classmates. At many universities, May is a time for graduation photos, celebrations, ceremonies and luncheons – events that normally do not occur for December graduates. Another downside to graduating in December is that

even though graduates can start right away, the holidays delay potential interviews and the responsiveness of perspective employers. May Graduation May graduates get to experience college graduation with more classmates. In addition, you have the entire spring semester to prepare for the job search. According to new public relations professional Lauren Cox, former Temple PRSSA president, employers are accustomed to students graduating in the spring, and because of this expectation, they plan accordingly. On a not-so-serious note, she said, “If you do not find a job right away, it’s a lot more fun to be unemployed in the summer than the winter!” USA Today College concluded that the odds are more or less the same if you graduate in December or May. Regardless of when you graduate, you need to work hard, apply for the appropriate jobs and put your best foot forward.

courtesy photo | Jule Gamache

courtesy photo | the manship school of mass communication

Jule Gamache (top), director of public relations for Penn State University’s Chapter of PRSSA, and PRSSA at Louisiana State University members Carli Thibodeaux, Caroline Schulin, Katie Richard and Madison Hentze (bottom) pose for the camera after graduating in December 2013.



Winter 2014 | Volume 46, issue 2 |

tAles From cuBelAnD

Don’t Let Numbers Intimidate You; Use Them to Your Advantage ryAn mcshAne Senior Account Executive, Taylor

Numbers and public relations practitioners don’t always add up. Jubilation is what I felt when I first discovered that my public relations degree only required college algebra. Fortunately, I took some great advice from my professional adviser, and I welcomed numbers back in my life midway through my college career. I learned about economics, budgets and Microsoft Excel. Now, five-and-a-half years after my commencement, I’ve learned that numbers have played a significant role in my professional life, despite my field of choice. Nearly every task we perform as public relations practitioners has a number that provides meaning and value to what we

do. The numbers are not always as obvious as finding an oak tree in a backyard. Many times some digging is required to uncover a number worth finding. This digging, however, can be the catalyst for a successful pitch, event, campaign, balanced budget and year-over-year optimization. Let’s explore. Media Relations Young professionals are held accountable for the media results they generate. Those results are dependent on being able to convince a reporter that a story is worth writing. One common way to do this is to attach statistics to a story. Statistics resonate with reporters because they make a point in a tangible way. They can also be localized, filtered and paired with other criteria to accommodate the reporter’s every request. Event Logistics & Execution The details that go into pre-

paring an event require public relations professionals to properly manage logistics that are often tied to numbers. Available seating, venue dimensions and agendas are just a few examples of details a practitioner must fully understand to flawlessly execute an event. Circumstances sometimes arise that causes last minute changes and it may be your responsibility to quickly perform the calculations to ensure a seamless adjustment. Analytics Analytics help determine the successes and shortcomings of a program. Commonly used marketing analytics include media impressions, ad equivalencies, link click-throughs, leads, product sales, event attendance and all of the metrics tied to social media, including likes, shares, retweets and more. While measurable objectives should have been set prior to the

execution phase of a program and therefore anticipated, other trends may lead to a discovery that was previously unknown. Rather than calling it a day at the end of a program term, dissect each component, each phase, each response, in order to optimize future initiatives. Budgets A few times a year, my boss will say he only has two things in this business – people and time. On the surface, it’s a simple concept. In practice, it is a timeintensive exercise to adequately staff client accounts. Practitioners responsible for these allocations must consider deliverables of a program, profitability for the company, continuity of clientfacing staff, specialty areas of team members and a host of other variables. Best Practices in Working with Numbers Keep it simple – numbers can

easily intimidate, so make sure they are widely understood. Provide a purpose – with so many numbers at your disposal, double-check that the ones you select are relevant. Tell a story – explain ebbs and flows of numbers by assessing the circumstances surrounding the shifts. Show something in a new way – number-focused infographics have re-emerged in recent years as go-to tactics used to present brand messages. Be consistent – establish benchmarks and continue to identify the changes over time. Ryan McShane is an account supervisor at Taylor and works from the agency’s Charlotte office. He served as FORUM Editor in Chief in 2007-2008 and provides advice to public relations students and young professionals through his blog:

culpwrit on cAreers

Reference Checks: Last Hurdle Before Your Job Offer ron culp Professional Director of Graduate PR & Advertising, DePaul University

Gone are the days when job applicants controlled the reference-checking process by providing “References Upon Request” and employers conducted formulaic interviews. Today, references can come from just about anybody—a former boss, a peer, a favorite professor or even a receptionist. To prevent hiring mistakes, employers are increasing their scrutiny of applicants. Increase your chances by including a reference from each of the following: •

A current and a former supervisor

• •

Peer who worked on a team with you Professor who knows your skills and work ethic

While some employers focus on peer feedback, recruiter Peter McDermott of Heyman Associates said he and his colleagues lean toward professional rather than academic and peer references, but all references can play a part in the decision-making role. “We always ask for a wide spectrum of references, and like to hear from not only managers, but also professional peer team members as well as subordinates,” McDermott said. McDermott said reference checks normally occur when a prospective employee is about to receive a job offer but the firm wants final confirmation. “We are more pushing on

culture fit,” McDermott said. “A lot of times, this includes how the candidate manages up, down and across an organization. Peer references are useful when that peer has seen the candidate in a professional situation. This pushes on the aspect of teamwork and collaboration and more importantly, what the candidate does in a situation where they are not successful and how they handle that.” Travis Kessel, vice president of recruitment at Edelman, agreed that professional references outweigh others, but he recognizes the value of peer references if sourcing multiple people at the same level. “The best references come from the ones you don’t receive from the candidate,” Kessel said. “I like to reach out to people who I know used to work with someone

versus going to the people they list. Of the people are listed, the immediate supervisor is generally the go-to.”

who who past best

Help Your References Help You Even if you feel references will be supportive, they need to be aware that they may be contacted. Don’t assume automatic support. Always ask potential references if they will lend their support and prepare them to help highlight your strengths. And don’t be afraid to discuss your weaknesses and how you’re addressing them.

confirms our observations, but sometimes we learn that someone was rude or ignored her. If we’re on the fence after a reference check, this insight helps tip the balance one way or another.” Ron Culp is professional director of DePaul University’s graduate program in public relations and advertising. He blogs on PR careers at Culpwrit and regularly posts on Facebook and Twitter.

Don’t Ignore the Receptionist “When we conduct a secondround interview and are about to make an offer, I sometimes ask the receptionist what she thought of the candidate,” a major agency head told me. “Very often she

wAnt more? visit us @ if you can’t wait until the next issue of FORUM for more public relations tips and industry news, check out PRSSA National’s blog, Progressions. it is updated weekly with posts from professionals and Chapter members from across the country. Recent popular posts include: the next step in your career Journey

it’s never too late to return to college

three ways to Go Digital with networking

perfect your press release

When you graduate, your professional development journey doesn’t end—it continues. PRSSA 2013-2014 immediate Past President Lauren Gray discusses how to transition from PRSSA to PRSA:

emily olson, California State UniversityNorthridge PRSSA Chapter director of advocacy, shares what she has learned as a 30-something college student:

Ben Butler, PRSSA 2013-2014 vice president of public relations, provides readers with tips on how to further polish their press release writing skills:

• Take advantage of PRSA’s Associate

• Change is good. • Take advantage of all opportunities

While we use social media in our daily lives to stay connected with family and friends, we also can use it as a digital tool for networking within the public relations industry. Callie Gisler, University of oregon PRSSA Chapter president, suggests:


• Join the New Professionals Section. • Connect with other new pros that are

going through the same things as you.

given to you.

• Get to know your teachers. • Don’t be too hard on yourself. • it is never too late to get an education.

• following up after meeting in person. • Accessing inaccessible people. • establishing genuine connections.

• • • • • •

Be concise. The most important facts go first. Supporting details come next. Do not use huge blocks of text. include a quote. finish off with additional links.

Employers want skills in Integrated Marketing Communications. Consider an online master’s degree in IMC from WVU!

Meet Claire. Claire Berlin 2011 WVU IMC graduate Manager of Marketing and Communications College of Fine Arts, Ohio University

me to start my career while also getting my master’s degree. In my job, I do everything from producing press releases and interacting with media, to updating our website and producing content for print publications. I apply the skills that I learned in the IMC

The online WVU IMC program allowed

program to my job every single day. West Virginia University’s online IMC program will give you the practical skills needed to build, implement and measure integrated communication programs in today’s dynamic digital environment - and it can be completed from anywhere in the world. Learn more at

FORUM Winter 2014  

The Public Relations Student Society of America's winter 2014 issue of FORUM.

FORUM Winter 2014  

The Public Relations Student Society of America's winter 2014 issue of FORUM.