By Chapter President, Karoline Etter and VP of Chapter Development, Nikki Vergakes
Another year, another national conference – the event we plan for and look forward to for half the year. Just a couple weeks ago, 10 Salem State students traveled from Boston to Atlanta to have an experience that would hook them on the world of public relations and ignite ideas they never thought possible.
National Conference is an amazing opportunity for students to learn, network and progress their career paths in a way traditional classes cannot. We heard from influential keynote speakers such as State Senator and Civil Rights Activist, John Lewis, Vice President of Public Affairs and Communications at Coca-Cola, Scott Williamson, The Weather Channel Host and Meteorologist, Jim Cantore, Sheryl Connelly of Ford and CEO of KIND, Daniel Lubetzky to name a few. These brilliant speakers filled us with inspiration and motivation to put nothing less than our best into everything we do and left us with the desire to find ways to make our existence matter in the world on a greater scale.
In addition, we attended breakout sessions each day to further our knowledge of sectors of PR that we were most interested in. These sessions offered experts in the field to present on the topic and take any questions at the end. We were welcome to network afterwards and speak with the presenters. Some of the breakout sessions were workshops specific to officer positions, which were the most influential and helpful to me. It was incredible to be in a room full of people with very similar personalities.
It was clear in all of these sessions that the people you were surrounded by were all rooting for you. Everyone at the conference was there for your success.
Of course, there was a huge amount of Chapter bonding while we were living together in Atlanta for five days. We visited the World of Coca-Cola on Thursday where we hung out with a 7 ft. tall polar bear and tasted Coca-Cola products from all over the world. We ventured through Atlanta each night, whether it was just with our Chapter or with other PR students from different schools. Imagine being in a hotel with hundreds of other public relations students in a new and adventurous city. Friendships were made and networks grew each day because we all know that when you tell a PR person about an event it will be shared with fifteen people in the next ten minutes. That’s the beautiful thing about PR and being a part of PRSSA.
PRSSA’s National Conference embeds the feeling that you are part of something bigger and it enlightens you in a way you never thought possible before attending.
National Conference is a learning experience unlike any other and therefore, we have included a few takeaways from our experience at PRSSA’s 2015 National Conference.
If I really wrote a blog post on what we learned at conference, I could probably take up ten pages. More realistically, I could write fifteen, because that’s how many pages of notes I have on my padfolio from conference. Not only were the speakers so educational and interesting, but the chapter development day was incredibly helpful. When I saw that chapters were presenting, I thought it was just going to be big-time chapters like Scripps, University of Florida, or Syracuse. However, they had a really helpful session about dealing with a commuter based, non-traditional campus. Here are a few key lessons we picked up:
- Make your club and events valuable
One of the main lessons I learned from the non-traditional campus session was since commuters have other priorities, such as multiple jobs, make the prominence and value of your organization known to them. PRSSA should be a priority for members because it will help them in their future careers. However, if you don’t make the value of the organization known, your members won’t see it.
- Write your resume like you’re talking to a friend
All writers should have their own voice. Your voice should be prominent across all of your writing samples and resume. This piece of advice was given to us by the founder of Miami Ad School and the Portfolio Center.
- Don’t think of people as numbers
Go beyond marketing and advertising. Make connections with people. Engage and interact. People are not just numbers, they’re characters in the stories we are telling.
- The difference between influencers and everyday spokespeople
Use celebrities for visibility and awareness. People don’t trust brands. It’s as simple as that. Brands can use celebrities to gain trust. However, the influencers that people trust the most are other everyday people. Earned media is the cheapest and most influential type. Examples of these campaigns are the ones that encourage users to post their story with the brand on social media, or encourage the consumers to interact with the brands.
- Networking is invaluable
Network, Network, Network! I can confidently say we all made very good connections with those from other chapters and professionals in the field this conference. You never know what those connections will turn into.