PR Advanced: Be the Change

1 Mar

This past weekend I had the opportunity to attend Boston University’s PR Advanced conference, sponsored by their chapter of PRSSA (Public Relations Student Society of America).

I learned about the conference through a fellow intern at Cone;  she happened to be on the planning committee for the event. I had battled back and forth about whether or not I should attend the conference, especially since there was a non-prssa member’s fee, but she insisted that it would be well worth my time, and a great way to learn the ropes of networking for public relations. I have known that this is a major part of any job, especially in public relations, sales, and marketing fields, and that the more experience I can get with networking and learning about other agencies and companies before applying for jobs, the better.

For my first PR conference, I was pleasantly surprised. Employees from Mom Central always go to various conferences throughout the year; some good, some bad, but they always sound very interesting. One of the biggest conferences of the year (at least for MC) is BlogHer, where employees come back with lots of swag in tow from every type of Brand, and more business cards than one can even count (that I would spend the rest of the week entering into our contact database system). I made it my goal of the conference to accumulate as many business cards as I could and meet as many people from different agencies that were at the career fair. I thought that the career fair and panel would be the highlight of the conference, thinking the rest of the day would just be spent listening to some speakers, but I was definitely wrong.

The morning started with the first keynote speaker, Jon Iwata, Senior Vice President of Marketing and Communications at IBM. I assumed that I would not be able to relate much to this speaker, but Jon Iwata gave one of the best speeches I have ever heard.

He started  off talking about how marketing is about the consumer, where pr is more about the message. He touched upon the marketing funnel which uses four steps: Awareness, Interest, Desire, and Action. He explained that this model is weak though, since it does not allow for feedback, which other communication models do (at least the ones I have learned about through my PR classes.) It was interesting to learn about marketing contrasted with public relations, since I  never took actual classes in marketing.

However, in both PR and Marketing, the end result is to get the consumer or your audience to take action.

Within his speech he started talking about why belief matters and that it is important that we do not confuse fact with what people believe.  It is our job to distinguish from the two. He used a couple different analogies to describe this. My favorite was the donut example. He had three brand images on the screen; Dunkin Donuts, Krispy Kreme, and Hostess. He asked if we all believed donuts were best served hot, where would we go? Obviously we would choose Krispy Kreme. If we believed donuts were the best breakfast foods for kids, we would choose Hostess. And if we thought donuts were unhealthy, then perhaps we would choose Dunkin Donuts, since they have other options besides donuts. However, this may result in a rebranding for Dunkin Donuts, or at least a change in name  so people do not associate “donuts” with Dunkin “Donuts.”

“Awareness is fine, but Belief is better,” Jon Iwata stated. According to Iwata, the top factors that cause people to believe something are fact, personal experience, and what other people tell them.

Jon Iwata made me think about social media in this sense. It seems like social media was made for this reason; to make people believe what you have to say- to offer them fact, but to back it up with personal experience. Even if we may not know everyone we follow on Twitter, we follow them for a reason. We listen to what they have to say for a reason. They make us aware of what they are saying, but to a certain extent- we believe them. That is some power.

However, even if we do believe something, this does not necessarily mean were are going to act on it. So why don’t people change their behaviors, even if they believe something? Jon explained that if people lack “agency,” where people have to feel they can be successful in order to act, then they will not change their behaviors. So as PR and marketing professionals, we have to provide our audience with the tools they need to succeed. We need to tell people exactly what to do to get them to act on what their beliefs.

Here Jon quoted Yoda- “Do or do not, there is no try.” What a great quote.

Peers matter. In order to get people to act, it helps to let them know that their peers are doing it as well. So much for the “ignoring peer pressure” speech we all got in our DARE programs growing up.

Jon provided us with an example; the hotel he was staying in was trying to get guests to reuse their towels. One sign simply asked guests to reuse their towels to save the environment. There was no change. However, when guests read the sign “The majority of our guests reuse their towels,” the hotel saw a 26% increase in the reuse of towels.

The presentation came to an end after he spoke to us about the invention of  Watson, the QA computer that beat out Jeopardy contestants. We watched the clip from the show, and Jon let us know that Watson kicked his but in a test run for Jeopardy, before it was even ready to go.

It had only been about an hour at the conference and I had already learned so much. I was rapidly taking notes and I couldn’t wait to attend my first breakout session of the conference, which was an Agency Panel titled “Opportunities Worldwide.”

The different panelists from this session were Barri Rafferty, Senior Partner and Director at Ketchum- NY, Meghan Smith, Senior Account Supervisor at Edelman- NY, and Katherine Wilburn, a consultant Gagen Macdonald. The moderator happened to be Jonathan Yohannan, the SVP of Corporate Responsibility at Cone, so I was able to chat with him for a few minutes after the panel about my current internship at Cone.

Some of the different things the panelists talked about included using your skills and personality traits to land a job. They talked about perhaps taking summer internships even after we graduate (which are paid, thank goodness), since many of those internships turn into full time positions. I never considered taking an internship after I graduated.

Barri Rafferty spoke about using social media to our advantage. Sure we all have a Facebook and Twitter, but how do we use it? Can we translate it to cross over into our professional lives? Of course this got me thinking more about social media. How do I generate interesting content professionally that other people might be interested in?

Now more than ever, it is important create our own personal brands and use social media to portray them.  I have to think some more about this one. What is my personal brand? How would I want to be seen through social media and does that reflect what people see when we meet face-to face?

My second breakout session was about emerging technologies.  I had the opportunity to learn about Pongr which is a new site geared towards creating brand ambassadors through uploading pictures of your favorite brands, in hopes to become the “CEO” of the company. We met with the founder and challenged him with our questions about the goals of the site.

Our second keynote speaker was Margery Kraus, Founder and CEO of APCO worldwide. She talked about ROI ( Return on Investment) + ROR (Return on Reputation) equaling Market Capitalization.

After the second keynote, we had a career panel with Stephanie Deitzer, Founder and President of Style at Work, Maggie Van Der Laauw, Manager, Human Resources at Burson-Martseller, Kate DiChristopher, Human Resources Manager at Marina Maher Communications, and Eric Leist, Emerging Technical Strategist from Allen & Gerritsen.

#PRAdvanced Trending in US

#PRAdvanced Trending in US

Throughout the panel, they encouraged Tweeting using #PRAdvanced, while they displayed the tweeted questions and responses behind them. Soon enough, #PRAdvanced was a trending topic in the US.

They answered all of our questions about the job search, and gave us some great advice. One of the most interesting things I took away was their idea that the standard resume is old news. They suggested that all we need is a strong LinkedIn site, with all of our experiences and social media sites attached. This was a surprise to me. The importance of having a strong, organized resume has been drilled into my head since high school. Social Media- changing our lives forever.

The day came to a close after we were able to network at the career fair with several different agencies including Fleishman-Hillard, Marina Maher Communications, Ketchum, MSL Group, Cone, Burson-Martseller, Hill Holliday, Porter Novelli, Lewis PR, 360 PR, and Allen & Gerritsen.

I was left with a stack of business cards and wondering how soon was too soon to connect with all of these new contacts on LinkedIn and Twitter in order to  start my post graduation job search.

I also need to talk to someone  on campus about starting a PRSSA chapter at Suffolk. I have no idea why more PR and Marketing students did not know about this conference. Maybe this is something I can try to do for Suffolk before I graduate, for all of those other PR and Marketing majors. Knowing about all of these events and conferences would have been very beneficial. I spoke briefly with Rachel Sprung, the national VP of regional activities for  PRSSA about getting a chapter set up here at Suffolk. So for those of you incoming students, it’s in the works!

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One Response to “PR Advanced: Be the Change”

  1. Jack P March 2, 2011 at 1:43 pm #

    I think that it would be a good idea to take an internship after the summer that you graduate. Employers have started hiring graduated interns so that the first 3 months can be treated as a training course and kind of as a test to see if the intern would be a good fit with their company. Usually if the intern proves him or herself, the company will hire them for full time starting in September. Employers are getting more and more cautious when hiring and because there is such a huge candidate pool, they value the fact that you are willing to intern for them before they hire you.

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