Monday, November 16, 2009

What My Students Learned at PRSSA

Thirteen of my students went to San Diego for the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) conference, which happens concurrently with the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) conference I was attending. (One alumna second from right front row in photo; I'm the one with a beard)

I asked them to share the one most important thing they learned at the conference. Here's what they said:

  • Definitely how to utilize resources and connections to my advantage, whether they are on social media sites, PR professionals, or fellow students. I've been on Twitter non-stop since!
  • Attending the National Conference reinforced my choice to study public relations. I met outgoing, professional students from across the country, learned countless information about the profession and became close with the girls who went on the trip. The conference increased my motivation to do well in the profession. I hope the information and ideas I take back with me will motivate current Grand Valley PRSSA members to attend next year.
  • As young PR professionals, we must... lifetime learners. proactive in the workplace and ask for feedback from senior staff members. current, be curious, and be creative.
    ...actively intern and volunteer at various organizations and companies.
  • You have to engage people. When your writing, speaking, blogging, tweeting, networking, pitching, messaging and promoting. You have to give your words value in order engage your audience.
  • Know who you are and stay true to yourself. Be prepared to work your tail off in the early days and don't feel entitled to everything.
  • I learned that it is okay to start at the bottom of the industry you want to be a part of. The conference reenforced that fact that a student is not going to get their dream job right out of college. Staying focused on the goal and committing to every task assigned (small or large) will set you up for success in the future.
  • I learned that in some cases, not all PR is good PR and if you want to a make a connection with a professional, the incorrect way is to just hand them your resume and walk away; they will never remember you.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

An Email to Make a Professor's Day

I get a lot of emails from former students. It's always nice to know they actually want to stay in touch even when they are no longer 'required' to communicate with me because they are taking a class. It's also nice to know what happens to students after they move on. I have several years of intense involvement, and then "poof"--they're gone. I like to hear where they ended up getting their first job, where they are living, if they got married, etc.

Public relations is about relationships; so is teaching, and life in general. One of the greatest joys of being a professor is watching young people mature and develop, to go from timid sophomores to passionate and articulate seniors. And then, to going from being a student to being a peer, a colleague, a friend.

So when I received this email this week, it made my day, my week, my semester:

Hi Tim,

I just wanted to tell you thank you. I know it's been six years since I graduated (how can it really be that long?), but a PR class many years ago where you taught us media training has been invaluable this week. In that class, we had to stand in front of class and be prepared for reporters' (our classmates') questions. You taped the interviews and then played them back and we critiqued them.

This week, I am one of a team of eight who is teaching media training to high ranking military officers from 45 different countries. The basic skills I learned in your class I am now teaching to these students.

Thank you for such a great class and such a fantastic undergrad education. I couldn't have done this without you.

Wow. The truth is, I couldn't be a great professor without the validation and encouragement from great students and alumni.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

'Smackdown' a Smashing Success

Last Thursday's Creative Smackdown was another successful event. Frank Blossom, a visiting professor in the Advertising/Public Relations major in GVSU's School of Communications and the organizer of the event, said there was record turnout this year representing 8 area colleges and universities.

Part of that record turnout may have been due to the stellar promotional work of students in Grand PR, the student-run PR firm that is part of the GVSU PRSSA group that I advise. All credit to the students on this one. (And contact them if you need some PR work that you can't handle yourself).

If you didn't take the time to go observe, you missed out on seeing some really creative work in advertising, graphic design, and web design categories. It's unfortunate that only three can win in each category, but the winners were deserving. Here they are:

Ad Finalists
1. Cody Eckert
Kendall College
Title: H1NO
2. Jenna Eisma
“Paper Necessities”
3. Michelle Kozak
Kendall College of Art and Design

Graphic Design Finalists
1. Erica McCary
School: Kendall College of Art and Design
Graphic Design
Title of work: Shangri-La Annual Report
2. Amanda Adams - a first for Baker College
Baker College Graphic Communications
Graphic design
3. John Knoerl
Graphic Design
Concert Poster
4. Chelsea Chandler
College: Grand Valley State University
Category: Graphic Design
Title of Submission: Poster

Web Design Finalists
1. Abby Peters
Central Michigan University
Web Design
Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival Email Flyer Series
2. Jeremiah Britton
College: Central Michigan University
Category: Web Design
Title of Submission: Bite of Seattle 2010 Web
3. Christa Skelton
College: Grand Valley State University
Category: Web Design
Title of Submission: GVSU American Marketing Association

It always sounds hokey to say that every participant is a winner, but that really is the consensus. As one student who did not place as a finalist told Frank Blossom:

"I want to thank you again for encouraging me to participate. I enjoyed networking with local professionals and being able to get insight into my career. Ultimately, Smackdown takes the doors down off of the biggest agencies in our area and lets us just walk right in and ask for advice. I'm assuming that doesn't happen in Chicago.”

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

PR FIrm Uses National Ads for Local Visibility

I was trolling the PRWeek site the other day and noticed an ad placed by Google AdWords. The ad was for Holland, Michigan-based Boileau Communications Management.

I asked myself, is this a case of a local West Michigan firm casting the net wide for some national clients?

Randy Boileau answered me in a phone call yesterday: no.

"We didn't do it (advertise via Google) to stretch out our client base," Boileau said. "We did it because it is effective, low cost, and helps our firm come up higher on the list of search results."

Boileau says 95% of their clients are local or regional, and that the ads have helped raise and maintain the firm's visibility in the region. In fact, the algorithms used by Google have a geographic component, causing the Boileau ads to appear in West Michigan based sites--including GRPR via the AdSense box top right--as well as PR related sites like PRWeek.

Given all this I also asked Boileau why the firm's Web site does not make plain its West Michigan location. Apparently, he has found that the local market recognizes where the firm is based. As for potential national clients, the location is less relevant than the services they offer and the online portfolio demonstrating their talents.