Monday, February 14, 2011

Notes from GVSU PRSSA Tour of Chicago

I accompanied 21 GVSU PRSSA students last Friday on a trip to Chicago to visit some PR firms. In each case we were grateful for the generosity of the PR professionals who took time for us. Here's a run-down of what we discussed.

This visit was  arranged with the help of GVSU alumnus Leah Burns. Cision of course is the company that provides media contact lists and many other tools for PR professions. The most exciting aspect of this visit for me was learning more about the university program that will allow students access to CisionPoint to do assignments in our media relations class. The company has an impressive outreach with resources for professionals and students alike. They go well beyond databases to provide everything from analytics to industry knowledge on the latest trends. Among the things their staff discussed with students is the need to look not just at media outlets but the social capital of individual journalists--in other words, in addition to the column they write for a newspaper, they have a Twitter  following, a blog, and likely are influential in Facebook, Quora and other forums as well. As an example of that, check out to see Cision's aggregated list of journalists on twitter. We also had a good conversation about the right way to approach journalists. Just having their contact info is not enough. You want to make sure you don't get placed on a PR blacklist.

After a short visit to a colleague at DePaul University's College of Communications, I caught up with the students for an obligatory lunch of Chicago pizza. Then our busy day continued...

Leo Burnett
Students at Leo Burnett hear from
alumna Lynseey Roumell and colleagues
Yes, Leo Burnett is an ad agency. But former student Lynsey Roumell works there in a new internal team that essentially does PR for the agency. They work on promoting Leo's creative reputation, thought leadership, touting its client work, and working with "people and talent" (the HR department) to keep the legions of global employees in the loop and on brand message. We had fun viewing some of the agency's recent work, such as the Mayhem ads, and also talked about the new HumanKind book by CEO Tom Bernardin and Chief Creative Officer Mark Tutssel.

Ruder Finn
The Chicago office of this PR firm is smaller, and senior account executive Joseph Tateoka said he likes the family feeling of the office. They do a lot of consumer, tech and  B2B work in Chicago, but often work with people in other RF offices on various types of PR. Tateoka (@jtat) on Twitter, is passionate about reaching out to young professionals. He is a professional advisor for the DePaul PRSSA chapter, and welcomes questions from any PR students. Among his gems of good advice: do multiple internships. This was a recurring theme all day.

Kurman Communications
We ended  the day with a visit to this boutique firm. Cindy Kurman started working for the auto industry more than 25 years ago and now specializes in the restaurant industry, although she and her husband and two staffers work with other clients as well. The informal chat enlightened students on the need to think versus just waiting for instructions (something I stress in classes). They shared one fun example of using an events calendar to tag several restaurant clients in a feature style round-up pitch letter about national margarita day. You can see it yourself, along with all their media work, on the agency's "got buzz" blog.

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