PRSSA is the kind of organization that you don’t choose, it chooses you. This semester as a Sophomore, I joined PRSSA to see if I wanted to pursue any Public Relations-related careers alongside majoring in Political Communication. After meeting many amazing people through networking and becoming highly invested in our student-run PR firm, ImPRint Communications, I learned of an opportunity to attend the PRSSA 2017 National Conference in Boston, Massachusetts along with 17 of my peers from LSU. I immediately seized the opportunity.
Aside from the endless wonders of Boston, the backbone of the National Conference was having multiple separate sessions each day to choose from featuring multiple guest speakers who hosted them. Among these, the sessions I really grew from ones where I learned about how to better network and pursue public relations disciplines. One of the most eye opening lectures I attended was one regarding creativity in public relations related fields. Through this workshop, I learned about the ways PR careers transcend disciplines. Someone with medical interest or experience could benefit a local hospital by running a successful awareness campaign for them as well as working for a firm and representing a pharmaceutical company as a client. A person interested in music could navigate public relations for record companies and coordinate album releases. Professionals with a penchant for finance could work in the budget and analysis facet of a PR firm or campaign. The variations of ways in which a PR professional is useful were infinite in fields previously thought best left to others.
As a political communication major, I had the opportunity to attend the Communication in Politics session hosted by a woman who manages public relations for the current governor of Massachusetts. This facet of PR is riddled with risks and requires passionate and authentic communicators in search of a fast paced environment. One of the main tenets of the job is making sure your client says the right thing in interviews, and dealing with the potential fallout of if your client does not do exactly that. Professionals in this concentration can also focus on less traditional positions in the PR field such as working with policy and issues management. To survive in this high-stakes world you must be capable of listening to others but also of thinking on your feet and using your head. As the guest speaker joked, “Everything that happens in Massachusetts is now my fault”. This job comes with knowing that you now have great personal responsibility to the constituents of an area and greater public uproar if any PR tactics implemented by you fail.
A session I attended more out of personal indulgence than practicality relating to what field I wanted to professionally pursue was the PR in fashion session, led by experienced host and trendsetter Sharifa Murdock. Sharifa of the renowned Instagram and Twitter handle @SharifaSays definitely lived up to her online persona by administering sage advice on the kind of grit and determination it takes to shine in the world of fashion PR. Murdock got her start in Brooklyn, New York working at a clothing boutique and rose all the way to organizing and curating her own trade shows all over the world. This aspect of PR intersects with the world of fashion and requires investment in personal style as well as great focus on curating one’s personal brand. Sharifa says, you have to ask for what you want because closed mouths don’t get fed, don’t be afraid to be a pain in the butt that won’t give up on their goals.
From the tearful and moving presentation of LSU’s very own Mary Klemenok regarding her orchestration of the father who biked to meet the man who had received his daughter’s heart after her untimely death, to the panel of experienced living PR Legends imparting wisdom and knowledge onto us, the conference encouraged personal growth as well as contemplative thought on the greater and more universal importance of PR. Between afternoons spent walking through Boston Commons down to Faneuil Hall Marketplace and nights dining on clam chowder from a breadbowl, thousands of young professionals were able to exchange business cards and social media handles to expand their connections and become inspired by peers’ success across the country. Personally, I took interest in the stories of how chapters grew their membership through structured events and fun socials yet also undertook a serious time commitment to everything their chapter stood for and participated in.
National Conference 2017 made me realize the historical yet inexplicably youthful city of Boston is a beautiful New England hub I could learn to call home and thrive in. Yet more importantly, National Conference finally helped me complete a harrowing mental journey to the realization that Public Relations is the field in which I belong no matter the what the facet, although which concentration is a slight trek ahead that still evades me. The initial rush of Louisiana State University receiving the Star Chapter Award at the opening ceremonies was nothing compared to the pervading peace I experienced as the final goodbye breakfast wrapped up knowing I had uncovered a network or mentors, job connections, and graduate programs designed to help me tap into my potential as a PR professional who felt right at home in this new world of communicating and interacting.
The guest speakers repeatedly pushed the importance of networking, persistence, and listening when it came to advancing in this competitive yet fulfilling field. My peers I met and befriended from across the country from other distinguished chapters pushed me to improve myself and continuously strive to seek ways to improve my own credentials and resume in a competitive but ultimately supportive manner. However nothing compares to the motivation and creative energy conference bestowed on me to take back with me to my own chapter in Baton Rouge. Thanks to PRSSANC 2017, I garnered first-hand advice on how to help contribute to making an already passionate group of people an even more distinguished and tenacious chapter of PRSSA, one that strives to prepare young people to feel empowered and experienced as they step into becoming America’s future tastemakers and communication moguls.
To anyone pondering attending PRSSANC 2018 in Austin, Texas that has never attended PRSSANC before, if you want to experience astronomical growth as a professional and person in a matter of days...
I think I may know of a place that’s exactly what you need.