PRofessional wisdom


Regional Conference May 2016

The Hofstra PRSSA executive board and conference committee, and their old fart of a faculty adviser

As I sat in on eight panel discussions during the regional conference “Start Spreading the News,” hosted by Hofstra’s Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) chapter this weekend, I thought back to the valuable advice I received during my quarter-century as a PR practitioner. I also thought about how lucky our students are to have learned from more than two dozen professionals this weekend, each generously sharing words of wisdom. I wondered which words created “light bulb moments” for the 150 student participants. What resonated with them as they listened?

Good advice has stuck with me through the years. One example: When I was just 29, I became the head of communications for the Town of Babylon and spokesman for Supervisor Arthur Pitts, the top elected official in a town of 220,000 residents. I was young and pretty naive, and whenever we’d talk about strategy I’d find myself thinking in terms of how we could quickly and effectively achieve our immediate goals. However, I’d sometimes neglect to regard the motivation, attitudes and concerns of those who would be affected by our actions. Supervisor Pitts, who was just a few years older but was far wiser, advised me to carefully consider others’ motivations, concerns and perceptions, and ultimately how our actions will be perceived and reacted to before decisions are made. Of course, this was a fundamentally sound public relations approach, but it was a light bulb moment for me.

Fraser Seitel, the PR guru who authored “The Practice of Public Relations” advises PR students to “plan from the outside in.” It was my former boss’s approach re-stated: Always begin your PR strategies by examining how your publics may react and respond.

There’s no question that lasting advice can come from anyone. Putting yourself in places where you can meet practitioners and really listen to their experiences and life lessons, creates a huge advantage for your own professional development. Sometimes just a few wise words can stay with you, influencing and informing your entire career.

If you were there, what was your “light bulb moment” at the PRSSA conference this weekend? Your thoughts?

45 responses

  1. I really enjoyed the conference. My “light-bulb” moment occurred during the lunch break. I sat down with the two panelist from the Hispanic PR conference and they were telling me their experience as a Latina in the PR market and how they capitalized on their bilingualism. Luis Montes said that it has been of great advantage for him to use his first language in the PR business. Another of the panelist encouraged me to highlight my bilingualism on my resume and when applying to jobs.

  2. The conference was an incredible experience. To hear from professionals in such a variety of fields, from those working in large companies to self starters with their own small firms, everyone imparted advice that was universal. My personal light bulb moment was during the Entertainment PR panel, although it wasn’t any specific quote, just the general attitude and work of the panelists.

  3. Regrettably, I didn’t attend the conference. But if I was there, I’m sure I could’ve been enlightened with the knowledge and skills of succeeding in PR career.

    Listening to experienced and renowned PR practitioners undoubtedly and unarguably is a golden opportunity to learn the fundamentals and practical skills of succeeding in PR career.

  4. Sharlys Leszczuk | Reply

    One of many light bulb moments for me at the PRSSA regional conference was during the Hispanic PR panel. One of the moderators whose name is escaping me, made the point to say, “Just because you are Hispanic, doesn’t mean you understand the Hispanic market.” I thought this was interesting and made me think about both sides of this statement, the consumer and the PR specialist.

    Hispanic consumers are unique and just like any other demographic, there are geographic, cultural and linguistic complexities to this broad group of humans. Marketers often think that if they translate a message into Spanish, they are reaching the Hispanic audience; however, this is not the case. Culture and values play a huge part in how a person perceives a message. People who were born and raised in the U.S. have very different values and norms as compared to people who immigrated here from another country. Their trusted sources and influences are completely different and their social circles are completely different as well.

    From the consumer’s perspective, a person working in PR who is Hispanic, does not have the inherent knowledge of the many different subsets of consumers within the Hispanic culture. This person who identifies as Hispanic knows what he or she prefers, what resonates with him or her individually, and just like any other individual, he or she only represents of a small subset of the population. The entirety of the Hispanic market cannot be understood by one person within the diverse, multilateral population. Just like any other target market, effective reach requires research, outreach, and likely trial and error.

  5. The conference was a great experience. I had a few light bulb moments. I realized that PR is what you make of it.

  6. I’m definitely so glad that I attended the conference on Saturday, and I’m grateful that we, as students, are given such an opportunity! The panelists presented such a diverse mix of backgrounds and experiences that it provided valuable insight across the board.
    I think my “lightbulb” moment of the day happened during the entertainment PR panel in the morning. One story I was particularly happy to hear was from Jessica Braveman, a 2015 Hofstra grad. It’s so exciting to hear a recent alumna excelling in the sports PR world, as it is the sector of PR that I would love to get into. Being a huge Ranger fan, she basically has a job that I’ve always dreamed of. She emphasized that it took her six months to land her current position, but for her it was worth it cause she waited for something in what she loved, sports. It definitely proved to me that it is possible to have a “dream job” freshly out of school, but also to wait a little bit for the right one to come along if you are really passionate about a specific part of the industry. The entire day was filled with refreshing information and multiple lightbulb moments; thanks to all who made it happen!

    1. Sorry, meant to add in there that Jessica Braveman is a Coordinator of Communications at the Madison Square Garden Company! 🙂

  7. Russell Benner | Reply

    Although i was only able to stay for half of the Regional Conference it was still a great experience and something worth attending. Like some people in the grop the entertainment PR was my favorite group of panels. Not only was it it reassuring to see and hear about recent grads receiving jobs in their field, it was cool to see how they got there. Its just a reminder to how everything will fall into place for us and not to rush anything and keep pursuing. It was also cool to see Andrea in the same panel give another side to the PR industry. Her talking about the relationships in PR and stressing how important they are will surely stick with me through my career.

  8. My light bulb moment from the conference was when Andrea, the journalist in the Entertainment panel, was talking about her relations with public relations professionals. I am not a PR major, I’m a television major and I often wonder how PR will relate to my field directly. Andrea talked about how she’s pitched by PR professionals in her daily life at ABC Radio and when I talked to her after it seems that television is the same way. I think that this was helpful in relating the conference to my field because I got to see the other end of it.

  9. I knew what my light bulb moment was right when you asked it in this post. The most valuable session i attended was about entertainment PR. I forgot the name of the person in the panel, but the young woman that recently graduated hofstra. She was talking about how originally she wanted to be an actress, and so did I. I found myself sitting on the edge of my seat when she was speaking. All of her experience that she has done so far being so young, is inspiring to me. She found work right after she graduated, and has been climbing up the ladder of PR ever since. Then she made me think of how acting can almost go hand in hand with PR. With acting you have to be very in the moment, and if you are doing improv then you have to think of things right on the spot. This makes me think of crisis management, because you have to think quick and be accurate with what you say. Both PR and acting requires good presentation and research skills with the assignment that you or working with. I’m glad that i could hear a success story from someone who originally wanted to be an actress then transcended to PR, because thats exactly what im doing now. I know, like the woman that was speaking, my acting skills will be useful for my needed PR skills.

  10. A great “lightbulb moment,” Professor. I wanted to attend the panels during the day, but unfortunately didn’t have the opportunity to. However, I would have to say one of my lightbulb moments came from you, Professor. It was in my first public relations course at Hofstra and you spoke about the importance of networking and getting involved. You said: “Make connections with the people around you. You never know, the person sitting next to you may be the one hiring when you’re looking for a job opportunity.” I valued those words because they are very true. It is important to make connections with everyone around you, treat them nicely and it may come back around when you need something in the future. Not that I expect something in return from everyone I meet, but rather it’s very sound advice and echoes from the golden rule of treating people the way you want to be treated. Your words are what encouraged me to join PRSSA–I wanted to begin building my network and now I couldn’t be more thankful for the connections I’ve made through the organization.

  11. I missed the conference, but I learned a lot from the blog. As a PR practitioner, transpositonal consideration is very important. When we plan to transfer the information to our audiences, we should think like audiences in advance. This is an effective way to communicate with our audiences.

  12. Well after reading this blog I kind of regret not attending it, but dearly hope to be present for the next one. I heard all good things about the conference from everyone so defintely I have to attend the next PRSSA conference.

  13. The Fashion PR in the city conference moderated BY Prof. Jacobellis was quite insightful for me. As a fashion lover, I soaked up all of what our guest speakers had to say about the business. What struck me most was how personable they were, the fact that they gave you the reality of how it is to gain experience and how to be successful in this part of the PR industry. What they said felt realistic and achievable.

  14. I had 2 light bulb moments at the conference which occurred at the first and last workshops I attended Saturday. The first was the Entertainment workshop. All 4 of the female panelists captured my attention immediately. I liked that each of the speakers were all different ages and at different stages of their careers. Although I loved each and every one of those ladies, Andrea Dresdale, Entertainment Manager at ABC radio, stood out to me the most. I think I admired her because she shares the same passion for music as I do. Also, I look up to my elders since they tend to be the wisest who have gained the most experience to reach that stage of success in their lives, which I am always eager to learn from. In addition, I found the International PR workshop to be very informative since I learned valuable advice about how to thrive in the global market of today’s society. I was so glad I got the opportunity to gain advice on how I can tie law and public relations together as a hybrid skill set for my career to be an asset at a firm, thanks to Peter Ottaviano, PR Specialist at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP, which is a worldwide practice that has offered more than 65 years in the legal profession. Furthermore, I enjoyed every moment of the regional conference with my classmates and embraced the amazing energy from start to finish. I was also proud to see a fellow SUNY Old Westbury alumni, who is not only a professor at Hofstra, but also shared his experience working in the field of digital media, and taught us how technology is tremendously useful, especially for PR practitioners. I could not stop talking about the conference when I got back to work Monday and am so proud to be a part of this graduate program at Hofstra University.

  15. Last Saturday was a long but fruitful day for me. I was really glad to meet so many professionals and listen to their experience in pursuing career in public relations. My favorite workshop was the public relations in eat and travel. I love traveling and I have travelled a lot. Before I attended this workshop, I did not even know there was a field for traveling in PR industry. That was really a very exciting news to me! How lucky I am if I can combine both my skills and passion in my career. This was definitely one of “Light bulb moment” taken away from the conference. Hope that there will be more events like this in the future!

  16. I attended the regional conference and I’m so glad that I did. The workshops were very enlightening in terms of career paths and how to be successful in that path. I thought the conference was very organized and structured. It was also a plus that staff members were put in place to take our headshot and professionals to look over our resumes. These are the workshops that college students need to be successful in their careers. My two favorite workshops were ”PR Fashion in the City” and the workshop that taught about the relationship between journalist and public relations practitioners.

    When I was in the journalism workshop, my senses were heighten because everything that they were saying was what I read in the book ”Public Relations the Profession and Practice”. In the fashion workshop, the panelist stressed the importance of really building great relationships with the media and different agencies. A specific light bulb moment for me was when one of the panelist (Denise) stated that a person shouldn’t really go to the media unless they have something to talk about or promote. Once they have something to speak about, the relationship between the media and that particular organization can grow. The other panelist were so willing to give out their business cards and provide possible internships for us. It was a really worthwhile experience.

  17. Brianna Vallelong | Reply

    My lightbulb moment was in the Fashion PR session when Denice Pigott told us how she achieved her dream of working with the Victoria Secret Fashion Show. It was amazing to hear the story of her transition from Houston to New York, and the “New York” experience she had to gain in order to make her dreams come true. As someone who is not 100% positive as to what field of PR I would like to go into, or is worried about choosing the wrong PR career, it was reassuring to hear her story of determination and will.

  18. I was unable to go, but I wish I could have. The Fashion and Entertainment panels seemed very interesting. I would have loved to be able to make connections and promote my personal brand.

  19. I really enjoyed the conference. My personal light bulb moment occurred during the travel and food PR panel. The panelists were discussing the importance and power social media plays as a role in PR. I have understood the power of social media and engagement but hearing how much on an extent the power has got to me. For example, journalists will often check a company’s social media sites. Also, so many people want to see the social media platforms as opposed to a web site because it gives a more holistic, day-to-day view of a company.

    This is crucial information for me to keep in mind as I continue to compile and create social media content at my graduate assistant position on campus.

  20. The conference had a great turnout and I especially enjoyed the Entertainment and PR panel. I was able to talk a little bit after the panel with Jessica who works with the Madison Square Garden Company. She gave great insight into really finding a job that you really enjoy and that it is okay if you do not find a job immediately following school. I also sat in on the Como se dice PR panel and they gave great advice on dealing with the hispanic market. I believe the advice they gave could be applied to any international market in the sense that it is important to relate and do research about your audience prior to a campaign.

  21. This was a great conference and I had many lightbulb moments! The one that stuck out to me most was when the guest speaker spoke at the lunch hour. When she told us to not be afraid of failing and provided several extremely credible examples about individuals failing, it really hit hard. The next time I’m thinking about taking a chance, I will now be less fearful and remember her comments. Failure is something that we all have to live with, but it’s how we come back and succeed is what truly matters most!

  22. The moment that stuck out to me the most from the conference came from the panel about journalists and PR. They talked about the importance of having a good relationship between journalists and PR professionals. As a journalism student I could relate to this panel the most. I thought everything they had to say about how the two work together was interesting because I had never gotten insight like that before. I have had very little experience with PR professionals in the past so it was cool to hear what actually goes on.

  23. I didn’t think I would love the conference because I plan to focus my career more in journalism than PR specifically, but there were really amazing journalists at the conference who discussed the overlap between the two fields and I loved hearing their input. I surprisingly learned a lot of tips about breaking into journalism and the professionals dispelled the myth that PR people and journalists don’t mix.

  24. I definitely has plenty of light bulb moments during all the workshops I attended, however, there is one panel member in particular that said something that not only changed my perspective but also, I believe, the perspectives of his fellow panel members. He said he preferred snail mail over e-mails at times because while he would get hundreds of e-mails a day, most of which would be buried and forgotten from the constant flow, only about five physical letters a week would be sent to him. The letters are far fewer and therefore much more likely to get read. What changed my point of view was that his most hard-hitting story came from an anonymous letter that was sent via snail mail which resulted in him writing a story that sent a man to jail for the remainder of his life for embezzling money. It lead to the understanding that as young communications professionals we shouldn’t assume that the take over of the digital age in which we grew up in makes us the masters of the industry and anything prior to our arrival is completely obsolete. We should take into account that information comes from ALL kinds of sources and that if something is not on the internet, this does not mean it doesn’t exist or has value to us.

  25. A few things that really stuck with me from the PRSSA conference this weekend was the overall concept of being a good writer. I see how important this is in the Public Relations field regardless of the area of focus. The importance of internships was stressed a great deal, however this was one concern of mine. My resume reflects an array of my experiences, skills, and qualifications that set me apart from others. Although I am graduating in May, I am fulfilling my last 2 credit internship over the summer. After hearing about how important internships are for learning the hands on work in the PR field, developing an understanding of a particular industry, as well as networking, I am excited for my internship more now than I was before. I plan to work hard and excel during my last internship, as well as find my passion. This brings me to the final advice that I will take with me-if you never try, you’ll never know. I will no longer be afraid of the industry I will end up in, as long as my PR skills are strong, I can be successful in any field. I know that with research, hard work, and dedication I can be successful in any industry. I hope that I find my passion one day in the PR field because for me it’s my love for writing, creativity, and communication that keeps a drive and motivating force within me.

  26. Jillian Berardi | Reply

    I really enjoyed the conference. I think my light bulb moment was during the entertainment workshop. I really related to Sophie Krall. I loved hearing her talk about her journey into PR. From always knowing she wanted to be in the entertainment business in some capacity, to wanting to be an actress, to discovering PR in college was very similar to my journey into PR. It was definitely inspiring to listen to. I loved hearing the good (and the bad) about this industry. This panel was my favorite of the day. This session really solidified to me that entertainment PR was the kind of PR I would want to work in.

  27. While I was unable to attend the conference, I think that the advice given in the post is very important. If a strategy is developed without considering who the audience is, it is likely that the message will not be communicated properly.

  28. While attending this conference over the weekend , i personally had many ” light bulb moments” especially when it came to trying to identify what type of public relations I want to purse and what kinds of public relation i wanted to get into, weather it be non-profit, contractor or in-house. This really resonated with me and certainly made me think more about my future. I thought this was wonder conference and I certainly learned a lot about the field I want to purse more than I ever thought I could.

  29. Kyle Kandetzki | Reply

    This piece reminds me of how various and events and people in your life can leave such a long-lasting impact on you. Whether it be something you sign up for and expect to create an impact/someone who is supposed to lead you to be a better professional OR it be someone you don’t expect to do such a thing. It is important to always be open to anything in your life that could alter your future for the better. Learning is always important, even after you finish school.

  30. My light bulb moment was listening to the speakers of the “Entertainment PR” session. I want to get into this business and hearing these speakers talk about all of the different sides of entertainment PR was very interesting. It was cool hearing how all of the different aspects of the industry all connect in different ways and how important it is to know about what all the other people do in order to progress in your own job. It made me realize that I should intern in as many different parts of entertainment PR as I can just to get experience.

  31. This weekend I attended the conference, I have to say it is an amazing conference I ever attended. Light Bulb moment happened when I talk with Julia, a professional of Edelman PR company. From the conversation, I found I am really interested in PR. Before this weekend, actually I just say PR is my major. But after the week, I really want to become an excellent PR practitioner especially in crisis management. It is full of challenges for me.

  32. My light bulb moment was the part about connecting with others, to never judge on a person based on the person’s position at that point in time-because they may turn out to be someone important. I like the part about not letting failure drag you down.

  33. There were many light bulb moments for me this weekend at the conference. Most of these light bulb moments were things that I learned from talking to professionals at the networking dinner on Friday. To me, that was the most influential part of the conference.

    There were a couple things that really stood out from the rest of the lessons. The first was that whatever job you do, such as waitress or working in retail, to put it in your resume. Then, when you interview, explain how that job was PR and the skills you learned. The next was to stand out. Do not only say something that will set you apart from other applicants, but do something as well. Ask a bold question about the company, send an actual thank you card after the interview, or say something most people would not dare to say. This will get you noticed and hopefully hired.

    Overall, this was a great experience. I look forward to the next great networking opportunity.

  34. As I sat in on the Entertainment PR session, I returned to a realization that my path in life is truly unknown. A lot of the speakers talked about how they started, and where they wanted to go in life. For some, it was not always the case that they had gone off to do exactly what they wanted, but not in a negative sense. Rather, they applied their skills differently, finding a career that was more meaningful to them. While PR is not my path at the moment, I remain optimistic to my opportunities, as long as I am doing something I love in the end of the day.

  35. Tiffany Vellis | Reply

    I unfortunately missed the PRSSA Conference this weekend due to prior obligations with WRHU, but in regard to the advice you received from your supervisor, I think that’s the biggest thing I’ve learned from your class this semester. It’s not about what I want and think, it’s about the audience we must reach for our client and what the best plan is in order to affect their perceptions and attitudes. When working as a PR practitioner, the specified public is the most significant opinion.

  36. My light bulb moment was at the Pitch it to Me: How PR and Journalism Professionals Work Together session where they emphasized how important it is to get to know the people you are pitching to so you’re not pitching them something that has nothing to do with their brand, you should always make sure that your pitches have no typos, and most importantly you should never ever lie to a reporter. Lying to a reporter could end you up on a black list and the moment you lie that partnership is done with forever because they can no longer trust you. If you lie to a reporter it’s not like you’re just lying to them but you’re also lying to all of their consumers which could be millions of people. They stressed that if you don’t know something it’s okay to say you don’t know and that you’ll get back to them on it. I knew it was important not to lie but I didn’t know that people will actually blacklist you for it. It just shows how important it is to really know your stuff in this business before contacting others.

  37. I was sitting in one of the first workshops about Entertainment PR and I think that was when I had my “light bulb” moment. I realized that the women sitting on that panel were once in my shoes. They never gave up and never doubted themselves, so why should I? I think I’ve finally realized and accepted that I have the capability to create my own future and I truly can do what I want– regardless of what others say or what I convince myself I can or can’t do.

  38. kristinaweller | Reply

    My lightbulb moment was when Jessica Allen of Allen Media Consulting spoke about how internships are what will truly put you on the path to the right career for you. Because I am a journalism major but am extremely interested in working in fashion, I often worry that I am wasting my time or wont be qualified for the internships I apply to. Ms. Allen made me realize that internships and experience are a great way to add to your tool-kit of qualifications and if you aren’t sure where you fit in in an industry, internships are the way to discover what is right for you!

  39. I unfortunately missed the event due to my sick dog in need of surgery. I would have loved to experience the panels and soak up as much information as possible. As graduate students we are entering a very important stage of life where every piece information is vital, pertaining to our careers. I was really looking forward to this event but my babies are all I have and their health trumped the event. I’m sure Ill get another networking event to attend!

  40. The conference was great and my light bulb moment was during the Entertainment session when Andrea Dresdale (ABC News Radio) emphasized the importance of having relationships with journalist. Andrea shared examples of others in PR who rely on herself and other reporters to the point that instead of pitching them, they simply ask “Hey, Are you interested in interviewing X about Y campaign?” I have a few online reporters that I do that with at work but would love to be able to build these relationships with top-tier outlets. This was a great moment at the conference and it inspired me to build relationships with reporters outside of pitching opportunities.

  41. I enjoyed the conference immensely. I think my lightbulb moment was during the entertainment panel. All four contributors said that there was no glitz and glam in entertainment PR. I think that made me want to go into entertainment even more. I love seeing the behind the scenes of things and learning how things come together. The whole entertainment panel really inspired me to go into entertainment PR.

  42. Emily Racanelli | Reply

    “Plan from the outside in” is the key to success in PR, in my opinion at least. If you don’t understand your publics, everything that is done will be in vain. It doesn’t matter how hard you work on a campaign strategy or on organizing a fundraise if it doesn’t appeal to the people. We must take a step back and think about what we can do to make the general public happy because, in the end, they determine the level of success we achieve. Public support goes a long way.
    Lasting advice seems to come at the most unexpected moments. As with any situation in life, it is always when we stop looking that we find something valuable. Sometimes we don’t even realize the importance of a sentence until we are reflecting on it many years later.
    As far as “light bulb moments” go, I’m not sure I’ve had one in terms of my career. However, I can relate to it in other facets of my life where my passion lies. There is always that second where something clicks and it’s as if the puzzle pieces finally start to fit together. It’s great to have that moment where you start to understand why you are doing what you do.

  43. During the Entertainment PR session, one of the speakers told us that she never thought she would practice PR and that she really wanted to be an actress. This was very relatable to me because I currently am a double major in theatre and PR. It wasn’t until I started classes at Hofstra that I started to become interested in PR. Music and acting have always been my main priority until now. My light bulb moment was when she told us that her knowing how these performers work “behind the scenes” really helped her understand how to work with them and helped her career. It made me realize that I could use both things I love to help my career!

  44. Tyler Weatherly | Reply

    My light bulb moment was when Denice Pigott said, “Tell everyone what your goals are, you never know who can help you.” Sometimes we forget that the relationships we foster with our colleagues can present opportunities in the future.

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