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ExPeRt advice

The PRSSA gang at their 2015 conference

The PRSSA gang at their 2015 conference

At the Hofstra Chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) annual conference yesterday, there was no shortage of expert perspectives from presenters. Approximately 75 students heard from 16 professionals, delivering their valuable experience and wisdom through six workshops and a networking luncheon.

Here are just some samples of the sound advice from our students’ guests. Their expertise speaks for itself:

Jake Mendlinger of Zimmerman/Edelson“I like to read resumes from the bottom, up. I want to know you can do the job, and that you’ll be able to do more jobs later. I want to see where you were at the beginning and how you came up to where you are now.”

Hilary Topper of HJMT Public Relations“Use free tools such as Google Alerts! I want to know what people are saying about my clients–and about me.”

Professor Peter Goodman, formerly of Newsday, now at Hofstra “Make sure the reporter has the beat for the story you are pitching and that you’re pitching to the right person.”

David North of WALK-FM“You need to answer the five W’s and the H. But also ask yourself and answer the W.C. and the S.W.: Who cares, and so what?”

Allison Nichols of Examiner.com“From a reporter’s point of view, the worst thing a PR person can do is promise something and not follow through.”

David Chauvin of Zimmerman/Edelson“Never stop being a student. Technology changes and there are new platforms all the time. You have to stay on top of it.”

Lisa Jablon of Hunter PR“You always have to be on your toes about the world around you. You should be consuming news on a daily basis.”

Kerstyn Dioulo of Glow Connection“People are always watching you and what you do. I pride myself on hard work and putting the clients first.”

If I could add a thousand words, I’d still be unable to include all the terrific advice from the PR and journalism experts at the conference. It’s always worth the time–even on a sunny Saturday–to listen and learn from smart, experienced people. Your thoughts?

Semester apPReciation

As another semester of learning ends, I’m appreciating the discoveries and lessons I’ve experienced this fall…

1) Students are amazing. I’m always impressed with my students’ energy, drive and focus. They’re part of a much-maligned generation, perceived to be coddled and entitled. But more often I see 18-22 year olds who participate in clubs and volunteer for multiple causes, and who are truly caring, accepting and appreciative individuals. Older students fill their incredibly busy lives with career and family while still finding time to enhance their knowledge and credentials. And they’re getting jobs. One example is that our last four PRSSA chapter presidents are now working in two New York City agencies: Hunter and Burson-Marstellar.

PRSSA members and me visited a NYC agency in October

PRSSA members visited a New York City PR agency in October

2) Professionals are cool. My students and I connected with so many helpful PR practitioners this semester through the PRSSA networking dinner, PRPLI’s holiday mixer, an agency visit, classroom guest speakers, the PRSSA national conference, and internships. Whether recently employed or PR veterans, these professionals provided students with priceless encouragement and advice.

3) Technology is hot. The more I teach current online and desktop public relations tools, the more I realize how much more there is to learn. Introduction of new platforms and software seem to know no end, and it’s a challenge to stay ahead of the curve. Educators have to be up to the challenge or fall behind their students’ own knowledge base.

4) Hofstra is high. We were all thrilled to learn that according to a new LinkedIn ranking system that measures career outcomes, Hofstra is the second best school in the nation for finding media jobs. This, combined with our School of Communication’s high retention rate, a growing number of students majoring in PR, and a burgeoning PR graduate program, makes Hofstra a great place to be. The Pride is high!

5) Commencement is coming. Next Sunday I’ll have the honor of serving as Graduate Marshal for the mid-year commencement ceremony. Watching students finally get their diplomas is very rewarding, and I love being part of one the most joyful days in their lives. So congratulations, graduates…you’re amazing! Your thoughts?

PaRents Day at Hunter PR

Daughter and dad

Daughter and dad

In a cool take on “Bring Your Child to Work Day,” Manhattan-based Hunter PR celebrated its 25th anniversary with “Bring Your Parents to Work Day” this week. Being a parent of a Hunter child, I qualified to attend.

Before the event I was emailed a questionnaire to find out how much I knew about public relations.  A couple of weeks later I found myself on Madison Avenue meeting my daughter Deanna in the lobby and heading into an event which drew nearly 200 people.

Hunter PR was founded in 1989 by Barbara Hunter, who, we were informed by Managing Partner Grace Leong, was the first woman in the United States to run a public relations agency back in the Mad Men-era.  Today, Hunter is a $20 million company with a wide variety of clients including legacy names like Scotch Tape, Jello, Kool-Aid, Monopoly, Arm & Hammer, Tabasco, and more.  The parents were invited there, I was told, to gain a better understanding of what their offspring did at work, especially given the general lack of understanding about what PR people do.  And the partners and the staff did exactly that through a series of workshops, office tours and networking.

One of the firm’s partners confided that when he heard Deanna’s dad was a PR professor at Hofstra, he wondered what they could teach a teacher.  I told him we can all learn from each other, and I was being sincere.  Teachers are sometimes accused of losing touch with the “real world,” often focusing on theory and not the practical aspects of the subject.  While I haven’t been at the front of the classroom long enough to have lost touch with what PR people do, I was thrilled to have this fun and unique opportunity to see the inside of a major PR agency run by seasoned and young professionals full of energy and ideas.  It truly was a learning experience for me, not to mention how proud I am of Deanna, my own rising PR star.  Your thoughts?

PRofound PeppeR

There are moments when every teacher wonders whether he or she is getting through to the students. We think: Do they hear what I’m saying? Do my words convince them of the point I’m trying to make? Do my real-world stories resonate?

65 students attended the March 2 PRSSA conference

65 students attended the March 2 PRSSA conference

I thought about this as I sat through a wonderful public relations conference staged by Hofstra’s Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) chapter on Saturday. “Picture Perfect PR: Framing in the Digital Age” featured several superb professionals, each talking to a specific topic. PRSSA hosted Robert Zimmerman and David Chauvin of Zimmerman/Edelson, Michael Lamp of Hunter PR, Ray Dempsey of BP America, Tanya Rynders of M Booth, Stephanie Meyerling of Kellen Communications, Glenn Goldberg of Parallel Communications and several alumni. Each peppered their presentations with tales and anecdotes of their real-world experiences–and the 65 student attendees seemed fully engaged and interested in their stories.  Hearing PR war stories and expert advice from professionals often tend to have a more profound effect on students than a regular classroom lecture.

That to me is interesting, because when I think about my faculty colleagues, I count at least 250 years of real-world public relations experience.  All of us starting teaching after years of professional PR work, and most adjuncts are still in the trenches full-time.  We, too, pepper our presentations with our own true experiences.  A conference often becomes confirmation of what students have heard in the classroom, and its presenters add depth and application to what we teach.

So thanks to all our speakers and alumni, and kudos to the PRSSA board and committees that put this conference together.  It was a terrific event.  And for the students who participated, I hope you learned that while we each come to this from different perspectives, PR practitioners and faculty share very similar experiences.  We truly hope that all of our advice and stories resonate.  Your thoughts?

PR gets “Back to Basics” March 30-April 1

Fraser Seitel, PR Guru and Keynote Speaker

There is little question that social media has changed the public relations industry. Nearly every listing for a PR job requires “social media skills.” And there’s an expectation that if you’re in your early 20’s, you know social media because you’ve lived with it.

Yet, my colleagues in academia and business complain that students who grew up at a keyboard don’t know how to write. Problems with punctuation, grammar and sentence structure render their social media skills irrelevant because they haven’t learned the fundamentals of effective, word-based communication (see PR guru Fraser Seitel’s brief quote on YouTube). Emphasis is placed on social media skills at the peril of the basics of good PR.

This is why Seitel is the keynote speaker at Hofstra when its Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) chapter hosts Back to Basics, a regional conference March 30-April 1. No student planning a career in PR and communications should miss this. The conference’s panel discussions will be “an exploration and re-examination of the fundamentals of effective public relations,” according to the event’s pitch material, and promises “informative and entertaining programming to emphasize the all-important PR basics while not losing sight of the PR tools of the future.” There will be expert guest speakers, helpful workshops and excellent networking opportunties. Those attending will also have the opportunity to see How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying on Broadway, not so much a lesson in success, but a superbly entertaining musical!

I love this concept and I’m thrilled to be a part of it. And many wonderful panelists have lined up to present workshops. There’s “The Perfect Pitch” with Patricia Gambale (Public Relations Professionals of Long Island), David Norman (Kitchen PR) and Glenn Goldberg (Parallel Communications Group); “Writing for PR” with journalists and authors Iyna Bort Caruso, Claudia Gryvatz Copquin and Paula Ganza Licata; “PR Public Speaking” with networking maven Mindy F. Wolfle; “Balancing Social Media with the Basics” featuring Jason Winoker of Hunter PR; “Integrated Marketing” with Bert Cunningham (expert and educator) and tentatively Robert Zimmerman (Zimmerman/Edelson PR); “Crisis PR” with Dianne Baumert-Moyik (Northrop Grumman), Brian Dolan (SYSTRA Consulting) and Sean Dolan (Diocese of Rockville Centre); plus sessions titled “Meet the Media,” Entertainment PR” and “Public Service PR” all followed by a case study competition. PR pros will come to lunch on Saturday, March 31 to network with student participants.

Don’t miss Back to Basics. It’s PR stripped to its essential roots and it’s worth a couple of days of everyone’s focus. Your thoughts?

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