As the president of Marietta College’s growing PRSSA chapter, I felt incredibly fortunate to have the opportunity to attend the PRSSA National Conference in San Francisco. Knowing that I would be able to develop both as a leader and as a professional, I looked forward to the workshops about PRSSA and the public relations profession. After some reflection on what I learned and experienced at the conference, I’ve boiled it down to five major lessons that apply to my position as a PRSSA president and my future as a professional:
Lesson #1: Share the work: I’m a worrier and a perfectionist, so it’s always been a challenge for me to let others share in the responsibility for a big project or task. I have found this to be especially true during my time as president of Marietta College PRSSA. Because we’re a new organization, I am incredibly protective of tasks that must be completed in order to advance the chapter. Things do get accomplished this way, but I realized after attending the conference’s chapter development sessions that I need to do a better job of allowing my fellow executive board members to share in the work to build our chapter. It’s important for them to earn the same value from their positions that I have from mine.
Lesson #2: Control, Competence, Concern: This lesson comes from a media training session conducted by Dr. Joseph Trahan, a former public affairs trainer for the armed services. Trahan used the phrase “Control, Competence, Concern” to describe the appropriate reaction of an individual who is being interviewed by the media. I found that these three principles were not only sound advice for approaching media interviews, but they also apply to the public relations profession at large. It is the duty of public relations professionals to maintain control of the situations they face, deliver competent and accurate information to interested parties and reflect concern about how an organization’s efforts impact others.
Lesson #3: Do something special: It’s no secret that today’s job market is incredibly competitive, so one question on every conference attendee’s mind was what we could do to get ahead of other job candidates. In response, “Living Legends of PR” panelist Fred Cook, chief executive officer of GolinHarris, offered his take on the current market. To impress potential employers, Cook said, young job hunters need to do something special or memorable to get ahead. Cook likened this principle to the character of Elle Woods in Legally Blonde, who makes her resume pink and scented to earn a competitive legal internship. Granted, Cook didn’t endorse sending out pink resumes in the hopes of landing a great job, but the lesson is clear. If you want to distinguish yourself in the job market, you have to do a little something extra.
Lesson #4: You are what you Tweet: I attended a session about personal branding presented by Matt Prince, social media manager at Disney Land. Prince spoke about the importance of treating a personal brand with the same care as a company’s brand, and he discussed the need for individuals to prepare plans for their personal brands. Prior to attending this session, I knew of the importance of self-branding, but I had never thought about treating myself as a corporation before. Moving forward, I plan to market myself with the same preparation and consistency as any plan that I would create for a client.
Lesson #5: Get lost: There were many times throughout the course of the conference when my vice president and I found ourselves lost in San Francisco. For whatever reason, our smartphones continually failed to maintain GPS signals and provide us with accurate directions, leaving us confused and a little worried that we wouldn’t make it back to our next workshop or event on time. In reality, some of the most fun that we had was when we were lost. Whether it was the search for a nearby bakery that led us to a cool café for lunch or the chance encounter with our faculty adviser that prompted a last-minute shopping trip to Macy’s, the conference memories I will cherish most are those that were completely unplanned. I hope to carry this lesson with me as I prepare for my future as a public relations professional—that despite all my preparation and planning, some of the best things that will happen for my career will be completely out of my control.